How is sexual orientation a continuum?

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pnhancock eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sexual orientation can be viewed as a continuum because people's preferences can lie on a continuous spectrum between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual. Understanding sexuality as a continuum is useful because it acknowledges that people can experience attraction to different genders in varying amounts, and allows for the fluidity of sexuality that some people can experience. Fluidity of sexuality refers to the concept that people's attraction to certain genders can fluctuate throughout their lifetimes based on changing feelings or circumstances.

Alfred Kinsey's studies of sexuality were significant in developing this concept because Kinsey acknowledged that bisexual people could be attracted to different genders to varying degrees. The Kinsey scale is an example of a sexual continuum; it ranks people's level of attraction to different genders by asking them to assess themselves on a scale from 0 to 6, with 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual. Scholars have added more nuance and room for fluidity to Kinsey's scale since his studies in the 1940s, but his work was formative to the modern understanding of sexuality as a continuum.