Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

How is sexual orientation a continuum?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jean Liedloff's definition of continuum states that human beings require some form of natural experience to attain the most favorable physical, mental, and emotional progress. Natural experience is based on activities that have been dictated by the evolution process.

Based on Liedloff's interpretation, sexual orientation is a continuum, in that it's defined by the experiences and the environment that an individual is exposed to. A person can be straight because he or she grew up in a heterosexual family and was constantly showered with love from both the mum and dad. Alternatively, a person may be attracted to another from the same sex because it gives him or her the highest form of satisfaction. In other words, sexual orientation is a continuum because it contributes toa person's existence.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial