Chapter 2- Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality
Sociobiology: the application of evolutionary biology to understanding the social behaviour of animals,
including humans. For example, certain sexual behaviours evolved because they gave our ancestors an
Evolution: a theory that all living things have acquired their present forms through gradual changes in
their genetic endowment over successive generations. For example, in terms of evolution what counts
is producing healthy, viable offspring who will carry on one’s genes.
Natural Selection: evolution occurs via natural selection. Natural selection is a process in which the
individuals who are best adapted to their environment are more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass
on their genes to the next generation.
How would a sociobiologist choose a mate?
-Would judge attractiveness because this is indicative of the health and vigour of the individual. This in
turn would relate to the reproductive potential, the unhealthy are less likely to produce vigorous
offspring. Natural selection would favour individuals preferring mates who would have reproductive
Why do men like big tits?
-Dating, hanging out etc. are similar customs much like the courtship of other species. For example, 2
eagles have a flying courtship in which they will exchange objects in mid-air, this allows each of them to
assess the other (lack of speed or coordination). This also happens in human courtship rituals, the
money spent by a male indicates their ability to support a family.
Why is there a nuclear family structure in almost every society?
-once a man and a woman mate, there are two obstacles: infant vulnerability and maternal death. Infant
vulnerability is reduced through physical care and if there are enough resources and security for the
infant. Two mechanisms that will facilitate an infants well-being is a pair-bond between mother and
father and attachment between infant and parent.
-Parental investment refers to the behaviour and resources in offspring to ensure the survival and
reproductive success of their offspring. Study: after divorce, fathers have been found to invest the most
money in their genetic children of their current union and the least money in stepchildren from a past
relationship. However, they spend an equal amount on their genetic children and the stepchildren of
their current relationship (pair-bond with current partner).
Darwin’s: Sexual selection- selection that results from differences in traits affecting access to mates. It consists of
two processes: 1) competition among members of one gender (usually males) for mating access to
members of the other gender and 2) preferential choice by members of one gender (usually females) for
certain members of the other gender. In many cases, males will compete among themselves for the
right to mate with females and females prefer certain males and mate with them while refusing to mate
with other males. Study: men (often more than women) will display material resources (impressive gifts)
or will display personality traits that will lead to the acquisition of resources (ambition) in order to
Criticisms of Sociobiology
-critics object to the biological determinism it implies
-believe the central function of sex is reproduction but this is not true today, when you have to blow a
load you have to blow a load
-have a difficult time explaining homosexuality
-Miss America and Playboy study showed that the 0.7 waist to hip ratio is a not a universal standard to
judge attractiveness and therefore contradicting a hard-wired evolutionary claim. The actual average
people find attractive is closer to 0.66.
Evolutionary psychology- how natural selection has shaped psychological mechanisms and processes
(mind) rather than how it has shaped sexual behaviour directly. For example, if one is able to accurately
judge whether a woman was healthy and fertile, they would be more successful in reproducing and
would have a competitive advantage.
Sexual strategies- men and women have different short-term and long-term strategies. For example, in
short-term mating, a female may choose a partner who offers her immediate resources (food or
money). In long-term, a female may choose a partner who is willing to provide resources for the
indefinite future. Study: men lower standards when seeking a short-term partner, women look for a
short-term mate who will give them resources and is generous. However, other studies show that men
and women both seek long-term relationships and very few want short-term. This sexual strategies
theory is based on assumptions about what the ancestral environment was like. Yet, sexual strategies do
in fact change in response to personal characteristics and the environment.
FREUD’S Psychoanalytic theory- contains the basic assumption that part of human sexuality is
Libido- sex drive or sex energy. Freud saw this as one of the major forces motivating human behaviour.
Ie. Tom sees 2 year, his libido is through the roof.
Freud described the human personality as being divided into 3 parts: id, ego, superego. Id- present at birth, is the reservoir for the libido, operates on the pleasure principle. Since it operates on
the pleasure principle, it can be pretty irrational.
Ego- operates on the reality principle and tries to keep the id in line. The ego functions to make the
person have realistic, rational interactions with others.
Superego- the conscience, contains the values and ideals of society and operates on idealism. Aims to
inhibit the impulses of the id and persuade the ego to strive for more MORAL goals rather than realistic
Woman sees gorgeous man (Kris) in meeting with a board of directors and her id says “He’s a real
hottie, I want to bang him on that desk over there, Let’s do it!” then the ego intervenes and says “We
can’t do it now, wait until 5pm when everyone leaves”. The superego then comes in and says “ I
shouldn’t make love to this hot guy at all because I’m married”.
Id contains instincts at birth, ego develops years later and the superego develops last as the child learns
Freud saw the libido as being focused in regions of the body known as erogenous zones. An erogenous
zone is an area of the skin or mucous membrane that is sensitive to sexual stimulation; touching it in
certain ways produces feelings of pleasure. For example: lips/mouth, genitals and rectum/anus.
