Discovering Human Sexuality 4e Chapter 1 Summary

  • Sexuality has changed over time, under the influence of evolution and culture. Certain modes of sexual behavior, such as competition for sex partners, were inherited from our nonhuman ancestors. The increasing conscious understanding of the connection between sex and reproduction led to the development of efforts to interrupt the connection—by contraception and abortion.
  • The establishment of large-scale societies and governments led to the regulation of sexuality. Marriage in particular has undergone many changes, from a contract arranged by men to a more voluntary and egalitarian arrangement that benefits both partners. The banning of polygamy by the early Christian church laid the groundwork for greater equality in marriage. Organized religion has often established moral codes that restrict sexual expression, especially nonreproductive behaviors such as sex between same-sex partners.
  • Urbanization created favorable conditions for the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but it also has aided the recognition and acceptance of sexual minorities. The internet has fostered communication among people with unusual sexual interests.
  • The steep reduction in the birthrate in many countries over the last two centuries has allowed women to take a role in marriage that goes beyond incessant pregnancy and child rearing. Marriage itself has lost some of its significance in Western societies, as nonmarital cohabitation and child rearing, and at-will divorce, have become increasingly common and accepted.
  • Influential figures in the history of sexuality include psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, author Havelock Ellis, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, contraception campaigner Margaret Sanger, sex survey pioneer Alfred Kinsey, anthropologist Margaret Mead, gynecologist William Masters, and biologist Peter Goodfellow.
  • Sexuality can be studied with a wide variety of approaches. The biomedical approach has been based primarily on studies in nonhuman animals, but recent advances, such as brain-scanning technology and the decoding of the human genome, allow for more direct study of bio-sexual processes in humans.
  • The psychological approach falls into several subdisciplines. Social psychology concerns itself with the diverse ways in which sex influences interpersonal relations. Cognitive psychology is focused on the mental processes, such as sexual arousal, that underlie sexual expression. Evolutionary psychology is devoted to understanding how evolutionary forces have molded our sex lives. Cultural anthropology investigates the influence of ethnic and cultural diversity on sexual expression.
  • Sociologists are concerned with the interactions between the sexuality of individuals and larger demographic groupings. Sex surveys are an important tool in this approach. An example of a theoretical social science approach is sexual script theory—the notion that, as a result of constant interaction with others, people learn to play certain sexual roles. Sociologists also do ethnographic fieldwork in the environments where sexual transactions take place.
  • The economic approach to sexuality asks how the perceived costs and benefits of interactions within a sexual marketplace influence people’s sexual decision making.
  • Sexology, or sex research, is gradually asserting itself as an independent and multidisciplinary field of study. National and international organizations, conferences, and journals are devoted to the subject. The World Association for Sexual Health has issued a universal Declaration of Sexual Rights.