Pg 23-44, 21 pages Page 1 of7
Chapter 2: Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality
• Aristotle divided animals into 3 categories: sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction, spontaneous
• Ovid wrote a 3-part book series on relationships for men to pursue and win women
• Kama Sutra by a Hindu philosopher discusses practical advice for sexual activity, and guide to virtuous
living discussing love, family life, and other aspects related to pleasure
• Sociobiology: Application of evolutionary biology to understanding the social behaviour of all animals,
including humans and sexual behaviour.
• Evolution is the theory that all living things have acquired their present forms through gradual changes
in their genetic endowment over successive generations, by producing healthy viable offspring.
• Natural Selection: Process by which individuals who are best adapted to their environment are more
likely to survive, reproduce, and pass on their genes. Traits become more or less common in a
o Individuals within species must vary slightly on various traits, e.g. height, food preferences
o Heredity: these variations in traits are capable of being passed on through genes
o Differential reproduction: circumstances favour certain traits over others
• Characteristics used to judge physical attractiveness are indicative of health and vigour, and thus
reproductive potential. Similarly, courtship rituals like money expenditure or dancing showcase financial
abilities or physical prowess important to assessing fitness.
• The nuclear family helps overcome obstacles of infant vulnerability and maternal death by creating a
pair-bond between mother and father (so father provides resources and security) and attachment
between infant and parent (so parents continue providing care).
• Parental investment is the behaviour and resources invested in genetic offspring to ensure their
survival. Fathers found to invest more money in current union’s genetic children than past union’s
stepchildren; however, equal on current union’s genetic and stepchildren perhaps to cement pair-bond.
• Men have physiological sexual arousal only to preferred partner, whereas women show arousal to
preferred, non-preferred partners and even animals. This automatic or reflexive response to a range of
sexual stimuli may help protect against injury during unwilling intercourse.
• Sexual selection is selection that results from differences in traits affecting mate access. This includes
competition for mating access, and preferential choice by members of one gender for the other.
• Sociobiology has been criticized for biological determinism, and for an outmoded version of
evolutionary theory that does not take into account complexity of group survival. The function of sex is
not limited to reproduction.
• Hip-to-waist ratio of 0.7 supposedly the universal standard for reproductive fitness calculated from Miss
American contests is not evolutionarily supported; there was decline from 0.78 in 1921 to 0.64 in 1986,
and this range of ratio most common only in societies where women are economically dependent on
• Why sexual reproduction? Sexual reproduction involves genetic contributions from two parents, while
asexual reproduction is producing a copy of one parent.
o Limits harmful mutations: Mutations cannot be removed in asexual reproduction with repeated
copying; two parents are less likely to have the same harmful mutation
o Red Queen Hypothesis: Host species constantly fighting against parasites, so having two
parents allows development of new defenses Pg 23-44, 21 pages Page 2 of7
• Why only two sexes? Only two types of gametes due to natural selection, basis of sex differences
o Sperm are small and require minimal effort to produce – but less viable, produce lots
o Ovum are large and costly to produce – but more viable
o Mid-sized gametes not selected for, eliminated from population
• Gametes determine parental investment and maximum reproductive potential – maximum
reproductive output, or number of offspring, an individual can produce. The two combined determine the
best mating strategy
Parental Investment Low (sperm) High (ovum, gestation, delivery,
Max Reproductive High (many offspring) Low (few offspring)
Strategy Exploitative, competitive, increaseNurturing, choosy, increase partner
number of partners to increase quality to make sure few offspring
reproductive output are viable and successful
Mixed Mating Strategy: Acquiring
genes and resources from 2 different
Characteristics Physical: Strength, weapons Genetic quality: Physical traits (e.g.
Behavioural: Territory invasion, killcial symmetry), behavioural traits
(e.g. social dominance)
Psychological: Indiscriminate Resource quality: Resource display
• These strategies are not conscious decisions. The naturalistic fallacy states that just because
something exists, it does not mean it has an inherent value, or that it should exist – evolutionary theory
tries to explain why a behaviour exists, not pass value judgements.
