8 lesser-known orientations along the sexuality spectrum

Sexuality is fluid and it's important that people get to define it for themselves.

Photo by Tanny Do on Unsplash
  • Sexuality is fluid and ever-changing, and our understanding of it has come a long way since the invention of the Kinsey Scale in the 1940's.
  • Defining your own sexuality is important as it is a uniquely personal experience.
  • While creating labels for yourself can help you better understand your orientation and build connections along your sexual journey, it's important not to place labels on others. Be open to hearing how they see themselves and respectful enough to refer to them on those terms.

Sexuality can be a big part of your identity. It can encompass nearly every aspect of your being, including your actions, your attitude, your behaviors, and your feelings. It can impact the way you experience sexual attraction (if you do) and it can alter your preferences around sexual and romantic relationships.

Why is sexuality thought of as a spectrum?

A spectrum, in this context, is a tool that can help us better understand the fluidity of sexuality, among other things. The Kinsey Scale, perhaps one of the most well-known spectrum scales, was created in 1948 by Alfred Kinsey, founder of the Kinsey Institute.

The scale allows people at "zero" to report as exclusively heterosexual, and people at the opposite end (six) to report as exclusively homosexual - with ratings 1-5 being people who report varying levels of attraction or sexual activity with either sex. There is also a "category X" designated for those who report no sexual reactions or relations.

This scale was the first of it's kind and it challenged the perceptions of sexuality and really, was a starting point for where we are today.

Modern-day sexuality and labels...

Over time, we have learned more and more about the sexuality spectrum and it's become more and more normalized to place yourself really anywhere along the spectrum. It's safe to say we have come a very long way since the 1940s when the Kinsey Scale was first created.

Sexuality is fluid, it is ever-changing and extremely personal - defining your own sexuality is what's important, not placing these labels on others for them. It's also extremely normal to be overwhelmed by all the different words we now have to describe various sexual and romantic orientations, attractions, and behaviors.

Along with the ever-growing spectrum, it's our responsibility as human beings to adapt and expand the language we use to describe our own (and other people's) sexual preferences. While these "labels" can help us better understand ourselves, they are by no means set in stone.

    Defining lesser-known orientations along the spectrum

    Unofficial Kinsey Scale test (an official test does not exist, according to the Kinsey Institute)

    IDRLabs

    "Many persons do not want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one to the other extreme." - Sexual Behavior of the Human Female, 1953.

    It's safe (and wonderful) to say that we have come a long way since the 1950's. Sexuality and sexual orientation have become more widely talked about, accepted, and even respected. There are still many areas of the world where people are punished for simply existing as who they are and loving who they love, but the best thing we can do as a society is to adapt and evolve with the spectrum.

    In the spirit of adapting and growing, here is a breakdown of some lesser-known orientations along the sexuality spectrum.

    Autosexual and/or Autoromantic

    Autosexuality is the idea of being sexually attracted to yourself. Autoromantic describes the notion of being in a romantic relationship with yourself.

    Autosexuality can mean being turned on by your own look, being excited to spend time alone rather than with a significant other, and/or masturbating to the idea of yourself.

    Dr. Jess O'Reilly, a sex and relationship expert, suggests that we may all be "a shade of autosexual," with some people using it to define themselves and others shying away from it due to body shaming.

    While autosexuality is often used synonymously with narcissism, Dr. O'Reilly believes otherwise: "[The core erotic feeling] is a feeling you require to even consider having sex, and for many of us, our core erotic feeling involves feeling sexy and feeling desired. You might have an outside source who conveys that desire or it may even be within yourself."

    Dr. O'Reilly goes on to question: "Can't we give ourselves permission to feel arousal in response to our own body?"

    Demisexual (compared to Graysexual and Asexual)

    To be demisexual is to experience sexual attraction in very specific situations, most often with people you have an emotional connection with.

    Someone who identifies as demisexual can typically only experience and thrive in sexual attraction once an emotional bond has been formed. That bond doesn't necessarily have to be explained as love or romance, but it can be friendship (even a platonic friendship) that allows them to feel a sexual or romantic attraction.

    While many people choose to only have sexual relations with people we feel connected to, demisexual people aren't making that choice, but rather, they need that bond to even begin to feel sexually attracted to someone.

    And yet, having an emotional bond with someone doesn't mean people who identify as demisexual will develop a sexual attraction to that person—just as heterosexual men are attracted to women but may not find every single woman they meet to be attractive.

    Graysexual, on the other hand, is often considered as the "gray area" between asexual (a term used to describe not having any sexual attraction to others) and allosexual (the opposite of asexual; also called sexual).

    People who identify as graysexual don't explicitly or exclusively identify with being asexual or allosexual. They do experience sexual attraction or desire on some level but perhaps not the same intensity as people on either end of the asexual-allosexual line.

    Pansexual, Pomosexual and Spectrasexual

    Pansexual is a term that describes individuals who experience sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to any person regardless of that person's gender, sex, or sexual orientation.

    Pomosexual is more of a term than an identity. It's used to describe individuals who reject sexuality labels or who simply don't identify with any one of them.

    Spectrasexuality is a term used to describe people who are able to feel romantic or physical attraction/emotional connections with people of multiple or various sexual orientations and genders, but not necessarily all of them (or any of them).

    These terms are often used interchangeably, but it's important to point out the differences. Pansexual is by far the most commonly used word of the bunch and is more geared towards not seeing the label and seeing the person instead, thus being able to build romantic and sexual relationships with anyone, regardless of their orientation.

    People who identify as spectrasexual, on the other hand, are able to be attracted to multiple or various genders or sexual orientations, but still may have certain preferences.

    Yug, age 7, and Alia, age 10, both entered Let Grow's "Independence Challenge" essay contest.

    Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
    Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
    • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
    • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
    • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
    Keep reading Show less

    Divers discover world's largest underwater cave system filled with Mayan mysteries

    Researchers in Mexico discover the longest underwater cave system in the world that's full of invaluable artifacts. 

    Divers of the GAM project. Credit: Herbert Meyrl.
    Technology & Innovation

    Keep reading Show less

    The surprise reason sleep-deprivation kills lies in the gut

    New research establishes an unexpected connection.

    Reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulate in the gut of sleep-deprived fruit flies, one (left), seven (center) and ten (right) days without sleep.

    Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
    Surprising Science
    • A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
    • Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
    • When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.

    We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?

    A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.

    The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

    An unexpected culprit

    The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

    What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

    "We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

    "Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

    fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

    Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

    The experiments

    The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

    You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

    For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

    Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

    The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

    However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

    The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

    As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

    The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

    The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

    "We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

    Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

    Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants can last over a year, new study finds

    We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.

    Bottles of antidepressant pills named (L-R) Wellbutrin, Paxil, Fluoxetine and Lexapro are shown March 23, 2004 photographed in Miami, Florida.

    Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    Surprising Science
    • A new review found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and antipsychotics can last for over a year.
    • Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
    • The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.
    Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…