I remember back in the days when I was more conservative, feeling uncomfortable with any word that had "sex" in it. I felt dirty just saying it. (SO not a problem anymore!!
) So I can see how this makes a big difference. When the term homosexual was new to me I would end up with a (at the time) disturbing mental picture of some hot guy-on-guy action, whereas the word gay or lesbian just evoked a fully-clothed, less affectionate version of the image.
Like, the word polygamy makes me think of male dominance and religious cults, whereas polyamory makes me think of a family of equal partners. Hopefully the public will develop a similar sense. If not, we'll have to get a new word!