What Is Sexual Orientation?

Sexual Orientation is a term used to describe our patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction—and our sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions. A person's sexual orientation is not a black or white matter; sexual orientation exists along a continuum, with exclusive attraction to the opposite sex on one end of the continuum and exclusive attraction to the same sex on the other. 

Heterosexuality (attraction to members of the opposite sex), homosexuality (attraction to members of the same sex), and bisexuality (attraction to members of either sex) are the three most commonly discussed categories of sexual orientation, though are by no means the only categories in the world of sexual identification labels. (Queer, for example, is useful for its non-specificity to orientation, and acts as an umbrella term.)

Few issues are as hotly contested as what determines a person's sexual orientation. While most scientists agree that nature and nurture both play complex roles, the determinants of sexual orientation are still poorly understood. Current research into its underpinnings frequently focuses on the role of genes, environment, brain structure, and hormones

Recent posts on Sexual Orientation

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By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on April 06, 2017 in Living Single
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istock

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It’s no secret that being different can be a source of stress in our society. Individuals of minority sexual orientations may feel that stress most acutely.

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The exemplary relationship practices the Obamas shared with each other and the world, is a rare and valuable form of leadership that we benefitted from on a daily basis.
AVEN's Flag

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By Deborah J. Cohan, Ph.D. on January 17, 2017 in Social Lights
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By David Ludden Ph.D. on January 16, 2017 in Talking Apes
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National Differences in Attitudes toward Gays and Lesbians

By Lawrence T. White Ph.D. on December 27, 2016 in Culture Conscious
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Gay Parents and the Fight for Acceptance

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on December 21, 2016 in Media Spotlight
Along with the bullying faced by many sexual minority children in schools, children raised by LGBT parents can experience more subtle harassment as well.

Seasons of Change

By Marcia Morris M.D. on December 18, 2016 in College Wellness
We notice physical changes when our children come home from college, like a butterfly tattoo on their ankle, but we can be less aware of the internal transformation taking place.