Understanding Human Sexuality
Chapter 1- Sexuality in Perspective
Sex and Gender
• Abiologist might define sexual behaviour as “any behaviour that increases the
likelihood of gametic unionUnion of the sperm and egg.
• This definition emphasizes the reproductive function of sex.
• Sexual Behaviour: Behaviour that produces arousal and increases the chance of
Influences on Sexuality
• The ancient Greek openly acknowledges both heterosexuality and homosexuality in
their society and explained the existence of the two in a myth in which the original
humans were double creatures with twice the normal number of limbs and organs;
some were half male and half female.
• The gods, fearing the power of these creatures, split them in half, and forever
after each one continued to search for its missing half. Heterosexuals were
thought to have resulted from the splitting of the half male, half female.
• It was thought that male homosexuals, from the splitting of the double male;
and female homosexuals from the splitting of the double female.
• Fifteenth-century Christians believes that “wet dreams” resulted from intercourse
with tiny spiritual creatures called incubi and succubi.
• This notion was put forth in a papal bull of 1484 and a companion book, the
Malleus Maleficarum. The Malleus became the official manual of the
Inquisition, in which people, particularly women, were tried as witches.
• Muslims believed that sexual intercourse is one of the finest pleasures of life,
reflecting the teachings of the great prophet Muhammad.
• Anton van Leeuwenhoek- Discovered sperm swimming in human semen.
• Oskar Hertwig- Observed the actual fertilization of the egg by the sperm in sea
urchins, although the ovum in humans was not directly observed until the twentieth
• Henry Havelock Ellis- Aphysician in Victorian England.
• He believed that sexual deviations from the norm are often harmless, and he
urged society to accept them.
• Richard von Krafft-Ebing- His special interest was pathological sexuality.
• Coined the concepts of sadism, masochism, and pedophilia.
• Magnus Hirschfeld- Founded the first sex research institute and administered the
first large-scale sex survey, obtaining data from 10 000 people on a 130-item
• Most of the information was destroyed by Nazi hoodlums.
• Established the first journal devoted to the study of sexuality, established a
marriage counseling service, worked for legal reforms, and gave advice on
contraception and sex problems. Media
• Canadians are influenced both by Canadian programs and, perhaps more so, by
American prime-time television.
• The average Canadian’s views about sexuality are likely to be much more
influenced by the mass media than by scientific findings.
• Medias three types of influence:
• Cultivation: Refers to the notion that people begin to think that what they see
on television and in other media really represents the mainstream of what
happens in our culture.
• Agenda-setting: News reporters select what to report, what to emphasize.
• Social Learning: Characters on television, in the movies, or in romance
novels may serve as models whom we imitate, perhaps without even realizing
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Sexuality
• Culture: Refers to traditional ideas and values transmitted to members of the group
• Ethnocentrism: Tends to influence people’s understanding on human sexual
• Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of
one's own culture.
• Canadians tend to have more permissive attitudes toward sexuality than
• Incest Taboos: Sex is regulated in that intercourse between blood relatives is
Variations in Sexual Techniques
• Cunnilingus(Mouth stimulation of the females genitals) is fairly common in our
society, and it occurs in a few other societies as well, especially in the South Pacific.
• In the island of Ponape, the man places a fish in the woman’s vulva and then
gradually licks it out prior to coitus.
• Ponapean men usually tug at the woman’s eyebrows, occasionally yanking out
tufts of hair.
• Irish natives of Inis Beag engage in sexual activity 1 or 2 times a month, which is the
lowest frequency. On the high extreme, Mangaians engage in intercourse several
times a night.
• The Santals of southernAsia engage in sexual intercourse as often as five times per
day every day early in marriage.
• Masturbation: Sexual self-stimulation of the genitals.
• African Azande woman use a phallus(penis) made of a wooden root, but if the
husband catches her masturbation, he may beat her severely.
Premarital and Extramarital Sex
• Marquesans of eastern Polynesia: Boys and girls have participated in a wide range
of sexual experiences before puberty. • Egyptians of Sewa: Girl’s clitoris is removed at age seven or eight to decrease her
potential for sexual excitement and intercourse.
• Extramarital Sex: Sexual intercourse between individuals who are not married to
Sex with Same-Sex Partners
• Three general rules do seem to emerge:
• No matter how a particular society views homosexuality, the behaviour
always occurs in at least some individuals-that is, same-sex sexuality is found
universally in all societies.
