Discovering Human Sexuality 4e Chapter 11 Summary

  • Young adults typically spend a few years “hooking up” and/or dating before they enter their first live-in relationships, but the average number of sex partners during this period is quite low. Sexual desires have to compete with other interests, such as the pursuit of education or career advancement.
  • For many adults, the first live-in relationship is a nonmarital cohabitation. Cohabitation may serve simply as a convenient alternative to dating, or it may represent a committed relationship without the legal trappings of marriage. Cohabitation does not harm a subsequent marriage.
  • Marriage has had many different functions and forms. Many past and present human societies have allowed polygamy. In the United States, polyamory, Mormon polygamy, and same-sex marriage exemplify nonstandard marital arrangements.
  • Western society is moving from a traditional, one-size-fits-all institution of marriage to a greater variety of live-in sexual rela-tionships. Because women have fewer pregnancies than in the past and are more likely to be in the labor market, distinct gender roles in marriage have diminished. People are marrying later and divorcing more readily; marriage may soon become a minority status for American adults. Nevertheless, most people desire to be in some kind of monogamous, long-term relationship.
  • Married men and women tend to have less sex than those who are dating or cohabiting, and they are less adventurous sexually, but their physical and emotional satisfaction with their sex lives is high. For women, simply being married makes sex more satisfying. However, marital satisfaction tends to decline over time.
  • One in three marriages breaks up within 10 years. The likelihood of breakup is increased by a number of factors, such as early (teen) marriage, dissimilarity between husband and wife, and low educational level. A college education is associated with marital stability.
  • Divorced people experience a variety of physical and psychological ill effects, but many divorced men and women remarry.
  • Menopause—the cessation of menstrual cycles—is the culmination of a gradual transition to infertility in women. The hormonal changes of menopause can impair the physiological processes of sexual arousal and may be accompanied by a decline in sexual interest and activity.
  • Hormone therapy can alleviate menopausal symptoms. Postmenopausal women over 60 are discouraged from using hormone therapy, because of cardiac and other risks.
  • Men experience a gradual decline in fertility, physiological arousal, and sexual interest, rather than a rapid transition to infertility. A few men father children in old age.
  • Many people continue to experience sexual desire into old age. The physical expression of this desire may be compromised by declining physiological responsiveness (for example, erectile disorder or loss of vaginal lubrication), by a variety of medical conditions and drugs, or by the lack of a partner. Nevertheless, many older women and men continue to engage in sexual behavior, including masturbation, coitus, and noncoital contacts.