Relationships Among Sexual Identity, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Behavior: Results from a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults in the United States

Sexual orientation is a multi-dimensional concept, at a minimum comprised of sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behavior. Our study aimed to assess relationships among self-identified sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behaviors in a probability sample of adults in the U.S. and to identify associated factors with diverse patterns. We collected data from adults in the 2015 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, an Internet-based nationally representative probability survey of the general U.S. population. Concordance between sexual identity versus sexual attraction and sexual behaviors was assessed using percent agreement. We identified correlates of discordance using logistic regression. Concordance between sexual identity versus sexual attraction and past-year sexual behaviors was 94% and 96%, respectively, though our sample was predominately composed of heterosexual individuals. Women and sexual minority individuals reported greater discordance across sexuality-related measures than men and heterosexual individuals. Younger adults (aged 18–24 years) were more likely to report sexual behaviors discordant with sexual identity compared with older adults (including those ages 25–34 years). Higher levels of educational attainment were significantly associated with less discordance of reported recent sexual activity and sexual identity. Measures of sexual identity, attraction, and behaviors are not interchangeable. Future research should consider multiple sexuality-related measures in order to capture the complexity and variability of sexualities.

Publication Date:
Dec 06 2018
Date Submitted:
Jul 10 2019
Archives of Sexual Behavior

Note: The status of this file is: public

 Record created 2019-07-10, last modified 2019-07-12

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