• Males are more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activity than females.
• Same-sex sexual activity is never the predominant form of sexual behaviour
for adults in any of the societies studied.
Regional and Cultural Variation in Sexuality
Social Class and Sex
• The respondents from the lower social classes were more likely to have first engaged
in intercourse when they were 15 years old or younger and to have had one of more
sexually transmitted infections.
Comparing Canada and the United States
• Canadians are more liberal thanAmericans are.
• We are more accepting of premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, same-sex
marriage, and even extramarital sex.
• Canadians have lower rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted
infections and higher rates of breast-feeding.
Aboriginal Peoples with Sexuality
• The sexual behaviour and attitudes of mostAboriginal communities have been
influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, abusive experiences in residential
schools, whether they live on or off the reserve, and the poor economic and crowded
social conditions in which many live.
The Significance of Cross-Cultural Studies
• Give us notion of the enormous variation that exists in human sexual behaviour, and
they help us put our own standards and behaviour in perspective.
• These studies provide impressive evidence concerning the importance of culture and
learning in the shaping of our sexual behaviour; they show us that human sexual
behaviour is not completely determined by biology or drives or instincts.
Cross-Species Perspectives on Sexuality
• Male monkeys and apes in zoos can be observed masturbating.
• Techniques include hand stimulation of the genitals or rubbing the genitals
against an object.
• Monkeys and nonhuman apes have one advantage over humans: their bodies
are so flexible that they can perform mouth-genital sex on themselves.
Same-Sex Sexual Behaviour
• Among domestic sheep, 9 percent of adult males strongly prefer other males as sex
partners. • Bonobos and Japanese macaques, females mount other females and derive sexual
rewards from these behaviours.
In What Ways are Humans Unique?
• Female sexual behaviour is strongly controlled by hormones. In virtually all
mammals, females do not engage in sexual behaviour at all except when they are in
“heat”, which is a particular hormonal state.
• In humans, females are capable of engaging in sexual behaviour during any
phase of their hormonal cycle. Thus, the sexual behaviour of the human
females is not nearly as much under hormonal control as that of females of
The Non-Sexual Uses of Sexual Behaviour
• Bonobos use sex for peacemaking in situations that might lead to aggression among
other animals, such as situations involving food or jealousy.
• Bonobos engage in a wide range of sexual behaviours with a wide range of
partners, both same sex and opposite sex. The female is sexually attractive and
sexually active during most of her cycle, rather than just for a few days around
The Sexual Health Perspective
• Sexual Health: Astate of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in
relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.
• It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual
relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual
experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
• Sexual Rights:All human beings have certain basic, inalienable rights regarding
sexuality that stem from basic human rights such as those guaranteed in the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
• Right to reproductive self-determination and freedom from sexual violence, as
well as the right to sexual self-expression.
• Also, the right to access reproductive health care services, receive sex
education, consent or not consent to marriage, and experience a satisfying,
safe and pleasurable sex life.
Chapter 2- Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality
• Sociobiology- The idea that some behaviours are a result of evolution.
• Sociobiologists argue that certain sexual behaviours evolved because they
gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage. In terms of evolution, what
counts is producing lots of healthy, viable offspring who will carry on one’s
genes. Evolution occurs via natural selection.
• Asociobiologist argues that many of the characteristics we evaluate in judging
attractiveness are indicative of the health and vigour of the individual. The
unhealthy are less likely to produce many vigorous offspring. • Sociobiologists can explain why the nuclear family structure of a man, a
woman, and their offspring is found in every society. Once a man and a
woman mate, there are several obstacles to reproductive success; two being
infant vulnerability and maternal death.
Infant vulnerability is greatly reduced if the mother provides
continuing physical care, including breastfeeding.
Even further reduced if father provides resources and security from
attack for the mother and infant. Pair-bond between mother and
father, and attachment between infant and parent.
Parents are most interested in the survival and reproductive success of
their genetic offspring.
• Parental investment refers to the behaviour and resources
invested in offspring to achieve this end.
• Sexual Selection: Darwin proposed this. Sexual selection is selection that results
from differences in traits affecting access to mates.
• Competition among members of one gender for mating access to members of
• Preferential choice by members of one gender for certain members of the
• This is saying that in most species, but not all, males compete among
themselves for the right to mate with females; and females, for their part,
prefer certain males and mates with them while refusing to mate with others.
