Self-labeled Sexual Orientation and Sexual Behavior: Considerations for STD-Related Biomedical Research and Education
June M. Reinisch Stephanie A. Sanders Mary Ziemba-Davis The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington
It is a characteristic of the human mind that it tries to dichotomize in its classification of phenomena. Things either are so, or they are not so. Sexual behavior is either normal or abnormal, socially acceptable or unacceptable, heterosexual or homosexual; and many persons do not want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one to the other extreme.
--( Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953)
Prior to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) crisis, relatively few members of the scientific community focused their research on human sexual behavior. With the advent of AIDS, understanding sexual behavior has become an essential component in all scientific activities related to arresting the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Progress in understanding the sexual transmission of HIV, predicting the spread of the virus throughout our population, and developing effective prevention programs, however, has been hindered by a lack of basic information regarding sexual behavior within and among the various social, cultural, and ethnic groups in our society.
As evidenced in the opening quotation, Kinsey and his colleagues noted in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female ( 1953) that the prevailing sexual nomenclature reflects our predilection for dichotomous categories of human sexual behavior and responsiveness. In both popular and scientific parlance, sexual behaviors involving opposite-sexed partners are referred to as heterosexual, behaviors involving the same-sex are referred to as homosexual, and, accordingly, the participants themselves are referred to as either heterosexual or homosexual. By extension, these labels are presumed to predict the sex of one's partners, the