• Consequences include relationships problems due to differences in sex drive, males concerned with
controlling female sexuality (to reduce risks of cuckoldry from cheating), sexual violence
• Evolutionary Psychology: Study of how natural selection has shaped psychological mechanisms and
processes, such as cognitive and emotional structures, rather than sexual behaviour directly.
• Sexual strategies are different strategies designed to solve different adaptive problems in short-term
vs. long-term mating.
• E.g. Choosing partner with immediate resources, vs. partner willing to provide resources for indefinite
future. Or relaxing standards for a short-term partner among men, while women’s preferences change
• Are there really differences between men and women? Seems like both prefer long-term mating
strategies and few or no short-term partners.
• As well, characteristics we observe may only be design flaws or side effects of other adaptations, and
are based on assumptions about the ancestral environment.
• Psychological theories focus on the individual, while sociological theories focus on society Pg 23-44, 21 pages Page 3 of 7
• Psychoanalytic Theory: Freud’s theory which assumes that part of human personality is unconscious.
Libido is the term for sex drive or sex energy, one of the major forces motivating human behaviour.
Id, Ego, and Superego
• Id operates on the pleasure principle, and is the reservoir of the libido. Ego operates on the reality
principle, keeping the id in line with realistic and rational forces. The superego is the conscience,
containing the values and morals of society.
• The id, ego, and superego develop sequentially – the id is instincts present as birth, while superego
• Erogenous zones are areas of the body that are particularly sensitive to stimulation, with touch
producing feelings of pleasure; include lips and mouth, genitals, and anus.
Stages of Psychosexual Development
• At each stage of development, a different erogenous zone is the focus of pleasure.
• Oral stage from birth to one year with pleasure derived from sucking and eating.
• Anal stage from 1-2 years old with focus on elimination.
• Phallic stage from 3-6 years with focus on genitals, deriving pleasure from masturbating. During this
stage, the Oedipus complex and female equivalent (Electra complex) develop, where the child is
attached to their opposite-sex parent, experiences castration anxiety or penis envy, and finally resolves
this by identifying with their same-sex parent.
• Latency lasts until adolescence, with sexual impulses repressed; this is not supported by modern sex
• With puberty, sexual urges reawaken in the genital stage and fuse to promote the biological function of
reproduction. The lack of maturation from one stage to another leads to fixation.
Evaluation of Psychoanalytic Theory
• Concepts difficult to be evaluated scientifically since forces are unconscious. Neuropsychoanalysis
using brain imaging show that the prefrontal area typically constrains the limbic and postcortical regions;
during REM sleep, however, there is a reduction in prefrontal activity (the ego?) and higher activity in the
latter (the id?).
• Data was derived from patients seeking therapy, may only represent disturbances in human personality
• Feminist criticism of Freud’s assumption of penis envy (Horney coined womb envy), and distinction
between vaginal and clitoral orgasm, and assertion that vaginal orgasm from heterosexual intercourse is
• Modern psychoanalysts give more recognition to importance of environment and learning, such as
Erikson. Object-relations theory describes relationships with caretakers as important.
• Classical Conditioning: Learning process in which a previously neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired
with an unconditioned stimulus that reflexively elicits an unconditioned response. Eventually, the
conditioned stimulus itself will evoke the response.
• In terms of sexual behaviour, may associate a specific cologne or perfume with sexual activity, and
experience sexual arousal when they smell it. Classical conditioning may also help explain fetishes.
• Operant Conditioning: Process of changing the frequency of a behaviour (the operant) by following it
with reinforcement or punishment. Pg 23-44, 21 pages Page 4 of 7
• Some rewards are primary reinforcers with something intrinsically rewarding about them, such as
food or sex.
• The consequences are most effective in shaping behaviour when they occur immediately after the
behaviour – the longer the delay, the weaker the association.
• Punishments are less effective at shaping behaviour than rewards – they may not eliminate the
behaviour, but teach the person to engage in it without getting caught.
• According to the learning theory, sexual behaviour can be learned and changed at any time in one’s
lifespan, not just in early childhood.
• Behaviour Therapy is a set of techniques used to modify human behaviour based on classical or
• This may be used to m