The Kinsey Scale —developed in by Doctors Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin organizes sexuality into a gradient scale of 0 to 6, with 0 representing exclusive heterosexuality and 6 indicating exclusive homosexuality. The numbers in between indicate varying levels of bisexuality. Though the Kinsey scale is still referenced in modern literature, more current models such as the Klein sexual orientations grid and Storms scale have been developed to further explore the range of sexual orientations.
Sexual identity is inborn, and one need not have any sexual experience in order to understand it. Monosexual people are attracted to a single gender—namely heterosexuals and homosexuals.
Plurisexual individuals, however, feel attraction to multiple genders. Plurisexuality includes people within the bisexual, pansexual, queer, or fluid communities.
As evidenced by models of sexual orientation, it is possible for a person to identify with multiple sexual orientations as well as multiple gender identities. This article provides an introduction to the most common sexual orientations, as well as the particular features that make each category and its individuals unique. The following list is organized alphabetically. For example, a heterosexual woman and a gay man are both androphillic as they are sexually interested in males.
Aromanticism People who do not feel romantic desire are considered aromantic. While they are not related to one another, aromanticism and asexuality are not mutually exclusive identities, and an individual can possess both. Aromantic asexuals are not interested in pursuing either sexual or romantic relationships with others. Category X includes those who do not feel sexual attraction or have sexual desire. Research shows that asexuality can be defined as a lack of sexual behavior, lack of sexual attraction, self-identification as asexual, or a combination of these.
Interviews conducted with a group of asexual people revealed that those in relationships often consented to sex with their partner when asked, yet derived no physical pleasure or increased emotional attachment from the act. While the overall definition of asexuality describes a lack of sexual desire, the identity can vary from person to person with regard to feelings on relationships or how asexuality factors or does not factor into their everyday life.
The AIS makes use of both open-ended and multiple choice questions, and is inclusive to people of all genders and sexual orientations.
It allows for further research into asexuality, especially among those who have not yet discovered the term. Interviews with a selected group of asexual individuals has given researchers a closer look at how asexuals experience coming out to themselves, their friends, and their family.
Asexual individuals may require more awareness of their sexual feelings or lack thereof than most other sexual orientations, as information on asexuality is notably less prevalent.
However, upon discovering asexuality, many find joy and relief in finally having a term with which to describe themselves. People may not think that it is possible not to desire sex simply because a larger portion of the population enjoys and seeks it. It most commonly refers to people who are attracted to both men and women, yet some bisexual people have a preference for one gender over another. Bisexuality is often de-legitimized by other sexual orientations, and thus it is often ignored or erased.
Bisexuals often feel invisible in society. Interestingly, research indicates that people are more likely to perceive bisexual men as more homosexual than bisexual women. Bisexual men, however, retain their bisexual identity and continue to experience sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction to women throughout their lives. Heterosexual people may believe that bisexuals are not straight enough to belong in their community, and homosexual people might think that they are too straight to belong within their community.
Both straight and gay individuals may even refuse to believe in bisexuality as a sexual orientation, invalidating bisexual individuals altogether. Although personality and sexual orientation are generally separate entities, there is evidence to show that some personality traits are closely associated with bisexuality.
In an online study conducted by Cornell University, bisexual men and women were surveyed regarding prevalence of their sexual excitability, sexual curiosity, and sexual sensation seeking behaviors. It was found that men and women who self-identify as bisexual showed increased levels of sexual curiosity and sensation seeking, and that women especially exhibited greater sexual excitability.
However, relationships involving bisexual individuals are not unlike those of homosexual or heterosexual couples. The results of one study show that Couples emphasized the presence and importance of romantic love within their current relationship, as well as their desire to love and commit fully to their partner regardless of their attraction to other genders.
Demisexuality relates most to the formation of committed romantic relationships, but does allow for other types of relationships—such as sexual relationships—to form as well. Bonding does not inherently imply that sexual attraction will occur, but it must be present in order for attraction to develop. It is often thought that most people do not wish to have sex prior to forming an emotional attachment to another person and that therefore, most people are demisexual.
However, these feelings are not reflective of demisexuality. Sexual people people on the sexual end of the asexuality spectrum may feel sexually attracted to anyone celebrities, acquaintances, or passing strangers but do not wish to act upon their desires without getting to know them.
On the other hand, demisexual individuals feel no sexual attraction to a person unless they have previously formed a close emotional bond. Many demisexual adolescents find it distressing to discuss sexual topics with their friends, as they cannot understand why they do not feel sexual attraction as it begins to emerge within their peer groups. Asexual teenagers may experience the same feelings. While demisexuality does share some characteristics with asexuality, the key difference between the two is that demisexuals are capable of sexual attraction under specific circumstances, while asexuals feel no sexual attraction at all, regardless of their situation or partner.
Labeling demisexuality as a sexual orientation allows demisexuals to find support and understanding within a community who can relate to their feelings and experiences. Much like androsexuality, this definition includes people identifying with different sexual orientations. A heterosexual man and a lesbian woman are gynephillic in that they are attracted to women. For example, a man who is attracted solely to women would be considered heterosexual.
