Placing Myself on The Kinsey Scale

One of the things that I think causes a barrier with regards to equal treatment of LGBT people is an overly simplistic model of sexual orientation. This is especially true for people who experience attraction to multiple genders–sexualities like bisexual and pansexual, for example. Even among the gay community, people who experience attraction to more than one gender are often assumed to be lying about their sexuality.

A close friend of mine who I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, identifies as pansexual. In high school, he used the label “bi,” and people frequently told him, “No. You’re either gay or straight. You can’t be both.” When he tried to explain to them that he was, in fact, attracted to both genders, people assumed he was just using the label “bi” as a stepping stone to coming out gay. This could not have been farther from the truth. While he had not had any relationships with men at the time, he had actively pursued relationships with both genders, and genuinely had no preference for one over the other.

I recently stumbled upon this video, in which lesbians describe what they think about bisexual women, and even among these members of the LGBT community, I saw the same bias my friend had encountered. As I said earlier, I think this boils down to an overly simplified model of human sexuality. We’ve finally accepted that people can be either straight or gay, but sexuality includes even more variation than that, and that variation hasn’t been accepted yet by everyone.

I’m not the first person to have this thought. Alfred Kinsey, a biologist whose work contributed greatly to the field of sexology, developed his own model of sexual orientation, and while it certainly isn’t perfect (and does not address gender identity), adopting it (or something similar) for the purpose of understanding sexuality may help remove the stigma against people with attraction to multiple genders. Here’s his model of sexuality. I’ll describe it a bit, but it’s pretty self explanatory:

On the left side of the chart is the label “straight.” A person with a score of 0 experiences attraction to the opposite gender only. On the right side of the chart is the label “homosexual.” A person with a score of 6 experiences attraction to the same gender only. In between the two are varying degrees of attraction to both genders. People with a score of 3 are exactly bisexual. They do not favor either gender, and are attracted to both about equally. Yet there are those who are mostly straight but have some attraction to people of the same gender; simultaneously, there are people who are mostly gay, but have some attraction to people of the opposite gender. It isn’t perfect, but it opens up the idea that a person who is mostly one way or the other can have some attraction that does not match their primary label. It also lends itself to the idea of bisexuality, allowing a way for people to visualize how this attraction fits in with other ones.

Here’s where the title of this post comes into play. I’d like to see more people utilizing this idea of continuous sexuality in some way. I’d like to see people, especially people who fall anywhere from a 1 to a 5–those in-between places of sexuality–come out as not completely matching the labels society accepts. I suspect that if more people were to openly admit that sexuality does not necessarily fall into a perfect dichotomy, people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, and so forth, will be understood and accepted.

Maybe I’m crazy, but here goes. I’m definitely not a 0 on the Kinsey scale, but I’m not a 3 either. I use the label straight because it most accurately describes my sexual orientation, but I’m at least a 1, maybe a 1.5 if half points are allowed, though I don’t think I’m quite a 2. I definitely experience some attraction to women, though not as frequently as I do to men, and not enough that I’ve ever been actively interested in pursuing a relationship with a woman, though there have been times when I haven’t been completely opposed to it. There’s a stereotype that all women are at least a bit bisexual, but I don’t think this is true. I also don’t think that all men are either gay or straight, but I suspect that due to the way society views male homosexuality more negatively than female homosexuality, we are less likely to hear about it.

What about you? Where do you place yourself on the Kinsey scale? Do you match the exact labels, or are you somewhere in-between? Why do you think there’s so much misunderstanding concerning bisexuality and other such sexual orientations?

Feel free to leave a comment. As always, all opinions are welcome; just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

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8 thoughts on “Placing Myself on The Kinsey Scale

  1. Thank goodness that scale has been used in psychiatry for about two decades (individual practitioners may vary, but my large hospital definitely embraced it). I’m a 2 on the scale. I also described myself as a bisexual when young and was told exactly what your friend was told, that I was either gay or straight, and most likely gay if I had any attraction to women. It seemed both heterosexuals and gays hated bisexuals…I guess maybe they had a hard time tolerating ambiguity. It did not work well for me to try to switch between “teams” in college. The lesbians would get irritated that I could ever be attracted to a male, and the males only wanted me attracted to women in hopes of a 3-some, but not otherwise. It was a mess. This was back in the 90’s so I can only hope it’s better now. I’ve been with my husband for 16 years so it’s a mute point at this time, but I do identify myself as a bisexual.

