Sexual Orientation

holding-hands-close-upSexual orientation characterizes a person’s inclination with regards to sexual attraction. Orientation is typically divided into three categories:

  1. Homosexuality is primary attraction to members of the same sex
  2. Heterosexuality is attraction primarily to members of the opposite sex
  3. Bisexuality is attraction to members of both sexes

Some sexuality theorists have proposed expanding the definition to include other sexual orientations such as asexuality, which is a lack of sexual interest in others; and pansexuality, which is an attraction to persons of all sexes and gender identities.

Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey scale, developed by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, presents human sexuality as a continuum. Kinsey noticed that few people had exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual orientations, and he attempted to account for this in his scale. The scale is as follows:

0-    Exclusively heterosexual
1-    Primarily heterosexual with some homosexual attractions
2-    Predominantly heterosexual but with some  homosexual behavior
3-    Bisexual; equally heterosexual and homosexual
4-    Predominantly homosexual with some heterosexual behavior
5-    Predominantly homosexual with some heterosexual attractions
6-    Exclusivey homosexual
X-   Does not experience sexual attraction

Sexual Orientation Criticism

The concept of sexual orientation has been criticized by numerous groups and researchers. The Kinsey scale, for example, does not account for all possible sexual orientations; it provides no space for transgendered people or people born with chromosomes or genitals of both sexes. Other theorists have argued that sexual orientation is not an innate, immutable identity, but is situation-dependent. In his History of Sexuality, philosopher Michel Foucault argued that homosexuality is an invented concept. Prior to a few generations ago, homosexual behavior existed but was not characterized as a permanent orientation. Many researchers argue in favor of labeling sexual behavior rather than sexual orientation.

Sexual Orientation and Genetics

In recent years, researchers have embarked on a search for the so-called gay gene. Researchers have found some genes that correlate with homosexuality in some circumstances. However, it appears there is not a single gene or combination of genes that accounts for homosexuality or heterosexuality, and homosexuality may not be genetic at all. Many gay rights groups have advocated the acknowledgment of a gay gene, believing this might end claims that gayness is a choice and therefore sinful. However, other pro-gay groups have countered that the innate nature of traits such as skin color has not stopped discrimination, and that essentializing gayness might lead to anti-gay eugenics programs.


  1. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Fine, C. (2010). Delusions of gender: How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
  3. Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Last Updated: 08-25-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • Carlin

    January 8th, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    I have been trying to untangle the sexually of my preferences for some time now. My fantasies are almost strictly male on male. I seldom see men as physically attractive however, it is the shapes, scents, voices of women that I find alluring.
    I can’t quite figure out if the predominant influences are fear of attractive women or homophobia, or both.

  • Don

    May 15th, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    Hi. I can relate. I am a happily married man for over 40 years. I am 70 yo and just started having men perform oral sex on me. . My wife lost interest in sex years ago… I think its because it is so easy without any emotional ties. I really enjoy the feelings and the pleasure When it’s over we go our ways until we hook up again. I still enjoy looking and fantasize about women however. What am I. I don’t really know. But I have not enjoyed sex like this before.

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