Objectives: We aimed to explore sexual partnership patterns among a nationally representative sample of sexual minority young women.
Methods: We use data from the 2006–2010 and 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth from self-identified females aged 15–24. We combine measures of sexual orientation, attraction and behavior to identify sexual minority young women and examine sexual partnership patterns among this group.
Results: Overall, 27% of females aged 15–24 identified as a sexual minority; 8% of young women identified as bisexual and 2% as lesbian; 20% reported at least some sexual attraction to women and 16% reported ever having had a female sexual partner. Same-sex behavior and attraction did not fully overlap. Female partners were reported by 86% of lesbians, 71% of bisexual women and 10% of heterosexual women. Among young women reporting any same-sex attraction, 46% had never had a female partner. Among all sexual minority young women, 74% reported ever having had a male sexual partner, and 51% had had both female and male partners. Twenty-two percent of sexual minority young women reported having ever been forced by a man to have vaginal sex, versus 8% of other women. Many of these relationships varied by age, and younger women were less likely to have had any partner.
Conclusions: Sexual identity and attraction do not align simply with sexual partnership patterns. Quality health care to support young women's sexual health requires an accurate understanding of varied partnership patterns and related developmental trajectories. Further research is needed to explore effective and inclusive approaches to discussing sexuality, family planning and sexual and reproductive health with young people.
© 2015 Published by Elsevier Inc.