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Human Sexuality. Perspectives on Sexuality M. Ahrens. Reasons People Study Sexuality. Individual: to increase health, happiness & personal development Interpersonal: to improve relationships Societal: to change the quality of the global village. Authors’ Perspective.

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human sexuality

Human Sexuality

Perspectives on Sexuality

M. Ahrens

reasons people study sexuality
Reasons People Study Sexuality
  • Individual: to increase health, happiness & personal development
  • Interpersonal: to improve relationships
  • Societal: to change the quality of the global village
authors perspective
Authors’ Perspective
  • Psychosocial orientation
    • psychological factors
    • social factors
    • the controversy re: sociobiological factors
media impact on culture
Media Impact on Culture
  • Technological advances
    • increase in number of information sources
    • accessibility of information within the community, home, workplace
    • Videos, movies, cyberspace, magazines
  • Breakdown of cultural taboos
the sex for reproduction legacy
Ancient Hebrews

be “fruitful & multiply”

appreciation of sex within marriage

Roman Empire

social instability & sexual excess

Middle Ages

proliferation of “sex as sin” concept


reaction to Roman excess

Christ’s views unclear

Paul of Tarsus: denounced “desires of the flesh”, celibacy superior to marriage

Augustine: lust was original sin; intercourse within marriage for reproduction

The Sex-for-Reproduction Legacy
the sex for reproduction legacy1
Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther - value of sex within marriage

John Calvin - sex other than reproduction within marriage

Puritans - appreciate sexual expression within marriage

Eastern & Mideastern Traditions

Taoism - sex linked with spiritual growth & harmony

Hinduism - sexual pleasure is one path to spiritual fulfillment

Islam - opposed to celibacy, highest good is intercourse within marriage

The Sex-for-Reproduction Legacy
the sex for reproduction legacy2
The Sex-for-Reproduction Legacy
  • Impact of modern contraception
    • better methods of contraception (sex without reproduction) > condoms, other devices, “pill”
    • economic concerns about large families
    • ecological concerns about large families
    • fertility advances (reproduction without sex)
the gender role legacy
Ancient Hebrews

highly specialized roles in the Bible


Paul of Tarsus, Genesis to justify women’s submissive role

reaffirmed specialized roles

Middle Ages

Contradictory images of women

Virgin Mary(Madonna) as compassionate, protective, pure, unattainable, “courtly love”

Eve (the whore) as evil, temptress, leading to 200 years of witch-hunts

The Gender Role Legacy
the gender role legacy1
Protestant Reformation

Enlightenment, scientific rationalism

Temporary  in respect for women

Victorian Era

women valued for delicacy, restrained & constrained

women “..not troubled with sexual feelings of any kind”

emotional & physical distance between husband & wife

prostitution flourished

The Gender Role Legacy
the gender role legacy2
The Gender Role Legacy
  • 20th Century
    • suffrage movement - women’s right to vote, temperance movement, abolition of slavery, right to own property & attend university
    • World War II - roles were expanded & flexible
    • Postwar return to stricter roles
    • 1960s movement for gender equality

“A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after”Gloria Steinem

cross cultural perspective social norms sexual diversity
Social Norms -

all societies regulate sexual behavior

norms or rules vary across cultures

China -

 restrictive pre-1990s

lack of info A & P, repro, disease

23% college males, 12% females admit to intercourse, 50% contraceptive use

Islamic Middle East

based on Muhammad

sex enjoyed by both sexes

women inherently more sexual than men, power to be contained by veils, segregation, female circumcision

marriage arranged, male heir primary goal

female adulterers & male homosexuals severely punished

Cross-Cultural Perspective:Social norms & sexual diversity
cross cultural perspective social norms sexual diversity1

open, relaxed attitudes

equality for men & women

government sponsored sex education, family planning services, legalized abortion, parental leave

low rates of teen pregnancy, high rates of unmarried couples living together

Diversity in U.S.

Native Americans





Cross-Cultural Perspective:Social norms & sexual diversity
cross cultural perspective social norms sexual diversity2
Cross-Cultural Perspective:Social norms & sexual diversity
  • Other considerations
    • great diversity within groups
    • groups may be more similar than different
    • acculturation level
    • socioeconomic level
    • ethnicity
    • education level
    • religious beliefs
sexuality personal or public domain
Sexuality: Personal or Public Domain?
  • Individual freedom & responsibility
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Rapid Advances - psychological understanding, scientific research, reproductive technology, communications/media
  • Unfortunate Consequences - STI/Ds, teen pregnancy
  • Legal & Social Debates - abortion legislation; rights of homosexuals; pornography & prostitution; sex ed; censorship on the Internet