The Kinsey Scale attempts to define a person’s sexual and romantic orientation. While this scale may be useful to some people, it has limitations.
This article explores what the Kinsey Scale is, its intended purpose, and its limitations.
The Kinsey Scale is a method to help define a person’s sexual and romantic orientation.
Its creators call it the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale. This is because it considers a more fluid definition of sexual and romantic orientation, rather than labeling someone as heterosexual, bisexual, or gay.
The researchers published their scale in 1948 due to research suggesting that people are not simply either heterosexual or gay. As a result, the scale accounts for people who feel varying degrees of sexual or romantic orientation towards those of the opposite or same sex gender.
|Number||What it means|
|0||Exclusively experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the opposite sex or gender.|
|1||Mostly experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the opposite sex or gender. A person may have a slight sexual or romantic attraction toward the same sex or gender.|
|2||Mostly experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the opposite sex or gender. A person may have more than a slight sexual or romantic attraction toward the same sex or gender.|
|3||Equal sexual or romantic attraction toward both opposite and same sex or gender.|
|4||Mostly experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the same sex or gender. A person may have a slight sexual or romantic attraction towards the opposite sex or gender.|
|5||Mostly experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the same sex or gender. A person may have more than a slight sexual or romantic attraction towards the opposite sex or gender.|
|6||Exclusively experiencing sexual or romantic attraction to the same sex or gender.|
|X||Experiencing no sexual or romantic attraction.|
People taking part in Kinsey Scale tests will therefore sit somewhere along this spectrum of sexual or romantic orientation.
There are some limitations to the Kinsey Scale, some of which the Kinsey Institute recognizes.
Not considering all orientations
The Kinsey Scale does not account for all orientations. While it can be useful for people who identify as straight, gay, bisexual, and to a lesser extent, asexual, it may not be helpful for others.
There are many different sexual and romantic orientations, such as skoliosexual. This is a sexual, romantic attraction, or both, towards nonbinary people.
Assuming gender is binary
The Kinsey Scale only measures attraction towards the opposite or same sex or gender as the person under assessment. This may exclude people who are nonbinary, those who reject gender, and several other gender identities.
The Kinsey Scale reduces some orientations to being straight, gay, bisexual, or experiencing no sexual or romantic attraction. The scale only goes so far as to acknowledge that people may feel more or less attracted to the same or opposite sex or gender.
People also may not find the Kinsey Scale useful. For example, a person may feel romantic attraction towards a certain gender, but sexual attraction towards another.
The scale may also define a person on the asexual spectrum as not experiencing sexual or romantic feelings, when they may feel one or more kinds of attraction at specific points.
For example, a person who identifies as demisexual may not feel sexual or romantic attraction towards another person until they form an emotional bond with them.
Being reduced to a number
People may not feel comfortable identifying with a number for many reasons. A number may not adequately define the sexual orientation a person experiences.
Similarly, some people may not want to be measured. Sexual orientation can be a deeply personal experience, while a person may wish to avoid defining their orientation. People could also feel that their sexual orientation is not yet definable.
While several websites offer assessments with the Kinsey Scale, there is no official test. However, there is no harm in participating in unofficial tests.
It is important to remember that the Kinsey Scale does not include all sexual orientations. A person who does not fit into the test’s straight, gay, or bisexual categories may not gain a result that accurately describes their sexual orientation.
People also do not need a scale to determine their sexual orientation. If a person identifies as straight, gay, asexual, or any other orientation, then sexual orientation tests are unnecessary.
The Kinsey Institute acknowledges that a person’s romantic and sexual attraction towards different sexes and genders can change over time. This means if people take a Kinsey Scale test twice, it is possible to have different scores.
Since the Kinsey Scale appeared in 1948, several scales have attempted to update or define the criteria. Three other main tests include:
- Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG)
- Sell Assessment of Sexual Orientation (SASO)
- Storms Scale
Klein Sexual Orientation Grid
Dr. Fritz Klein designed the KSOG to describe a person’s sexual orientation in a more detailed way than other tests. It includes 21 questions, each asking a person to express their past, present, and ideal behaviors.
This considers that people’s sexual or romantic attractions may change over time, or if they are currently unable to participate in their ideal behaviors.
Sell Assessment of Sexual Orientation
Dr. Sell devised SASO, a test covering three categories: sexual attraction, sexual contact, and sexual identity.
It asks 12 questions to categorize someone’s sexual orientation. Similar to the Kinsey Scale, SASO only places people on a scale of sexuality.
Psychologist Michael Storms created the Storms scale to account for both sexuality and sexual fantasies. The scale uses an x–y axis that categorizes people on a spectrum between heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or asexual.
The Kinsey Scale is one of several systems that attempt to categorize a person on the spectrum of sexual attraction. While this scale may be useful for some people, it may not benefit everyone.
The scale does not consider different sexual orientations or genders and does not allow for any nuance in a person’s sexuality. Other scales exist, but they also come with limitations.
It is important to remember that a scale should not define a person’s sexual orientation. All people feel sexual or romantic attraction differently to others, and therefore may identify with a different sexual orientation.