Beyond Sexual Orientation: Integrating Gender/Sex and Diverse Sexualities via Sexual Configurations Theory
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- van Anders, S.M. Arch Sex Behav (2015) 44: 1177. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0490-8
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Sexual orientation typically describes people’s sexual attractions or desires based on their sex relative to that of a target. Despite its utility, it has been critiqued in part because it fails to account for non-biological gender-related factors, partnered sexualities unrelated to gender or sex, or potential divergences between love and lust. In this article, I propose Sexual Configurations Theory (SCT) as a testable, empirically grounded framework for understanding diverse partnered sexualities, separate from solitary sexualities. I focus on and provide models of two parameters of partnered sexuality—gender/sex and partner number. SCT also delineates individual gender/sex. I discuss a sexual diversity lens as a way to study the particularities and generalities of diverse sexualities without privileging either. I also discuss how sexual identities, orientations, and statuses that are typically seen as misaligned or aligned are more meaningfully conceptualized as branched or co-incident. I map out some existing identities using SCT and detail its applied implications for health and counseling work. I highlight its importance for sexuality in terms of measurement and social neuroendocrinology, and the ways it may be useful for self-knowledge and feminist and queer empowerment and alliance building. I also make a case that SCT changes existing understandings and conceptualizations of sexuality in constructive and generative ways informed by both biology and culture, and that it is a potential starting point for sexual diversity studies and research.