Sexual orientation

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Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to men, women, both genders, neither gender, or another gender. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is enduring[1] and also refers to a person's sense of "personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."[2] The consensus among most contemporary scholars in the field is that one's sexual orientation is not a choice.[3][4][5] No simple, single cause for sexual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, but research suggests that it is by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences,[6] with biological factors involving a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment.[7]

Though people may use other labels or none at all, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality (asexuality is increasingly recognized as a fourth).[1] The first three exist along a continuum that ranges from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, including various forms of bisexuality in between. This continuum does not suit everyone, however, as some people identify as asexual.[8] This linear scale is a simplification of the much more nuanced nature of sexual orientation and sexual identity; many sexologists believe it to be oversimplified.[9]

Classifying sexual desires or people on the basis of sexual orientation is a modern Western concept. Doubts have been raised about the validity of this concept in non-Western and indigenous societies, as well as in the pre-modern West.[citation needed]

While sexual orientation is reported in this article primarily within biology and psychology, including sexology, for reports within anthropology and history, including social constructionism, see the section on other explanations.


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