A male and a female holding hands.
Heterosexuality consists of sexual behavior, practices, and identity predicated on a primary preference or desire for the opposite sex. As a sexual orientation, heterosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, physical or romantic attractions primarily to persons of the opposite sex"; it also refers to "an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them". The term is usually applied to human beings, but it is also observed in all mammals.
The physical action of heterosexual fertilization is the only means of sexual reproductive capability among humans without the use of assisted reproductive technology. The associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual, meaning dates back to early human societies and gender role separation. As such, gender role separation has been the subject of considerable scholarly commentary and study in human societies since the earliest written records. Heterosexuality has been more intensely studied by medicine and later biology disciplines, and more recently that of psychology. Heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality together make up the heterosexual-homosexual continuum.
 History and demographics
The prevalence of exclusive heterosexuality has varied over the centuries and also from culture to culture.
The history of heterosexuality is part of the history of sexuality. That history and science derivative of it is far from complete. Owing to complications of human politics and prejudice, coupled with the malleable nature of human behaviour, it will be some time before the history and nature of all forms of human sexual behaviour are truly known.
 Academic study
 Prenatal hormonal theory
The neurobiology of the masculinization of the brain is fairly well understood. Estradiol and testosterone, which is catalyzed by the enzyme 5α-reductase into dihydrotestosterone, act upon androgen receptors in the brain to masculinize it. If there are few androgen receptors (people with Androgen insensitivity syndrome) or too much androgen (females with Congenital adrenal hyperplasia), there can be physical and psychological effects. It has been suggested that both male and female heterosexuality are results of variation in this process. In these studies heterosexuality in females is linked to a lower amount of masculinization than is found in lesbian females, though when dealing with male heterosexuality there are results supporting both higher and lower degrees of masculinization than homosexual males. (See the main article for further details.)
 Natural selection
An array of opinion holds that much human behavior is ultimately explainable in terms of natural selection. From this point of view, the shifting social balance between heterosexual and homosexual desire has evolved more as a fitter survival strategy for the species than either an exclusively heterosexual or homosexual configuration of desire.
 Heterosexual behaviors in animals
Most of the reproduction in the animal world is facilitated through heterosexual sex, although there are also animals that reproduce asexually, including protozoa and lower invertebrates, Among animal species that reproduce sexually, members of many species have sex within the same gender.
Reproductive sex does not necessarily require a heterosexual orientation, since orientation refers to a long term enduring pattern of sexual and emotional attraction leading to often long term social bonding, while, reproductive sex requires only the basic act of, often one time, vaginal intercourse.
 Behavioral studies
Main article: Kinsey Reports
At the beginning of the 20th century, early theoretical discussions in the field of psychoanalysis posited original bisexuality in human psychological development. Quantitative studies by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and Dr. Fritz Klein's sexual orientation grid in the 1980s find distributions similar to those postulated by their predecessors.
Many modern studies, most notably Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey, have found that the majority of humans have had both heterosexual and homosexual experiences or sensations and are bisexual. Contemporary scientific research suggests that the majority of the human population is bisexual, adhering to a fluid sexual scale rather than a category, as Western society typically views sexual nature. However, social pressures influence people to adhere to categories or labels rather than behave in a manner that more closely resembles their nature as suggested by this research.
Kinsey himself, along with current sex therapists, focused on the historicity and fluidity of sexual orientation. Kinsey's studies consistently found sexual orientation to be something that evolves in many directions over a person's lifetime; rarely, but not necessarily, including forming attractions to a new sex. Rarely do individuals radically reorient their sexualities rapidly—and still less do they do so volitionally—but often sexualities expand, shift, and absorb new elements over decades. For example, socially normative "age-appropriate" sexuality requires a shifting object of attraction (especially in the passage through adolescence). Contemporary queer theory, incorporating many ideas from social constructionism, tends to look at sexuality as something that has meaning only within a given historical framework. Sexuality, then, is seen as a participation in a larger social discourse and, though in some sense fluid, not as something strictly determinable by the individual.
Most sexual orientation specialists follow the general conclusion of Alfred Kinsey regarding the sexual continuum, according to which a minority of humans are exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, and that the majority are bisexual. The consensus of psychologists is that sexual orientation, in most individuals, is shaped at an early age and is not voluntarily changeable.
