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

Boy Scouts Still Shut the Door on Some Kids

By David Niose on October 15, 2017 in Our Humanity, Naturally
The Boy Scouts of America has gotten more inclusive in recent years, but this makes its exclusion of atheist children all the more conspicuous.

Are Same-Sex or Heterosexual Relationships More Stable?

As Americans become more accepting of sexual minorities, differences between same-sex and different-sex relationships are smaller than ever.

Some Thoughts on National Coming Out Day

By Gemima St. Louis Ph.D. on October 11, 2017 in Mind Matters
The goal of National Coming Out Day is to promote a world in which it is safe for LGBT people to be open and honest about their identities.

Polyamory at Work

This blog explores some of the reasons polyamorous might want to come out or avoid coming out at work and the potential impacts polyamorous folks might experience.

Why You Should Come Out For National Coming Out Day 10/11

By John-Manuel Andriote on October 10, 2017 in Stonewall Strong
Coming out as gay is personal and political. It's also a powerful boost for your health.

"The True Story" of Wonder Woman's Marston Ménage à Trois

The psychologist who created Wonder Woman and the women who inspired him lived an unconventional lifestyle, but do people really know what they think they know about them?

The Best Wedding Trend Is the Freedom to Not Follow Trends

By Mark O'Connell L.C.S.W.- R. on October 07, 2017 in Quite Queerly
Just as same sex couples have done for decades, we can all—yes, straight people too—create our own events, rituals, and celebrations, completely on our own terms.

Teen Dating, Sex Hit Record Lows for Recent Decades

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on October 07, 2017 in Living Single
The authors think the path to adulthood is slowing. I think the story is bigger than that.

Thank you, Billie Jean

How far has gender equity and LGBTQ rights come?

What Counts as Sex?

By Nathan A Heflick Ph.D. on September 30, 2017 in The Big Questions
What counts as sex is shaped by our own sexual preferences.

For National Gay Men's HIV-AIDS Awareness Day 09/27/2017

By John-Manuel Andriote on September 27, 2017 in Stonewall Strong
Thirty-six years since HIV first began killing gay men, it's high time to re-think why we are still its main targets.

Sex Researcher Turned Journalist Challenges Sexual Dogmas

By Michael Aaron, Ph.D. on September 25, 2017 in Standard Deviations
Sex researcher Debra Soh's work shines a light on a variety of issues, including gender feminism, political correctness, sex robots, and virtual reality.

The Power of Supportive Environments for LGBT+ Youth

By Michele Ybarra MPH, Ph.D. on September 22, 2017 in Connected
Learn what you can do to create supportive spaces for LGBT+ teens. Changes in the home, at school, and even at the state level have proven to positively impact LGBT+ youth.

Talking About Sexuality with Transgender and Nonbinary Teens

Wondering how to be inclusive in your practice when talking about the intersections of gender, sexual orientation and sexual behavior? Here are some important steps to consider.

Can We Have a (Sex-Positive) Talk?

Want to talk with your adolescent about sex but don't know how to start? Here are some steps to help you begin to have "the talk."

Can AI Detect Sexual Orientation from Photos?

By Jennifer Golbeck Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in Your Online Secrets
A new study from Stanford claims it can detect sexual orientation from photos people post on a dating site. The truth is more complicated.

Gaydar Goes AI and Populism Comes to Science

An upcoming study on a computer program that categorizes sexual preference from photos has come under fire.

Out on the Pitch

How is the mental health of LGBT athletes affected by coming out of or staying in the closet?

What's the Difference Between Bullying and Teasing?

Is your child the victim of bullying? Parents and kids can develop plans together to outwit the bullies.

The Gay Revolution

By Neel Burton M.D. on August 30, 2017 in Hide and Seek
Attitudes to homosexuality have undergone nothing short of a revolution in the past five decades.

Polyactivism

This blog explores three ways in which polyamorous people are working to combat discrimination including research, challenging discriminatory zoning laws & seeking legal protection

A Guide for Gay Men on Both Open and Monogamous Marriage

A conversation with therapist and author Michael Dale Kimmel about open and monogamous marriage, for gay men and for us all.

Sexual Disorientation of Male Sexual Abuse Survivors

Sexual abuse disorients you; it does not orient you. Consider straight men who have sex with men due to childhood sexual abuse.

Follow the Leader: Authority-Based Relationships Uncovered

An expert on alternative lifestyles shatters myths on these relationships.

What’s the Deal with “Furries?”

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on July 24, 2017 in Animals and Us
An international team of social scientists has been studying the psychology of "furries" for a decade. What they have found is fascinating.

Besides Religion, Immutable Nature Is Key to Civil Rights

Confusing "immutable nature" with "lifestyle choices" leads to disrespect, oppression, and "slippery slopes."

If You Got It, Think Hard About Flaunting It

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on July 21, 2017 in Pop Psych
To what extent does promiscuity drive attitudes towards homosexuality?

My Gay Uncle: When Diversity Was Deviance

It was only after my uncle died that I found a photograph of him and Fred dressed as Rhett and Scarlett; Fred was a coy Vivian Leigh and my uncle a smiling Clark Gable.

Relationship Satisfaction Entails Playing by the Rules

Alternative relationship types come under scientific scrutiny in a new study on monogamous, open, and polyamorous couples. As long as you play fair, it seems that anything goes.

The Oldest Gays in History

By Neel Burton M.D. on July 14, 2017 in Hide and Seek
Three tales of homosexuality in Ancient Egypt.