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Love and Sexuality. Love in American culture What is love? Theoretical approaches Sexual values and standards Sex in marriage Premarital sex and pregnancy Gay and lesbian sexuality. Historically. Love, sex, marriage were separate 19 th century: love as pure, spiritual

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Love and Sexuality

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Love and Sexuality

  • Love in American culture

  • What is love? Theoretical approaches

  • Sexual values and standards

  • Sex in marriage

  • Premarital sex and pregnancy

  • Gay and lesbian sexuality


  • Love, sex, marriage were separate

  • 19th century: love as pure, spiritual

  • Marriage as companionship

  • 1920’s: sexual liberation

  • Today: love, sex before marriage

Mythic (Youthful)




Sexual expression

Prosaic (Mature)





Cultural Views of Love(Ann Swidler)

What is Love? Schacter

  • Psychology of emotion

  • All emotions have 2 components

    • Physiological arousal

    • Definition of situation (labeling of emotion)

What is Love? Reiss: Wheel Theory

Sociocultural Background

Role conceptions




Mutual dependency



3 components to love relationships:

What is Love? Sternberg: Triangular Theory




Triangles can take different shapes

“Match” b/t partners’ triangles is crucial







Empty love







What is Love? Shaver: Attachment Theory

  • Lover as attachment object

  • All love relationships are the same:

    • Bond depends on AO’s response

    • Happier if AO present

    • Share more with AO

    • Feel at one with AO

  • Three types of adult attachment

    • Secure (56%)

    • Anxious/ambivalent (19%)

    • Avoidant (24%)

Passionate love

Sexually charged, early in relationship

Companionate love

Affection and partnership; long-lasting

2 Stages of love

Sexual Value Systems (Gecas and Libby)

  • Traditional-religious (began in colonial times)

  • Romantic (late 19th century)

  • Recreational (historically applied to men; more recently to women)

  • Utilitarian-predatory (probably always existed)

Premarital sex: acceptable for adults, not young teens

Homosexuality: Divided opinions

Extramarital sex: not acceptable

Sexual Standards, 2002 (GSS)

Sex in Marriage

Is monogamous

Is part of wider life context

Involves decisions about parenthood

More likely to involve contraception

Contraceptive Use, 1995

Teenage premarital sex

% of never-married teenagers who ever had intercourse, 2002

Race/ethnic differences in teen sex

Age at first intercourse

Never married teens, ages 15-19, 2002

# of partners, last 12 months

Never married teens, ages 15-19, 2002

% not using contraception at first intercourse

Never married teens, ages 15-19, 2002

Percent of teen births before and after marriage, 1930-1994

Conclusions: Teen sexual behavior

  • Most teens have had sex by age 18

  • Boys, minorities start earlier

  • Typical age is around 15-16

  • Most have had 0 or 1 partners in 12 mos.

  • Sex is spontaneous, opportunistic, infrequent

  • Birth control is often overlooked

    • 10% of teen girls 15-19 become pregnant each year

The Teen Pregnancy “Problem”

1/3 of teen pregnancies end in abortion

Teen pregnancy rate has declined, but

Most teen births occur outside of marriage

Blacks: 96%

Whites, Hispanics: 72%

Many teen mothers keep and raise children today

Giving birth as alternative entry to adulthood

Maybe few other “good” choices

Grandmothers willing to raise grandchildren

Community accepts and supports this

Lack of “eligible” husbands

Alternative Life-Course Theory

Lower education

Lower income

More likely to need public assistance

More likely to divorce

Some of these “disadvantages” due to “selection effect”

Consequences for Teenage Mothers

Sexual identity: self-identity as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual

Research supports biological component

Studies of twins, brothers

May run in families

Environmental factors may play a role

Controversial – has political implications

Gay and Lesbian Sexuality

Ignored until late 19th century

Sexual acts divided into wrong/not wrong

OK to express intimate feelings for same sex

Late 1800s: anti-homosexuality campaign

Defined as abnormal, mental illness

Medical model stigmatized homosexuals

Emergence of “Homosexuality”

1948: Kinsey Report

50% of men reported erotic feeling toward other men

1/3 had one experience with another man

Estimated 10% of men were exclusively homosexual

More recent surveys: 4.1 % of men and 2.2 % women

1950’s: Homosexuals labeled “security risks” by govt.

1960s: Civil rights, women’s movements - term “gay” emerged

2003: Supreme Court struck down laws against homosexual relations

Today: Much dissent about gay marriage

Consensual unions, domestic partners more accepted

Late 20th Century

Objections to Gay Marriage

  • Don’t want to sanction “immoral” behavior

  • Seen as threat to traditional marriage

  • Cost of providing employee benefits to more people

    • already being done in many organizations

    • actual costs have been small

Why Gay Marriage?

  • Gives gays more acceptance, support

  • Provides legal rights of spouse:

    • Beneficiary of employee’s pension, insurance

    • Joint income tax return

    • Social Security benefits, inheritance

    • Joint responsibility for children

    • Visitation w/children after divorce

    • Make decisions if spouse is unable

Summary: Love and Sexuality

  • Shift from economics to emotional bond

  • Growth of alternatives to marriage

  • Result:

    • marriage as voluntary

    • marriage based on love, compatibility

    • sex before marriage

    • family as individually defined

    • More acceptance of homosexuality

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