Q&A: The Kinsey Scale And Kinsey Test

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QUESTION: Since the release of the Kinsey movie, friends ask me about the Kinsey Scale and the test. How does one know where he or she falls on the hetrosexual/homosexual rating scale? Is there such a thing as the "Kinsey Test"?

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Photo: The Kinsey Institute

Alfred Kinsey's Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale

We are regularly asked for information about the Kinsey “test” or “quiz” but in fact no such thing exists.

The Kinsey Scale

The heterosexual-homosexual rating scale, also known as The Kinsey Scale, is a seven-point scale developed by pioneering sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey in order to illustrate that human beings fall along a continuum in their sexual behaviors and interests in people who are of the same or other sex.

Based on the thousands of sex interviews Dr. Kinsey and his research team conducted in the United States, he did not find evidence to suggest that people fell into two neat categories of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” – or as is often said today, “straight” and “gay”.

Thus, the seven points of the Kinsey scale were identified as:

  • exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual (0)
  • predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual (1)
  • predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual (2)
  • equally heterosexual and homosexual (3)
  • predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual (4)
  • predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual (5)
  • exclusively homosexual (6).

That’s not to say that placement in these categories is easy to determine.

What, after all, makes someone’s sexual experiences “predominantly” homosexual or heterosexual? Does this mean that “most” of their encounters were same or opposite sex, or is there a certain percentage of events that one considers as a threshold?

Well, what if someone’s sexual behaviors are largely with opposite sex individuals even though their sexual desire and arousal is largely in response to same sex individuals? Or what if things changed over the course of one’s life, a fact that Dr. Kinsey noted among his research participants.

Where Would You Place Yourself?

Because there is no “Kinsey Test” or quiz that categorizes people on the Kinsey scale, those who are interested in it can simply take a look at the continuum and consider where they might place themselves, with the understanding that your own placement might change over time.

You may feel like a “Kinsey 2″ at this point in your life only to find later on that you feel more like a “Kinsey 3″. Or something completely different.

The Kinsey scale – and other proposed models of sexual orientation – are certainly not the final answer. Instead, they illustrate the complexities of sexual attraction, behaviors and orientation. Contemporary sex researchers continue to work to understand what shapes our sexual orientation, though the scientific debate has since entered more modern day forms of exploration such as the relationship between genetics and sexual orientation.

Learn More

You can view and read more about the scale on The Kinsey Institute’s web site or in “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” Dr. Kinsey’s groundbreaking 1948 book based on his team’s interviews with men in the United States.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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