Sexuality, in simple terms, is about who and what you’re attracted to (but as we know, for a lot of people it’s not that simple)… There’s lots of different types of attraction, so let’s talk about them:
This is what a lot of people first think of when you say “sexuality”. Sexual attraction is physical, involving a physical reaction (arousal) and the desire to engage in physical activities. It feels important to emphasise it's desire that defines your sexual attraction, not the activities themselves (for example, you can be gay without having had sex with someone of the same gender!) Desire can also vary in intensity, from complete abstinence (self-enforced restraint) to a deeply passionate need.
This is all about who and what you fall in love with. Once again, this is separate from sexual attraction. For example; someone can be homosexual (same-sex attracted physically) but also be heteromantic (only falling in love with the ‘opposite’ sex). Like all attraction, it is a spectrum, and for some people, romantic attraction means they love emotional intimacy while others feel little to no romantic attraction.
It's easy to get this and sexual attraction confused. While sexual can be the desire to have sex with someone. Sensual attraction can be the desire to have physical contact with someone, excluding sex. Such as; wanting a hug, cuddle, hold, or just generally being close to someone. These desires don’t necessarily mean you also want to have sex with them.
For a lot of people this is about finding someone who is ‘pleasing’ to the eye, but doesn't necessarily mean you want to have sex with them. For example, you can appreciate that a person is “handsome” or “beautiful” and not feel sexually attracted to them.
This is usually where friendships come into play. You may feel a desire for a certain person to be your friend, with no desire for sex. Being attracted to someone as a friend is often what allows us to pursue and form meaningful platonic relationships.
Alfred Kinsey (1948) came up with the Kinsey Scale. Instead of just putting people in categories such as straight, bi or gay, the Kinsey Scale works from a 0 to 6, where 0 means you’re 100% exclusively attracted to the ‘opposite sex’ and 6 meaning your 100% exclusively attracted to the same sex. This means you don’t have to be defined as “straight” (0) or “gay” (6), your attraction can be more complex and fluid!