Scarleteen By The Numbers: The Results of Our Demographics Survey

Every day, around 20,000 to 30,000 people come to Scarleteen online. We already know some basics about who our users are via backend site logs, Alexa, Google Analytics, the direct ways we engage with users daily and some demographics from years ago. This summer, we created a new demographics survey as part of a potential partnership with a fellow organization, and to get an additional, fresh source of information for ourselves.

Many of our users mentioned they'd be curious about the survey results, one reason why we're sharing them with you here. Our supporters and potential supporters also often ask us about who our users are. In addition, we wanted to see these results too, to help us keep doing the best job we can. I'd like to share, then talk about some of the results with that aim.

We decided to limit our survey to 2,000 participants who completed it, a number that was manageable but also statistically significant. So, we cut the survey off once we had that number. We recruited for the survey by posting a link to it on our website, including at our message boards, as well as via our social media networks on Facebook and Twitter. The vast majority of participants came to the survey via the link to it on internal pages of the main website. We used SurveyMonkey to collect and compile the data.

There's a lot to look at and talk about, so I'm going to share this information in three or four posts. Today I'll fill you in on some of the most basic demographics from the survey, all of which required answers and the first set of answers from the section where answering was optional for participants. Next, I'll do two more posts with the remaining information that was optional, including some of the comments from participants. Last, I'd like to talk a little bit about what some of the findings of the survey suggest to me, how we intend to respond to them and get some user and community feedback on that as well. If anyone wants to start discussing any of this in the comments here before then, I'd be happy to do that with you.

I'm also including some links to on-site polls which are similar or relevant to some of the data, in case a comparison is of interest.

In the survey, users in the United states and all others outside the US answered separately, with 65% of respondents coming from the US, and 35% from other nations (a number of US readers about 20% higher than our logs and other analytics typically reflect). Here, all the answers have been combined and averaged, both for ease and because the answers did not differ significantly between US users and those outside the US.

Age: The vast majority of our readers (79%) are under age 24; most are between the ages of 16 and 21 (53%). 13% are aged 13-15, 32% are 16-18, 21% are 19-21, 13% are 22-24, 11% and 25-30 and 10% are over 30.

Area: Scarleteen users are primarily urban and suburban. 40% of those surveyed live in urban areas, 38% in suburban areas, 13% in rural areas, and 9% are unsure what type of area they live in. (We did not ask about economic status because so many of our users do not know what their yearly family income is, and do not want to disclose to their families that they are utilizing a sex education service.)

Sex and Gender: We differentiated between sex and gender in this survey, asking what sex users were assigned at birth, and, separately, what their gender identity is. We did this this way for several reasons: gender tends to be far more relevant to us in serving users well than sex, we do not address sex and gender as the same as an organization, and we also already knew we have a substantial number of users whose assigned sex differs from their gender.

In addition, when asking about gender identity, we had fields for men/boy and women/girl and trans/trans gender, and assumed that some trans users would choose one of the former two fields rather than the trans field. We did this because we know that some prefer to identify specifically as trans, while others prefer not to identify specifically as trans, instead identifying their gender in the ways cis gender people most often do. This also had to do, again, with what is most relevant to us as an organization, which is how our users identify their gender, rather than how and if their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

86% of participants were assigned female sex at birth, 13% male sex, and around 1% reported an intersex assignment, did not know what sex they were assigned at birth, were not assigned a sex at birth to their knowledge or preferred not to answer the question.

80% stated they identify their gender as women or girls, 12% as men or boys, 4% as genderqueer, gender-variant or agender, 1% as questioning, 1% as trans or trans gender, and 1% stated they identified their gender in some other way than the fields above (with some identifying a sexual orientation as a gender identity, either because they misunderstood the question or because that also is or is part of their gender identity). Less than 1% preferred not to answer.

The other field for gender included answers such as "transfabulous and genderplayful," "gender abolitionist," "Strong female. I decide what that means day by day," "A man who is happy in a woman's body," "not a girl," "bigender," "femme," "butch," "Teddy Bear (masculine-leaning genderqueer)," and "boygirl."

Related poll: When it comes to my gender, I:

Sexual orientation: Scarleteen readers represent a highly diverse spectrum of sexual orientation. When asked what word respondents "use, or best describes, sexual orientation (who you are sexually/romantically attracted to, if anyone, based on gender)," 52% answered straight or heterosexual, 19% bisexual or pansexual, 8% stated they chose not to use any words or terms to identify their sexual orientation, 5% answered queer, 5% answered questioning, 3% answered lesbian, 3% answered asexual, 2% answered gay, and 3% stated they identified their orientation with words or phrases not included in the fields given. 1% preferred not to answer the question.

The answers to the "other" field were most typically combinations of some of the above terms or the above terms combined with other aspects of sexual identity (like polyamory or monogamy, BDSM, celibacy, fantasy, the desire or lack of desire for romantic relationships, attraction based on age, etc.).

Related poll: When it comes to my sexual orientation, I think I am:

Ethnicity or race: A majority of responses were from white users. 68% identified as Caucasian, European or White, 8% as Asian, 4% as African, African-American or Black, 4% as Hispanic, Latino/a, Mexican or Mexican-American, 8% as Biracial/bicultural or multiracial/multicultural, and less than 1% as American Indian/Native American, First Nations or Alaskan Native, Arab or Arab-American or Pacific Islander. 3% chose other, and these most often were answers reporting a bicultural or mutlicultural race or ethnicity, reporting a religion as a race/ethnicity, stating a national identity as a race or ethnicity (such as Irish, French or American), specifying a South Asian ethnicity, or an AU/NZ aboriginal ethnicity. 4% preferred not to answer the question.

Education: Most of our users are in or have completed K-12 education or college/university. Less than 1% reported never attending any type of schooling, 2% reported their highest level of education as K-12 education via homeschool or another setting, 41% reported K-12 in traditional school settings, 12% reported 2-year college, vocational school or other higher education, 25% reported 4-year college, vocational school or other higher education, 6% reported some graduate school, 8% have completed graduate school, and 5% chose other (most of the these answers involved GEDs, alternative education or were responses which referenced/were included in the above categories).

How did users first find Scarleteen? The vast majority of users (77%) found Scarleteen online, via a search engine or a link on another website. 40% report they first found us via a search engine, 37% via a direct link on another website, 6% were referred by a friend or romantic/sexual partner, 2% via a sex education class, group or independent sex or health educator, 2% via a book or magazine, 1% through a teacher, coach or other mentor, less than 1% by a parent or guardian, less than 1% by a healthcare provider, and 5% found Scarleteen some other way. 7% don't remember.

The other responses included links to websites (so should have been included via that field instead), listed books (so, again, should have been included under books), podcasts including those of Dan Savage, Susie Bright and Amanda Palmer, radio, sex education text services, and "my awesome lesbian cousin."

What are users' favorite parts of Scarleteen as a website and an organization? Participants were able to choose more than one answer in this segment. The majority report that the articles (80%) and advice column (62%) are their favorite part of Scarleteen. The message boards are a favorite for 24%, the blog for 19%, the polls for 15%, the text service for 4%, the resource listings for other sites, agencies and services for 13%, and the new Find-a-Doc database for 6%. 9% list our facebook page as a favorite and 5% list our twitter accounts, @Scarleteen and @STSpeaks. 46% say that the parts of our website written by staff and other experts are a favorite, and 28% say first-person content written by young people is.

What have users used Scarleteen for? Respondents were able to choose more than one answer in this segment. 53% said they used it to "find sexuality or relationships information or approaches I couldn't find anywhere else."

23% have used Scarleteen to "talk with others about sex or sexuality in a safe space," 21% to get emotional support, and 20% used it to get help or information when in a crisis. 24% have used us to find help or information for someone else, and 13% to give emotional support to others. 47% have used Scarleteen to find out about sex education in general, 16% to get ideas for activism, and 10% for research.

44% used Scarleteen to "fact-check information I heard/read somewhere else," 32% to get information a sexual healthcare provider/doctor didn't give them, and 3% to get a referral for in-person help or services.

Nearly equal numbers of respondents stated that they were using Scarleteen to find out about sexuality and relationships for the future (50%) as those who stated they were using it to get information for current relationships and situations (52%).

When given an open field to list other things they may have used Scarleteen for, the most common answer was getting information as a partner, guardian, teacher or healthcare provider to share with a young person.

Related poll: Which of the following did your sex ed in school (before any college) and/or at home include:

The following data is the first part of a section of the survey that was completely optional. Just over 1,500 respondents answered these questions. They were allowed to choose multiple answers. We asked these questions because we wanted a more well-rounded sense of some of the life experiences our users have or have not had, particularly those pertaining to sexuality and relationships, or which we know have an impact on sexuality and relationships:

Have you ever:

  • been homeless or transient: 4.1%
  • had an eating disorder: 21.2%
  • felt suicidal: 51.2%
  • made a suicide attempt: 15.6%
  • been abused or assaulted (sexually or otherwise) by someone other than a family member: 24.7%
  • been abused or assaulted (sexually or otherwise) by a family member: 16.1%
  • had problems with drugs and alcohol: 10.2%
  • dated/had sex with someone you KNEW was bad news: 32.3%
  • been the victim of a hate crime: 5.6%
  • been in the juvenile detention system: 1.2%
  • been pregnant: gave birth and parented: 5.6%
  • been pregnant: gave birth and arranged an adoption: 0.6%
  • been pregnant: had an abortion: 4.9%
  • had an STI: 6.8%
  • lived on government/federal/public assistance: 12.5%
  • been bullied or harassed: 54.3%
  • suffered from anxiety or depression: 72.1%
  • felt afraid of your own sexuality: 41.6%

Related polls: