from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
In her study, she analyzed how SSA relationships have increased since 1988 by analyzing data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) and the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS).
According to Butler's findings, the "proportion of both men and women who reported having had a same-sex sex partner in the previous year increased over the period, and the increase was greater for women than it was for men."
Butler theorizes that changes in cultural acceptance of homosexual conduct may account for the increase or that SSA individuals are now more likely to report such relationships now that the culture has shifted toward more tolerance of homosexual behavior.
Butler summarizes various twin studies and then asserts that "... the importance of biological heredity in sexual orientation is itself culturally and historically specific (Whitehead and Whithead 1999). The more latitude a culture allows for choice of sexual partner, the more influential genes can be in explaining patterns of same-sex activity. Conversely, in a society in which same-sex sexual behavior is ridiculed, stigmatized, or severely punished, people will largely conform to the cultural standard of heterosexual behavior, regardless of their genetic predisposition."
The researcher refers to a study by Baumeister (2000) that concluded a case can be made for saying that the sexuality of males is "initially malleable but becomes relatively fixed by young adulthood. Females, on the other hand, maintain their sexual fluidity into adulthood. If this is so, it would follow that both male and female rates of same-sex partnering will vary over time as childhood socialization changes, but the variation will be more evident among women during the early stages of cultural change because the sexuality of adult women is more responsive to changing conditions than is the sexuality of adult men."
Butler says that changes in the popular culture -- specially TV -- has had an impact in changing public perceptions about homosexuality -- and has influenced more women to consider lesbianism. The feminist movement has also contributed to the increase in lesbian partnerships.
Joseph Berger, M.D., a member of NARTH's Scientific Advisory Committee has reviewed Butler's study and issued the following summary:
This article is quite interesting. The author suggests that data derived from two ongoing large population surveys indicates that there has been some very modest increase in the proportion of women acknowledging a same-sex relationship in recent years, and this increase is not matched by a similar increase in men.
The author suggests that it is changes in social, legal, and economic factors that are primarily responsible for this change. That in general, socially, homosexuality has been more acceptable, economically, women are much less dependent upon men than in the past, women's earnings on average have risen to about 75% those of men, and many more women have become economically independent. Legally, numerous barriers that had existed against same-sex behavior and relationships have been removed, some of which have considerable economic significance such as employee benefits, pension rights, as well as removal of anti-sodomy laws, anti-discriminatory legislation in housing, employment, etc.
The author briefly reviews the question of genetic inheritance -- not very profoundly or successfully -- and seems to conclude that this is not a significant factor in the increase of same-sex relationships among women.
Butler starts with mentioning the original Kinsey claim of a 10% prevalence, then notes that most research since has reduced that prevalence to about 3% for men and a little lower for women. The author's own tables based upon the population surveys suggest that for 2002 the prevalence rates in terms of same-sex activity within the past year were actually 2.9% for men and 3.9% for women. The author notes that the questions used to derive the data focus on sex activity and NOT on whether an individual identifies himself/herself as homosexual.
The author seems to strongly imply that the largest factors contributing to the increase in same-sex relationships among women are social/psychological and clearly not genetic or biological.
She seems to emphasize quite strongly observations that many women now in same-sex relationships had previously had long-term heterosexual relationships. The author uses a variety of references, some of which are probably solid, such as TW Smith's population survey analyses, while others are very dubious such as the work of Bailey and Pillard on genetic factors, or anything by Herek and a number of other extreme pro-gay activists.