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The Kinsey Scale (or, the Scale of Butch)

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Ladies, gentlemen, variations thereof, and none of the above, this post is made possible by a true pioneer of science.  This man, nay, this hero reintroduced the principle of empirical gathering of data, a concept first formulated by the great Galileo, into the study of a still taboo subject. Ignoring societal convention, he bravely put himself in the middle of his experiments and encouraged others to do the same. I am speaking of the great American sexologist, Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

This esteemed gentleman has personally bonked more human beings in the name of science than you and I can fathom.
Alfred Kinsey began his career in 1935 with a lecture at Indiana University taking scientists to task over widespread ignorance about human sexuality. Kinsey's methods were highly unorthodox, as he did not rely solely on interviews or "theories", which in the field of human sexuality at the time, was a technical, scientific term for "pulling stuff out of your ass" (we're looking at you, Sigmund Freud). Instead, Kinsey came up with the revolutionary idea of, um, observing, filming, and even participating in the acts he was studying. For science, of course. The good doctor even set aside rooms of his own house to devote to his necessary work. No matter how unorthodox his methods, the information he gathered was relatively free of personal prejudice for the time, owing to the reliance on actual gathered data instead of ancient "wisdom" about how sexuality was supposed to work. In fact, even with modern corrections made to his studies, Kinsey's statistics were only slightly adjusted and his conclusions stayed basically the same (again, take that, Sigmund Freud). For this reason, Dr. Kinsey, in authoring Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, basically created the modern field of sexology, elevating one of humanity's favorite pastimes into a science and catapulted him to celebrity among laypeople.

Kinsey was especially instrumental to understanding homosexuality, and while some criticized him for over-representing "inverts" in his data pools, others theorized that the over-representation was due to a greater need of study.

One of Kinsey's most important contributions to society's understanding of sexual orientation was the concept of the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey Scale is what many of us know as the spectrum of sexual orientation. While Kinsey did not explore spectra of gender conformity or biological sex, the Scale more accurately demonstrates the true diversity of human sexual expression. Later versions of the Kinsey Scale even include an "X" to denote asexuality.

I could include a bunch of boring graphs to explain the Kinsey Scale, but I've decided to use visual aids instead. And by visual aids, I mean Rachel Maddow. For now, let's analogize sexual orientation with gender expression.

The Kinsey Scale runs from 0 to 6, 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual.
This picture and I have a long and dark history. (S)
This yearbook picture of Rachel Maddow in high school is analogous to a perfect zero, conforming with exclusive heterosexuality with no homosexual inclinations. Upon seeing a woman like this in a gay bar, I think most of us would assume she's some gay guy's pet straight girl. Kinsey himself theorized that people who were actually at the very extremes of his scale were rare, and that the 0 and 6 were more like guidelines as to the other categories of the Scale.


The great thing about the Kinsey scale is that it allows for intermediates. Notice the girlish light pink lip gloss, eye-shadow  and v-neck, which are all strong feminine markers, offset by a short  haircut and practical clothing. Like the slight and socially acceptable liberties with gender expression taken here, a two on the Kinsey Scale denotes heterosexuality with some significant homosexual tendencies.


I like to think this picture is a good midpoint between the two extremes of gender. A three on the Kinsey scale denotes an equal preference for homosexual and heterosexual behavior, or as I like to think of it, the Platonic ideal of bisexuality. I suppose its equivalent on our Maddow Scale of Gender Expression would be Perfect Androgyny.
As I mentioned before, the great thing about the Kinsey Scale is that it offers intermediates. This picture again, is not quite "Gender-Conforming" or "Genderfuck", but somewhere on the other side of Gender-Neutral, owing to the shorter hair and almost nonexistent makeup. Like this image, a four on the Kinsey Scale is someone who may be mostly homosexual, with some heterosexual tendencies, or (one of my favorite descriptions in the Alison Bechdel comic "Dykes to Watch Out For) a "bisexual lesbian" (or bisexual gay man).



Ladies, gentlemen, variations thereof and none of the above, I have searched most of my life to find this, The Platonic Dyke. As much as I shy away from essentialism in thought, this picture distills in its essence everything dyke culture holds important. It takes traditional ideas about the way a woman in society is supposed to act and look and kills it, burns its village, salts its crops, and takes its wife and children into bondage far from their ancestral lands. It is the Theoretical Gay Point, the standard by which all homosexuality should be measured, a Perfect Six. Oddly enough, it was taken only 5 years after the Perfect Zero picture above. Maybe Rick Santorum has a reason to fear higher education...


In short, Alfred Kinsey's revolutionary Scale introduced an idea into queer theory that we've all tried to formulate: nuance. Subtle differences. Shades of rainbow, if you will. You will find a marked difference between the writings of old "sexologists" who stumble through the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and allow their writings to be colored by their preconceived notions about human sexuality, and the groundbreaking comprehensive body of work that Kinsey collected and categorized. Even today, Kinsey's Scale inspires alternate forms of graphing human sexuality that include gender identity and expression, but they all have their roots in one man.


God bless that sick, perverted sex maniac of Science.

And go be lame somewhere else, Freud.
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