Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bisexuality and the Kinsey Scale

By Mister Curie

After acknowledging being attracted to men, I struggled with where to place myself on the Kinsey scale and how to interpret that placement. Despite how much I felt I had denied being attracted to men for my entire life, I couldn't deny that I had also had feelings of attraction for women. I quickly recognized that I was not a "6" on the Kinsey scale, but it was also apparent that I was not a "3" and I felt more attracted to men in general than to women. I felt that a bisexual should be equally attracted to men and women, so I accepted the gay label.  I returned to one of my earliest thoughts that I had not recognized my attraction to men because I focused more on my attraction to women, whatever amount of that which existed. I anticipated that as I acknowledged my attractions to men I would experience a sudden swing on the Kinsey scale, but that hasn't happened. While I am more able to actively recognize and appreciate my attractions to men now, I have not felt a major shift in my Kinsey scale. It appears that while years of being married to a woman couldn't remove my attractions to men, acknowledging my attraction to men also cannot remove my attractions to women (most notably, of course, my wife).

What does the research show with regard to Kinsey scale and self-labeled heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals?  Again from the "Dual Attraction" questionairre, for sexual feelings 97% of heterosexuals reported 0-1, 97% of homosexuals reported 5-6, and bisexuals spread out across the kinsey scale with 2% reported 0 and another 2% reporting 6, only 20% reporting 3 and in general exhibiting a slight over-representation toward the lower (heterosexual) end of the Kinsey scale.  For sexual behaviors, 100% of heterosexuals reported 0-1 (8.8% reported 1, which is a small degree of homosexual behaviors) and 100% of homosexuals reported 5-6 (8.8% reported 5, which is a small degree of heterosexual behaviors), and bisexuals were again spread out across the scale with 11% reported 0, 8.3% reported 6 and a more pronounced skewing of the data toward the lower (heterosexual) end of the scale.  For romantic feelings, 97% of heterosexuals reported 0-1, 97% of homosexuals reported 5-6, and bisexuals were widely dispersed, 23% reported 0, 4.5% reported 6 and the most pronounced skewing toward the lower (heterosexual) end of the scale. 
The researchers then looked at composite scores of sexual feelings, sexual behaviors, and romantic feelings for individuals.  65% of heterosexuals were pure heterosexuals (0 on all three measures on the Kinsey scale) and 58.3% of homosexuals were pure homosexuals (6 on all three measures).  Only 6.9% of bisexual men were pure bisexuals (3 on all three measures).  The largest category of bisexual men were heteroseuxal leaning bisexuals with 43.1% of bisexuals reporting an average of 2 or less on all three measures).  21.6 % of bisexual men were mid bisexuals with 2-4 on all three measures, 17.6% of bisexual men were homosexual leaning bisexuals with an average of 4-6 on all three measures.  The researchers also identified a category they called "varied bisexuals" who had a separation of at least 3 points between two of their Kinsey scale measurements.  In general "varied bisexuals" had significantly more  homosexual behaviors than their sexual and romantic feelings would predict. 
Based on these criteria, I would be classified as a "varied bisexual", but my behaviors are significantly more heterosexual than my feelings would predict.  The researchers noted one subject in their survey that seems to be a close match to my profile. "Only one bisexual showed a discrepancy of 4 scale points or greater across the three dimensions.  It was produced by having more homsexual sexual and romantic feelings but no homosexual sexual activity. (The profile was 404.)"
As expected, heterosexuals clustered near the low end of the Kinsey scale, homosexuals clustered near the high end of the Kinsey scale, and bisexuals were spread out, but seemed to cluster near the lower end of the Kinsey scale rather than the middle of the Kinsey scale. Thus bisexuals appeared to be significantly attracted to men, but slightly more attracted to women than men. This contradicts with my own feelings of attraction toward men being stronger than toward women in general.

The researchers also looked at the overlap in Kinsey profiles among the heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals.  They found that 87% of the heterosexuals that were not 0 on all three Kinsey scales overlapped with the heterosexual leaning bisexuals Kinsey profiles.  Similarly, 81% of the homosexuals that were not 6 on all three Kinsey scales overlapped with the homosexual leaning bisexual Kinsey profiles.  The researchers suggest that these areas of overlap may be people beginning to experience a change in self-labeling as they find that their feelings and behaviors do not entirely match their self-label and would be a particularly interesting group to study for researchers studying transition in sexual identity.  The researchers also suggest that "varied bisexuals" may be in a particularly unstable situation as behaviors tend to match closely with feelings.  These results also show that there is significant overlap in Kinsey scales among different self-labels. 
How does your self-label match with your Kinsey scale rankings of sexual feelings, sexual behavior, and romantic feelings?  How closely aligned are your Kinsey scale rankings?


  1. I like the Kinsey scale because it illustrates, in very simplistic and easy to understand terms, that sexual orientation is not a binary switch where you are either gay or straight.

    However, as you have so eloquently illustrated, it is also deeply flawed in that it over simplifies sexual orientation which is, in fact, extremely complex, and not at all well understood.

    As far as self assessment, based on thoughts and feelings, I would put myself at, at least, a 5 on the Kinsey scale; however, sexual activity/experience would peg me as a 0 since I was a virgin when I married and have always remained faithful to my wife. So what am I really? I have no idea ...

    1. Anonymous26 June, 2012

      The answer is that you You're struggling with a definition because the labels are all supplied by others, and just about ANY label is overly simplistic. Many would look at your situation and say you are denying your "true self" (whatever that means). Who are they to tell you what your "true" self really is? You are who you are, you are doing what you want to be doing, and you are staying faithful to someone you love. Sounds like, whatever the label others want to apply, you are being 100% true to yourself. Kudos.

  2. the scale just doesn't apply to moho's. I'm 6/5/3. But I would not call myself a varied bisexual. I'm gay.

  3. The Kinsey scale is inherently flawed and I think is generally disregarded by most people now (see Edward Stein - Mismeasure of Desire for a good discussion on the problems with the Kinsey scale). Even adapted versions of dimensional scales for sexual orientations fail because they're too discrete. Having it as a scale instead of distinct categories doesn't automatically make it inclusive. Not to mention the fact that it can't account for the whole minefield that is sexuality not restricted to just being determined by gender.

  4. @Abelard and Santorio - sounds like lots of MoHos end up being "varied bisexuals" according to their classifications, although in the opposite direction of their usual observation. My guess is that something about Mormon teachings keeps MoHo behavior from conforming with sexual and romantic feelings.

    @Alex - Sounds like a fascinating book by Edward Stein. I always enjoy reading things that challenge prevailing notions. I think I will add it to my reading list. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. It's the person that matters not the gender. I call myself bi because I can be sexually attracted to other people regardless of gender, and most of the population - including trans people - are identified as male or female. However I'm certainly not sexually attracted to all, or even most people.

    The theory that to be a "bisexual" you must be equally attracted to men and women simply doesn't work. And I've never seen the word defined that way by any dictionary or encyclopaedia anyway.

    Try looking at this way Madame & Mr Currie - you're not monosexuals are you?

  6. how can we get our ratings on the Kinsey scale? also, i laugh at the term "pure bisexual," as bisexual to me just means all possibilities are open to you.