Psychology of Sexuality

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Since the dawn of mankind, sexuality has played an enormous role in the complex social behaviors exhibited by our incredibly unique species. Sex contributes not only to reproduction, but also to relationships between people, cultural norms, and mental health. There are many important factors that contribute to sexuality; one of the most important factors is sex differentiation. We can take this even further and look at reproductive anatomy and the differences between the male and female reproductive systems. Thus, this paper discusses the history of sex, male and female reproductive anatomy and physiology, and finally human sex differentiation. The history of sex is interesting especially because of the controversy over the length of the time span from whence it was recorded. John Gagnon argues that it was really the turn of the 19th century when sex research emerged. While many (if not all) of Sigmund Freud’s theories have been disproved by this point in time, he did hit on many major ideas about sexuality and was one of the first people to really think and talk publicly about it, as well as Havelock Ellis. Freudian theories were extremely influential in shaping future theories and research, even throughout the late 20th century. Another important player was Alfred Kinsey, who built upon previous researchers and made note of the social changes around the 1950s, in turn affecting policy, general attitudes towards sex, and future research. Winston Ehrmann agreed that the history of sexuality is quite a short field in his work “Some Knowns and Unknowns in Research into Human Sex Behavior,” arguing that and while there has been documentation about sexual behavior throughout history, a more scientific approach to sex only really begun since the late 19th Century. However, I would contest that it’s a distinction based more on a social construct of what constitutes a scientific study in Western society. For example, ancient Indian literature of the Kama Sutra can be said to have treated sex as a science, giving practical advice about sex as well as showing the various positions in detailed paintings. There is also detailed historical evidence of homosexual behavior among men in Ancient Greece. While Ehrmann may not have considered these sources scientific, I would argue that for their respective time periods, they were as scientific as could be expected. In fact, we can’t really judge whether something was “scientific” since what we consider scientific in a modern Western sense may be completely different from their understanding of scientific back in the days of Ancient India or Greece. For a perspective of the history of sexuality from around the globe, we go back further in time and look at eighteenth century England, as well as ancient African Bushmen. Hera Cook writes an article “Sexuality and Contraception in Modern England: Doing the History of Reproductive Sexuality” in which she argues that historians have ignored reproduction as a factor relevant to and influencing sexual mores and change. Pregnancy, and the resulting child, is not only a physical demand and economic cost, but a health risk. Effective contraception was not available and alternative sexual practices were not acceptable substitutes for vaginal intercourse. While I agree with most of her arguments, I would contest her claim that many historians dismiss reproduction as a factor of changes in sexuality. In fact, the next article “The Century of Sex: Gender, Bodies, and Sexuality in the Long Eighteenth Century” by Karen Harvey discusses sexuality in England during the 1700s and does consider the effects of reproduction. Harvey argues that prior to the Eighteenth century, men and women were “placed on a vertical, hierarchical axis, in which their bodies were seen as two comparable variants of one kind” in a sort of “one-sex model” based on the four humors of different qualities – cold and moist, which dominated women, and hot and dry,...
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