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What Factors Decide Human Sexual Orientation?


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Human sexual orientation is not just something that happens to man. It is rather should be viewed as something that lives with man throughout his life time. It is therefore not right to regard sexuality or human sexual orientation as something that man has choice over. It develops with man according to the dictates of the person’s nature and nurture. Thus sexual orientation in man is initially activated after birth by the person’s natural make-ups like his genetic heredity.

As soon as this sexual behavior is activated after birth, then various factors in the society that one finds oneself determine the rest. It is then fallacious for one to start looking at sexual orientation in man as a mere choice taken by the person. We all should remember that whatever is man’s property is given to him by the society. In this case, habits and sexual orientations are not excluded. Man’s disposition to take or not to take these societal gifts lies in the strength of the man’s will-power. Sometimes, society has some ways of suppressing this will-power in man and literary force him to accept and consume what it wants to give him.

Formation of sexual orientation in man therefore starts as early as after the child is born. Environment he grows and the society he lives in also become other deciding factors. The child therefore would form any sexual orientation he has based on his genetic inheritance and what the society offers him during his growth and formation of identity period. This sexual development is not automatic for it would take major part of human growth to be accomplished.

Therefore, it is a great idea formed by Dr Alfred Kinsey when he viewed sexual orientation in man as a continuum rather than the general belief that it is a matter of two extremes – homosexuality and heterosexuality. Kinsey scale of sexual orientation has seven points. This simply means that each of these seven points has people who adhere to it due to their experiences in life. Putting everyone in this scale we can therefore see that, “…it is normal for a heterosexual person to have thoughts, dreams or even fantasies about members of the same sex as it is for homosexuals to have thoughts about heterosexuals”[1]. In the Kinsey scale therefore, pure homosexuals and pure heterosexuals are in the two extremes.

“One of his most famous contributions was the Kinsey Scale which is a 7-point scale, often used to measure sexual orientation. At the time when Kinsey was conducting his research, homosexuality and heterosexuality were considered mutually exclusive, separate categories: you were either straight or gay. Period. Instead, Kinsey proposed it was more correct to view sexual orientation along a continuum, rather than as an either-or category. In other words, it’s not whether or not you are heterosexual or homosexual, it is how heterosexual or homosexual are you”[2]

Seven points in Kinsey scale rages from 0 to 6 whereas point 3 is the centre of the scale. Group of people in point 0 are exclusively heterosexual, those in point 1 are predominantly heterosexual but only incidentally homosexual while those in point 2 are predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual. From point 1 to point 5, we can see some group of people called bisexuals, each group with their varying degrees of homosexual and heterosexual. In point 3, there is a group of people whose inclinations to either homosexual or heterosexual are equal in rank. Those in point 4 are predominantly homosexuals who are more than incidentally engage also in heterosexual. Those in point 5 are predominantly homosexuals who only incidentally engage in heterosexual relationship. The last group in the scale is those in point 6. This group is pure homosexuals who have nothing to do with heterosexual relationship.

Kinsey scale therefore is telling us that there is no sharp demarcation in manifestation of sexual orientation in man. Each man manifests his or her sexual orientation based on his or her psychological development and environmental influences. It is then most often untrue for people to be termed homosexuals or heterosexuals due to sudden manifestation of either of the sexual orientation. The person can also be a bisexual. Therefore, we can say that there are three groups of human sexual orientation: heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual. Among the three, it is only bisexual that has higher probability of manifestation in man, having 5 out of the 7 points.

[1] Ramon Johnson, http://gaylife.about.com/cs/gay101/a/kinsey.htm, 9th December 2009.

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