Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

6.8: The Kinsey Scale

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    For generations, people have attempted to understand sexuality as something a person is born with, with the belief that a person’s sexual preference can be changed through religion, therapy, torture, or other measures. Although sexual preference can change over time, it is not possible to alter an individual’s sexual orientation with various forms of therapy.  For example, those wishing to “pray away the gay” with types of “Conversion therapies”  do irreparable harm to LBTQIA+ individuals. In Chapter 4, you were introduced to Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking work, making him one of the classic theorists in the study of human sexuality. In 1949, he along with his colleagues published, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1949). Based on their research,  Doctors Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin created a scale that ranked a person's sexuality on a spectrum from homosexual to heterosexual. In 1949, this was seen as revolutionary.  The Kinsey Scale, as it was later named, proved that not all people are inherently heterosexual or homosexual; in fact, sexuality exists on a wide spectrum. The Kinsey Scale set a standard for measuring sexuality as existing along a spectrum, rather than what was once thought of as bipolar (heterosexual or homosexual).

    Dr. Kinsey’s research uncovered that most people aren’t absolutely straight or gay/lesbian. Instead of just asking “Do you prefer men or women?” he asked people to report their fantasies, dreams, thoughts, emotional investments in others, and frequency of sexual contact. Based on his findings, he broke sexuality down into a seven-point scale (see below), and reported that most people who identify as straight are actually somewhere between 1 and 3 on the scale, and most people who identify as lesbian/gay are between 3 and 5, meaning most of us are a little bisexual.

    0—Exclusively Heterosexual

    1—Predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual

    2—Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

    3—Equally heterosexual and homosexual

    4—Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual

    5—Predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual

    6—Exclusively Homosexual 

    Kinsey Scale. Public Domain.

    According to the Kinsey Institute, there is not an official Kinsey Test, and the team that developed the Kinsey Scale initially assigned a number to test subjects based on their sexual history. Ultimately, a person’s sexuality cannot be fully measured through testing, and can only be defined by an individual's own expression.

    The Kinsey Reports do not include all types of sexualities but have helped build a framework for other scales to dive deeper into the spectrum of sexuality. Two noted examples are the  Klein Grid | and the Storms Sexuality Axis. Over time, people have made adaptations to the Kinsey Scale by developing their own graphics, illustrations, and charts that showcase the fidelity of sexuality.

    Decades of research has supported this idea that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the opposite sex/gender to exclusive attraction to the same sex/gender (Carroll, 2016).

    A more contemporary look at sexual orientation as infinite variations of attraction. A closer examination illustrates this:

    A spectrum of sexual orientation by Sam Killerman (Uncopyright)

    This page titled 6.8: The Kinsey Scale is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Susan Rahman with Nathan Bowman, Dahmitra Jackson, Anna Lushtak, Remi Newman, & Prateek Sunder.