Definitions of the term "sexual orientation"
Part 1 of 2 parts: A novel, conservative
Christian definition including 30 behaviors
Background: Definition among secular sources:
According to Wikipedia: "Sexual orientation is usually classified
according to the sex or gender of the people who are found sexually attractive."
Many other secular sources would agree with this definition. Note that sexual
behavior is not necessarily part of the definition. So the sexual
orientation of a virgin, or a person who has just decided to cease being
sexually active is still defined on the basis of their feelings of attraction
towards men and/or women.
The vast majority of information sources on sexual orientation recognize
three sexual orientations in adults:
|Heterosexuals are sexually attracted only to members of the opposite sex.|
|Homosexuals are sexually attracted only to members of the same sex.|
|Bisexuals are sexually attracted to both men and women, although not
necessarily to the same degree.|
Some add a fourth sexual orientation -- asexuality: the absence of sexual
Background: Definition by many religious & social conservatives:
Social and religious conservatives often
assign unique meanings to commonly used words. This is particularly obvious
for terms related to human sexuality and abortion. They generally define sexual
orientation in terms of behavior, rather than sexual attraction.
For example, the Equal Opportunity Office at the University of Texas
at El Paso defines sexual orientation as: "A person's predisposition or
inclination toward a particular type of sexual activity or behavior;
heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality." 2
Many religious and conservative Christians rarely if ever refer to
bisexuality. They refer to people who engage in same-sex behavior as
homosexuals. Everyone else:
|Individuals who only engage in opposite-sex behavior;|
|Individuals who are attracted to both men and women but only choose to
engage in opposite-sex behavior;|
|Virgins and other individuals who are now sexually inactive. |
|Individuals who are only attracted to the same-sex partners but choose to
remain sexually inactive,|
are referred to as heterosexuals or "ex-gays" depending upon their past
A new definition developed by some fundamentalist Christians:
A few influential fundamentalist Christian groups have broadened their
definition of "sexual orientation" far beyond the three that other groups
recognize -- by a factor of ten or more.
They seem to have reasoned that because they believe that sexual orientation
is defined by a person's sexual behavior, then all sexual behaviors
may be defined as sexual orientations.
They list together a group of terms that they regard as sexual behaviors:
|The three universally accepted sexual orientations: heterosexuality,
homosexuality and bisexuality.|
||Two gender identities: being transgender and
transexualism. These describe rare occurrences that have are sometimes described as
having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa.|
|About two dozen or more paraphilias. These are "a family of persistent,
intense fantasies, aberrant urges, or behaviors ..." involving human
|Some additional behaviors like incest, prostitution, etc. |
They call all of these "sexual orientations."
Having defined sexual orientation so broadly, they are then free to attack
any legislative bills intended:
|To protect people's employment,|
|To protect their accommodation, |
|To protect them from hate crimes, etc.|
on the basis of the person's sexual orientation.
For example, they conclude that a federal hate crime
law that gives higher sentences to violent crimes motivated by hatred of the
victim's sexual orientation would also protect people who engage in sex with
young prepubescent children, with pubescent children, with dead people, with
animals, with trees, etc.
Unfortunately, many evangelical Christians are somewhat isolated from sources
of information outside of their wing of Christianity. They may assume that the
above are mainstream beliefs.
What are paraphilias?:
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists about 30 paraphilias
in their "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .
Wikipedia lists about 80. 4
One source lists almost 250. 5
Many paraphilias are criminal sex acts if they are acted upon.
|Bestiality: having sex with animals,|
|Biastophilia: sexual arousal through assault and rape,|
|Dendrophilia: sex involving trees (I have difficulty imagining this),|
||Ephebophilia: sexual attraction to older teenaged minors|
| Exhibitionism: exposing one's sexual organs to others,|
|Frotteurism: rubbing against a person without their consent,|
||Hebephilia: sexual attraction to pubescent children,|
|Necrophilia: having sex with dead bodies, |
|Masochism: sexual arousal by having suffering and pain inflicted on them,|
|Paraphilic infantilism: behaving like an infant,|
||Pedophilia: sexual attraction to prepubescent children,|
|Sadism: sexual arousal through the inflicting of suffering and pain on
|Telephone scatologia: making obscene phone calls, particularly to
|Troilism: Watching one's partner having sex with a third party,|
|Voyeurism: watching naked persons or persons engaged in a sexual act.|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Sexual Orientation," Wikipedia, downloaded 2009-MAY-09 from:
- "Glossary of terms," Equal Opportunity Office, University of Texas at El
Paso, undated, at:
- "Paraphilia," Wikipedia, downloaded 2007-APR-18, at:
- "List of paraphilias," Wikipedia, at:
Aggrawal, "Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual
Sexual Practices," CRC Press, 2009. Pages 369-382.
- Robert Knight, " 'Sexual Orientation' and American Culture,' Concerned Women
for America, 2002-JUL-10, at:
- Rev. Lou Sheldon, "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," News release,
Traditional Values Coalition, 2007-JUN-04.
- "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," Special report, Traditional Values
Coalition, undated, at:
- The text of H.R. 2232 is at:
- The term "gender identity disorder" is now considered stigmatizing. Circa 2012, it was replaced in the medical and therapy communities with the term "gender dysphoria."
Copyright © 2007 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2007-JUN-05
Latest update: 2015-DEC-19
Author: B.A. Robinson