Same-sex experimentation doubled in the last 25 years

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We've come a long way since the Stonewall.

A new study in Archives of Sexual Behavior finds that acceptance of same-sex experiences has quadrupled since the 1990s, and that the percentage of adults who have had at least one same-sex fling has doubled. The data suggest that America is leaning toward LGBT acceptance—and experimentation.

"These large shifts in both attitudes and behavior occurred over just 25 years," coauthor Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said in a press statement. "Without the strict social rules common in the past, Americans now feel more free to have sexual experiences they desire."

It's hard to say when exactly it became OK to be gay in America. To be sure, in some parts of the country same-sex relationships are still frowned upon, and we have a long way to go before LGBT individuals can feel as safe in this country as non-LGBT people. But culturally and politically, the United States has broadly come to accept same-sex relationships, and there's perhaps no greater proof to that than the fact that we now have marriage equality in all 50 states. At least one theory holds that social media was a major part of that shift.

"The global LGBT community has used Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other platforms to shape people's attitudes towards LGBT issues," according to a recent paper published by the University of Maryland. "Via social media, LGBT groups have offered support to members of the community, and have gathered together the critical mass of voices that is needed to affect change, such as the legalization of gay marriage in the United States."

RELATED: History of Stonewall Inn, NYC:

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Same-sex experimentation doubled in the last 25 years
A man passes The Stonewall Inn, in New York's Greenwich Village, Thursday, May 29, 2014. The National Park Service is launching an initiative to make places and people of significance to the history of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Americans part of the national narrative. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell plans to announce the initiative on Friday at New York's Stonewall Inn, which was made a national historic landmark in 2000.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: Stonewall Inn nightclub raid. Crowd attempts to impede police arrests outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 06: Daily News page M1 Section Two dated Sunday July 6, 1969..Headline: Covering Firm Covers Up Slums..Construction firm superintendent Birger Nilson looks over housing project plans with project manager Warren Obey...Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad..The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Spirit of Stonewall (SOS) leaders talk to reporters during a news conference inside the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village, Friday, June 24, 1994. From left are, drag queen activist Glenn Belverio, who goes by the name Glennda Orgasm; Bill Dobbs, a New York gay activist; Harry Hay of Los Angeles, founder of Mattachine Society anf thr Radical Faeries; and Charley Shivley of Boston, editor of Fag Rag. The group presented its plans for an alternative to this Sunday's Stonewall 25 march. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
Marchers carrying a mile-long rainbow banner lead hundreds of thousands of gay rights activists up First Avenue in New York City in "a continuous path of freedom" to Central Park to commemorate Stonewall 25, Sunday, June 26, 1994. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, considered the birth of the gay rights movement. (AP Photo/Eric Miller)
FILE - This May 1994 file photo, an exterior view of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village section of New York. Prosecutors say a man has been beaten in a recent anti-gay attack at the New York City bar where a 1969 riot became a defining moment in the gay rights movement. (AP Photo/Kevin Larkin, File)
NEW YORK - JUNE 24: Two men dance on a mailbox and cheer as the floats pass by at Gay Pride Parade June 24, 2007 in New York City. The parade celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and honors the Stonewall riots of 1969, when gay bar and nightclub patrons resisted a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 24: Participants wear 'attention needed' t-shirt and march in the Gay Pride Parade June 24, 2007 in New York City. The parade celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and honors the Stonewall riots of 1969, when gay bar and nightclub patrons resisted a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY LUIS TORRES A banner on a restaurant next to the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street June 23, 2009 in the Greenwich Village section of New York as the community marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The disturbances began on the night of June 28, 1969 as a protest by gays against police harassment and helped trigger the modern US gay rights movement. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 21: A general view of rainbow flags at the Stonewall Democratic Club Woman's Awards at the Stonewall Inn on January 21, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
Revelers celebrate the passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher St, Friday, June 24, 2011, in New York. The measure passed, 33-29, following weeks of tense delays and debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: A general view of the exterior of the Stonewall Inn on March 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: A general view of the exterior of the Stonewall Inn on March 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: People stand outside of The Stonewall Inn during the 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March on the streets of Manhattan on June 26, 2011 in New York City.Thousands of revelers had reason to celebrate since New York state legislators approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage which Governor Cuomo signed in to law on Friday June 24. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Niki Buchanan stands outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village May 9, 2012 shorty after President Obama today announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, reversing his longstanding opposition. The Stonewall Inn, often shortened to Stonewall is an American bar in New York City and the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which are widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GettyImages)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Atmosphere at Alex Carr's birthday celebration at The Stonewall Inn on June 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Virginia Sin (L) and Gretchen Menter smile after the Supreme Court ruled key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, at the Stonewall Inn on June 26, 2013 in the West Village neighborhood of New York City. The Stonewall Inn became historically important in the Lesbian-Gay-Bigender-Transgender community after playing a key role during the Gay-rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell speaks to the media in front of The Stonewall Inn announcing a new National Park Service initiative intended to identify places and events associated with the civil rights struggle of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans on May 30, 2014 in New York City. The initiative is part of the Obama Administration's effort for the National Park Service to join other agencies in helping to better explain the complex story of the people and events responsible for building this nation. The Stonewall Inn, an iconic bar in the New York's gay rights movement, is the site of a symbolic riot in 1969 that is widely recognized as a catalyst for the modern civil rights movement in the gay rights community. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 26: (L-R) Anna Parisi, 30, visiting from Brazil, embraces her girlfriend, Rebecca Barreto, 24, also from Brazil but studying in New York, during a rally in front of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 26, 2015, in support of the Supreme Court's landmark decision guaranteeing nationwide gay marriage rights. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
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But while it's hard to miss these sweeping social changes, it can be similarly difficult to quantify them. Prior studies have shown that support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown in the United States since 2001, but that doesn't always translate into the broader cultural feelings about same-sex relationships.

