A new study on sexual behavior, attraction and identity released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that women with at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to have had a same-sex experience than less-educated women, the NY Times reports.
The report’s findings call into question the popular notion that college campuses are a place for young women to explore their sexuality. “It’s definitely a ‘huh’ situation, because it goes counter to popular perceptions,” said Kaaren Williamsen, director of Carleton College’s gender and sexuality center.
For years, sex researchers, campus women’s centers and the media have viewed college as a place where young women explore their sexuality, test boundaries, and, often, have their first lesbian relationships.
Between 2006 and 2008, the study’s authors asked 13,495 individuals aged 15 to 44 to answer a number of questions about their sexual habits and found that while 9.9 percent of college-educated women said they’d had a sexual experience with a female, 14 to 15 percent of women without a college degree said the same.
According to the New York Times, only 1 percent of the 13 percent who reported having had same-sex encounters identified as homosexual, and only 4 percent as bisexual.
Officer of the Council on Contemporary Families and University of Illinois at Chicago professor Barbara Risman says the Lesbian-Until-Graduation (LUG) stereotype has long been exaggerated.
“I always thought the LUG phenomenon was overblown, in the context of it being erotically titillating for young men,” she told the Times. She added that the new study may reflect class dynamics, with high school dropouts living in surroundings with few desirable and available male partners.
The study shows that although educational differences in same sex experience for males were less pronounced than for females, men with some college were nearly 3 percent more likely than men with no college to have had a sexual encounter with another male, and that women are almost twice as likely as men to have had same-sex encounters.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube of sexuality, where you turn it a different way, and the factors don’t fit together,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“It may be that the commonly held wisdom was wrong, that people just liked to imagine women in college having sex together, or it may be that society has changed, and as more people come out publicly, in politics or on television, we are getting a clearer view of the breadth of sexuality.”
Dan Savage, a gay sex columnist in Seattle, said the LUG phenomenon may be overrepresented in the national imagination because so many students sought attention for their sexual exploration: “A lot of them are out to prove something and want their effort to smash the patriarchy to be very visible,” he said.
The report also focused on a finding that young people were waiting now longer to have sex. Almost 29 percent of the females and 27 percent of the males, age 15 to 24, had had no sexual contact, an increase from 22 percent for both sexes in the 2002 survey.
The gender gap on homosexuality remains substantial: Twice as many women as men reported same-sex behavior. Three percent of the women — and 5 percent of the least-educated women — said they were attracted equally to men and women, compared with one percent of the men.
“A lot of data shows that women’s sexuality is more hetero-flexible, more influenced by what they see around them,” said Professor Lisa Diamond of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.