Sexual Orientation

Topic: Demographic Structure Of Society

Sexual orientation refers to enduring emotional, romantic and sexual attraction to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither.

Sexual orientation is generally divided into the following categories:

Heterosexuality, or attraction to members of the opposite biological sex

Homosexuality, or attraction to members of the same biological sex

Bisexuality, or attraction to members of both biological sexes

Asexuality, or attraction to neither biological sex

With regard to sexuality, socialization in the U.S. and Western countries most notably adheres to heteronormativity, or the marking of heterosexual unions as normal and homosexual unions as socially abnormal and deviant. This view is driven by religion, the law, and the media, which are the three primary agents of socialization that teach people how to behave sexually. It creates a binary view of sexuality as either being heterosexual or homosexual.

In a western society currently, this binary view can be seen in common social behaviors and treatments of these groups as heteronormative norms are privileged, meaning that heterosexual expressions of sexuality are more accepted than homosexual expressions. Part of the opposition to the gender binary is that it creates heteronormative assumptions that mark heterosexuality as normal and homosexuality deviant merely because it is the opposite of heterosexuality.

Equally, it is essential to note that sexual orientation is often treated as a spectrum instead as much like gender; it is not a binary concept. This is because sexual orientation does not only refer to one’s sexual practices but also includes a psychological component, like the direction of an individual’s erotic desire. Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinguishable. Sexual identity refers to an individual’s conception of their sexuality, while sexual behavior limits one’s understanding of sexuality to behaviors performed. People may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.

Key Points

• Sexual orientation is a  way of categorizing a person’s sexual preferences, sometimes it is viewed as a binary scale of homosexual and heterosexual but is treated as a spectrum in modern respects

• In society, as a demographic, sexuality is used to categorize people based on their sexual preferences

Key Terms

heteronormativity: the view that all human beings are either male or female, both in sex and in gender, and that sexual and romantic thoughts and relations are normal only when between people of different sexes

binary: classification of sexuality on a continuum from heterosexuality to homosexuality with bisexuality falling in the middle

asexuality: asexuality, in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex. It may also be considered a lack of sexual orientation

heterosexuality: attraction to members of the opposite biological sex

homosexuality: attraction to members of the same biological sex

bisexuality: attraction to members of both biological sexes

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