Have you ever questioned your sexual orientation, despite being quite grounded in the fact that you belong to or do not belong to a certain one? As we know, sexuality is fluid and while one may very well feel as though they are 100 percent heterosexual or 100 percent homosexual, the majority of us actually fall on the spectrum of sexuality.
Cue: the Kinsey Scale…
What is the Kinsey Scale?
The Kinsey Scale was developed by sexologist and biologist Alfred Kinsey, and was introduced to the world in 1948 when he and his colleagues had their book published, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. At this time, it was called the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale.
The Kinsey Scale was quite a breakthrough, and rather shocking for some, as it was the first time that people were introduced to the idea that sexual attraction was not limited solely to heterosexuality or homosexuality. It was a time that shed light on sexual fluidity, and that most people couldn’t actually be strictly characterised as “straight” or “gay”.
This sexuality scale came about after Kinsey and his peers interviewed thousands of individuals, talking to them about their preferences, thoughts, and feelings. Kinsey alone managed to interview 8,000 people.
He found that 37 percent of the men interviewed had experienced a same-sex encounter. For unmarried men, this number was higher, at 50 percent, by the age of 35. For women, 13 percent had had a same-sex experience.
With this information, Kinsey created the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale (which today is called the Kinsey Scale).
How Does the Kinsey Scale Work and Where Do You Fall on the Kinsey Scale?
The Kinsey Scale ranges from zero to six, with an additional category called ‘X’. It is a self-diagnostic test, which means that you yourself can decide where you fall on the Kinsey Scale.
The various ratings on the Kinsey Scale:
0: Exclusively heterosexual behaviour or attraction.
1: Predominantly heterosexual with a slight inclination to be attracted to the same sex or engage in same-sex activity.
2: Predominantly heterosexual, more inclined to be attracted to someone of the same sex, or to engage in same-sex behaviour.
3: Equal heterosexual and homosexual behaviour or attraction, aka “bisexual”.
4: Predominantly homosexual, but a bit more likely to be attracted to the opposite sex or engage in heterosexual behaviour.
5: Predominantly homosexual, only slightly inclinded to be attracted to the opposite sex or engage in heterosexual behaviour.
6: Exclusive homosexual behaviour or attraction
X: No socio-sexual contact or attraction, aka “asexual”.
With this information, you could assign yourself a spot on the scale as there is no “official” test available. But it’s important to realise that there are limitations to this test, and that one’s sexuality can change over time.
What Are the Limitations of the Kinsey Scale?
As mentioned, humans have the capacity to change sexually over time, which is already a big limitation to assigning yourself a spot on the scale. Doing so could actually be detrimental, as it may make you believe it to be an “official” result, and thus may make it harder for you to experiment or experience other kinds of sexuality.
Aside from that, the Kinsey Scale only accounts for heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality. It doesn’t however account for those who identify with other orientations such as pansexual, demisexual, graysexual, polysexual, and more. It also doesn’t account for those who identify with certain romantic orientations such as a demiromantic, panromantic, grayromantic, and more.
Then, there’s the fact that this scale assumes that heterosexuality and homosexuality are opposite. In this way, people are led to believe that the more they identify with one orientation, the less they’ll identify with the other. Today, however, we’ve learned that sexual orientation is an independent construct.
Another limitation of the Kinsey Scale is that it assumes that gender is binary. The scale uses the assumption that individuals identify as either a man or a woman, which excludes non-binary, intersex, or other gender identities.
And then there’s also the fact that the Kinsey Scale doesn’t account for differences between romantic and sexual orientation. Individuals are able to feel sexually attracted to people of a certain gender yet romantically attracted to people of a different gender.
The Impact of the Kinsey Scale
Interestingly, and despite its limitations, the Kinsey Scale had a massive effect on the U.S. when it first came out in 1948.
Because of it, every single state in the U.S. outlawed homosexuality because it conflicted with sodomy laws. Not just that, but homosexuality was added as a mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
While these are the negative effects of the Kinsey Scale, there were some positive effects that came about due to its creation…
It introduced people to a new way of thinking about sexuality, and led people and professionals to do more research on the construct of sexual orientation and sexual experiences.
The Kinsey Scale also encouraged more than 200 other scales to come to fruition regarding one’s sexuality. One of these is more comprehensive, namely The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid.
Regardless of which kind of scale you use, or if you reject the idea of using a scale to determine your orientation, everyone should know that sexuality is fluid and that it can change at any time.
Thus, using these scales may be fun or interesting, but it’s best not to use it to ‘label’ yourself or allow it to define you as a person for the rest of your life.