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

Straight Life Cycle/Queer Life

A psychotherapy vignette about navigating traditional milestones as a gay man.

Betsy DeVos Is Okay With Schools Banning LGBT Students

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 25, 2017 in Political Minds
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she will not require schools with anti-LGBT policies to end these policies in order to receive federal funding.

Born Both: Intersex and Happy

By Ariel Gore on May 24, 2017 in Women and Happiness
"I want parents to know that intersex kids can decide who they are for themselves and have that turn out beautifully."

The Personal Erotic Myth and the Rise of Fetishsexuality

A new sexual concept paves the way in understanding the role of the unconscious and psyche in exploring authentic sexuality.

2017 International Day Against Homophobia

In the face of a world full of anti-gay, bi, and trans bias, building our resilience can be challenging. Here we explore research-based tips on how to foster personal resilience.

Remember Anna Freud?

By Marty Babits on May 15, 2017 in The Middle Ground
Remember Anna Freud? A new exhibit brings her brilliance alive.
Todrick Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzRf56XbrNA

"Gay Capital" and Shifting Perceptions of Homosexuality

The gay youth developed close friendships with both straight and sexual-minority peers, felt accepted by their straight peers, and gained status by their gayness.

More Than Just a Pretty Face: Unmasking Furry Fandom

Recent research debunks common misconception of the furry community as a bunch of sexual "deviants" or misfits.

Connecticut Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBT Youth

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 12, 2017 in Political Minds
Connecticut makes it illegal to practice conversion therapy on gay or transgender youth.

Beyond Binary: How Bisexuality Shifts Orientation Science

Current research on bisexuality challenges our understandings of orientation as a simple, homogeneous concept.

The American College of Pediatricians Is an Anti-LGBT Group

By Jack Turban MD MHS on May 08, 2017 in Political Minds
A small but clever group created a legit-sounding name and spread false reports with the potential to harm LGBT youth.
Beatriz Vera/Shutterstock

The Coming Z-Change

By Danielle Teller on May 03, 2017 in Tipping Sacred Cows
Are you tired of culture wars about gender and sexuality? Generation Z may make all of that Sturm und Drang obsolete.

Reality Lies Beyond What We Can Perceive

Locked away inside a silent, dark skull, your brain knows nothing about the physical world except what it constructs from data enter along different cables from various sensors.

Expression Leads to Oppression

Marco Rubio's #expressionNOToppression initiative inherently makes no sense.

Big Little Truth: When Women Get Along On Screen We All Win

HBO's "Big Little Lies" showed women being compassionate toward one another, even as their world conspired to make them enemies.

Polyamory: A New Way of Loving?

By Neel Burton M.D. on April 06, 2017 in Hide and Seek
Polyamory and its pros and cons.

60 Sex-Relevant Terms You May Not Know – and Why You Should

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on April 06, 2017 in Living Single
Here are 60 terms related to sex, relationships, sexual orientations, and gender identities, many of which are new or unfamiliar. More than vocabulary is at stake.

3 Things Your Face Tells The World

By Vinita Mehta Ph.D., Ed.M. on March 31, 2017 in Head Games
Research reveals that our faces can betray who we are without our even realizing it.

Cure the Religion, Not the LGBT Child

Conversion therapy does more harm than good.

Seriously, It Is Not Easy

By Anthony Synnott Ph.D. on March 27, 2017 in Rethinking Men
Sex used to be relatively simple. How did it all change? And why?

Why (Most) Polyamorous People Are Not Out to Steal Your Wife

There are three main reasons polyamorous people are not trying to steal monogamous partners away from their spouses -- consent, skills, and orientation.

Has Disney Lost Its Direction by "Normalizing" Gay People?

There is more than enough conflict in the world. Maybe it's time that people start boycotting fear and hate mongers, rather than peacemakers.

Your Child Just Told You He's Gay. Now What?

How you can respond, without offense but with unconditional love.

HOCD: a Clinical Disorder vs. Pseudoscience

By David J Ley Ph.D. on March 02, 2017 in Women Who Stray
Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sounds scary, but isn't caused by porn, and has nothing to do with straight people who get turned on by homosexual stimuli.

White House Targets Transgender Students: Bad For Us All

By Mark O'Connell L.C.S.W.- R. on February 24, 2017 in Quite Queerly
No matter what your politics are, it is in the best interest of our collective mental health to protect all of our students, not just some of them.
istock

Don’t Bet on “Anything Goes” Regulation Change

By Steve M. Cohen Ed.D., C.M.C on February 18, 2017 in Worked Up At Work
I do expect some change to regulations on bullying and sexual harassment, but business owners and managers will still need to maintain a safe environment in the workplace.

Mental Health and Sexual Orientation: What the Evidence Says

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.

Three Relationship Tips, Courtesy of the Obamas

By Mark O'Connell L.C.S.W.- R. on February 13, 2017 in Quite Queerly
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

Asexuality: A Brief Primer

“Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people.”