Psychology 2075 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Human Sexual Activity, Sociological Perspectives, Electra Complex

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Human Sexuality
Chapter 2 – Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality
Chapter 2, Section 1 – Introduction
You are sitting in a bedroom watching two people make love. These people would view the scene in
the following ways:
Freud – marveling at how the biological sex drive, libido, expresses itself so strongly and
directly in the couple
Wilson (sociobiologist) – would be thinking how mating behaviour in humans is similar to
such behaviour in other species, and how it is the product of evolutionary selection for
behaviours that lead to successful reproduction
Bandura – thinking how sexual arousal and orgasm act as powerful positive reinforcers that
will lead the couple to repeat the act frequently, and how they are imitating a technique
watched in an X-rated movie
Gagnon – thoughts about the social scripting of sexuality  this couple starts with kissing,
then fondling, and finishes with intercourse
Chapter 2, Section 2 – Evolutionary Perspectives
Evolutionary perspectives use principles from evolutionary biology to explain why certain
patterns of social behaviour and psychological mechanisms have evolved in animals,
including humans
The idea that some behaviours are a result of evolution; the application of evolutionary
biology to understanding the social behaviour in animals and humans
Argue that certain sexual behaviours evolved because they gave our ancestors an
evolutionary advantage
Evolution – a theory that all living things have acquired their present forms through gradual
changes in their genetic endowment over successive generations
oIn terms of evolution, what counts is producing lots of healthy, viable offspring who
will carry on genes
Evolution occurs via natural selection
oNatural selection – a process in nature resulting in greater rates of survival of
those plants and animals that have adapted to their environment
Sociobiologist argues that many of the characteristics we evaluate in judging attractiveness
(ex. physique) are indicative of the health and vigour of the individual  related to the
person’s reproductive potential
oWe choose an attractive, healthy mate who will help us produce many offspring
Hanging out, playing sports, getting engaged = much like the courtship of other species
oSociobiologists view this courtship as an opportunity for each member of the
prospective couple to assess the other’s fitness
Once a man and a woman mate, there are several obstacles to reproductive success, two
being infant vulnerability and maternal death
oTwo mechanisms to facilitate these conditions are a pair-bond between mother and
father, and attachment between infant and parent
oTherefore, offspring’s chance of survival is greatly increased if the parents bond
Parental investment – the behaviour and resources invested in offspring
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oPrediction that men will invest more in their genetic children than their
Men: physiological sexual arousal is specific to stimuli depicting their preferred sexual
Women: show physiological arousal to stimuli depicting both their preferred and non-
preferred sex partners, and even to stimuli of animals
oNatural selection would have favoured women with an automatic or reflexive
physiological response to a range of sexual stimuli
Sexual selection (Darwin) – selection that results from differences in traits affecting access
to mates
oSexual selection consists of two processes:
1. Competition among members of one gender (usually males) for mating access to
members of the other gender
2. Preferential choice by members of one gender (usually females) for certain
members of the other gender
oIn many species, the males compete for the right to mate with females and females
prefer certain males and mate with them and refuse to mate with others
oCriticized for resting on an outmoded version of evolutionary theory that modern
biologists consider naïve
oSociobiologists assume that the central function of sex is reproduction  may have
been true in our evolutionary past, but it is probably not true today
Evolutionary Psychology:
Focuses on how natural selection has shaped psychological mechanisms and processes (that
is, the mind) rather than on how it has shaped sexual behaviour
oEvolutionary psychology – the study of psychological mechanisms that have been
shaped by natural selection
If behaviours evolved in response to selection pressures, it is plausible to argue that
cognitive or emotional structures evolved in the same way
oThus, a man who could accurately judge whether a woman was healthy and fertile
would be more successful in reproducing
Sexual strategies – this theory states that women and men face different adaptive problems
in short-term, or casual, mating, and in long-term mating and reproduction
oThese differences lead to different strategies of behaviours designed to solve these
oWomen pursuing a long-term strategy should respond negatively to women who
make sex easily available to men (a slut)
oWomen at ovulation choose sexier and more revealing clothing than they do three
or more days before and seven days after ovulation
Like evolutionary psychology, sexual strategies theory is based on assumptions about what
the ancestral environment was like
Research suggests that male sexual strategies are not consistent but change in response to
personal characteristics and environmental contingencies
Chapter 2, Section 3 – Psychological Theories
Four of the major theories in psychology are relevant to sexuality: psychoanalytic theory,
learning theory, social exchange theory, and cognitive theory
Psychoanalytic Theory:
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Sigmund Freud’s theory contains a basic assumption that part of human personality is
One of the most influential of all psychological theories because Freud saw sex as one of the
key forces in human life, and his theory gives full treatment to human sexuality
Freud described the human personality as being divided into three major parts: the id, the
ego, and the superego
oId – basic part of personality and is present at birth; it is the reservoir of psychic
energy (including libido)
Operates on the pleasure principle  the instinct to seek pleasure and
avoid pain to satisfy basic needs
oEgo – operates on the reality principle and tries to keep the id in line
Ego functions to make the person have realistic, rational interactions with
oSuperego – is the conscience; contains the values and ideal of society that we learn
and operates on idealism
Aims to inhibit the impulses of the id and to persuade the ego to strive for
moral goals rather than realistic ones
oEXAMPLE on Page 27
Erogenous zones – part of the skin or mucous membrane that is extremely sensitive to
stimulation  touching it in certain ways produces feelings of pleasure
oLips and mouth, genitals, then the rectum and anus
Stages of psychosexual development:
1. Oral stage
Lasts from birth to about one year of age
Child’s chief pleasure is derived from sucking and otherwise stimulating the
lips and mouth
2. Anal stage
Occurs during the second year of life
Child’s interest is focused on elimination
3. Phallic stage
Lasts from age three to five or six
Boys’ and girls’ interest is focused on their genital areas  penis and clitoris
They derive great pleasure from masturbating
Development of the Oedipus complex is a very important occurrence at
this stage
4. Latency stage
Following resolution of the Oedipus complex, children pass into a
prolonged stage known as latency, which lasts until adolescence
Sexual impulses are suppressed and not much happens sexually
5. Genital stage
Sexual urges reawaken
Sexual urges become more specifically genital  the oral, anal, and genital
urges all fuse together to promote the biological function of reproduction
In the male Oedipus complex, the boy loves his mother and desires her sexually; hates his
father whom he sees as a rival for the mother’s affection
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