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Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation, sexual preference or sexual inclination describes the focus of a person's amorous or erotic desires, fantasies, and feelings. A person's Sexual orientation is most often classified, by the gender(s) one is "orientated" to, as:

Sexual orientation generally refers to feelings and self-concept; a person's sexual behavior may or may not reflect his/her sexual orientation. For example, sexual abstinence is independent of sexual orientation in this sense, and thus one may speak of a heterosexual virgin or a homosexual celibate.

There have been different views of sexual orientation in the past. In some cases, a person was considered homosexual, for example, if and only if they had homosexual sex; in other cases, a person could have homosexual sex on occasion, but still be considered to be heterosexual. Some cultures, such as classic Greece and Rome, may have not classified sexual orientation (if at all), by the gender to which one is attracted, but by one's social position in relation to one's position or role during sexual activity. As men in the United States are still expected to refrain from engaging in sexual activity with other men, a free Roman male was expected not to be penetrated, with transgressors being similarly labelled as effeminate.

The term sexual preference was used in the late 20th century by gay rights advocates promoting the view that each person should have the right to seek out the partner they prefer, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex. The term sexual orientation is now preferred by most gay rights advocates for its emphasis on fixed sexual identity, as well as countering the charge by some that their sexuality is a choice, although both terms still see use. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation [Aug 2004]

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