Other studies have disputed Kinsey's methodology. "His figures were undermined when it was revealed that he had disproportionately interviewed homosexuals and prisoners (many sex offenders)."
Sexologists have attributed discrepancies in some findings to negative societal attitudes towards a particular sexual orientation. For example, people may state different sexual orientations depending on whether their immediate social environment is public or private. Reluctance to disclose one's actual sexual orientation is often referred to as "being in the closet." Individuals capable of enjoyable sexual relations with both sexes or one sex may feel inclined to restrict themselves to heterosexual or homosexual relations in societies that stigmatize same-sex or opposite-sex relations. In traditional societies, individuals are often under heavy social pressure to marry and have children, irrespective of their desired sexual orientation.
 Nature versus nurture
The considerable "nature versus nurture" debate exists over whether predominantly biological or psychological factors produce sexual orientation in humans. Candidate factors include genes, the exposure of fetuses to certain hormones (or lack thereof) and environmental factors.
The APA currently officially states that "some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime", a radical reversal from the recent past, when non-normative sexuality was considered a deviancy or mental ailment treatable through institutionalization or other radical means.
 Critique of studies
The studies performed in order to find the origin of sexual orientation have been criticized for being too limited in scope, mostly for focusing only on heterosexuality and homosexuality as two diametrically opposite poles with no orientation in between.
It is also asserted that scientific studies focus too much on the search for a biological explanation for sexual orientation, and not enough on the combined effects of both biology and psychology.
In a brief put forth by the Council for Responsible Genetics, it was stated that sexual orientation is not fixed either way, and on the discourse over sexual orientation: "Noticeably missing from this debate is the notion, championed by Kinsey, that human sexual expression is as variable among people as many other complex traits. Yet just like intelligence, sexuality is a complex human feature that modern science is attempting to explain with genetics... Rather than determining that this results from purely biological processes, a trait evolves from developmental processes that include both biological and social elements. In addition, scientists rarely take into consideration sexual preferences that are not described by the two poles heterosexual and homosexual 'in hopes of maximizing the chance that they will find something of interest.'" According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are numerous theories about the origins of a person's sexual orientation, but some believe that "sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors," and that genetic factors play a "significant role" in determining a person's sexuality.
 Religious aspects
Almost all religions believe sex between a man and a woman is allowed, but there are a few that believe that it is a sin, such as The Shakers, The Harmony Society, and The Ephrata Cloister. These religions tend to view all sexual relations as sinful, and promote celibacy. Other religions view heterosexual relationships as being inferior to celibacy. Some religions require celibacy for certain roles, such as Catholic priests; however, the Catholic Church also views heterosexual marriage as sacred and necessary.
Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Bahai) have several scriptures related to heterosexuality. In Genesis 2:24, which is considered scripture by Abrahamic religions, there is a commandment stating "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh"(Gen 2:24) In 1 Corinthians, part of the Christian Bible, Christians are advised:
||Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. (NIV)
For the most part, religious traditions in the world reserve marriage to heterosexual unions, but there are exceptions including Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church and some Anglican dioceses and some Quaker, United Church of Canada and Reform Jewish congregations.
Hetero- comes from the Greek word heteros, meaning "different" or "other", from "one at one, together" and the Latin for sex (that is, characteristic sex or sexual differentiation). The term "heterosexual" was first published in 1892 in C.G. Craddock's translation of Krafft-Ebbing's "Psychopathia Sexualis". The noun came into use from early 1920s, but did not enter common use until 1960s. Colloquial shortening "hetero" is attested from 1933. Heterosexuality is first recorded in 1900.  "Heterosexual" was first listed in Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary as a medical term for "morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex", however in 1934 in their Second Edition Unabridged it is a "manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality". (p. 92, Katz) The adjective heterosexual is used for intimate relationships and/or sexual relations between male and female
The current use of the term heterosexual has its roots in the broader 19th century tradition of personality taxonomy. It continues to influence the development of the modern concept of sexual orientation, and can be used to describe individuals' sexual orientation, sexual history, or self-identification. Some reject the term "heterosexual" as the word only refers to one's sexual behavior and does not refer to non-sexual romantic feelings. As a result, the terms straight is sometimes preferred when discussing a person of this sexual orientation, whose sexual history is predominated by this behavior, or who identifies as such, and to differentiate with other sexual orientations that strangely lack the intuitively suggested term "bent". The term "heterosexual" is suggested to have come into use as a neologism after, and opposite to the word "homosexual" by Karl Maria Kertbeny in 1868.
