Some people regard as bigoted mention that homosexuals and bisexuals are more promiscuous than heterosexuals. If one were to cite studies such as the classic study by Bell and Weinberg (1970s), then they would dismiss most of them as artifacts of non-random sampling. If representative samples were used, then some would insist that whereas studies using representative samples have shown greater average promiscuity among homosexuals and bisexuals because a small number of promiscuous nonheterosexuals jack up the average, they haven't shown greater median promiscuity. An example of such reasoning is the use of the following studies by Jeramy Townsend:

J Billy-1993: Family Planning Perspectives 25:52-60
R Fay-1989, Science 243:338-348
D Binson-1995: Journal of Sex Research 32: 245-54.
M Dolcini-1993: Family Planning Perspectives 25: 208-14.
Laumann, Edward, et al. The Social Organization of Sexuality : Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

If one goes through these studies, except for the Fay et al. study (1989; non-random sample), others address data from the late 1980s through early 1990s. What is special about this period? Summarized from Ostrow:1

By the mid-1980s, AIDS had killed a large number of the more promiscuous homosexuals. Therefore, the mean and median promiscuity of male homosexuals would naturally drop in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, there were so many AIDS deaths that surviving homosexuals panicked and voluntarily reduced risky sexual practices and also drug abuse as a result of the widespread belief among them that stimulants such as cocaine, crack and amphetamines increased the likelihood of HIV infection and worsened the health of HIV-positive individuals. Subsequently, many behavioral researchers and AIDS Service Organizations declared the "war on AIDS" won among white male homosexuals. However, homosexuals soon went back to their old ways. As a result, HIV infections and rectal gonorrhea soared among homosexuals, and researchers borrowed the concept of behavioral relapse from the literature on addictions. Not surprisingly, homosexuals denounced the concept of behavioral relapse because it applied a clinical concept to the beauty of the sexual expression of homosexuals, and they called for a reassessment of the entire field of safe sex research and education.
At the same time, rapid progress in the development of new antiretroviral therapies resulted in an announcement at the 11th World AIDS Conference in Vancouver that combination therapy guided by viral load measurements could potentially prevent HIV disease progression indefinitely, if not cure the infection outright. Homosexuals further increased unprotected anal sex (barebacking) and crack cocaine use.

Since 1991 and continuing through the middle of the first decade of the twentyfirst century, there has been a steady increase in the rate of unprotected anal intercourse among homosexuals who largely describe themselves as "burned out" on safer sex or resigned to the fact that they will either become infected or infect their primary partners.2, 3

So, Townsend and others like him have just picked the wrong time period to try to argue that median promiscuity is not greater among homosexuals and bisexuals. One need only look at the venereal diseases and HIV/AIDS literature to note that these conditions are much more likely to afflict homosexuals and bisexuals, obviously in part because of their greater promiscuity.

In the 2000 British NATSAL survey, a random and population-based sample, “Men with a homosexual partner during the past 5 years reported a mean (SD) of 26.7 (109.9) sex partners during that time, compared with 4.1 (8.3) among those men who reported having no homosexual partnerships.”4 Since the data are from a random, population-based sample, several of the MSM would be heterosexual-identified and mostly leaning toward heterosexual interests. The differences in median promiscuity were not reported, but they would have been higher among the nonheterosexuals. Look up additional details about venereal diseases among the nonheterosexuals in this sample.


  1. ^ Ostrow DG. The role of drugs in the sexual lives of men who have sex with men: continuing barriers to researching this question. AIDS Behav 2000;4(2):205-19.
  2. ^ Dodds JP, Mercey DE, Parry JV, et al. Increasing risk behaviour and high levels of undiagnosed HIV infection in a community sample of homosexual men. Sex Transm Infect 2004;80(3):236-240.
  3. ^ McFarland W, Chen S, Weide D, et al. Gay Asian men in San Francisco follow the international trend: increases in rates of unprotected anal intercourse and sexually transmitted diseases, 1999-2002. AIDS Educ Prev 2004;16(1):13-8.
  4. ^ K. A. Fenton et al., J Infect Dis 191 Suppl 1, S127 (Feb 1, 2005).