Sexual orientation

enduring pattern of sexual attraction

Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender. These attractions are generally subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality, while asexuality (the lack of sexual attraction to others) is sometimes identified as the fourth category.


  • One of the most distinctive features of the current regime under which we live is the prominence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as central, organizing categories of thought, behaviour, and erotic subjectivity. The rise to dominance of those categories represents a relatively recent and culturally specific development, yet it has left little trace in our consciousness of its novelty. As a result, not only do we have a hard time understanding the logic at work in other historical cultures' organizations of sex and gender, but we have an even harder time understanding our own experiences of sexuality that are not universal.
    • David M. Halperin, How To Do the History of Homosexuality, p. 3. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226314472.
  • Although sexual theorists might like simple, parsimonious, conceptualization of sexual orientation and sexual identity or unidirectional theories of sexual behaviour. Recent studies of various groups in the United States show that simple conceptualizations of sexual orientation and sexual identity development do not accurately reflect the rich variation in behaviour or self-classification.
    • Michaeal R. Stevenson, Reconciling Sexual Orientation, from The Sex Scientists 1998
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