• Evolutionary Psychology: Focuses on how natural selection has shaped
psychological mechanisms and processes, rather than on how it has shaped sexual
• Psychoanalytic Theory: Freud came to believe that childhood experiences and
unconscious desires influenced behavior.
• Libido: Freud termed the sex drive or sex energy as libido.
• Id: Basic part of personality and is present at birth. It is the reservoir of psychic
• This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes of the
instinctive and primitive behaviors.
• Operates on the pleasure principle. For example, an increase in hunger or
thirst should produce an immediate attempt to eat or drink.
• Contains the set of instincts present at birth.
• Ego: Operates on the reality principle (which strives to satisfy the id's desires in
realistic and socially appropriate ways) and tries to keep the id in line.
• The ego functions in both the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.
• The ego functions to make the person have realistic, rational interactions with
others. • In many cases, the id's impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed
gratification--the ego will eventually allow the behavior, but only in the
appropriate time and place.
• The ego develops a few years after, as the child learns how to interact
realistically with his or her environment and the people in it.
• Superego: The conscience. It contains the values and ideals of society that we learn,
and it operates on idealism. It aims to inhibit the impulses of the id and to persuade
the ego to strive for moral goals rather than realistic ones.
• Erogenous Zones: Apart of the skin or mucous membrane that is extremely sensitive
to stimulation; touching it in certain ways produces feelings of pleasure.
• The lips and mouth are one such erogenous zone, the genitals a second, and
the rectum and anus a third.
Stages of Psychosexual Development
• Oral Stage: Lasts from about birth to one year. The child’s chief pleasure is derived
from sucking and otherwise stimulating the lips and mouth.
• Anal Stage: The child’s interest is focused on elimination. Second year of life.
• Freud believed that the primary focus of the libido was on controlling bladder
and bowel movements. The major conflict at this stage is toilet training--the
child has to learn to control his or her bodily needs. Developing this control
leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence.
• Phallic Stage: Age five to six. Boys’and girls’interest is focused on the genital area-
the boy on his phallus(penis) and the girl on her clitoris- and they derive great
pleasure from masturbating.
• Oedipus Complex: In the male Oedipus complex, the boy loves his mother
and desires her sexually. He hates his father, whom he sees as a rival for the
mother’s affection. The boy’s hostility toward his father grows, but eventually
he comes to fear that his father will retaliate by castrating him-cutting off his
prized penis. The boy feels castration anxiety.
• The female Oedipus Complex: Beginning with the girl’s love for her mother
and her focus on her clitoris. The little girl realizes, perhaps after observing
her father or her brother, that she has no penis. She has Penis Envy. She thus
shifts her desire for her mother onto her father, forming the female Oedipus
complex. The girl resolves penis envy by identifying with her mother and
switching her erogenous zone from her clitoris to her vagina to have a baby, a
son, as a substitute for a penis. Since the girl does not have castration anxiety,
her resolution of the Oedipus complex is not so complete.
• Following the resolution of the Oedipus complex, children pass into a
prolonged stage known as latency, which lasts until adolescence. During this
stage, the sexual impulses are repressed or are in a quiescent state, and so
nothing much happens sexually.
• Latency Stage: Sexual impulses are repressed and not focused on any part of the
• Genital Stage: Sexual urges become more specifically genital, and the oral, anal, and
genital urges all fuse together to promote the biological function of reproduction. Learning Theory
• Classical Conditioning: The process of learning that occurs in classical conditioning
takes place when a new stimulus, the conditioned stimulus (CS; the sound of a bell)
repeatedly is paired with the original unconditioned stimulus(food).
• After this happens many times, the conditioned stimulus (ringing bell) can
eventually be presented with the unconditioned stimulus (food) and will evoke
the original response.
• Operant Conditioning: Aperson performs a particular behaviour(the operant). That
behaviour may be followed by either a reward(positive reinforcement) or a
• If a reward follows, the person will be likely to repeat the behaviour again in
the future; if a punishment follows, the person will be less likely to repeat the
• Simple principles of operant conditioning can help explain some aspects of
sex. If a woman repeatedly experiences pain when she has intercourse, she
will probably want to have sex infrequently or not at all.
• Punishments are not very 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.
• Behavioural Therapy: Involves a set of techniques, base on principles of classical or
operant conditioning that are used to change/modify behaviour.
• Social Learning: Based on principles of operant conditioning, but it also recognizes
that people learn by observing others. Observational learning.
