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Contemporary popular representations of sexuality have begun to include more non-exclusively heterosexual conceptualizations of sexual identity. Viral media articles and op-ed pieces have sprung up with claims that “surprising numbers of straight men” have had same-sex encounters, promoting a representation of younger generations coming of age as more frequently rejecting identity labels entirely (e.g., DiDomizio 2016; LGBTQ Nation 2016). Many of the recent statements about this seemingly surprising phenomenon are based on a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that highlights the disparities between sexual identity and sexual practice in men and women ages 18 to 44 in the United States (Copen, Chandra & Febo-Vazquez 2016). In the report, the authors show evidence that more men claim to have had some level of same-sex “contact” (6.2%) than claim a gay or bisexual identity (3.9% combined). Despite the report’s claims that “[s]exual attraction and sexual orientation correlate closely but not completely with reports of sexual behavior,” (2016:1) and that women had even higher levels of reported sexual disparity, media reactions focused solely on the discrepancies between sexual practice and sexual identity found among men.

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This document was originally published in Linguistics Out of the Closet: The Interdisciplinarity of Gender and Sexuality in Language Science by Walter de Gruyter GmbH. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Available for download on Wednesday, January 01, 2025