3 Things to Remember When Using the Kinsey Scale (or Anything That Quantifies Sexual Orientation)

3 Things to Remember When Using the Kinsey Scale (or Anything That Quantifies Sexual Orientation)

Let’s talk about the Kinsey Scale. You’ve probably heard of it before — maybe in passing, as a punch line to a joke on television, or at the introduction meeting of your college’s gay straight alliance club — but no one has probably ever explained what it really is or what to do with it.

The Kinsey Scale is a sociological tool used to measure sexual attraction from a scale of homosexual to heterosexual. The scale ranges from zero to six, zero being exclusively heterosexual and six being homosexual, and the reality is that most people fall somewhere in between.

How it works is that users answer true or false questions that examine their sexual tendencies and desires, and the scale gives them a corresponding label. Some questions on the scale include “I wouldn’t want to die without having experimented sexually with both men and women,” “I have always been extremely confident in my sexual orientation,” and “I can be sexually attracted to anyone in the right circumstances.”

The Kinsey Scale is a well-known tool and for any young adult who is questioning their sexual identity it can be a great way to identify and work through some of your thoughts and feelings on your own sexuality. However, the scale is sometimes interpreted to be the end all be all of finding a label for your identity, when in fact it’s meant to be more of a starting point.

The Kinsey Scale isn’t exactly foolproof either, as the way it measures attraction makes some assumptions about sexuality that aren’t always true. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the Kinsey Scale.


1. It Assumes a Correlation Between Attraction and Behavior

The questions used by the scale are about both attraction and behavior, however those two things are not always related and do not necessarily correlate with sexual orientation.


2. The Scales Can Be Exclusive

Another problem with the scale is that doesn’t include all sexual orientations, only homosexuality, heterosexuality, asexuality, and bisexuality. This automatically excludes and mislabels people who identify outside of this binary.


3. It’s Approach Towards Bisexuality Is Narrow

The scale makes the assumption that bisexuals experience 50/50 attraction to the sexes when in reality many bisexual people actually have a preference for one gender over the others, and they’re just a valid in their identity as those who don’t. It operates under the assumption that the more attraction you feel to one sex, the less attraction you have for the others, which is not true.


If you find that you don’t feel comfortable using the Kinsey Scale, there is alternative, the Klein Grid. The Klein Grid includes more variables of orientation than the Kinsey Scale does, like emotional and social preferences, as well as self-identification. It also has columns for past, present, and ideal, giving users the opportunity to clarify the difference between what they have experienced and what they actually prefer.

Ultimately, there are lots of tools that can be used to help those who are struggling to find an identity that fits them and in most cases they are interesting to use, but you should always remember that your results do not define you or your orientation. Always keep an open mind when using the scale, and don’t stress over the number or what it’s supposed to mean. The most important measurement of your identity is your own, no matter what any test or any person tries to tell you.


Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.