Sexuality and sexual orientation is one topic not often brought up in the average American household.
It’s a taboo, hush-hush subject left somewhere on the fringe of socially acceptable.
“I think in general, America has a really weird relationship with sex,” said nicci port, project director and LGBTQ+ initiative for the office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Things such as television ads are sexualized but as a society people are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, port said.
Twenty-two states require sex education in their schools, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation within those sex education classes.
Three of those states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students.
“I think at the basis we think we have to be a puritanical society and care about purity by viewing sex as procreation instead of realizing we are sexual beings,” port said.
According to reachout.com, sexuality is about who a person is attracted to sexually and romantically, but “is more complicated than just being gay or straight.”
The Kinsey Scale, developed in 1948 by sexologists Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, organizes sexuality into a gradient scale which demonstrates that sexuality is a spectrum and not everyone fits into one specific definition.
The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories.
Their research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings toward the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time.
Instead of assigning people to three categories of heterosexual, bisex0ual and homosexual the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from zero to six with an additional category of “X.”
A person’s sexuality can manifest in many ways and forms that only the identifier truly understands, but there are quite a few umbrella terms that encompass the currently defined sexual orientations.
The most common and widely recognizable sexual orientation within the United States is heterosexuality, with an estimated over 90 percent of the population not identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to Gallup.
Heterosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attractions to persons of a different sex than themselves. More commonly referred to as “straight” in everyday language,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.
On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale is homosexuality, with an estimated 4.5 percent of the United States population identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay.
Homosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attraction to persons of the same sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.
The term is often considered outdated and potentially derogatory when referring to LGBQ+ people or communities.
Within the homosexual umbrella lies at least two sexual orientations, these being gay and lesbian. Gay is used to refer to men who have an attraction to other men, but not all men who engage in sexual behavior with other men identify as gay.
Lesbian is used to refer to women who have an attraction to other women, but not all women who engage in sexual behavior with other women identify as lesbian.
Under the homosexual umbrella “about 4 to 6 percent of males have ever had same-sex contact.”
For females, the percentage who have ever had same-sex contact ranges from about 4 percent to 12 percent,” according to the Kinsey Institute.
In between homosexuality and heterosexuality on the Kinsey Scale are at least two sexual orientations. The most heard of and talked about of the two is bisexuality.
Bisexuality is when “a person is emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to both men and women,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.
The other orientation is pansexuality.
Pansexuality is “a term used to describe a person who can be emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to people of various genders, gender expressions and sexes, including those outside the gender binary,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.
Though both pansexuality and bisexuality are similar in that identifiers have attractions to those of multiple sexes, they are inherently different — but are often confused and assumed to be the same sexual orientation.
The “X” on the Kinsey Scale refers to either those who have not yet had sexual contact with another person or those who identify as asexual.
“In its broadest sense, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and the lack of interest in and desire for sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website. “However, some asexual people might experience emotional attraction or other non-sexual attractions.”
Asexuality is one of the less-heard of sexual orientations and the smallest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, with the CDC finding in 2014 about one percent of the population identified as asexual.
Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality all fall under the umbrella term of queer, which essentially is anyone who identifies as not heterosexual in the broadest sense.
Queer is “an umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual desires, identities and expressions of the not-exclusively-heterosexual and/or monogamous variety,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.
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