People differ from one another in their sexual desires and inclinations. The scientific term for these inclinations is sexual preference. This includes a differentiation between,
- which gender (male, female, male and female) a desired sexual partner should be;
- which stage of bodily development (pre-, early, or post-pubertal) the desired partner should have reached;
- how sexuality should ideally be lived out with the desired sexual partner, meaning which sexual practices are experienced as particularly pleasurable or arousing.
Sexual preference is thought to develop under the influence of sex hormones and further biological, psychological, and social factors during puberty. People do not consciously decide for or against their sexual preferences. Rather, this represents a development process that unfolds step by step for the individual, recognizing and perceiving what s/he perceives as sexually arousing. Scientifically, the exact course of this development remains broadly unexplained.