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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(2):155-63.

Sex in Australia: homosexual experience and recent homosexual encounters.

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National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Darlinghurst.



To describe the prevalence and features of homosexual experience and recent homosexual encounters among a representative sample of Australian adults.


Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16-59 years from all States and Territories. The overall response rate was 73.1% (69.4% among men and 77.6% among women).


Overall, 8.6% of women and 5.9% of men reported some homosexual sexual experience in their lives (p<0.001); these figures fell to 5.7% and 5.0% respectively (p=0.106) when non-genital sexual experience was excluded. 1.9% of men and 1.5% of women reported homosexual experience in the past year. Men who reported homosexual experience reported more same-sex partners than did women (means 31.6 and 3.2, p<0.001), and men and women who identified as homosexual or bisexual reported more sexual partners in total than those who identified as heterosexual. Respondents reporting homosexual experience were significantly more likely to be from an English-speaking background, have higher levels of education, live in a major city, and report a white-collar or managerial/professional occupation. Women who reported homosexual experience were less likely to have a middle or high income. In the most recent homosexual encounter, genital touching was the most commonly reported practice, and oral sex was reported much more frequently than in heterosexual encounters.


Homosexually and bisexually identified men and women had higher total numbers of partners than heterosexuals. Improved societal attitudes towards homosexuality are likely to lead to further increases in estimates of the prevalence of homosexual experience in the community.

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