There are lots of different kinds of sexualities out there but what’s your sexuality and how do you work it out? Well, like most things, it’s complicated.
One way to work out your sexuality is to see if any of the labels fit you. You probably know already that it’s not just straight, bisexual, lesbian or gay. There’s also queer, questioning, pansexual, asexual, demisexual, grey-a, etc. If that’s a thing that interests you could visit my page about sexualities. Another way you could do it is to think about your own unique sexuality and what that means for you. You can try that here.
One of the things that people commonly do when they are working out their sexuality is to think about the Kinsey scale – which was first developed by Alfred Kinsey (the guv’nor) and then added to over the years by others. Here’s a kinda Kinsey Scale.
So rather than it just being ‘Heterosexual/Bisexual/Homosexual’ it’s more of a spectrum with bisexuality being right in the middle. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 could also be called kinda bisexual, or hetero/homo flexible, or bicurious – what would you call them? What would work for you? You might be interested to hear that, according to YouGov, 49% of 16 – 24 year olds put themselves between 1 and 6.
You’ll also notice here that there is a scale of asexuality too. As you know from reading this, you’ll know that a lot of people don’t experience sexual attraction – but there are scales of this. Some people may choose to identify themselves as ‘asexual’ because it makes it easier for some folks to understand. Others label themselves as demisexual (someone who only experiences attraction when they have a strong emotional connection with someone) or ‘grey-a’ (someone who does sometimes experience sexual attraction but pretty rarely). Some people may have romantic feelings for people but not sexual (just as some people may have sexual feelings for people but not romantic ones). There’s more about this at the excellent AVEN website.
So where are you on this scale? How have you decided that? Is it based on how you look at yourself, your experiences, or what you desire?
Where people put themselves on the Kinsey scale depends on whether they are being asked about how they identify themselves (e.g. bisexual) or what they do (e.g. sex with the same sex). But what about if we throw in who or what we fantasise about?
Sometimes the desire/do/identity circles overlap a lot but sometimes they don’t. Examples of this could be:
- a bisexual person in a monogamous relationship
- someone who fantasises about kink it doesn’t interest them IRL
- someone who occasionally snogs people they don’t fancy for fun
- a sex worker having sex with someone of a gender they don’t fancy
- someone who is interested in porn but not interested in sex with someone right now
Spend a few minutes thinking about this for you. Who or what do you fantasise about? What kind of sex do you like (if any)? How do you like to label your sexuality? How big are your circles? How do they overlap? What’s the most important?
Get your pencils out. Off you pop.
Beyond Sex and Gender
So this is all pretty complicated right? Don’t worry, I’ve not even finished.
Also, as you can see on this page, sex and gender is well complicated and there are more than two configurations of both. People may think that they are attracted to a different (there is no opposite) gender or sex to them. But what does that even mean when we might not even really know what sex we are, let alone someone else’s, and people can choose to identify their gender however they goddamn want.
- Are you attracted to a particular kind of body? Or how people dress? Or how they appear?
- How masculine/butch or feminine/femme do you like people to be or do you like people more in the middle?
- Is gender that important for you when it comes to who you are attracted to?
- What kind of things you find attractive in people?
- Do you have romantic attractions to people? Who? Is that different from sexual attraction for you?
Finally think about the history of your own sexuality. Has it changed at all in the last 5 years. What do you think may happen in the next 5 years.
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So as you can see, working out your sexuality is very complicated. If you think about it in the way I’ve described here you’ll probably find that your sexuality is pretty unique. But the most important thing is that you get to decide how you describe yourself. And if someone else is telling us their sexuality we should believe them.
If you like this kind of in depth way of thinking about sex try the Teach Yourself Sex Ed course – like everything here it’s free.
If you like this you would really like Meg-John Barker’s book, the Psychology of Sex
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.