The Kinsey Scale

Drs. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin developed the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale—more commonly known as “The Kinsey Scale.” First published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), the scale accounted for research findings that showed people did not fit into exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories.

Creating the scale

The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories. Research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts, and feelings towards the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time. Instead of assigning people to three categories—heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual—the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from 0 to 6 with an additional category of “X.”
The Kinsey Scale

Rating | Description
0 | Exclusively heterosexual
1 | Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2 | Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 | Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 | Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 | Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6 | Exclusively homosexual
X | No socio-sexual contacts or reactions

Understanding the scale

People at “0” report exclusively heterosexual / opposite sex behavior or attraction. Those at “6” report exclusively homosexual / same-sex behavior or attraction. Ratings 1–5 are for those who report varying levels of attraction or sexual activity with either sex. In the original Kinsey Report studies, the X category designated the group who reported no socio-sexual contacts or reactions in their interviews. 

“The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.”

- Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)

Taking the Kinsey test

An official Kinsey “test” does not exist, which is contrary to popular belief and many tests across the web. The original Kinsey research team assigned a number based on a person’s sexual history.

Research materials

Data gathered from the Kinsey interviews has been digitized. The Kinsey Institute makes all related material, including the original notes, available to qualified researchers who demonstrate a need to view them. The institute also allows researchers to use statistical software, such as PSPP or SPSS, for data analysis.

Significance of the Kinsey Reports

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953) are known collectively as the Kinsey Reports. Together, they sold nearly a million copies and were translated in 13 languages. The Kinsey Reports are associated with a change in public perception of sexuality and considered part of the most successful and influential scientific books of the 20th century.

Other scales or tests

The Kinsey Scale does not address all possible sexual identities. The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid and the Storms Scale have stepped in to further define sexual expression.

The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, developed by Fritz Klein, features seven variables and three situations in time: past, present, and ideal. The Storms Scale, developed by Michael D. Storms, plots eroticism on an X and Y axis. This allows for a much greater range of descriptions.

Kinsey, Storm, and Klein are three of more than 200 scales to measure and describe sexual orientation.

“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)

Selected references about the Kinsey Scale

  • University of Illinois at Springfield, Student Affairs Office. (2009). Continuum of Human Sexuality. [A short non-technical discussion of sexual orientation and the Kinsey Scale.]
  • Diamond, Milton. (1993). Homosexuality and bisexuality in different populations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22(4), 291–310. [Uses Kinsey Scale to standardize and measure later studies’ findings.]
  • Hansen, Charles E., and Evans, A. (1985). Bisexuality reconsidered: An idea in pursuit of a definition. Journal of Homosexuality, 11(1–2), 1–6. [Provides critique of Kinsey Scale and calls for other measures for bisexuality.]
  • Kinsey, Alfred C. et al. (1948/1998). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; Bloomington: Indiana U. Press. [First publication of Kinsey’s Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale. Discusses Kinsey Scale, pp. 636–659.]
  • Kinsey, Alfred C. et al. (1953/1998). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; Bloomington: Indiana U. Press. [Discusses the Kinsey Scale and presents comparisons of male and female data, pp. 468–475.]
  • McWhirter, David P., et al. (1990). Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation. New York: Oxford University Press. [Based on symposium at The Kinsey Institute. Discusses sexual orientation and the current usefulness of the Kinsey Scale. Includes other scales proposed by contributors to this work. One such scale is the Coleman Model of Clinical Assessment of Sexual Orientation.]
  • Ross, Michael W. (1983). Femininity, masculinity, and sexual orientation: Some cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Homosexuality, 9(1), 27–35. [Combines the Bem Scale with Kinsey Scale across different nationalities.]
  • Sell, Randall L. (1997). Defining and measuring sexual orientation: A review. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(6), 643–658. [Outlines Kinsey Scale, Klein Scale, and Shively/DeCecco Scale.]
  • Van Wyk, Paul H., and Geist, Chrisann S. (1984). Psychosocial development of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 13(6), 505–544. [Adds a family development model to the Kinsey Scale.]

Selected references on other measures of sexual orientation

  • Chung, Y. Barry, and Katayama, Motoni. (1996). Assessment of sexual orientation in lesbian/gay/bisexual studies. Journal of Homosexuality, 30(4), 49–62. [Critically reviews methods for assessing sexual orientation.]
  • Davis, Clive M., et al. (1997). Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications. [Includes 14 measures of homosexualities, one for heterosexual preferences. There are also related measures for gender, masculinity, femininity, and transsexualism..]
  • Ellis, Lee, et al. (1987). Sexual orientation as a continuous variable: A comparison between the sexes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 16(6), 523–529. [Measures sexual orientation in two facets: 1) experience measure; and 2) a fantasy measure.]
  • Gonsiorek, John C., and Weinrich, James D. (1995). Definition and measurement of sexual orientation. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 25(Suppl), 40–51. [Critically examines how sexual orientation is measured and defined.]
  • Klein, Fritz, et al. (1985). Sexual orientation: A multi-variable dynamic process. Journal of Homosexuality, 11(1–2), 35–49. [Discusses the problem of lack of clear, widely accepted definitions of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual].
  • Read more on the Klein Grid at The American Institute of Bisexuality
  • Sell, Randall L. (1996). The Sell Assessment of Sexual Orientation: Background and scoring. Journal of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity, 1(4), 295–310. [Includes review of sexual orientation measures, which are characterized as dichotomous, bipolar, multidimensional, and/or orthogonal.]
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