Sexual Orientation
noun
  1. a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted; the fact of being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

Four related phenomena fall under the general rubric of sexual orientation, but they are conceptually and empirically distinguishable. They are listed here not in order of importance but in an order that reflects their degree of
historical attention.

  1. The first phenomenon, sexual behavior, consists of sexual interactions between persons of the same sex (homosexual), the other sex (heterosexual), or both sexes (bisexual).
  2. The second phenomenon, sexual identity, is one’s self-conception (sometimes disclosed to others and sometimes not) as a homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual person.
  3. The third phenomenon of sexual orientation is one’s degree of sexual attraction to the same sex, both sexes, or the other sex.
  4. The fourth phenomenon is one’s relative physiological sexual arousal to men versus women (or to male vs. female erotic stimuli), which is more closely related to other aspects of sexual orientation in men than in women.

Terminology also differs among the different phenomena of sexual orientation. People identify as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “straight.” Scientists primarily concerned with the consequences of same-sex behavior
may refer to “men who have sex with men.” In this report, we refer to sexual attraction patterns as “homosexual,” “bisexual,” or “heterosexual.”

Alternatively, it is sometimes more relevant to distinguish individuals not according to whether they are attracted to same-sex or other-sex partners but according to whether they are attracted to men (androphilic) or women (gynephilic).

In this usage, both heterosexual women and homosexual men would be considered androphilic because both groups are attracted to men; both heterosexual men and homosexual women would be considered gynephilic
because both groups are attracted to women.

Although the four aforementioned phenomena of sexual orientation (behavior, attraction, identity, and arousal) tend to go together—homosexually oriented persons tend to identify as gay or lesbian and to have
sex with same-sex partners—they do not always. For example, some men who identify as straight/heterosexual have sex with other men and appear to be most strongly attracted to men. Some adolescents engage
in homosexual activity, yet grow up to identify and behave as heterosexuals.

Similarly, some individuals pursue same-sex relationships in sex-segregated environments, such as boarding schools, prisons, or the military, but resume heterosexual relationships once other-sex partners are available.

Moreover, the degree of association between homosexual attraction, behavior, and identity varies across individuals in different cultural contexts. For example, in some cultures and communities, homosexually
attracted men regularly engage in same-sex behavior while still maintaining a heterosexual identity.

In other cultures and communities, such a pattern may be less common, and homosexually attracted men may find it difficult to find male partners without identifying themselves as homosexual or bisexual. Sexual orientation is defined here as an attraction to members of the same sex, both sexes, or the other sex. Most researchers studying sexual orientation focus on self-reported patterns of sexual attraction rather than sexual behavior or identity, because sexual behavior and identity can be extremely constrained by local culture and because sexual attraction motivates behavior and identity, rather than vice versa.

Source: Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science – retrieved on the 10-8-18

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