The term "straight" originated as a mid-20th century gay slang term for heterosexuals, ultimately coming from the phrase "to go straight" (as in "straight and narrow"), or stop engaging in homosexual sex. One of the first uses of the word in this way was in 1941 by author G. W. Henry. Henry's book concerned conversations with homosexual males and used this term in connection with the reference to ex-gays. It currently simply is a colloquial term for "heterosexual" having, like many words, changed in primary meaning over time.
One common version of a Heterosexuality symbol
History of heterosexual symbolism dates back to the earliest artifacts of humanity, which included ritual fertility carvings and primitive rock art. This was later expressed in the symbolism of fertility rites and polytheistic worship, which often included images of human reproductive organs. The modern symbols of heterosexuality in the societies derived from Europe are still referenced to the symbols used in these ancient beliefs, with the image in this section being a combination of the symbol for Mars as the definitive male stereotype of a warrior, and Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
 See also
- ^ "Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality". APAHelpCenter.org. http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=31. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- ^ APA California Amicus Brief.
- ^ Vilain, E. (2000). Genetics of Sexual Development. Annual Review of Sex Research, 11:1–25
- ^ Wilson, G. and Rahman, Q., (2005). Born Gay. Chapter 5. London: Peter Owen Publishers
- ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia (Colum. Univ. Press, 5th ed. [casebound?] 1993 (ISBN 0-395-62438-X)), entry Reproduction.
- ^ Tom Bethell (April 2005). "Kinsey as Pervert". American Spectator, 38, 42–44. ISSN 0148-8414.
- ^ Julia A. Ericksen (May 1998). "With enough cases, why do you need statistics? Revisiting Kinsey's methodology". The Journal of Sex Research 35 (2): 132-40, ISSN 0022-4499.
- ^ American Psychiatric Association (May 2000). "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues". Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrics. http://www.aglp.org/pages/cfactsheets.html#Anchor-Gay-14210.
- ^ http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c3a7.htm#I
- ^ biblegateway.com
- ^ "World Religions and Same Sex Marriage", Marriage Law Project, Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, July 2002 revision PDF (84.1 KiB)
- ^ Affirming Congregations and Ministries of the United Church of Canada
- ^ p.345, Klein
- ^ p.22, Mills
- ^ Henry, G. W. (1941). Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns. New York: Paul B. Hoeber
- Wikholm, Andrew, Words: Heterosexual. Gay History.com. (Cited February 14, 2004)
- "Straight, Ex-gay". Descriptors for Sexual Minorities.
- "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", H2G2. BBC. (Cited February 14, 2004)
- Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality. American Psychiatric Association. (Cited February 9, 2004)
- Heterosexual Sex. World Sex Explorer. (Cited February 14, 2004)
- Katz, Jonathan Ned (1995) The Invention of Heterosexuality. NY, NY: Dutton (Penguin Books). ISBN 0-525-93845-1.
- Johnson, P (2005) Love, Heterosexuality and Society. Routledge: London.
- Mills, Jonathan, Love, Covenant & Meaning, Regent College Publishing, 1997
- Klein, Ernest, A comprehensive etymological dictionary of the English language: Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustrating the history of civilization and culture, Elsevier, Oxford, 2000
 Further reading
- Kinsey, Alfred C., et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33412-8
- Kinsey, Alfred C., et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33411-X
- Bohan, Janis S., Psychology and Sexual Orientation: Coming to Terms, Routledge, 1996 ISBN 0415915147
 External links
- Keel, Robert O., Heterosexual Deviance. (Goode, 1994, chapter 8, and Chapter 9, 6th edition, 2001.) Sociology of Deviant Behavior: FS 2003, University of Missouri–St. Louis.
- "Heterosexual partner rights raise questions". The News' View, Yale Daily News Publishing Company. January 27, 2004.
- Coleman, Thomas F., What's Wrong with Excluding Heterosexual Couples from Domestic Partner Benefits Programs? Unmarried America, American Association for Single People.