Definitions of the term "sexual orientation"
A novel, conservative Christian
definition that includes 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: transgenderism 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 their 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
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.
|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.|
Information from Concerned Women for America (CWA)
The CWA is a fundamentalist Christian activist group. To our
knowledge, they are the first group to promote this vastly expanded definition
of sexual orientation. We may be wrong.
In 2002, Robert Knight of the CWA wrote an article titled
" 'Sexual Orientation' and American Culture:
Some corporations are adopting policies based on
The real meaning of "sexual orientation"
Springing from the psychological literature, "sexual
orientation" is often taken to mean 'homosexuality." Given that its inclusion in
policies is the singular work of the homosexual pressure groups, that is a
reasonable deduction. However, the two words constitute an umbrella term for
numerous sexual behaviors, including paraphilias, which are sexual disorders.
According to the therapeutic manual of the American Psychiatric Association,
there are at least 20 distinctive sexual variations of "sexual orientation," and
perhaps many more.
A partial list of 'sexual orientations' from the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition,
published by the American Psychiatric Association, are included in an appendix.
Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are routinely included in broad
legal definitions of 'sexual orientation.' A fourth 'sexual orientation,'
transgenderism, is beginning to be included in such descriptions. Other
categories consist of paraphilias, which are defined as sexual disorders."
As of 2009-MAY-12, this essay is still online on the CWA
website. Over the past seven years they must have received hundreds of
complaints from people familiar with the actual definition of "sexual
orientation." Yet the essay remains.
Political action by the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC)
In 2007, the TVC issued a news release 7 and published a
special report 8 describing 30 behaviors that they feel
qualify as sexual orientations.
Rev, Lou Sheldon's news release referred to a federal employee protections
act, R. 2232, 3 intended to protect employees on the basis of
their sexual orientation, Unfortunately, the act's wording lacked a definition
of the term "sexual orientation." He writes:
"... the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has listed 30 such sexual
orientation behaviors that would potentially be granted special minority status,
like race, under this legislation. ..."
"You will very much want these three bills stopped when you hear what the
definition is of sexual orientation. Some are even against the law. TVC will be
working night and day with this and other new information which we have to
convince Members of Congress not to support these bills."
"What Is A 'Sexual Orientation?' There are 30 different categories of 'sexual
"The American Psychiatric Association (APA), which is dominated by homosexual
activists, publishes a huge document called the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R). This manual is used by psychiatrists and
other mental health workers to define various mental illnesses. This is their
list of 30 'sexual orientations' ... 7
As noted above, the TVC list includes the three universally defined sexual
orientations: bisexuality, heterosexuality and homosexuality. These three are
|4: Bisexuality: "The capacity to feel erotic attraction
toward, or to engage in sexual interaction with, both males and females."|
|9. Heterosexuality: "the universal norm of sexuality with those of
the opposite sex."|
|10. Homosexual/Gay/Lesbian: "people who form sexual
relationships primarily or exclusively with members of their own gender."|
I was unable to find these definitions in the DSM-IV-TR. #9's definition
seems very strange. I doubt that there are many members of the APA who regard
heterosexuality as "the universal norm." #10's definition also looks
strange. The APA defines homosexuality in terms of feelings, not sexual
activity. As indicated in the APA essay "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues,"
sexual orientation is defined in terms of attraction.
Seventeen additional urges and behaviors that the TVC considers to be "sexual
orientations" appear to be taken from the DSM-IV-RT chapter on Sexual and
Gender Identity Disorders, Pages 535 to 582. These are not sexual
orientations! They are a list of what the APA calls "Paraphilias," which
they define as being:
"...characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors
that involve unusual objects, activities, or situation and cause clinically
significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important
areas of functioning."
That is, paraphilias are sexual obsessions so serious that it intrudes on a
The only disorder mentioned in the DSM-IV-RT that is related to sexual
orientation is listed as #302.9. "Sexual disorder not otherwise specified." item
"Persistent and marked distress about sexual orientation."
That is, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality are not themselves
sexual disorders. However, a patient who is exhibiting a great deal of distress
about their sexual orientation is suffering from a disorder.
The TVC missed this one and did not include it .
Some of the paraphilias listed by the APA in DSM IV-TR and miscategorized as
sexual orientations by the Traditional Values Coalition are:
3. Autogynephilia - the sexual arousal of a man by his own
perception of himself as a woman or dressed as a woman (Page 574)|
6. Exhibitionism - the act of exposing one's genitals to an
unwilling observer to obtain sexual gratification (Page 569)|
7. Fetishism/Sexual Fetishism - obtaining sexual excitement
primarily or exclusively from an inanimate object or a particular part of the
body (Page 570)|
17.Partialism - A fetish in which a person is sexually attracted
to a specific body part exclusive of the person (Page 576)|
18.Pedophilia - Sexual activity with a prepubescent child
(generally age 13 years or younger) ... . (Page 571)|
22.Telephone Scatalogia - sexual arousal associated with making or
receiving obscene phone calls (Page 576)|
27.Transvestic Fetishism - intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual
urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing (Page 575)|
30. Zoophilia/Bestiality - engaging in sexual activity with animals (Page
They also added ten terms that they also define as sexual behaviors and thus
"sexual orientations." Including are incest, prostitution, transgenderism,
transexual, and transvestite.
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:
Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2007-JUN-05
Latest update: 2011-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson