Historical Overview (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Sexuality is usually manifested and experienced as orientation toward and attraction to people of the same gender, the opposite gender, or both. Sexual orientation is also referred to as “sexual preference.” The term “preference,” however, can imply that sexual attraction and orientation are chosen and voluntary, that one can will oneself to find another person sexually appealing. In fact, most research suggests the opposite: People find themselves attracted to an individual or a particular gender without having thought about that attraction or having consciously willed it. The attraction and orientation are not chosen. People can wish not to be attracted in the ways that they are, and they may choose not to act on these feelings, but the attraction felt and experienced is outside voluntary control.
A female athlete may wish not to have the sexual feelings she does for her teammates. A male chemistry major may want himself not to find a female classmate as distracting as she is. A female attorney who is happily married may want the sexual feelings she experiences for her male client to cease. A celibate priest may desire the sexual feelings that he has toward some male and female members of his congregation to go away. As much as these individuals may want to will such feelings away, success in this endeavor is unlikely. Each, instead, must choose how to cope with the feelings, from acting on them directly, to...
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Theories of Sexual Orientation (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
No other area of sexuality has generated more interest, theory, or research than orientation and how it originates. No one theory stands alone as proven, and not-yet-explained data shake the foundations of even the most useful theories. Nevertheless, scientific inquiry has disproven many earlier theories. The most promising theories fall into several categories, some of which can overlap to a degree: genetic, hormonal, psychodynamic, parental, familial, behavioral, societal, and cultural.
The first significant study of genetic causality for sexual orientation was published in 1952. The research compared one group of male identical twins with one group of male fraternal twins. In both groups, one twin was known to be homosexually oriented. Reasonably assuming that both twins of a pair would be exposed to essentially the same environments, the study counted how many second twins, whose sexual orientations were unknown at the start of the study, were also gay. If the rate of homosexuality for twins was higher among the group of identical twins than in the group of fraternal twins, it would be evidence that genetic makeup, which is virtually the same between identical twins, the main cause of sexual orientation.
Twelve percent of fraternal twins who were homosexual had a homosexual twin. Because male fraternal twins are genetically as similar and dissimilar as any pair of brothers, and the rate of...
(The entire section is 991 words.)
Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Although answers to the question of how orientation develops are complex, researchers Alan P. Bell, Martin S. Weinberg, and S. K. Hammersmith published the two-volume work Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women (1981) in an attempt to reveal the causal chain of sexual orientation development in more than thirteen hundred adult homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual men and women. They based their findings both on lengthy face-to-face interviews with every person in their study and on a sophisticated and reliable statistical technique called path analysis.
Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith’s research represents the most extensive collection of data on a large number of people in existence, and most experts are taking at least some of their findings to be conclusive. These results show that sexual orientation is strongly established in most people by late adolescence and that sexual feelings rarely undergo directional changes in adulthood. Atypical gender role behavior in childhood, such as boys preferring to play with dolls and not having an interest in more competitive activities, was found to be more likely than not to proceed homosexual orientations in adolescence and adulthood. Adult homosexuals and bisexuals had, on average, the same amount of heterosexual experience as heterosexual adolescents, though their heterosexual experiences were less rewarding and enjoyable than either their own...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Berzon, Betty. Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships That Last. Rev. ed. New York: Plume, 2004. A practical, realistic guide for same-gender partners in primary relationships. Berzon addresses the main conflict and confusing areas of relationships typically experienced by gay and lesbian couples.
Byer, Curtis O., Louis W. Shainberg, and Grace Galliano. Dimensions of Human Sexuality. 6th ed. Revised by Sharon P. Shriver. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002. An excellent, thorough, well-organized textbook on all areas of sexuality, with highlighted topics of special interest.
Corinna, Heather. S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College. New York: Marlowe, 2007. A candid discussion of sex and sexuality for teenagers and young adults. Topics include anatomy, sexual orientation and sexual identity, relationships, safer-sex practices, sexual abuse and rape, pregnancy and contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Dibble, Suzanne L., and Patricia A. Robertson. Lesbian Health 101: A Clinician’s Guide. San Francisco: UCSF Nursing Press, 2010. The first comprehensive textbook on lesbian health for clinicians and students. Helpful to general readers as well. Also provides insight into women’s health in general.
Fairchild, Betty, and Nancy Hayward. Now That You Know: A...
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Sexuality (Encyclopedia of Cancer)
Sexuality can be defined as the quality or state of being sexual. Quite often it is an aspect of one's need for closeness, caring, and touch.
