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Sex survey provides data on homosexuals.

Sex survey provides data on homosexuals

In 1970, the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research in Bloomington, Ind., directed a national study of fsexual behavior among 1,450 men and 1,568 women. Unlike virtually all other sex surveys, the Kinsey effort used a random sample whose responses could be generalized to the entire population.

After years of infighting among researchers involved in the project, the complete survey findings finally appear in the Jan. 20 SCIENCE. Data on male homosexual behavior may prove important in predicting the spread of AIDS, according to study coauthor Robert E. Fay of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., and his colleagues.

Roughly one-fifth of adult males in the 1970 survey had at least one homosexual experience, the researchers note. This is lower than the rate of 37 percent reported in 1949 by the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, who interviewed mainly white, middle-class, college-educated men.

Of more interest to AIDS epidemiologists is the 1970 survey's finding that 3.3 percent of men had adult homosexual contacts either "fairly often" or "occasionally." That estimate rises to about 6.2 percent when those men who did not answer questions about homosexuality are statistically controlled for. Currently or previously married men made up the majority of this group.

This is not particularly surprising, since surveys of self-identified homosexuals typically find that about one in five have been married, says sociologist and study coauthor John H. Gagnon of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

However, data from the 1970 survey and a smaller random survey reported last year by University of Chicago researchers indicate never-married men are most likely to have had homosexual contacts within the past year.

"We're looking at the lower bounds of homosexual behavior," Gagnon says. Homosexual experiences tend to be under-reported even when, as in the 1970 survey, subjects are both interviewed and given detailed questionnaires to answer in private.

At this point, the findings are far from conclusive, Gagnon notes. "The real dilemma is the scandalous lack of knowledge about sexual behavior," he says. "If we consistently gathered a broad array of health information, the release of the 1970 data would be a less sensational event."

Gagnon and two other investigators are now preparing a pilot survey of sexual behavior, which they hope will eventually encompass about 20,000 subjects.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 28, 1989
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