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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
    • 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
    • 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
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
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 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
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?