QOTM: January 2021 - What exactly is sexuality?

Posted by Candice Simpson on

What do the words “sex” and “sexuality” mean to you? What do the two have in common and what is the difference between the two? How are they related?

When you talk about “sex”, what are you referring to?

What besides it would you consider to be a part of sexuality?


Sex and sexuality are concepts and ideas that are broader than what happens with our genitals during “sexual activities”. They are central to what makes us “us”, they are at the core of our identity and shape many aspects of our daily interactions with others and their (and our own) perception of us.

The “Five Circles of Sexuality” is a model that tries to illustrate this vast, encompassing concept of sexuality. It was first proposed in the 80s and has since then been adapted and expanded.


The five circles are (briefly)

    The awareness and acceptance of one’s own body, how comfortable you are in your own skin, mental and physical enjoyment of your own body and that of others using your five senses.
    The ability or need to experience emotional closeness to others and having it reciprocated.
    The perception or sense of who we are sexually, including gender, gender identity, gender role and sexual orientation.
    Attitudes and behavior regarding producing children, health and hygiene regarding sex and reproductive organs, medical and health consequences of sexual activities and behavior. This is mostly the biological side of sexuality.
    is the use of sexuality to influence, control or manipulate others (good and bad).


The diagram below shows a visual representation of the concept. Please note that all circles overlap (not just the once next to each other) and together they form our values.

5 Circles of Sexuality chart

Inside each circle are examples of each concept. It is very common that each example may fit into various categories depending on the situation. Do you agree with where each example has landed? How would you change the examples?


All five together form our sexuality and our sexual values. All five can have positive and potentially negative aspects on how we interact with others or behave around others and ourselves. Some of the components of each can have negative or positive associations or experiences from our past. The key takeaway is that “sexuality” is more than what we do with our sexual organs. It forms a framework for how we act towards and react to others and the need for closeness and intimacy as well as biological needs and activities.

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