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About heterosexuality, homosexuality & bisexuality

Meanings of "sexual orientation"
& "homosexuality" in legislation

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What exactly does the term "sexual orientation" mean?

There are two conflicting definitions in common usage:

bulletState legislatures, gays, lesbians, mainline and liberal religious groups, mental health practitioners, human sexuality researchers and others generally define "sexual orientation" in terms of the sex of the individual that an older teen or adult finds sexually, emotionally, and spiritually attractive:
bulletA heterosexual is attracted to members of the opposite sex.
bulletA homosexual is attracted to members of the same sex.
bulletA bisexual is attracted to both men and women.

Sexual orientation thus defines a person's feelings; it is considered part of their personal makeup. It is something that a person discovers; it is not chosen.

Some mental health professionals have more precise definitions which include the sex that an individual focuses their amorous thoughts, their erotic desires, their sexual fantasies and their feelings.

Sometimes asexuality is added as a fourth orientation; this covers individuals who have no feelings of sexual attraction.

Everyone has a sexual orientation. It exists whether a person is sexually active or celibate.
 

bulletSome religious and social conservatives define "sexual orientation" much broader in terms of:
bulletThe sex, and/or
bulletThe age, and/or
bulletThe species, and/or
bulletThe state

of the individual that a person finds sexually, emotionally, and spiritually attractive. They define sexual orientation as including one or more of the following terms:
bulletA heterosexual is attracted to members of the opposite sex.
bulletA homosexual is attracted to members of the same sex.
bulletA bisexual is attracted to both males and females.
bulletA pedophile is attracted to pre-pubescent children.
bullet A hebephile is attracted to young people about the age of puberty. 6
bullet A ephebophile is attracted to post-pubertal adolescents (14 to 17 years of age).
bulletA necrophile is attracted to dead bodies.
bulletA zoophile (a.k.a. "zoo") is an individual, almost always male, who in involved in bestiality or zoophilia: sexual activities or fantasies involving non-humans.
bulletEtc.

Various religiously conservative groups have created unique definitions for the term "sexual orientation." Some include about 30 behaviors. More info. They included a variety of paraphilias. "Paraphilia" means "beyond love" in Greek. The category includes dozen sexual desires and activities that lie outside the cultural norm and only involve a minority of adults. Examples are sadomasochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, emetophilia, klismaphilia, etc. See Jahsonic.com for definitions of these paraphilias. 1

Some quotations from religious an social conservatives who have apparently taken this broad interpretation of sexual orientation:
 
bulletJudith Reisman, writing in the Fundamentalist Christian news service WorldNetDaily in the year 2000 referred to "...federal 'sexual orientation' legislation protects all 'orientations' which would include 'affectional' pedophiles, pederasts, sadists, zoophiles, coprophiles, necrophiles, and the like." 2
 
bulletIn their essay "Sexual Orientation: Fixed or Changeable?, The Traditional Values Coalition writes:
"There are literally dozens of groups of individuals who engage in bizarre sexual behaviors and who have mental conditions known as paraphilias or behaviors known as fetishes. These include Coprophagia.... Klismaphilia... Pederasty... Sadomasochism... Diaper fetishes... Necrophilia... All of these behaviors could be considered to be 'sexual orientations' -- and many of the individuals who engage in these behaviors are working to have their peculiar sexual behaviors declared to be normal in psychiatry and in the culture at large....Pedophilia and Sadomasochism are just two of many sexual orientations that may eventually be normalized in our society." 3

bulletThe Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that:
"Cheryl Surber stood before the City Council and passionately urged members to kill an effort to have sexual orientation covered by the city's anti- discrimination ordinances. Such an ordinance, Surber said, would force Fort Worth employers to ask all employees, 'Are you a homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, transsexual, transvestite, pedophile, rapist or celibate'?" 4

bulletScott Lively of NewsWithViews wrote:
" 'Sexual orientation' is a highly ambiguous term loaded with hidden false assumptions. An 'orientation' describes the perspective of a subject toward an object. A sexual orientation therefore describes a person (subject) by the object toward which they are sexually attracted: a homosexual is someone oriented toward someone of the same sex, a bisexual toward both sexes, a pedophile toward children, a sado-masochist toward giving or receiving pain, etc.. By definition, there are an unlimited number of potential sexual orientations."5

There is no indication that persons outside of fundamentalist and other evangelical faith groups accept these very broad definitions of "sexual orientation."

What do the terms "homosexuality" and "bisexuality" mean?

Again, there are conflicting definitions in common usage:

bullet Gays, lesbians, mainline and liberal religious groups, mental health practitioners, human sexuality researchers and others generally define "homosexuality" as feelings of sexual, emotional, and spiritual attraction to members of the same sex. A bisexual is a person who is attracted to both men and women, although not necessarily to the same degree. Everyone, whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, can decide to be celibate, or be sexually active. Homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality is part of what a person is.
 
bulletReligious and social conservatives generally define "homosexuality" as a state of being sexually active with members of the same sex. Homosexuality is what a person does. The term "bisexuality" is largely ignored.

This lack of agreement on the meanings of words makes dialogue and debate very difficult.

bulletA person who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex, but who is not sexually active, is considered a homosexual by the first definition, but not by the second.
 
bulletA person who is attracted to both men and women is considered a bisexual by the first definition. If they confine their sexual activity to members of the:
bulletopposite sex, they are considered a heterosexual by the second definition.
bulletsame sex, they are considered a homosexual by the second definition.
 
bulletA person who is attracted to members of the same sex, was once sexually active and is now celibate is considered a homosexual by the first definition but an ex-gay by the second.
 
bulletA person who is attracted to both men and women, and was sexually active with members of the same sex in the past is considered a bisexual by the first definition, but an ex-gay by the second.
 
bulletThe confusion continues, and will not be resolved until everyone adopts a single definition.

References used to prepare this essay:

  1. "Paraphilia" at: http://www.jahsonic.com/
  2. Judith Reisman, "A platform for pedophiles?," WorldNetDaily, 2000-OCT-30, at: http://worldnetdaily.com/
  3. "Sexual Orientation: Fixed or Changeable?, The Traditional Values Coalition, at: http://traditionalvalues.org/
  4. Kristin N. Sullivan, "Gay Rights Effort May Be Tabled," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1998-NOV-25, at: http://www.sodomylaws.org/
  5. Scott Lively, "Deciphering 'Gay' Word-Speak and Language of Confusion," NewsWithViews, 2002-MAY-25, at: http://www.newswithviews.com/
  6. The term "ephebophile" is often used as a synonym for "hebephile." That is, it is defined more broadly to include victims aged from 14 to 17

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Copyright © 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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