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What is Your Sexuality?

Updated on July 16, 2011


This article is the second in a series about gender and sexuality issues.

For an explanation of the difference between biological sex and gender identity (an important distinction made repeatedly in this article), please visit What is Your Gender Identity?

Human sexuality is a complex and still poorly understood subject. It seems to be dependent on a variety of genetic, biological, environmental, and other factors.

The most commonly accepted sexualities include the following:

Heterosexual: Sexual attraction to the opposite sex

The majority of heterosexual couples consist of one biological male and one biological female. However, some transsexual people also consider themselves heterosexual, i.e. a transwoman who is biologically male but considers herself female would probably consider herself heterosexual if she is attracted to men.

Homosexual: sexual attraction to the same sex

The best known of the sexualities considered "alternative" in most Western cultures, but probably not the most common.

Bisexual: sexual attraction to both sexes

Many bisexual people lean more towards one sex or the other in their sexual feelings and relationships, but some are more or less evenly split. A subcategory of bisexuality is bicurious, which applies to people who identify as hetero or homosexual but who are nevertheless interested in exploring sexual relations with people of the opposite sex they usually prefer.

Asexual: lack or near-lack of sexual feelings

Asexuality is sometimes caused by physical or psychological conditions such as hormone imbalances, but in some individuals it is apparently congenital.

Demisexual: a person who experiences sexual attraction only through emotional intimacy

Demisexual is a term coined by the asexual community to describe a sort of halfway point between sexuality and asexuality. Demisexual people are not typically sexually attracted to people based on gender or physical appearance, but experience it more as a side effect of emotional intimacy.

Pansexual: sexual attraction to people regardless of biological sex or gender

Pansexuality, also sometimes known as omnisexuality, is closely related to bisexuality, and there is considerable overlap between the two terms. People who choose to identify as pansexual instead of bisexual often do so because they object to the binary male-female gender system. In practice, their behavior is likely to be very similar or identical to that of people who identify as bisexual, but pansexuals choose the term because it is more inclusive of all biological sexes and gender identities.

Paraphilia: sexual attraction related to objects or situations, often called a fetish or kink

Paraphilia can exist in addition to another sexuality or by itself. Paraphiliacs have a reputation for sexual deviancy - pedophilia, or sexual attraction to underage children, is a form of paraphilia, as is bestiality and sexual sadism, a common component in the crimes of serial killers and rapists - but the majority of paraphiliac fetishes are harmless. In fact, most people are mildly paraphiliac. The lesbian theme common in pornography intended for heterosexual men is a common example of a paraphiliac fetish, as are titles such as Barely Legal and Busty Asian Beauties. In some individuals, however, the paraphilia is developed to the point that they can ONLY achieve sexual release if their particular fetish is involved.

Sexuality in Nature

In many Western cultures throughout history, heterosexuality has been considered the only "normal" sexuality, and other sexualities were seen as "deviant," "unnatural," or even "sinful."

However, as the fields of biology, zoology, and ethology have become better studied, it has become increasingly clear that the animal kingdom is full of "deviant" and "unnatural" behavior. To date, homosexual and bisexual behavior has been documented in over 1500 animal species, and thoroughly documented in over 500, including the closest living genetic relative of modern human beings, the bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee. These findings call into question the characterization of homosexual and bisexual behavior as "unnatural."

The biological causes of homosexual and bisexual behavior are not well understood. Because homosexual behavior among wild animals is not reproductive, its existence seems counter-intuitive. How does it benefit the survival of the animal and its genes? One theory suggests that homosexual individuals, especially among social species, may serve an evolutionary purpose by assisting in the care of their relatives' offspring, improving their survival rate.

Another theory is that homosexual behavior serves as a form of population control within communities and species. Homosexual activity allows animals to achieve sexual release and social bonding without reproduction. Just as environmental stressors on a population may cause some species to murder their own offspring, other species may respond by increasing the percentage of homosexual behavior and/or individuals relative to heterosexual behavior. When the stressor disappears, heterosexual activity may rise again.

For example, among many social animals "extra" males commonly live in small "bachelor" groups where homosexual activity is rampant. Some of these males will later become the lead male of a family group of females and their offspring. Others will stay in the bachelor group forever. Homosexual activity has also been observed in exclusively or predominantly female groups. Bonobos are one of a number of species where some females have been observed choosing homosexual sexual activity over heterosexual activity when the opportunity for both is presented at the same time. In fact, nearly all bonobos seem to be actively bisexual.

The Kinsey Scale
The Kinsey Scale

What is your sexuality?

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This suggests that animal sexuality may exist on a spectrum, much as Alfred Kinsey suggested in the 1950s about human sexuality. Some animals are exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, but many (probably the majority) are effectively bisexual, able to engage in either type of activity depending on opportunity and circumstances

Many human bisexuals are very open about the circumstantial nature of their sexual feelings and activity. "It's not the plumbing [male or female genitalia], it's the person" is a phrase heard over and over again. Likewise, most people who are exclusively hetero/homosexual would agree that they are not attracted to every single person of the opposite/same sex.

Kinsey argued that human sexuality was more accurately described as a spectrum (known as the Kinsey Scale) than a series of distinct categories. A small number of people belong at either end of the spectrum - exclusively hetero or homosexual - and another small group in the exact center, while the vast majority lie somewhere along the continuum in between - leaning one way or the other but capable of feeling attraction to either sex depending on opportunity and circumstance.


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    • profile image

      The Critic, yeah! 6 years ago

      I agre with all the text except this Part:

      "Bonobos are one of a number of species where some females have been observed choosing homosexual sexual activity over heterosexual activity when the opportunity for both is presented at the same time"

      I researched, and actually is the opposite, heterosexual activity is preferred in the animal kingdom by norm, in Humans is different because they create Norm in an intellectual level.

      Besides that, the article is fine, and very cool.

    • profile image

      I Babysit Kids 7 years ago from your mom's ass

      I learned a whole bunch of new words thanks kiddo

    • jayb23 profile image

      jayb23 7 years ago from India

      I have to admit some of this info was new to me. Wonderful hub. voted it too..keep up the good work kerry.

    • profile image

      sneakorocksolid 8 years ago

      I'm a husband which means I'm only sexually active when I'm told I can be.

    • profile image

      Kim Garcia 8 years ago

      Interesting study! I learned a lot! Much food for thought!! Thank you!

    • tony0724 profile image

      tony0724 8 years ago from san diego calif

      There Is men and women last I looked !

    • Zollstock profile image

      Zollstock 8 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

      I am glad to see that someone else is leaning on Kinsey's spectrum approach to make a point.

      Studies of bonobo sexuality have shown that females routinely use grooming, pseudocopulation, and GG rubbing in relation to food sharing and conflict avoidance. It's been argued that bonobos make love not to make war, but I am not so sure that that very concept can be applied to the human species. Bonobos seem to do fairly well, individually, as families, and as groups. Maybe humans haven't quite figured out yet how sex, social life, and survival fit together as parts of a puzzle? ;-) Thanks for the great overview.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 8 years ago

      Well I have to say I learned a lot there

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      Interesting stuff here.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      A very interesting hub -like your others in this vein. My personal view is that sexuality is more of a line, with people at all points along it (absolutely gay, mostly gay, that kind of thing).

    • kerryg profile image

      kerryg 8 years ago from USA

      Narby, voyeurism is a form of paraphilia.

    • profile image

      Narby 8 years ago

      What about voyeurism? Seems to me that's a fairly common phenomenon?

    • Choke Frantic profile image

      Choke Frantic 8 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

      Wow, homosexuality in animals is a strange concept! Good hub.