How Is The Kinsey Scale Used In Regard To Sexual Orientation?

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The Kinsey Scale got a mention on a recent Oprah episode about sexual fluidity. Read more here about the scale and how it relates to sexual orientation.

rating-scale_kinsey

Photo: The Kinsey Institute

Alfred Kinsey's Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale

Although people frequently ask us about the Kinsey Scale, it is receiving more attention now given its recent mention on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey Scale was developed by Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues in the 1940s and first published in their groundbreaking book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Though originally called the “Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale”, the media buzz around Dr. Kinsey meant that much of his work came to be associated with his name and, over time, the scale became known as “the Kinsey Scale.”

It is a scale that runs from 0 to 6 with 0 indicating that someone is “exclusively heterosexual” and 6 indicating that someone is “exclusively homosexual”. The idea behind the scale is that sexual orientation is not black and white; they may have preferences for same or other sex sexual partners and those preferences may even change over the course of a person’s life.

Not A Quiz

Some people mistakenly think that the Kinsey Scale is a “quiz” that one can take to learn what their own or another person’s sexual orientation may be. However, given the complexities around sexual orientation and who a person is sexually or romantically drawn to, there is no simple quiz that can perhaps accurately reflect someone’s orientation.

To learn more about the Kinsey Scale, visit the Institute’s web site. The Institute also sells t-shirts with numbers on the backs (similar to sports jerseys) from 0 to 6 that you can choose to display your place on the Kinsey Scale. You can learn more about the t-shirts or buy one on our web site.

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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