Stages of Psychosexual Development
Freud believed a child passes through a series of stages of development. In each stage, a different
erogenous zone is the focus of pleasure.
1 stage- lasting from birth to about one year of age is the oral stage. Pleasure here is derived from
sucking and stimulating the lips and mouth.
2 stage- second year of life, the anal stage, the child’s interest is focused on elimination.
3 stage- age 3-6 years old, is the phallic stage where the focus is on the genital area. Boy’s phallus
(penis) and the girls clitoris- they both derive pleasure from masturbating. The most important
occurrence is the stage known as the development of the Oedipus complex in which the boy loves his
mother and desires her SEXUALLY. The boy hates his father because he seems him as a rival to his
mother’s affection. The hostility grows but eventually comes to fear his father will castrate him (cut off
his cock). Here, the boy feels castration anxiety and eventually it becomes so great that he stops desiring
his mother, he takes on his father’s gender role and acquires the male characteristics expected by males
in society. Female Oedipus Complex- also called the electra complex. This stage begins with the girl’s love for her
mother and her focus on her clitoris. The little girl then realizes that she has no pen is, she feels envious
and cheated and suffers penis envy. She then shifts her desire for her mother onto her father, forming
the Oedipus complex. The resolves her penis envy by identifying with her mother and switching her
erogenous zone from her clitoris to her vagina in order to have a baby, a son, a substitute for a penis.
After resolving the Oedipus complex, children pass into the stage known as latency which lasts until
adolescence. In this stage, sexual impulses are repressed. However this part of Freud’s work is weak
because children do in fact engage in sexual behaviour.
With puberty, the urges awaken and move into the genital stage. Sexual urges become more specifically
genital, the oral, anal and these genital urges fuse together to promote the biological function of
People do not always mature from one stage to the next as they should. For example, a person may be
fixated at the oral stage. Symptoms would include cigarette smoking or fingernail biting to stimulate the
lips or the mouth.
Criticisms of Psychoanalytic Theory
-most of the concepts cannot be evaluated scientifically to measure accuracy (Freud said many forces
are unconscious and therefore one cannot using scientific techniques to measure this)
-Freud derived his data almost exclusively from his work with patients who sought therapy from him
-therefore his theory may not provide a view of the human personality but of the disturbances in the
-Feminists also believe is theory is male-centred.
-did not give sufficient recognition to the importance of the environment and learning when it comes to
-Sexual behaviour is also learned.
PAVLOV’s Classical Conditioning- An unconditioned stimulus (US) automatically elicits an unconditioned
response (UR). The process of learning that occurs in classical conditioning is when a new stimulus, the
conditioned stimulus (CS) repeatedly is paired with the original unconditioned stimulus (US). After this
happens many times, the conditioned stimulus can eventually be presented without the unconditioned
stimulus and will still evoke a response, known as the conditioned response (CR).
For example, Mina is dating Michelle. Mina always wears this Erotik cologne when they go out. Mina
and Michelle have many pleasant times in the back seat of his Honda Accord, where he strokes her
thighs and other sexually responsive parts of her body and she feels highly aroused, always with the aroma of Erotik in her nostrils. One day Michelle enters an elevator full of strangers and someone is
wearing Erotik cologne. Michelle immediately feels aroused EVEN THOUGH she is not engaged in any
sexual activity. Although Michelle may wonder why her panties are getting wet, classical conditioning
can explain this quite perfectly. The thigh-stroking and sexy touching were the Unconditioned Stimulus
(US). Michelle’s arousal was the Unconditioned Response (UR). The aroma of the cologne is the
Controlled Stimulus (CS) which was paired with the sexy touching (US). Eventually, the aroma by itself
evoked arousal, the conditioned response (CR).
Study: Queens University, men shown 20 slides of partially clothed women. Men in control group only
saw 1 target slide 11 times, men in experimental group saw the target slide followed by 40 second
sexually explicit videotape for 11 trials. Each man rated the 20 slides. Arousal was measured by a penile
strain gauge, which measures erection. Control group was less aroused, experimental group showed
increase in arousal.
Skinner’s Operant Conditioning- person performs a particular behaviour (operant). The behaviour is
followed by either a reward (positive reinforcement) or a punishment. Food is intrinsically rewarding
(primary reinforcer), sex is another. Ie. Male rates can be trained to learn a maze if a willing sex partner
is at the end of it. If a woman repeatedly experiences pain when she has intercourse, she will probably
want to have sex infrequently or not at all. In this case, sexual intercourse has repeatedly been
associated with a punishment (pain) and so the behaviour becomes less frequent.
Consequences, whether reinforcement or punishment, are most effective in shaping behaviour when
they occur IMMEDIATELY after the behaviour. The longer they are delayed after the behaviour has
occurred, the less effective they become.
Compared with rewards, punishments are not as effective in shaping behaviour. Punishments do not
eliminate a behaviour but rather teach the person to be sneaky and engage in it without being caught.
For example, some parents used to punish their children fo