This new study attempts to fill that gap with data from 33,728 individuals, collected regularly since 1972 as part of a nationally representative survey. Datasets on acceptance of same-sex sexual behavior have been collected since 1973, and the survey first began asking about sexual partners in 1989.

Between 1973 and 1990, the percentage of adults who believed "sexual relations between two adults of the same sex [was] not wrong at all" more or less stagnated at around 13 percent, but since then the numbers have skyrocketed. As of 2014, roughly 50 percent of all adults—and nearly two thirds of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29—say that they support sexual relations between two consenting adults, regardless of their genders.

Perhaps more interesting, however, is the number of participants who say that they themselves have had at least one same-sex sexual experience. Between 1990 and 2014, the percentage of adults who said they have had both male and female sexual partners increased from 3.1 percent to 7.7 percent. Among millennials, 7.5 percent of men and 12.2 percent of women have had at least one same-sex experience. Now this isn't to say that these individuals necessarily identify as LGBT—the study took into account only whether individuals had ever had a same-sex sexual experience, not their sexual identity.

A few trends emerged, too. Most of the increases in same-sex experiences clustered around whites from the South and Midwest, suggesting that regions of the United States that were historically hostile to LGBT rights have become more accepting. The study also found that women are more likely to experiment with other women when they are young, while age doesn't appear to be a factor for men.

In their paper, the authors suggest that this data could be important for public health officials who are trying to determine health disparities and the needs of the LGBT community. Non-monogamous men who have sex with men, for instance, are still considered one of the highest risk categories for HIV. Meanwhile, policy experts can use this data to assess the prevalence of discrimination and build public policy.

Regardless, the study confirms what anyone following the LGBT revolution probably suspected—since the '90s, the United States has become a fundamentally different country, both in its acceptance of others and in its willingness to push the limits of old taboos. "Millennials are markedly more accepting of same-sex behavior than GenX'ers were at the same age," Sherman says.

"But then, so are most adults."

The post Same-Sex Experimentation Doubled In The Last 25 Years appeared first on Vocativ.

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