Safe Sex Project - Naomi Bird

What is sexuality?

Sexuality is a central aspect of being human; it includes what sex we are, the gender identities and roles we adopt, sexual orientation (gay, straight, bisexual), eroticism and pleasure, intimacy and, fundamentally, the need to reproduce. It would be easy to see a persons sexuality as being a biological function but it is more complex than that, having psychological, social, economic, political, religious and many other influences. Sexuality has a major impact on health. For example, young gay men have the highest rate of suicide of all groups, and this is directly related to prejudice and discrimination due to their sexuality.


Sexualism is discrimination against a person or a group of people based on their sexual orientation and sexual behaviours. This includes being treated differently or harassed due to your real or perceived sexuality. You are legally protected from discrimination of any kind including your sex and sexual orientation by The Equality Act 2010.

Types of Sexual Orientation

  • Heterosexual - Heterosexuality is colloquially referred to as being “straight.” A person who is heterosexual is one who is attracted to people of the opposite gender. For example, a man who is attracted solely to women would be considered heterosexual.

  • Homosexual - A person who is homosexual is one who is attracted to people of the same gender that he or she identifies with. A man who is attracted to other men is referred to as gay, whereas a woman who is attracted to other women is referred to as lesbian.

  • Bisexual - Often simply referred to as “bi,” a person who is bisexual is attracted to people of both their own gender and of another gender. Commonly, it refers to people who are attracted to men and women. Some bisexual people have a preference for one gender over another.

  • Asexual - A person who identifies as asexual generally does not experience sexual attraction or has little to no desire for sexual activity. This is not the same as sexual dysfunction or celibacy; asexuals simply do not desire sex.2 Some people who identify as asexual may still desire romantic relationships with people of the same or other genders. People who do not feel romantic desire are considered aromantic.


1. Health and Social Care Level 3 - Series editors: Beryl Stretch & Mary Whitehouse