Hani Kuttab
The Kinsey Scale

What is the Kinsey Scale?
The Kinsey Scale is a spectrum used to gauge an individual’s personal sexuality. Rather than labeling an individual as exclusively ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, the scale uses six different numbers to quantify sexuality orientation. Sexual orientation is defined as an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person (University, 2009). The belief behind the Kinsey Scale is that an individual’s sexual orientation exists on a dynamic spectrum, ranging from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality. The scale also includes various forms of bisexuality (University, 2009).

Above: A visual representation of the Kinsey Scale (University, 2009)

The Rating Scale
The scale starts at 0 (fully heterosexual), and ends at 6 (fully homosexual). A value of 3 would indicate equal sexual attraction to both males and females, also known as bisexuality. Scores of 1 and 2 indicate a heterosexual preference with varying levels of homosexual experiences. Scores of 4 and 5 indicate a homosexual preference with varying levels of heterosexual experiences. When an individual lacks sexual desire and/or attraction, the scale uses an ‘X’ to indicate asexuality (University, 2009). The scale provides an individual with a specific sexuality rating.

History of the Kinsey Scale
The 0-6 Kinsey Scale was established in 1948 by Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey and his colleagues. The scale was originally designed to broaden the sexual orientation classification system. Additionally, the scale was created to eradicate sexual identity categories all together and promote equal rights (Drucker, 2010). Additionally, Kinsey viewed the world as a continuum in each and every one of its aspects, and that it “is not to be divided into sheep and goat” (Kinsey, 1948).
In his study of a random sample of males and females, Kinsey demonstrated that sexuality is a complex and dynamic phenomenon. Kinsey and his team felt that previous views of gender and sexuality (heterosexual vs. homosexual) oversimplified an extremely complex construct (University, 2009). While interviewing individuals regarding their sexual histories, Kinsey and his team found that one’s thoughts and beliefs on sexual behavior did not remain consistent over time (Kinsey, 1948). As a result, many individuals could not label themselves as exclusively straight or gay; instead, many expressed thoughts of personal sexuality somewhere in between. Males, they found, did not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. In a private setting, many heterosexual males acknowledged having some homosexual experiences (Kinsey, 1948). Thus, the team designed a sexuality spectrum to quantify sexual orientation and allow individuals to classify their own sexual identity.

Impact of the Kinsey Scale
The development of the Kinsey Scale revolutionized thoughts surrounding sexual identity. Globally, individuals have begun to embrace the scale and its measurements of bisexuality. Additionally, since many individuals are able to classify their sexual orientation on the Kinsey Scale, communication regarding sexual identity has become more prevalent. The creation of the scale allowed individuals to classify their own sexual orientation, rather than be forced to classify themselves on a previously polar sexuality scale.

With the creation of the 0-6 scale, Kinsey set standards for sex research everywhere. Moreover, Kinsey brought public notice to many sexual practices that have not been previously discussed. In sum, Kinsey was the major factor in changing attitudes about sex in the twentieth century (Bullough, 2001). As a result, individuals feel more comfortable communicating their sexual orientation in society.

Kinsey’s self classification methods
There are no distinct subset of questions to determine one’s personal Kinsey rating. The scale is based on self-evaluation (University, 2009). That is, individuals can place themselves on the spectrum based on their personal sexual experiences. Additionally, classification on the Kinsey Scale is flexible; one can continuously move up and down the scale and re-label his or her own sexual identity based on their current sexual experiences.

Uses of the Kinsey Scale
The Kinsey Scale is used by a wide variety of people, including therapists, educators, sexologists, and physicians. Primarily, those researching sexual orientation find the Kinsey Scale to be of great use. The scale allows for a better understanding of human sexuality; expansions of the scale allow researchers to communicate sexual attraction and behavior to other individuals (Drucker, 2010).

Criticism of the Kinsey Scale
When the scale was released in the 1940’s, Dr. Kinsey and his team received much criticism. Opponents to his theory argue that with the creation of a 0-6 scale, Kinsey has missed the importance of sexual identity. They do not believe that sexuality should be objectified, let alone be represented as a number. His rejection of the idea that people were ‘either homosexual or heterosexual’ with a few individuals stuck in a bisexual hinterland, seemed… to have missed the importance of ‘sexual identity,’ a psychological construct that didn’t fit comfortably into Kinsey’s taxonomic frame of reference (Bancroft 1998).
Regarding his collection of data from the previously discussed interviews, Kinsey has been criticized for his statistical sampling. Today, it is quite clear that Kinsey’s random sample was not entirely random. Also, it is believed that this sample over represents some segments of the population (Bullough, 2001). Moreover, complete objectivity of sexual identity is unlikely to provide accurate results in further research on sexual orientation (Bullough, 2001).

Other Spectrums of Sexual Identity
Building on Dr. Kinsey’s scale, Dr. Fritz Klein believes sexuality is composed of a wide variety of factors. He soon created the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which was based on both sexual and non-sexual variables. These variables include sexual self (attraction, fantasies, behavior), sexual orientation (emotional preference, social preference, heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle), and a factor of self-identification (University, 2009). Unlike the Kinsey Scale, the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid views sexual orientation over a wider time range and on a wider variety of factors.

Above: A visual representation of the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (University, 2009)

Additional resources
Additional information regarding the Kinsey Scale can be found at www.kinseyinstitute.org. Furthermore, information regarding sexual orientation can be found at www.apa.org.


Bancroft, J. (1998). Alfred Kinsey's work 50 years later. Introduction, in A.C. Kinsey, W. B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, & P.H. Gebhard, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Bullough, V. L. (2001). Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Report: Historical Overview and Lasting Contributions. Journal of Sex Research, 35(2), 127-131. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Drucker, D. J. (2010). Male Sexuality and Alfred Kinsey's 0-6 Scale: Toward 'A Sound Understanding of the Realities of Sex'. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(9), 1105-1123.

Kinsey, Alfred C. et al. (1948/1998). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; Bloomington: Indiana U. Press.

University of Illinois at Springfield, Student Affairs Office. (2009). Continuum of Human Sexuality