• This kind of social learning involves two other processes: imitation and
Alittle girl acquires many characteristics of the female role by
identifying with her mother and imitating her.
• Social Exchange Theory: Has emerged out of social learning theory and uses the
concept of reinforcement to explain satisfaction, stability, and change in relationships
• The theory assumes we have freedom of choice and often face choices among
• The theory states we are hedonistic; we try to maximize rewards and
minimize costs when we act. We choose actions that produce a favourable
balance of rewards to cost or profit.
• People participate in relationships only if they find that the relationships
provide profitable outcomes.
• Social exchange theory also predicts the conditions under which people try to
change their relationships.
Equity or Equality. Astate of equity exists when participants in a
relationship believe that the rewards they receive from it are
proportional to the costs they bear. Equality exists when both partners
experience the same balance of rewards to costs.
Cognitive Theory • Cognition and Sexuality: To a cognitive psychologist, how we perceive and evaluate
a sexual event makes all the difference in the world.
• Gender Schema Theory: Schema is a general knowledge framework that a person
has about a particular topic.
• Aschema organizes and guides perception; it helps us remember, but it
sometimes also distorts our memory, especially if the information is
inconsistent with out schema.
• We all possess a gender schema Acognitive structure comprised of the set of
attributes(behaviours, personality, appearance) that we associate with males
• Interested in the ways in the ways in which society or culture shapes human sexuality.
• Sociologists approach the study of sexuality with three basic assumptions:
• Every society regulates the sexuality of its members.
• Basic institutions of society affect the rules governing sexuality in that society.
• The appropriateness of inappropriateness of a particular sexual behaviour
depends on the culture in which it occurs.
• Economy: Economic conditions have also led to a major increase in the number of
prostitutes as it is difficult to support a family on the salary earned in most jobs.
• Medicine: The domination of contemporary theory and research by the biomedical
model is referred to as the medicalization of sexuality. Medicalization has two
components: certain behaviours or conditions are defined in terms of health and
illness, and problematic experiences or practices are given medical treatment.
• The medicalization of male sexuality is being hastened by the development of
drugs to treat erectile dysfunction.
• The Law: The law helps us determine norms. Laws are the basis for the mechanisms
of social control. They may specify punishments for certain acts and thus discourage
people from engaging in them. The law reflects the interests of the powerful,
dominant groups within society.
Symbolic Interaction Theory
• Symbolic Interaction Theory: Its premise is that human nature and the social order
are products of symbolic communication among people.Aperson’s behaviour is
constructed through his or her interactions with others.
• People can communicate successfully with one another only to the extent that
they ascribe similar meanings to objects and people.
• An objects meaning for a person depends not on the properties of the object,
but on what the person might do with it; an object takes on meaning only in
relation to a person’s plan.
Thus, the theory views people as proactive and goal-seeking.
Achieving most goals requires the cooperation of others.
• Definition of the Situation: To fit their actions together and achieve
agreement, people interacting with each other must continually reaffirm old
meanings or negotiate new ones. • Role-taking: An individual imagines how he or she looks from the other
person’s viewpoint. By viewing the self and potential actions from the
perspective of another person, we are often able to anticipate what behaviour
will enable us to achieve our goal.
Chapter 3- Sex Research
Issues in Sex Research
• One of the first steps in conducting sex research is to identify the appropriate
population of people to be studied.
• Scientists can’t take population usually, so take sample.
• Problem of Refusal or Non-Response: The problem that some people will refuse to
participate in a sex survey, thus making it difficult to have a random sample.
• Volunteer Bias: Abias in the results of sex surveys that arises when some people
refuse to participate, so that those who are in the sample are volunteers who may in
some way differ from those who refused to participate.
Accuracy of Self-Reports of Sexual Behaviour
• Purposeful Distortion: Purposely giving false information in a survey.
• These distortions may be in either of two directions.
People may exaggerate their sexual activity( a tendency toward
enlargement), or they may minimize their sexual activity or hide the
fact that they have done certain things (concealment).
• Social Desirability: The tendency to distort answers in a survey to the direction
perceived to be more acceptable. Act more to what they believe the researcher
Evidence on the Reliability of Self-Reports
• Test-retest Reliability:Amethod for testing whether self-reports are reliable or
accurate; participants are interviewed (or given a questionnaire) and then interviewed
a second time some time later to determine whether their answers are the same both
• Another method for assessing reliability involves obtaining independent reports from
two different people who share sexual activity, such as husbands and wives.