Cancer and sexuality
Faced with a disease such as cancer most people initially lose interest in sex. Sexual desire is overshadowed by concern for one's health. Certain cancers directly affect sexual organs making sexual activity impossible or painful. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgical treatments of cancer can affect sexual activity making it difficult or undesirable. The side effects of cancer treatments such as nausea and pain can lessen sexual desire. Cancer treatments that disturb the normal hormone balance can also lessen desire. Many cancer patients are also worried that their partner may feel negatively about them because of the changes in their body and the fact that they have cancer.
Sexuality can be expressed in many different ways. It is possible to continue a healthy and satisfying relationship and maintain a healthy sexual image even after any changes brought about by cancer. Sexual intimacy can be a source of comfort during treatment and recovery from cancer. This may require some adaptation and change of the patient's current sexual...
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Sexuality (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The full range of thoughts and actions that describe sexual motivation and behavior.
While sex is not necessary for an individual's survival, without it a species would cease to exist. The determinants of sexual motivation and behavior include an individual's physiology, learned behavior, the physical environment, and the social environment.
A person's sex is determined at conception by whether one out of the 23 chromosomes in the father's sperm is either X (female) or Y (male). All female eggs contain an X chromosome, so each fertilized egg, or embryo, has a genotype of either XX (female) or XY (male). Reproductive hormones produced by the gonads (male testes and female ovaries) determine the development of the reproductive organs and the fetal brain, especially the hypothalamus. All the human reproductive hormones are found in both sexes but in different amounts. The principal female hormones are estrogens and progesterone (of which the main ones are estradiol and progesterone); the primarily male hormones are androgens (mainly testosterone). In males, levels of testosterone remain fairly constant, regulated by a feedback loop to the brain and pituitary gland, which control hormone secretion. In females, hormone levels fluctuate within each menstrual cycle, rising at ovulation. Reproductive...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
Sexuality (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Sexuality as understood by Sigmund Freud is "psycho-sexuality," and should be taken "in the same comprehensive sense as that in which the German language uses the word 'lieben' (to love)." (1910k, pp. 222-23)
In his clinical work during the closing years of the nineteenth century, Freud noticed how significant a role sexuality played in the mental conflicts of his patients, eventually concluding that it was invariably one of the poles of any symptom-generating conflict. In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), he evoked the importance of childhood sexuality solely in connection with neurotics, but beginning with the first edition of the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) he asserted its presence and its essential role in all children. Thereafter Freud conceived of human sexuality in a broadened sense that included childhood and perverse sexuality. Childhood sexuality had three main characteristics: it was autoerotic, subject to the primacy of erotogenic zones and component instincts, and anaclitically dependent on the self-preservation instincts or ego-instincts.
It would take twenty or so years for Freud to arrive at the theory of the four stages of psychosexual development that we now find in the manuals. Each stage was characterized by the dominance of a different erotogenic zone: oral, anal, phallic, genital. The child was polymorphously perverse in that the primacy of the genital zone and of the relationship to the object was not yet established. The pervert remained fixated in, or regressed to, a subordination to one or other of the non-genital zones, ruled by component instincts. Despite this broadening of the concept of sexuality, Freud continued to define a so-called normal sexuality, reached at the end-point of development and characterized by the primacy of the genital zone and of the relationship to the object. But he had trouble completely detaching normal sexuality from the goal of procreation, something he had been able to do in the cases of infantile and perverse sexuality (see the twentieth of the Introductory Lectures [1916-17a]).
Another point, often insufficiently stressed, is the distinction Freud drew between two currents, the affectionate and the sensual, "whose union is necessary to ensure a completely normal attitude in love" (1912d, p. 180).
The whole of childhood sexuality falls under the rubric of the "Oedipus complex," a term first used by Freud in "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men" (1910h, p. 171), even though he had referred to Sophocles' Oedipus Rex as early as 1897 in a letter to Fliess. The Oedipus complex was at first presented by Freud from the young boy's point of view, and in a simplified form: the little boy is in love with his mother and so becomes his father's rival. In the complete form, bisexuality came into play: the boy also wants to take his mother's place vis-à-vis his father (inverted Oedipus complex). The Oedipus complex of the girl was not in Freud's view symmetrical with that of the boy, for the girl did not experience the tragic conjunction of love for the mother and a rivalry with the father provoking murderous wishes.
A sexuality that could be called perverse inasmuch it activated erotogenic zones other than the genital nevertheless had a place in normal sexuality in the shape of "fore-pleasure." What characterized perverse sexuality proper was the rigidity and exclusiveness of the manner of achieving orgasm.
