Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 643–658

Defining and Measuring Sexual Orientation: A Review

  • Randall L. Sell

DOI: 10.1023/A:1024528427013

Cite this article as:
Sell, R.L. Arch Sex Behav (1997) 26: 643. doi:10.1023/A:1024528427013


How to define and identify sexual orientations for the purpose of constructing representative samples of homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals is unclear and confusing to researchers. Different definitions and measures have been proposed and used to develop samples since the 1860s when sexual orientations first gained widespread research interest. Unfortunately, the definitions and measurement tools used since men result in the selection of divergent and incomparable samples. If advances in the understanding of sexual orientations are to be made, it is critical that definitions and measures of sexual orientation be standardized. This paper reviews and critiques definitions and measures of sexual orientation mat have been proposed and used by researchers over the past century. This review is intended to further our understanding of this subject and to encourage researchers to be critical of how they classify subjects based upon sexual orientation.

homosexuality sexual orientation definition measurement 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randall L. Sell
    • 1
  1. 1.Columbia University School of Public HealthNew York

Personalised recommendations