Bisexual: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we'll define bisexuality, and we'll explore the historical and current views and understanding of it. We'll also discuss the emergence and identification of bisexuals.

Definition

While many people are familiar with heterosexuality (attraction to the opposite sex) and homosexuality (attraction to the same sex), there's a third type of sexuality that is not one or the other, but both - bisexuality. Bisexuality is an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and possible sexual attraction to both sexes. This attraction can vary between men and women, or it can be predominately one over the other. Sexuality is found in a person's attractions and related behaviors when involved with their preferential sex.

How We Understand Bisexuality

Bisexuality can be described by what is known as the Kinsey Scale. Briefly, the Kinsey Scale is a range along a continuum of sexual experience.

Kinsey Scale
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Simply speaking, those who rate themselves as a 0 or 1 on this scale are exclusively heterosexual, while those at 6 or 7 are exclusively homosexual. Everything from 2 to 5 could be considered bisexual, with a preference for someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. This makes bisexuality a little more difficult to pin down due to its lack of exclusivity.

Emergence and Identification

Similar to homosexuality, the emergence of bisexuality varies between individuals. Some people feel from a young age a mutual attraction to both sexes. Others realize later in life that they have this attraction. Typically, orientation emerges between middle childhood and early adolescence. This would be the time of puberty, when a sexual identity is established.

Bisexual individuals possess a unique problem with the identification of their sexuality. People have a natural tendency to put things into group 1 or group 2 - heterosexual or homosexual. It is naturally easier to see things as more dichotomous than as a scale. Bisexuality exists on a scale without a clear assignment of orientation - neither heterosexual nor homosexual - but with some gray in between. This results in a certain level of discrimination and prejudice that is unique to bisexuals alone, who experience the stigma from both heterosexual and homosexual individuals.

Views

Currently, sexuality is seen as an innate part of a person and not subject to conscious change. Most major institutions have come to a consensus on this point. These organizations and associations have expressed concerns over conversion therapy, which seeks to alter a person's sexuality. Recently in California, a bill was passed making such a therapy illegal due to numerous studies finding the 'therapy' more harmful than helpful and without significant merit.

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