Until 1920 Freud described mental conflict as a clash between the sexual instincts and the self-preservative instincts, also known as ego-instincts. Beginning with Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g), however, a new opposition came to the fore in Freud's thinking, though without eradicating the earlier: that between Eros (life instincts or sexual instincts) and Thanatos (death instincts). This was yet another broadening of the concept of sexuality: Erosoveought to hold things together, while Thanatoseathtrove to tear them apart and destroy them. As noted above, Freud gave sexuality the same extension as the verb "to love"; since one side of the conflict is always sexuality, it may reasonably be deduced that all mental disturbance has a connection with sexuality conceived as love, as a tie to an object.
Freud was accused by some of "pansexualism." It is true that sexuality was present everywhere in his theory, yet it was always seen as in conflict with other instinctual forces, so that Freud was surely right to defend himself against this charge.
On the other hand, the issue of the relationship between sexual disturbances and psychopathology is not simple. It is quite possible to encounter dysfunctional sexuality in the strict sense in a person who presents no particular mental symptoms in other areas, while a perfectly satisfactory orgasm may occur in otherwise deeply disturbed individuals. But the libidinal tie and the relationship to the object are always implicated in the organization of the personality and in mental pathology. In psychoanalytic treatment, the transference instates a relationship of libidinal dependence with the analyst that repeats the relationship with parental figures. The transferencehe motor of psychoanalysisay become an obstacle to treatment if it takes a totally eroticized form.
For Freud, then, human sexuality was psychosexual, and individual and cultural ideas played an important role therein; yet in his view it was also biological, and he was certainly not mistaken in this. The object of the instinct is not given with the instinct itself. The history of the individual, which is to say the history of that individual's relationships with his mother, father, and other key people in the entourage, contributes to the constitution of his particular sexuality. Freud wrote that the infant's relationship with the mother who gave it the breast supplied the prototype for the adult's later love relationships. Weaning brought about the loss of the breast as libidinal object, and thereafter the individual would seek to rediscover that lost object. But some infants are not breast-fed, in which case weaning will not have the same character, and may not be so late. The breast has become a metaphor for all bodily attentions from the mother (Donald W. Winnicott), or else as a part-object (Melanie Klein). In language, and for the infantven an infant which has not been breast-fedhe breast symbolizes the mother, and is an object of desire. Freud seems never to have heard little boys crying because they cannot have breasts like their mother, and he retained only the little girl's penis envy as a mark of the child's confrontation with the anatomical difference between the sexes. Freud's patriarchal and phallocentric assumptions echo his culture, and he was unaware of them. Only rarely do we now see the typical neuroses and disturbances of sexuality that Freud described in his "Contributions to the Psychology of Love" (1910h, 1912d); and when we do, patients usually come from families where they have received a traditional patriarchal upbringing.
Freud never suggested that unbridled sexual activity could remedy sexual and mental problems. Certainly, he at first emphasized the conflict between sexual wishes and the external world, and made "civilized sexual morality" responsible for "modern nervous illness." (1908d). But later on he located the essential conflicthat between the forces of binding and the forces of unbindingithin the psyche. A strong superego, constituted by means of identification with the father as prohibitor of incestnd also (as something of an afterthought on Freud's part) by the mothere judged necessary not only to morality but also to creativity, to sublimation, that is to say to the inhibition and diversion of strictly sexual instinctual aims. Libido seemed to Freud to be masculine in essence, and he considered the woman's superegond hence her moral sense and creativityo be weaker than the man's. Women were destined to passivity, or at least to activities with passive aims. Freud rejected feminist aspirations to equality between men and women.
See also: Bisexuality; Death instinct (Thanatos); Female sexuality; Heterosexuality; Homosexuality; Life instinct (Eros).
Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4-5.
. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE,7.
. (1908d). "Civilized" sexual morality and modern nervous illness. SE,9.
. (1910h). A special type of choice of object made by men (contributions to the psychology of love I). SE, 11.
. (1910k). "Wild" psycho-analysis. SE, 11.
. (1912d). On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love (contributions to the psychology of love II). SE, 11.
. (1916-17a). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 15-16.
. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18.
Chodorow, Nancy. (1989). Feminism and psychoanalytic theory. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Friedman, Robert. (2001). Psychoanalysis and human sexuality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49, 1115-1132.
Kulish, Nancy. (2002). Female sexuality: Pleasure of secrets and the secret of pleasure. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 57, 151-176.