Interviews Versus Questionnaires
• In the large-scale sex surveys, three methods of collecting data have been used: the
face-to-face interview, the phone interview, and the written questionnaire.
• Advantage of Interview Method: Interviewer can establish rapport with the
respondent and try to convince that person of the research’s worth and of the
necessity for being honest. An interviewer can also vary the sequence of
questions depending on the person’s response.
Interviews can be administered to a person who cannot read or write,
however it is possible that respondents would be more honest in
answering a questionnaire because they feel more anonymous.
• What do the data say about which method works best for sex research? • Many experts in sex research recommend that a face-to-face interview to build
rapport be combined with a written questionnaire administered during the
interview to tap particularly sensitive information.
• Computer-Assisted Self-Interview Method: Can be combined with an audio
component so that the respondent not only reads but also hears the questions.
• Offers privacy of the written questionnaire, while accommodating poor
• Some boys exaggerated their sexual history on the computer.
• Web-based sex surveys can recruit much larger samples than can traditional interview
or questionnaire studies.
• Web surveys can potentially produce broader samples than traditional survey methods
• If you were conducting a survey on students’sexuality using traditional
methods, you would probably sample students at your own college or
• If, instead, you administered the questionnaire on the Web, you could sample
students from colleges and universities across Canada and, indeed, around the
• Traditional studies of gays and lesbians have used methods such as recruiting
the sample through gay activist organizations and gay bars.
Omit from the sample closeted gays and those who do not actively
participate in organizations or go to bars.
• Web surveys have the ability to eliminate extraneous influences on responding.
• The gender or ethnicity of the interviewer may influence an individuals
responses, but these factors are eliminated in a Web-administered
Self-Reports Versus Direct Observations
• Self-reports may be inaccurate. Direct observations have a major advantage over self-
reports in that they are accurate. No purposeful distortion or inaccurate memory can
• On the other hand, direct observations have their own set of problems. They are
expensive and time-consuming, with the result that generally only a rather small
sample is studied.
• In laboratory: is sexual behaviour in the laboratory the same as sexual behaviour in
the privacy of one’s own bedroom.
• Include gender, race, or age of the interviewer, may influence the outcome of sex
research. Questionnaires do not get around these problems, since such simple factors
as the wording of a question may influence the results.
• There is always a possibility of ethical problems involved in doing research. Ethical
problems are particularly difficult in sex research, because people are more likely to feel that their privacy has been invaded when you ask them about sex than when you
ask them to name their favorite political candidate or memorize a list of words.
Free and Informed Consent
• Free and Informed Consent: An ethical principle in research, in which people have
a right to be informed, before participating, of what they will be asked to do in the
• Justice Principle: An ethical principle in research, which holds that the risks of
participation should be distributed fairly across groups in society, as should the
• Early testing of the birth control pill was done on poor women in Puerto Rico,
not on wealthy women in Vancouver. The risks were not distributed fairly, and
a particular group bore a disproportionate burden.
Balancing Harms and Benefits
• Harms-BenefitsAnalysis: An approach to analyzing the ethics of a research study,
based on weighing the harms of research against the benefits of the research. The
stress to research participants should be minimized as much as possible, but some
stresses will remain; they are the harms.
• Will the benefits that result from the research be greater than the harm? Will
the participants benefit in some way from being in the study, and will the
science and society in general benefit from the knowledge resulting from the
Average vs Normal
• There is a tendency, when reading a statistic like “The average person has intercourse
twice per week,” to think of one’s own sexual behaviour, compare it the average, and
the conclude that one is abnormal if one differs much from the average.
• Don’t confuse average with the normal.
Incidence vs Frequency
• Incidence: The percentage of people giving a particular response.
• Frequency: How often a person does something.
• Thus, we might say that the incidence of masturbation among males is 92
percent, whereas the average frequency of masturbation among males between
16 to 20 is about once per week.
• Cumulative Incidence: If we consider a sexual behaviour according to the age at
which a person in the sample first engaged in, then the cumulative incidence refers to
the percentage of people who engaged in that behaviour before a certain age.
The Major Sex Surveys
The Kinsey Report
• Kinsey and his colleagues interviewed a total of 5300 men and 5940 women between
1938 and 1949 in the USA.
• His goal was simply to collect sex histories from as wide a variety of people as
possible. • Decided not to use probability sampling methods because of the problems of non-
• The following kinds of people were over-represented in the sample: university
students, young people, well-educated, pr