Common Sexual Orientations
Sexual orientation used to be thought of in black and white terms. You were either heterosexual or homosexual. Many people still have this interpretation about sexual orientation. As we move forward into the 21st century, people are starting to understand that this subject has a lot more to it than we previously thought.
People identify themselves with many kinds of sexual orientations today. Here are some of the types of sexual orientations that are now more commonly known.
Heterosexuality (sometimes referred to as “straight”) is a sexual orientation in which a person is attracted to people who are a different gender than themselves. Heterosexual men are attracted to women. Heterosexual women are attracted to men. The majority of people in the world identify as heterosexual. It is estimated that about 95% of Americans identify as heterosexual.
It is difficult to be certain of these statistics, due to a variety of factors. While heterosexuality was considered the norm not too long ago, other sexual orientations are becoming more widely accepted.
Homosexuality is a sexual orientation in which a person is attracted to people who are the same gender as themselves. Homosexual men are attracted to other men. Homosexual women are attracted to other women. Sometimes this is referred to as “gay” for men or “lesbian” for women. There used to be a large taboo against homosexuality.
In recent years, homosexuality has become more widely accepted. It is estimated that about 5% of Americans identify as homosexual, although this statistic is difficult to be certain about.
Bisexuals are people who are attracted to both men and women. Commonly, it was thought that there was a sexual orientation spectrum, with heterosexuality falling at one end, homosexuality falling at the other end, and bisexuality being placed somewhere in the middle.
People who identify as bisexual typically do not like both men and women equally, but have a slight or major preference over one or the other. Bisexuality may sometimes also be considered a type of pansexuality.
Sometimes people may question their sexuality. They may have always identified as either homosexual or heterosexual (straight or gay). Many people will at some point start to question their sexual orientation. If they have always identified as heterosexual, they may start feeling attracted to the same gender. If they have always identified as homosexual, they may feel attracted to the opposite gender.
Bicurious is a sexual orientation in which a person is open to exploring the possibility of being attracted to both genders, however they are still exploring and have not fully taken on bisexuality as an identity.
Asexual people (many people use the term “ace”) do not feel sexual attraction. They do not have an interest in engaging in sexual behaviors. They are disinterested in sex in general. Sometimes, an asexual person still has romantic feelings, and may choose to date people. An asexual person may have tried sex in the past, only to find it boring or dull. Or they may have sex with their partner out of a feeling of obligation, but derive no pleasure from it.
A person who is asexual may or may not date, have sex, masturbate, fall in love, get married, etc. However, they do not feel sexual attraction towards others or have any interest in sex.
People who identify as demisexual are only sexually attracted to people with whom they have a deep emotional connection. In order for them to feel sexually attracted to somebody, an emotional bond must already be in place. For people who are not demisexual, they may feel sexually attracted to people they meet on the street, cute classmates and coworkers, or hot celebrities.
Demisexuals, however, do not feel this way. They need an emotional bond first. However, this does not mean they will definitely feel sexual attraction towards a person; the emotional bond is just a prerequisite for sexual attraction to form. Demisexuality is often considered part of asexuality because, for the most part, people who identify as being demisexual don’t feel sexual attraction.
Androsexuality and Gynesexuality
Androsexuality refers to being attracted to masculine people. Gynesexuality refers to being attracted to feminine people. These terms may seem politically correct or redundant at first glance. If a woman is attracted to masculine people, doesn’t that make her heterosexual? It might. This term is mostly used by people who do not want to identify what gender they are.
You might be a woman, a man, or any other gender, and you could be androsexual or gynesexual. These terms refer to who you are attracted to; they don’t refer to your own identity. You can use either of these terms, regardless of what gender you might be.
People who identify as pansexual are attracted to people regardless of what gender they are. They find themselves attracted to females, males, and every gender in between. This can also include transgender, androgynous, intersex, and other sexual identities. Pansexuals do not take the gender of the person into account when forming sexual and romantic attractions to people.
Queer is an umbrella term used to encompass all non-heterosexual identities. The term “queer” originally started off as a derogatory term, but was reclaimed by the LGBTQ community. Many people do not feel comfortable identifying with a particular term. They may be unsure of their gender or their sexual orientation. They don’t know how to describe themselves or what truly fits them.
Queer is a catchall term to make people feel more inclusive, to identify oneself as part of the LGBTQ community without having to directly pinpoint your gender or sexual orientation. Many people find its ambiguity appealing because it allows them to be part of this minority community without needing to label themselves further.
The Kinsey Scale
Alfred Kinsey was an American biologist, who primarily focused his research on sex, sexuality, and human reproduction. During the 1940s he opened the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. At the time his research was considered very controversial because not many people were researching human sexuality.
There had long been a belief in place that people were either heterosexual or homosexual. Kinsey believed that this was not true, that sexuality was a lot more fluid and could actually even change over time. Through his research, he conducted thousands of interviews to introduce his Kinsey Scale.
The Kinsey Scale describes a person’s sexual orientation based on their responses at that given time. The scale ranges from 0, meaning the person is completely heterosexual, to a 6, meaning completely homosexual. Kinsey stated that it was quite rare for somebody to have a rating of a 0 or a 6, and that the scale mostly represented a bell-shaped curve, with most people rating somewhere in the middle. Since Kinsey believed sexuality was fluid, answers were almost guaranteed to fluctuate when people took the test again over time.
Thoughts and perceptions about sexual orientation are changing.
It is clear that over time, people’s thoughts and perceptions about sexual orientation have changed. There was once a time when it was only considered appropriate to be heterosexual. Now, people are more knowledgeable and accepting of all kinds of sexual orientations. As we continue to learn, we will grow more tolerant of each other.