Human Sexuality Research Papers
There are three separate forces that drive all human behavior: biology, psychology and society. These forces work together in a complementary and integral fashion, and all must be considered in any attempt to understand human sexuality. Psychologists originally explained human sexuality as a biological need to reproduce, a built-in instinct. But when scientists observed homosexual behavior in the lower primates, who have no higher thoughts for reproduction, they concluded that such animals were engaging in sexual acts merely for pleasure, and revised their theories. Currently, the leading explanation is that sex is a psychological desire for sensory pleasure.
Scientists have two leading psychological explanations for the human sex drive.
- The first is that psychological factors are representative of biological factors, that our thoughts about sex are expressions of our needs.
- The second is that our patterns of human sexual behavior are acquired through psychological and social mechanisms: we use sex as a vehicle for obtaining and sustaining love, it is an important part of our self-esteem, it develops our sexual identity, and is part of one’s moral and spiritual identity.
Socially, sex functions as a form of communication in a relationship, and often symbolizes a person’s status.
With human beings, similar circumstances for learning sexual behavior can be observed. Often, the first sexual experiences, the most intense experiences and the latest experiences have the maximum effect on subsequent behavior. Surveys of sexually active men show that individuals may be involved in relationships that fluctuate between homosexual and heterosexual within the same year, month, week, or even day. “No matter how strongly conditioned an older person may have become to a given class of sexual stimuli…the acquisition of new tastes remains a possibility”.
The experience of sexuality forms a central foundation to our existence as humans. From birth through death, humans continually change and develop sexually. Our society as a whole has changed over time as well, with facets of sexuality gaining greater acceptance and others diminishing in popularity. There is, however, a dark side to this essential component to our lives. Sexuality can bring pleasure and intimate relationships full of happiness, but it can also bring great pain and suffering to individuals trapped in a life of sex trafficking or sexual abuse. Others are unable to experience healthy sexual relationships due to physical or emotional problems. Regardless of one’s personal situation or viewpoints, one cannot deny the integral role played by sex and sexuality in human life.
Humans undergo a myriad of changes in sexual development throughout the course of the lifespan. Sexuality begins during infancy, as young children discover their genitals through touch. As their sense of self begins to develop, children also begin to form a sexual identity. Entrance into childhood, between the ages of three and ten, paves the way for other sexual experiences, including self-pleasuring and possible sexual play with others. It is during this time that children develop an interest in the process of reproduction and formulate questions regarding sexuality. Adult sex roles are noted, and children expand upon their vocabulary of words related to sexuality.
The life stage of puberty occurs between the ages of 10 and 14. Preteens and teens undergo physical and emotional changes, developing greater curiosity in intercourse and other sexual behaviors. As their body image is developing, children of this age are concerned about menstruation and ejaculation. Peer relationships become a focal point and are often intense. Adolescence follows puberty and is characterized by a stronger sense of self and sexual identity. Individuals often compare themselves to their peers, and confusion regarding sexual behaviors may arise. Sexual experiences often occur during this developmental stage, as individuals experiment with peers and themselves. Also, relationships beyond mere friendship increase in importance.
Sexual development continues into adulthood. Young adults, up to age 25, continue to develop their sexual identity as partner choices, sexual intimacy, sexual life styles, and roles are explored. Unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are given consideration by this age group, as these individuals work through issues of intimacy and independence. Partners and procreation move to the forefront as individuals age and move forward into adulthood. Through age 40, adults are concerned with fertility, pregnancy, and preferred partners. During this time period, greater sexual experimentation may occur, as adults desire sexual pleasure. Physical changes occur once again as adults age. During mid-life, which encompasses age 40-65, women experience menopause. Individuals of both genders may be experiencing life style changes and gaining a greater balance in their relationships. Prior sexual activities and choices are given consideration. During the retirement years, many individuals undergo a decrease in sexual interest, while some experience a surge of renewed interest. Health issues are a focal point of concern, and some individuals may need to adjust to the loss of a spouse. Finally, elders, age 75-100, are often denied sexual experiences by their partners, but can reach acceptance of this. New sexual goals, unrelated to performance, may arise during this final stage of life