Perspectives on Sexuality
Why Study Sexuality?
•Sexuality is a
central part of who
we are
•Sex is also a
central part of our
relationships with
•Sex is involved
with everything
Why Study Sexuality?
• A study of sexuality may suggest ways to improve
one’s personal sex life in relationships or help in
solving sexual problems that may occur throughout
• Studying sex involves exploring and integrating
knowledge from many disciplines.
• Studying human sexuality leads to respect for the
diversity of sexual expression and a richer
understanding of societal issues related to sexuality.
Most Sexual Behavior Takes Place in the Context of Relationships
• Sexual relationships exhibit diversity in terms of their
duration, the motivation of the partners involved, the
number of partners involved, aspects of societal
sanction or disapproval, and other factors.
• Sexual relationships usually are less than ideal; “we
do not get exactly what we want.”
• Sexual relationships are challenged by interpersonal
and external factors.
• Sexual relationships take place in a moral context;
upbringing, life experiences, religious beliefs, and
other factors contribute to “a sense of right and
1 Ch. 1, p. 5 We use the word “relationship” to refer to any
Sex and Identity
• Gender identity is the subjective sense of belonging
to a particular sex; male or female.
• Gender role is the sex-typed social behavior of males
and females.
• A transgendered, or transexual, individual has a
sense of difference from conventionally gendered
men and women.
• Sexual orientation has to do with one’s preferred
sexual partner; people can be heterosexual,
homosexual (gay or lesbian), or bisexual.
women identify with the sex
1Ch. 1, p. 6 Transgendered men and
opposite to their anatomical sex
Approaches to the Study of Sexuality
• Because sexuality affects so many aspects of our
lives, it can be studied by many different modes on
• The medical approach focuses on the physical basis
of sexuality and includes the study of anatomy,
endocrinology, reproduction, genetics, psychology,
neuroscience, microbiology, and pathology.
• A valuable medical contribution to sex research has
been the physiological observation of sexual
1.1 Coitus of a Hemisected Man and Woman (ca. 1492) by
Leonardo da Vinci
• Early study of human sexuality.
History of Sex Studies
Richard von Krafft-Ebbing (1840-1902)
– A German-born neurologist wrote the
Psychopathia Sexualis (or sexual
mental disease) in 1886.
– He specialized in criminal and deviant
sexual activity.
– Strong sexual desires were natural, but
must be managed lest physical and
mental deterioration occurred.
– Psychopathia Sexualis discussed
many different types of sexual
deviations from standard
heterosexuality, but he focused on
History of Sex Studies
• Richard von Krafft-Ebbing’s views on homosexuality
•Psychosexual Hermaphroditism.
– Attracted to both women and men.
– Treatment: hypnosis, electric stimulation, and no masturbation.
•Congenital Inversion.
– Men are aware of their sexual anomaly from their childhood on
because they suffer from degenerate heredity
– Exhibit varying degrees of effeminacy
• Acquired Anti-Pathic Sexual Instinct
– masturbation delays homosexual feelings, but ultimately
develops into pederasty
–"cultivated pederasts” those men who exhausted themselves on
sex with women.
History of Sex Studies
•Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
– Three essays on the
theory of sexuality
– Libido – sexual energy
– Stages of development
• Oral Stage
• Anal Stage
• Phallic Stage
• Latent Stage
• Genital Stage
– Perversions from
improper development
History of Sex Studies
•Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935)
– Two neural centers led to sexual
– Sex hormones dictated which was
–A third “intermediate” sex possible
– Genes and hormones dictated
sexual behavior
– Sex reform
• Early advocate for gay rights
• Sex Reform League
–Crushed by Nazis
• Institute and contents burned
History of Sex Studies
Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
• 7 volume set on the Studies in the Psychology of Sex
from 1896 – 1928.
– More an anthropologist than a medical doctor
– Concluded that normal human sexuality was
varied and that sexual mores were determined by
social factors.
– Considered homosexuality a congenital variation
– not a pathology or criminal act.
• More progressive ideas:
–Argued that sexual orientation may be a matter of
degree and not dichotomy.
–Noted that it was common for both males and
females to masturbate and coined the term
–Legitimized the idea that females could have a
desire as great as men.
–Argued that sexual dysfunction may be a
psychological problem – not a physical problem.
1.4 Anthropologist Margaret Mead between two Samoan girls,
around 1926
• Margaret Meade
–Coming of Age in
Samoa 1928
–Participant observer
of 56 young Somoan
• Smooth adolescent transition
• Casual sex, then marriage and
settling down
History of Sex Studies
•Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956)
– Trained as a zoologist (animal behaviorist),
Kinsey eventually investigated human sexual
– His major achievement was applying statistical
analysis to observations instead of relying solely
on personal opinion.
– By 1949 he had gathered detailed sexual
histories of over 16,000 people.
– He soon founded the Kinsey Institute (for
Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction).
– Published
• 1948, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.
• 1953, Sexual Behavior in the Human
1.2 Sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson,
around 1970
• William Masters
(1915 - 2001 )
• Virginia Johnson
(1925 - )
–Two main goals.
• Measure the human sexual
• Treat sexual; dysfunction.
• They measured physiological
responses of 694 individuals
during masturbation and coitus for
a total of more than 10,000
• Their results were published in
Human Sexual Response, 1966.
• In 1970, they published Human
• Margaret Sanger
–Birth control
–American Birth
Control League
• Planned Parenthood
–Distributed info on
contraception in
defiance of
“Comstock Law”
Approaches to the Study of Sexuality
• The fields of endocrinology and neuropharmacology
study the impact of chemical messages, such as
hormones and neurotransmitters, on sexuality.
• The psychiatric approach views sexuality in terms of
health and disease.
• The biologic approach expects to find similarities in
the basic sexual and reproductive functions of
humans and other animal species.
Approaches to the Study of Sexuality
– National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS).
• National survey of sexual behavior in the US
• Now a decade old, but still informative
– General Social Survey (GSS)
• Ongoing surveys of US population since 1970s
– Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures
– National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles
• British survey
Approaches to the Study of Sexuality
• The feminist approach emphasizes the goal of female
equality with males regarding issues:
– Contraception, sex roles, abortion, sexuality
• Sex educators and researchers historically have
faced opposition from religious conservatives.
• Today, sexology or sex research is becoming a
discipline in its own right.
1The World Association of Sexology’s Declaration of Sexual Rights
• Sexual rights are universal human rights based on the
inherent freedom, dignity, & equality of all human beings.
1. The right to sexual freedom.
2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the
sexual body.
• 3. The right to sexual privacy.
• 4. The right to sexual equity.
• 5. The right to sexual pleasure.
• 6. The right to emotional sexual expression.
• 7. The right to sexually associate freely.
• 8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices.
• 9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry.
• 10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education.
• 11. The right to sexual health care.
Sexual Rights are Fundamental and Universal Human Rights
1.5 Sex survey pioneer Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956) and his
•Alfred Kinsey, Clyde Martin (standing), Paul Gebhard, and
Wardel Pomeroy.
Clara Bracken McMillen

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