Discovering Human Sexuality 4e Chapter 10 Summary

  • Basic physiological responses of sexual arousal are seen in infants and young children. They are often triggered by a wide range of stimuli, such as strong emotions of any kind. Masturbation is common in young children, and other sexual behaviors, such as the display of genitals or the inspection of other children’s genitals, are also quite prevalent. These behaviors may be incorporated into sexual games such as “doctor.” Young children rarely engage in adultlike sexual behavior, however.
  • Some non-Western societies tolerate or encourage childhood sexual behavior, while others attempt to restrain it. In the contemporary United States, children are often prevented from engaging in or learning about sexuality.
  • Some children, usually older ones, have sexual contacts with adults. These contacts are usually one-time events rather than on-going relationships. Most adults who have sexual contacts with children are relatives or acquaintances of the child, rather than strangers. Coercive or repeated adult-child sexual contacts can cause long-lasting psychological trauma. Noncoercive, single-event contacts may cause little or no harm.
  • In preadolescence, children tend to socialize in same-sex groups and to impose strict gender codes, expecting gender conformity. This practice can be traumatic for gender-nonconformist children. Although segregation by sex limits opportunities for heterosexual encounters, a few children do engage in coitus before the age of 13.
  • Puberty is the transition to reproductive maturity. It is marked by development of the genitalia, the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics, a growth spurt, the onset of menstruation in girls and ejaculation in boys, and changes in the brain that lead to sexual behavior and psychological sex differences.
  • The onset of puberty is triggered by a complex chain of events: the attainment of a criterion body size or body fat ratio; the communication of this information to the hypothalamus by the hormone leptin; the activity of kisspeptin neurons; the secretion of GnRH; the secretion of LH and FSH by the pituitary; the secretion of sex steroids by the gonads; and the effect of sex steroids on the body and brain.
  • Puberty begins at a median age of about 10 (9 years in black children). Children are entering puberty at younger ages than was the case in the past; a likely cause is the faster growth and increasing obesity of contemporary children. Puberty is generally considered precocious (early) if it begins before age 8 in girls or 9 in boys, but some experts believe that the criterion age for girls should be lowered to 7. Puberty is considered delayed if it does not begin by age 13 or 14 in girls or by age 14 in boys.
  • Many cultures mark puberty by special celebrations or rites. Examples practiced in the United States are the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah and the Hispanic quinceañera.
  • Adolescence is usually defined as the teen years. In early adolescence, rising sex hormone levels trigger an increasing interest in sex. Most adolescent males masturbate frequently, but females do so less often.
  • Adolescent heterosexual behavior gradually progresses from kissing and fondling to coitus, oral sex, and, sometimes, anal sex. Some characteristics of teen sexual behavior reflect personal and demographic factors such as education and ethnicity. The availability of reliable contraception and modern views of women’s roles in society have modified teen sexual behavior over the last several decades. Social media have also affected teens’ sexuality, in both negative and positive ways.
  • Virginity pledge programs and abstinence-only sex education have little or no effect on teens’ sexual behavior. Comprehensive sex-ed, which includes practical information for those teens who will be sexually active, leads to safer sexual practices and does not increase teens’ sexual activity.
  • Teen pregnancy has declined over the last two decades, mostly on account of improved use of contraceptives, but it is still higher in the United States than in Canada or other developed countries. It is also higher among Hispanics and blacks than among whites or Asian-Americans. About 1 in 3 teen pregnancies are terminated by abortion. Teenage mothers and their children face numerous problems, but some thrive.