Bisexual Species

by Jason Stotts

Scientific American has a really interesting article up called “Bisexual Species” which deals with the subject of bisexuality in animals that is worth a read.

One thing that I think is seriously inhibiting research in this area is the current idea that there are two rigid categories of sexual orientation: “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” First of all, bisexual is a legitimate category of sexual orientation in humans. In lesser animals, who cannot self-identify with an orientation, it makes no sense to say that they are homosexual or heterosexual (or bisexual). Rather, one should only describe their actions as homosexual or heterosexual. As the article points out, captivity or availability of mates can cause many animals in different species to exhibit homosexual action. However, the animal will again “change orientations” if the conditions change again. This phenomenon is better understandable if we don’t consider the animals to be preset with rigid categories, but rather to have sexual urges and a drive to satisfy these.

Indeed, research in humans also makes this same point about sexual adaptability: that situational contexts can “alter” someone’s sexual orientation. For example, it’s well known that in situations where there are only others of the same sex (prison, the military, etc) that individuals will exhibit homosexual tendencies, even if this individual has never shown these tendencies before or if they will never show them again (after the context has changed). While sexual orientation may be helpful to think of how a person chooses to express their overall sexual attractions, I think that a Kinsey type fluid scale is the most accurate way to truly describe a person’s sexuality as it can account for the nuances that are closer to the ways in which people actually experience their sexuality.

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