No, Really, How Gay am I?

According to the Epstein Sexual Orientation Inventory (ESOI), of which the Scientific American test is an extract (and if I want to be cynical, an extract expressly designed to cater to the current sensationalization of bisexuality, especially female bisexuality), I’m pretty heterosexual, with a mean sexual orientation (MSO) of “3” and a sexual orientation range (SOR) of “6”. What that means, so far as I can tell, is I’m pretty much heterosexual (no surprise there) but have a high degree of sexual flexibility (they italicize it, so it must be important).

But listen:

The lower your scores, the more heterosexual your orientation. The higher your scores, the more homosexual your orientation. The wider the range, the greater your sexual flexibility and the more choice you have about how to behave sexually.

Notice how the last sentence essentially cancels out the underlying assumption of the first two, namely that there’s a “state of being” that can be characterized as either hetero or homo. If my scientifically-determined sexual orientation ranges from queer-hating studly-man to metrosexual bi-guy, what does the category “heterosexual” even signify? How does a straight guy like myself become “more heterosexual” or “more homosexual”? Are the categories any more meaningful for being numbers from “1” to “12” than the simple binary of “hetero/homo”?

I should note, some of the questions are pretty bad, too.

8 comments to No, Really, How Gay am I?

  • Anonymous

    By way of demonstrating how bad SciAm’s excerpt is compared to the full battery, in the excerpt I’m gay, gay, gay: 11 – predominantly homosexual. On the full scale, I’m an MSO of 6 with a SOR of 10. Superficially true, I suppose, but still – superficial at best.

    Sexuality is so multi-dimensional that such a scale will fail to capture much nuance – but it’s still an improvement over a simple either/or schema, I suppose.

    Epstien looks like an odd duck: having papers in Science & Nature is no mean feat, but then there’s all that pop-psych…

  • Anonymous

    One of the issues is that there’s no way to differentiate “should” from “would”. I might well say I would be open to the idea of a sexual encounter or even relationship with another man; that doesn’t mean that this would ever happen. I might also say I would *never* be open to such a thing; also doesn’t mean it would never happen. What my “orientation” is today may well be different tomorrow, and different again the next day. I know from discussions with bi friends that some of them feel like they go through phases, periods when they desire men or women more. I’d be willing to bet we all go through such shifts, based on age, experience, opportunity, social setting, etc. I would bet, too, that we all have an idea of what we *should* be like that has nothing to do with what we *would* be like in specific situations.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a married heterosexual man or so I thought and this test is really confusing. I took it several times over many weeks. My average MSO is 6.5 with an average SOR of 7. As far as I can determine the rating is out of 14 (0-13 because 0 is an attainable value I’m assuming) so the 50% mark would be at 7 for each category. So what do these reults mean, how is orientation defined. As far as I can tell it is a useless self-assessment which can tell you pretty much what ever you want it to as the questions are obvious in how they will affect your score. So why was this test in SA to begin with? I tried to be super honest in my answers and took it over varying moods and situations. With scores ranging from MSO 3 to 7 and an SOR ranging from 6 to 7, (MSO score increasing as I became more comfortable with the test’s questions i.e. the more times I took it.

    All in all what does that score mean. I think having other people’s test results would be helpful or more info about the test’s creation. What puzzles me most though is not my test score it is why did I take the test in the first place? What was my motivation? Any ideas or info?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe taking the test in the first place is a better indicator of something than the test itself.

  • Anonymous

    Concerned: I think the test is somewhat misleading. It’s been a while since I looked at it, but I remember things like “have you ever fantisized about having sex with a member of the same sex?” and thinking “so, if I thought about it once when I was 16 it makes me just as ‘gay’ as if I think about it all the time at 35?”

    What interested me in the test — or, more properly, in mocking the test — is the fact that, despite clear legal restrictions on what gey people can and cannot do, we have absolutely no way of telling if someone is gay. There is no test, no psychological profile, nothing except self-admission — even the fact that someone regularly has sex with members of the same sex isn’t that good an indicator; what is s/he stops tomorrow and enters into a life-long relationship with a member of the opposite sex? We also make distinctions between pedophilia and homosexuality, even when the pedophile’s targets are of the same sex.

    So this test can’t be very specific; in my case, it tells me what I already know, which is that I’m pretty open-minded about sex in general, even though my partners have been and will likely continue to be members of the opposite sex. In other words, it doesn’t tell me much at all — but I’ll bet there’s people or institutions that use it as a crucial metric for something or other, pretending they have some really important insight into people’s sexuality.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe taking the test in the
    Maybe taking the test in the first place is a better indicator of something than the test itself.

  • On a lighter note maybe ex-Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi can throw some light on all this. He was recently quoted as saying “I am 75% heterosexual and 25% homosexual. My homosexual part is a lesbian”. Wonder how he would score on a Scientific American test!

  • I am in total agreement with Anonymous above. These tests are lot of hogwash and only serve to confuse the issue. Reminds me of the cowboy who asked the girl sitting next to her in a bar that what did she do. She said that she was a lesbian. The poor boy was knocked out at this new word and asked her what it really meant. “Oh, It means I like girls.” Next day a tourist asked the cowboy what was he? And he replied that he was a cowboy till a day before but now he was a lesbian.:-)

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