However, heterosexuality actually refers to attraction to gender, and as discussed previously, gender lies on a spectrum, not a binary. These beliefs constitute heteronormativity and heterosexism, and have historically fueled discrimination against those who do not identify with heterosexuality. Further, heterosexual individuals often do not realize the privileges they enjoy in everyday life, and tend to take the ease with which they navigate the public social sphere for granted.
Most can have children and start families that are unequivocally affirmed, recognized, and legitimized by others. They can marry when and where they wish without facing moral opposition, practice any religion without being ostracized, and may apply for any job without fearing being fired based on their sexual orientation. However, a study by the University of Michigan reveals that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have their own stereotypes about heterosexuals.
Researchers interviewed members of the LGBTQ community to gain more meaningful insight into how minority sexual orientations view the majority. Heterosexual males were commonly associated with themes of hypermasculinity and hypersexuality, ignorance, indifference, and intolerance of the other sexual orientations, and an overall closed-minded and sexist outlook on the world. Heterosexual women were tied more closely with traditional gender roles—marriage, childbearing and childrearing, housework, and devotion to men.
Those interviewed in the study believe heterosexual people are generally more prejudiced, ignorant, judgmental, and even boring than those who identify with other sexual orientations.
Heterosexual individuals are not all judgmental, ignorant, aggressive, and intolerant toward sexual minorities. Other people in the LGBTQ community that are not homosexual sometimes refer to themselves as gay, although they may not identify as gay.
While homosexuality does accurately describe the type of attraction felt by some members of the community, the term is often seen as clinical or indicative of a psychological disorder or abnormality, and may be offensive to some. More specific terms, such as gay and lesbian, are preferable for everyday use. Homophobic labels and behaviors induce feelings of alienation among LGBTQ individuals, which makes it more difficult for them to find self- acceptance and comfort.
Aside from religious hostility or workplace discrimination25, members of the LGBTQ community also face prejudice in health care as well. It has been found that many health care providers demonstrate both implicit and explicit bias in favor of heterosexual people, by assuming that they are at a lower risk for certain health conditions than homosexual people.
As a result, gay men and lesbian women are far less often selected for health care coverage than heterosexuals. Yet where there is intolerance, insensitivity, and ignorance from the outside majority, many discover safety, acceptance, and unique belonging within the LGBTQ community.
For example, the Bear community welcomes and appreciates men with larger, hairier bodies and more masculine features. While Bears might be ridiculed or left out of the mainstream community, they can discover a belonging among others who share the predicament of being outsiders within an already-marginalized group. Of the several different ways in which lesbians are perceived, two types are predominantely recognized.
It should be made clear that both of these termonologies can be viewed as derogatory or homophobic. While some lesbians embrace these labels, others do not feel as though they fit into the description of either. This includes attraction to people who identify as male, female, transgender , intersex , third gender, genderqueer , or anything in between.
For example, a demisexual pansexual person has the potential to feel sexually attracted to any gender, yet cannot feel this attraction prior to forming an emotional bond. Hence, pansexual people do not necessarily desire every person they encounter. Like bisexual people, some pansexual individuals may have a stronger or weaker preference for a certain gender. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus have identified themselves as pansexual, presenting the term with pride and excitement.
It is a often adopted by those who feel that they do not fit into heterosexual or homosexual categories as Cyrus does, or those who are attracted to gender non-binary individuals in addition to those of the same and opposite gender. Pansexuality is represented as all encompassing and non-restrictive, and includes both sexual and romantic attraction.
For those who feel that they cannot define their sexual orientation, or that their feelings of sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction do not fit into a specific category, identifying as queer may ease the tension of a set sexual description. Queer individuals may also prefer some gender identifications to others, especially if they do not feel comfortable identifying with a more specific sexual orientation such as homosexuality or bisexuality.
Many queer people appreciate the open-endedness of the term and their ability to move within it. It is seen as less confining than other categories, and allows for fluidity, exploration, and authentic self-expression. A Final Note The topic of sexual orientations is expansive, and the spectrum of identities allows individuals the freedom to choose which definition best represents them.
However, it is just as acceptable for people to choose not to identify or confine themselves to a single category. While all sexual identities are quite different from one another, it is important to recognize the validity and uniqueness of all sexual orientations, and to never ridicule or belittle another person for their feelings of attraction.
Sexual orientation, while not a fixed identity, cannot be intentionally altered, and thus the attraction one feels cannot be changed to fit a heteronormative culture. This article has provided an overview of each of the main orientation categories. For more details on specific sexual orientations, as well as other subjects in sex and gender, please explore the Gender, Identity, and Sexual Orientations topic and Sexual Identities section on our website.
Accessed 29 Jan Kinsey Institute Indiana University. Accessed 27 Feb Multiple Identities and Complexity. Accessed 12 Mar Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures.
Van Houdenhove, Ellen et al. Few facts, many questions.