circles of sexuality

By: Riley Fortier M.Ed.

Circles of Sexuality

CW: brief mention of sexual assault, rape, and incest

The circles of sexuality were created by Dennis Daily in 1981 to show a more holistic approach to sexuality. Daily created this model for a strengths-based approach to social work for client’s sexual wellbeing. The “circles” or categories of sexuality are: sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health and reproduction, and sexualization. The following categories and descriptions have been slightly adapted from Daily’s original 1981 framework.


Sensuality involves the level of awareness, acceptance, and enjoyment of our body or others. Sensuality can include things like:

  • Skin hunger
  • Visual or auditory stimuli
  • Sexual response cycle
  • Body image
  • Fantasy


Intimacy is the degree to which we express and have a need for closeness with another person. Intimacy can include things like:

  • Caring
  • Sharing
  • Loving/liking
  • Risk taking
  • Vulnerability
  • Self-disclosure
  • trust

Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is how we perceive ourselves as sexual beings. Sexual identity includes:

  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Gender identity
  • Gender roles
  • Sexual orientation

Sexual Health and Reproduction

Sexual health and reproduction relates to the attitudes and behaviors towards our health and those risks associated with sexual activity. Components of sexual health and reproduction include:

  • Sexual behavior
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Reproductive systems
  • Contraception/abortion
  • STIs (sexually transmitted infections)


Sexualization is how we use our sexuality or how our sexuality can be used against us. This can include:

  • Media images/messages
  • Flirting
  • Seduction
  • Sexual harassment
  • Incest
  • Rape

Why is this important?

Sexuality is typically viewed in a medical sense when it comes to therapy, counseling, and social work. But the medical aspect of sexuality is just one important piece in the sexuality puzzle. There are many factors that are a part of, and influence someone’s sexuality. In order to give the best care (or to receive the best care), it is important that a holistic or multi-faceted and intersectional approach is used.


About the Author

Riley Fortier, M.Ed. (they/he) is a sexuality educator in the greater Philadelphia area, focusing on holistic wellness and LGBTQ+ diversity in higher education. Previously, Riley earned their Masters of Education in Human Sexuality Studies from Widener University and their undergraduate degrees focusing on biology, psychology, and gender and sexuality studies from Roger Williams University. Riley seeks to provide sexuality and wellness workshops geared towards adults as well as LGBTQ+ trainings to professors and staff in higher education facilities. Riley currently provides community-based lesson plans and workshops for the greater Philadelphia area, as well as content creation and social media management for Fishtown Wellness Center. They are driven to foster inclusive educational environments that provide medically accurate, pleasure-guided, and socially conscious sexuality education workshops with their audience.

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