Young people are more open-minded about sexuality and relationships than ever before, reports a new survey from the UK-based anti-bullying nonprofit Ditch the Label. According to the findings released today, 76 percent of those surveyed said sexuality labels were no longer important and people should be able to date who they want.
More than 1,000 people between the ages of 13 and 26 residing in the UK and the US participated in an online survey that aimed to gain a better understanding of the current climate of sexuality and relationships in the 21st century. More than half of respondents (57 percent) said they don't identify as traditionally straight, while one in two people (47 percent) take a more fluid approach to their sexuality, choosing not to conform to terms such as "straight," "lesbian" and "gay." Overall, most agreed it was OK to explore sexuality; in fact, 45 percent said they'd be happy kissing either sex.
Liam Hackett is the founder and CEO of Ditch the LabeI. He says one of the reasons why young people are so sexually fluid is because society as a whole has become more accepting of the LGBT community as well as "relationships that deviate from the heteronormative."
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"The media young people consume now is increasingly representative of a wider range of sexualities," he tells Broadly, "and I think giving visibility to people who were once suppressed by society has sent a very positive and clear message: that sexuality is not something that is 'dirty' or should be hidden away."
The Ditch the Label report also investigated the online behaviors of young people, and found that 55 percent had engaged in a virtual relationship with someone they'd never met.
Furthermore, the study's authors acknowledge the benefit online anonymity offers young people. Ninety percent of those surveyed said the Internet makes it easier to explore sexuality because they can shield their identity, thus giving them "an opportunity to explore and come to terms with their sexual preferences at a pace that suits them, free from external pressures," the report states.
Among those more likely to participate in virtual relationships were people who identify as transgender or who have disabilities. "People can present themselves how they wish," the authors note, "and many find relief and also freedom from some of the prejudices they have encountered offline."
The release of these findings on Valentine's Day was intentional, the report states, as it's a holiday that "focuses primarily on heteronormative relationships, and this often leads to the isolation and alienation of those who fall outside of that catchment."
Hackett explains: "Valentine's Day is very much a commercial day, and so brands have a huge role to play in terms of giving increased visibility to LGB people in their campaigns—to showcase a wider range of different relationships beyond just those who are straight. Just because attitudes have generally become more liberal, doesn't mean that homophobia doesn't exist— because it very much does so."
"LGB young people are some of the most bullied children in society," Hackett continues, "with many adults who do not identify as straight still experiencing discrimination and negative attention in response to public displays of affection, for example. Everybody must feel free and included during Valentine's Day and every other day in our calendar year."