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    • I’m sorry to hear that you experienced that. I think it’s getting better slowly. I know a lot of very religious students, believe it or not, who are heavily involved in my school’s equivalent of a GSA, and help hold information sessions about gender and sexuality. Seeing people with devout religious beliefs be willing to simultaneously accept people for who they are gives me hope that the general population is probably starting to get it too. These students also know a lot of LGBT people, so I think the fact that so many people are open about it is helping.

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  2. I’m either a 0 or a 1 (or a 0.5), depending on how much attraction to really feminine men counts.

    Sex (as in male or female) isn’t a perfect dichotomy either, and for that matter neither is gender, so any one-dimensional scale is still simplified in a way that not everyone can be placed on it. (You’re already acknowledging the distinction between bisexual and pansexual so I think you know what I mean, but not everyone who’s attracted to people outside the binary is necessarily attracted to both binary sexes, so we probably need at least one more word.)

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    • That’s an excellent point. I like this scale for its ability to illustrate the way sexuality can vary, but it’s definitely missing some details, like the ones you pointed out, and asexuality. It gets hard to keep track of all the labels sometimes but ultimately people are pretty complex and not easy to sort into boxes.

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  3. Of course the scale doesn’t include gender identity – it wasn’t an “issue” when it was created (right about the time I was born). But, um, aren’t transgender still either male or female when it’s all said and done? I think so but there are many who wouldn’t agree – and I’m not sure why they wouldn’t.

    As a bisexual, I’ve had people tell me that I was either straight or gay and that it was impossible for me to be both… and that is so patently ridiculous because it speaks to a belief that there can be no “middle ground” in this even though that’s obviously untrue. It used to irk me… but now I just shake my head sadly over their cluelessness.

    Now, the scale, while a sliding one, still isn’t as static as it may seem; I know I’m not a 0 nor am I a 6 – but whether I’m somewhere along 1 to 5 depends on how I’m feeling at any given moment. I could say I’m a 3… right at this moment; I can be more about women than men one moment, and the opposite five minutes later – and then I could easily “complicate” this by stating a difference in my emotional state and my sexual preferences which, by the way, aren’t ever the same things to me from one moment to the next. People tend to see this as an either/or kind of thing when, at least for me, it never was – it’s always “and” – and, yes, I can want both at the same time (and have had it that way).

    Fluidity is such an individual thing and since it is, yep, there’s much misunderstanding and even angst about it. It’s easier for me to say that I’m bisexual than it is to explain exactly HOW I’m bisexual and because I know I’m variably different in my thinking; if my thinking isn’t static, then my bisexuality isn’t – to me, it can’t be.

    We continue to think of sexuality in black or white terms even though there is a broad gray area and with “better” acceptance of homosexuality, it makes sense to some that you’re either straight or gay and anything else is confusion/denial and I guess this is what happens when, as a culture, we think in absolutes all of the time.

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    • Thanks for your comment. That’s a very interesting perspective. To respond to your points, gender identity, to my understanding, (and I’m still new to this issue) seems to be separate from sexuality for most people, but for some people the two issues are interconnected, and I think that’s why some people would want a model that includes it. I’m a little under informed on that particular issue though.

      As far as the idea that at the end of the day transgender people are either male or female, the definition of a transgender person, to go off Wikipedia, is “the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex.” That’s actually not a binary definition, since a person who is born male could feel like neither gender, but rather somewhere in-between, and still not technically match their assigned sex. There are also people born who physically do not fit into one gender or the other. That’s about all I know about the subject.

      I like your description of the fluidity you’ve experienced with yoursexual orientation. It seems like something that’s difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it–I’ve never been that fluid–but maybe a fair number of people are. And that probably makes having to be put into the either/or dichotomy even more frustrating.

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      • Well, I’ve been bi for 51 of my almost 60 years so I’ve had lots of time and experiences to figure it out – where I am on the scale isn’t just about what I might do – it’s also how I think and feel and that is rarely consistent – and I’d be worried if it was.

        If you’re bisexual, you have the fluidity in not being a 0 or a 6 – but within that, there’s more fluidity because your thoughts and feelings are fluid.

        Easy, right? Kinsey’s scale is a guideline, a visual aid for those who don’t want to read the whole report, which is more detailed. What amuses me is that everyone is all over the place about sexuality, dismisses things like the gender binary and other conventional thoughts – but they still refer to something that is older than am I and because there’s no better way to represent the fluidity of sexuality and if there is, I’ve never seen it.

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