Sexuality: Shaped by Biology and Society

Topics: Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Sociology Pages: 8 (2534 words) Published: May 12, 2005
Amanda Gardner 1/10
154:130 SCA
Queer Global Sexualities
9 May 2005

Sexuality: Shaped by Biology and Society

The term sexuality, is described by The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology (Abercrombie et al. 2000:313) as ‘the mode by which sexual interests and sexual preferences are expressed'. Sexuality is described by biologist David Buss, (Myers 2001) as the instinctive and innate behavioral tendencies that increase the likelihood of sending ones genes into future offspring. Sexuality is not one's sex, which is simply ones physiological and anatomical characteristics of maleness or femaleness (Marieb 2001). Also, sexuality is not ones gender, which is the socially learned characteristics or roles of maleness or femaleness (Poole & Jureidini 2000). These terms, sex and gender, imply the differences between men and women physiologically and characteristically. Sexuality is not sex or gender, although sexuality is somewhat intertwined with the two. Sexuality is sexual behavior; the ‘behavior related to copulation and similar activities' (Oakley, 1985 p.99: as cited in Zajdow 2002:63). Sexuality is the whole area of actions and thoughts surrounding ‘achieving and having sexual relations' (Pinker 1997). The behaviors one exhibits when attracting a partner, the interactions with other humans in a sexual manner, and actual sexual activities, are all components of sexuality (Vida 1996). Theorists attempt to answer what causes sexual behavior, which factors have the power to influence one's sexual behavior, and what factors control or limit sexual behavior. Amanda Gardner 2/10

Traditional explanations of sexuality or sexual behavior have been derived and colored by evolutionary biological sciences. As noted earlier such theories have been criticized by sociology as being flawed by essentialism. This term, essentialism, refers to the way theorists, such as sociobiologists have reduced the complexity of sexuality right down to a single essence (Abercrombie et al. 2000: 122). The essence, in this case, explains sexual behavior as being exclusively controlled by one's biological make up. This essentialist explanation for sexuality emphasizes a simplistic approach, placing sole responsibility for sexual behavior upon one's genes (Zajdow 2002). Such theories rely on evolutionary imperatives such as the theory of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin (1809-82). The Darwinian Theory was proposed in 1859 and was evidenced by fossil records and studies conducted on comparative anatomy and embryology of humans and animals (Minidictionary of Biology, 1988:102). The theory was later supported in 1920's through studies known as ‘classical genetics' by a man named Mendel, who updated the theory to Neo-Darwinism (Minidictionary of Biology,1988:185). The theories explain that natural selection by the natural environment has shaped humans' universal behavioral tendencies and characteristics. Only the beings that carried optimal characteristics for survival and adapted most well to their natural environment, avoided death, and went on to breed and thus pass on their genes to their offspring. Therefore, these optimal behavioral tendencies and characteristics were inherited and passed along the generations over millions of years (Marieb 2001). The notion is, that the sexual characteristics and sexual behavioral tendencies present in humans today, have been selectively inherited genetically, as they have optimal capacity to ensure offspring and therefore species

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survival. These genes encompass drives for instinctive and innate behaviors, finely tuned or concentrated through the generations. (Marieb 2001). The theory likens human sexuality to that of primate animal sexuality, which is where the research has been documented (Vida 1996). This essentialist sociobiological approach insists that sexuality can not be controlled by an individual, as it is a primal urge, and that any observable change in human...

References: Abercrombie, Nicholas., Hill, Stephen., and Turner, Bryan, S., (2000) The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 4th Ed. Australia: Penguin Books.
Jarman, Catherine., (1970) Evolution of Life. London, New York, Toronto, Sydney: Hamlyn Publishing group Ltd.
Jureidini, Ray., Poole, Marilyn.with Kenny, Sue., eds., (2000) Sociology: Australian Connections
Llewellyn-Jones, Derek.,(1982) Everywoman; A gynaecological guide for life. 3rd ed. London: Faber & Faber Ltd.
Marieb, Elaine, N., (2001) Human Anatomy & Physiology
Micheal, Robert., Gagnon, John., Laumann, Edward., Kolata, Gina. (1994) Who are our sex partners? In Sex in America: A definitive Survey. pp. 42-9. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Mini Dictionary of Biology., (1988) Oxford: Oxford University Press
Myers, David. G., (2001) Psychology. 6th Ed. New York: Worth Publishers
Pinker, Stephen., (1997) How the Mind Works
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Vida, Ginny., (1996) The New our Right to Love: A lesbian resource book
Zajdow, Grazyna. (2002) Sexuality. In Introduction to Sociology A: A study Guide.ed. Learning Services. Australia, Geelong: Deakin University.
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