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Sexuality - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Sexuality. Why do people have sex? Why don’t they? What is “sociosexuality”? How does it relate to infidelity? What determines sexual satisfaction? How do we communicate desire?. Sexual Attitudes.

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  • Why do people have sex? Why don’t they?

  • What is “sociosexuality”? How does it relate to infidelity?

  • What determines sexual satisfaction?

  • How do we communicate desire?

Sexual Attitudes

  • 1972 – 46% of respondents said sex between a man and a woman before marriage was “always or almost always wrong” (National Opinion Research Center, 1972)

  • 1996 – 32% said that it was “always or almost always wrong”

  • But that is not to say most people endorse sex with strangers

  • People generally disapprove of intercourse between people in uncommitted relationships (Sprecher, McKinney, & Orbuch, 1987)

  • People who are sexually active are viewed more positively when described as being in a “serious” rather than a “casual” relationship (Bettor, Hendrick, & Hendrick, 1995)

  • Most people also prefer their dating or marriage partners to have had limited sexual experience (McKinney & Maxwell, 1997)

  • Thus, today there seems to be a prerequisite of relational attachment and affection for the most appropriate context of sexual activity

  • But are there gender differences?

Gender Differences

  • On average, men tend to be more permissive in their sexual attitudes than women

    • But this also depends on the attitude measured

  • One of the largest differences is on casual premarital sex

    • Men are more likely to enjoy sex w/o intimacy

    • This difference has decreased over time (but what has changed?)

  • Most Americans strongly disapprove of extramarital affairs

    • Men have somewhat more permissive attitudes towards them (Oliver & Hyde, 1993)

    • Cultural sexual attitudes

  • Sexual double standards

    • “Studs” and “sluts”

    • What does the research say?

  • Women who were described as sexually active were not evaluated more negatively than women who not described as sexually active (Gentry, 1998)

  • In this study, sexually active women were seen as more liberal and assertive

  • Men prefer potential spouses to be less sexually permissive

    • But they favor permissive dating partners

  • Women prefer both potential dating partners and spouses to be less permissive (Oliver & Sedikides, 1992)

Attitudes about homosexuality

  • 1973 – 81% of Americans believed that homosexual sex was “always or almost always wrong”

  • 1996 – 62% thought it was “always or almost always wrong” (NORC)

  • Attitudes about homosexuality extend past the act of sex itself

    • More than half of Americans object to the “homosexual lifestyle” (Turque, 1992)

  • Gay and lesbian relationships are assumed by many to be dysfunctional and unhappy

    • Not supported by research (Peplau, Veniegas, & Campbell, 1996)

  • Attitudes may continue to become more positive

  • More high-visibility gays and lesbians

    • Will & Grace, Ellen DeGeneres, Sheryl Swoopes

  • Civil unions in California

  • Personal contact with a gay or lesbian person may promote positive attitudes towards homosexuals (Herek & Glunt, 1993) (reciprocal influence)

Sexual behavior

  • First time for sex?

    • Approx. 16 for males and 17 for females

    • African-American males (14) earlier than whites or Latinos

  • The general trend had been toward earlier experiences

    • But rates of adolescent virginity have increased

Adolescent reasons for and against having sex

  • Reasons for:

    • Express love and affection for partner

    • Curiosity

    • Peer pressure/want to please partner

  • Reasons against:

    • Potential for pregnancy, AIDS, STDs

    • Moral beliefs

    • Have not experiences sufficient love with partner

    • Feelings of insecurity or inadequacy (men)

Predictors of first-time sex

  • Premarital sex is associated with:

    • Confidence about being popular and attractive to the opposite sex

    • A positive and accepting view of oneself

    • More experiences involving stressful physical or family related events

    • Girls without a father present; boys whose families change from intact to being without a father

    • Desire to achieve “adult status”

      • Teenagers who place greater emphasis on independence

Sex in committed relationships

  • Frequency (Call, Sprecher, & Schwartz, 1995)

    • Couples co-habiting: 3 times/week

    • Married couples: 2 times/week

      • Both have sex more frequently than single people

  • Older people have sex less frequently

    • Decreased hormone levels

    • Interest may decrease (“sexual habituation”)

  • Sexual orientation

    • Initially gay men have more sex than lesbian or heterosexual couples

  • After 10 years heterosexual couples have more sex than gay couples

  • Lesbians have sex less frequently than the other couples regardless of relationship duration


  • Recall Americans’ attitudes toward extramarital sex

  • 25% of married men and 15% of married women report extramarital sex at least once (Laumann et al., 1994)

  • Predictors?

  • Gender

    • Men are more likely to have an affair and are more accepting of nonmonogamy in general

    • Gay men are most likely to report an instance of extradyadic sex

  • Sociosexuality

    • A general orientation toward sex as either requiring commitment or not

  • Computer dating video experiment (Seal et al., 1995)

  • Equity theory

    • Underbenefitted people report more affairs (Walster, Traupmann, & Walster, 1978)

      • Replicated for wives by Prins, Buunk, and VanYperen (1993)

Sexual satisfaction

  • Almost 90% of respondents said they were “very” or “extremely” physically satisfied with their sexual relationships (National Health and Social Life Survey, 1994)

    • Numbers were somewhat higher for married couples

  • Other studies have found married couples to be quite satisfied with their sex lives (e.g. Lawrence & Byers, 1995; Oggins, Loeber, & Veroff, 1993)

  • Sexual satisfaction is closely tied to sexual frequency (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983)

    • 89% of married couples having sex 3 times/week or more reported sexual satisfaction

    • Only 32% of spouses having sex once a month or less felt the same satisfaction

  • Sexual satisfaction is associated with relationship satisfaction

    • May be the correspondence between desired and actual frequency

    • May be more sex than arguments (remember Gottman)

  • Exchange theories

  • Rewards

    • The degree of comfort with your partner

    • How you feel about yourself during or after sex

    • Physical sensations

  • Costs

    • Having sex when you or your partner is not in the mood

    • Lack of spontaneity

    • Infrequency

  • More rewards than costs, and having expectations met lead to greater sexual satisfaction (Lawrence & Byers, 1995)

  • Partners in equitable relationships report going further sexually

  • Participants in equitable relationships reported more sexual satisfaction (Traupmann, Hatfield, & Wexler, 1983)

Sexual communication

  • Verbally

  • Nonverbally

    • Kissing, touching, dressing attractively

    • Other indirect strategies?

  • Men are more likely to initiate sexual activity

    • The most common strategy for acceptance is simply not resisting (Hickman & Muehlenhard, 1999)

  • People often have difficulty expressing specific sexual desires

    • More likely to talk about likes than dislikes

    • Sexual self-disclosure is highest when partner reciprocates

  • Clear communication about likes and dislikes is associated with greater sexual satisfaction

    • Greater subjective quality of experience

Sexual miscommunication

  • Sexual aggression

    • May be that if a man perceives a woman as sexy he hears “yes” even when she says no

    • Aggressive men may selectively ignore resistance and use miscommunication as an excuse for rape (Warshaw, 1994)

Kinsey Questions

  • Do you think that Kinsey made a contribution to the field of human sexuality?

  • Do you agree or disagree with his methods? Why?

  • Can you think of some alternative ways to study human sexuality?

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