Sexuality is quite multidimensional (Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny 3). Sexuality encompasses many different elements. These elements include: sex, gender identity, gender role, body image, sexual orientation, sexual thoughts, sexual fantasies, and the way a person experiences intimacy (“A Definition of Sexuality”). Broadly put, a person’s sexuality defines the way they express themselves as a sexual being.
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Each component of sexuality contributes something different to a person’s sexual identity. When we look at the evolutionary perspective, sex is intercourse between a male and a female with the intent of reproduction. As it pertains to the social perspective, sex is an intimate encounter of any kind between two or more people (Sexuality).
Gender identity is the gender with which a person perceives their self and how they choose to be addressed. Gender identity can be the gender a person was assigned at birth or something different. Most people’s gender identity matches the gender given to them at birth but for others it does not. These people may use hormones to transition into what they feel is their correct gender (Understanding Gender).
Gender roles are the socially accepted practices of men and women. Traditionally, men were to go to work and women were to take care of the home. However, in modern times a man or women’s role in their family can vary. For example, in some households the woman may go to work while the man stays home or both may go to work (Gender Roles in Society).
Body image is the way a person sees themselves. An individual with a positive body image is pleased with their appearance. On the other hand, a person with a negative body image is not comfortable with their appearance (Body Image).
Sexual orientation is the gender a person is sexually attracted to in relation to their sexual identity (Sexual Orientation). There are more than 20 different types of sexual orientations. Some of the most common ones are heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality.
A person who is heterosexual is sexually attracted to people of the opposite gender; this is the most common sexual orientation. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction to people of one’s own gender. Bisexual people are sexually attracted to people of their own gender as well as people of the opposite gender. A person who is pansexual can be attracted to all people with no regard to gender; for example, a sexual attraction to transgender people would be called pansexuality. Individuals who have relatively no sexual attraction or desire for sexual activity are considered asexual (Overview of Sexual Orientations).
There are many different theories on sexuality, how sexuality is shaped, and why humans are sexual beings. There are both biological and psychological perspectives on sexuality. Sociobiologists use evolutionary biology to understand animal social behavior. They believe that some sexual behaviors evolved because of the advantage it gave our ancestors. Another concept used to explain sexuality is natural selection (Sex Psychology). Natural selection is the process of animals acquiring traits that help them to be better suited for their environment (Natural Selection). Natural selection is used to explain why people court each other, and the way we evaluate appearance when choosing a mate.
When it comes to sexuality the Cognition Theory says that perception of others is relevant to sexual behavior. The Gender Schema Theory puts forth that, in terms of mate selection, people focus on things that are in line with their own gender scheme. Gender scheme is a framework of how each gender should behave. The Sociological Theory says that family, religion, government, economy, law, and medicine can all help to shape a person’s sexuality (Sex Psychology).
Sigmund Freud took an interesting approach to the psychology of sexuality. He created the idea of psychosexual development. He proposed that childhood psychological development happens in fixed stages; these stages are called psychosexual stages (McLeod). These stages resonate into adult life and are apparent in the ways we make contact; sexual contact in particular (Dowrick 39).
According to Freud, people are driven by libido and Thanatos. Libido is sexual energy and desire; Thanatos is death instinct (Sex Psychology). Each stage of psychosexual development depicts the fixation of libido on a certain area of the body. There are five stages; they begin at birth and continue into adulthood.
The first stage is the oral stage. This stage begins at birth and continues through the first year of life. During this stage the libido is concentrated in the mouth. The baby gets satisfaction through putting things in its mouth. The second stage is the anal stage. This stages begins about a year after birth and continues to three years of age. The libido is now centered in the anus. The toddler receives satisfaction through defecation.
The third stage of psychosexual development is the phallic stage. This stage begins at three years old, and continues into the child’s fifth year of life. During this stage the libido is focused on the genitals; satisfaction is gained through masturbation. At age 5 the latency stage begins; this stage continues into puberty. At this point the libido becomes pretty much dormant and energy is diverted towards school, activities, and relationships. The last stage of psychosexual development is the genital stage; this stage begins at puberty and continues into adulthood. Satisfaction during this stage is gained primarily through heterosexual intercourse (McLeod).
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In conclusion, sexuality is a very intricate thing. It is made up of many different elements which all come together to form a person’s sexual identity. These elements include body image, sexual orientation, gender role, and gender identity. There are theories on sexuality from both the biological and physcological perspective. These theories include the sociobiology perspective, the natural selection perspective, the Cognition Theory, the Gender Schema Theory, the Sociological Theory, and the concept of Psychosexual Development. Sexuality is shaped by our surroundings and is a huge part of what makes us human.
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