Sexuality and Gender Theory

Sexual behavior in humans entails complex cognitions such as attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and fantasies as well as even more insubstantial features linked with culture and lifestyle.

So, in a very real sense, it is not probable to separate the physically sexual from the rest of a person’s sexuality and other facets of an individual are being (Kimmel, M. S., ; Plante, R. F. 2004, 102). Furthermore, it is psychologically naive to presume that a controlled set of overt behaviors unproblematically defines and sets limits on what can be taken as sexual behavior.For instance, some psychologists have argued that crimes such as stealing are expressions of sexual motives although no genital or attempted genital contact is implicated (Revitch and Schlesinger 1990, 42). Similarly, some feminist psychologists and others argue that rape is not an erotically provoked, sexual crime.

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Instead, they suggest, it should be regarded as yet another expression of male power and authority motives that form the bedrock of sexual politics (Kelly 1990, 87). This is obviously a psychological explanation of rape but one in which the erotic or the sexual constituent of genital contact is dismissed as insignificant compared to a macro-level analysis based on sexual politics far removed from the psychodynamics of an individual rapist. This feminist position likely has some authority, and this point of view is resistant by evidence, for example, that rape is not sexually agreeable for at least a proportion of rapists (Pamela Church Gibson and Roma Gibson, 1993, 211). All of this is significant since it reminds us that the parameters of human sexuality are not obviously defined or constrained within psychology and that for its understanding we should go far beyond an analysis of sex as simply a genital act.Sex radical feminists link ranks with sex workers when radicals indict feminists critical of the sex industry of strengthening the traditional heterosexual values of monogamy, understanding, and romance that stripping, pornography, and prostitution flatly reject (Lynne Segal and Mary McIntosh, 1992, 74). From a sex radical perspective, feminists who are incapable or unwilling to tackle their own sexuality and who see little if anything that is not demeaning about sex work under patriarchy are the natural allies of a sexual conservatism that denounces the anonymous, recreational, pleasure-seeking sex in sex work. Moreover, numerous feminists from a diversity of theoretical perspectives believe that such an coalition results in the association of feminism with an anti-sex moralism that makes feminism unappealing to women who think themselves both politically enlightened and sexually adventurous.

In spite of misgivings, we will arbitrarily restrict our deliberation of sexual behavior to aspects noticeably related to its physical or bodily expressions. “Sexual behavior” is taken to refer to the attitudes, behavior, feelings, and cognitions that are concerned with sexual arousal and that lead to genital inspiration and, frequently, excitement. Of course, we cannot oversimplify with any precision concerning the nature of these attitudes, behaviors, feelings and cognitions since they differ widely between people.

In short, our restricted and subjective definition fundamentally limits consideration of sexual behavior to the “erotic” which comprises only a part of potential sexual behaviors. In this way we can begin a point of focus for our deliberation of sexual behavior.Sexual motives and practices require not be attached to love. Sex is characteristically perceived as a biological drive akin to hunger (e.g., Freud [1929] 1961; Murray 1938). Buss (1988), Bogaert and Fisher (1995), and numerous researchers have noted the seemingly inbuilt, hence a cultural, nature to promiscuity by the human male and the converse leaning to monogamy by the human female.

Bogaert and Fisher propose that males adopt one of two sexual strategies: if they are prevailing and sought-after, they adopt low-attachment maximal partner strategies, whereas if they are subordinate males, they adopt high-attachment monogamous strategies (Carlin, D., ; DiGrazia, J. 2003, 36).

Each society in history has developed a leading ideology of sex-style. For example, Victorian society in Europe and America applied the well-known double standard. The ideal sexual behavior for a woman was virginity and chastity before marriage and enduring sexual reliability to her spouse after marriage. The ideal sexual behavior for a young male was chastity before marriage, but he was allowed to enjoy limited and circumspect sexual experience with women of the kind he would never choose to marry.

After marriage, the idyllic male sex-style was dependability, but, again, the double standard was more probable to forgive discreet affairs by husbands than by wives. The dominant Victorian sex style did not accept certain sexual acts at any time, even within marriage (e.g., fellatio) and banned others with brutal penalties (e.g.

, sodomy).Like love styles, sex styles go through cultural changes, becoming or ceasing to be the prevailing ideology. Sometimes the changes are gradual as in the Victorian era (Hendrick and Hendrick 1992:41). At times the changes are as revolutionary as the Reformation in religion or the Bolshevik Revolution in politics. The Kinsey Report was said to have caused a “sexual revolution” (Hotchner 1978:350). Amongst the profound shock tremors of contemporary sexuality are changes in technology and modern medicines for STDS, the feminist movement, and gay liberation.

Stephen O. Murray comprehensive overview, American Gay, specifically distinguishes a “gay ideology” from sexstyles of the “dominant culture” (Murray 1996:174-175). Reflective changes in religion or politics create great difficulty in choosing a political or religious ideology. Similarly, the consecutive waves of change in sexual ideology over the past half-century have extremely complicated anyone’s choice of sex style.Social conflicts rage around some of the characteristically new sexstyles. For example, the issue of public respect of gay and lesbian relationships has divided the American Senate down the middle, 49 to 50. There is angry debate concerning public legitimation of gay and lesbian marriages. There are also new bisexual, “transgender,” and “transsexual” patterns.

For more ordinary lovers, there is morality for several marriages in a lifetime or living together without getting married. Only a few decades ago “common law” relationships were stigmatized and deprived in both law and popular opinion. Another sex style change is that fewer young lovers now persevere that their partner be a “virgin.”All of these changes are linked with changes in love styles.

For example, the widespread decorum of prophylactics in sex makes it much easier to be a ludic or ludic-erotic lover. It is now probable to have one love affair after another, or numerous at the same time, with less fear of lasting consequences such as STDs, redundant pregnancy, or a shotgun marriage.Though, sex is reality in a way that at the heart of the feminist anti-porn project, fuelling it and giving it passion, is ‘female anger’—for pornography is, the undiluted core of anti-female propaganda (Russell Diana.

1993a, 1993b).On the other hand, Behavioral effects of sexual fantasy intimately parallel those of explicit images. In general, fantasy influences sexual provocation, sexual behavior, and affective responses, as well as other behaviors and can be interrelated with by personality variables, attitudes, and fantasy content. All these effects can be found for sexual explicitness, in general, as well. Sexual fantasy can thus be thought of as a specific medium of sexual explicitness, just as movies or slides can be thought of as a similar medium.

If sexual fantasy is a type of sexually overt theme, then it too can increase the likelihood of formerly learned sexual practices occurring. It must be noted again, however, that though there is no evidence that sexually precise fantasy has long-term effects on behavior it is possible that it does. Similarly, although subjects did not change or begin new sexual practices, this can depend on the person’s personality and/ or sexual experience.Pornography is a persistent element of our whole society. Those who feel the need to describe pornography as a dissolute tumor plaguing a fundamentally moral society are indulging in wishful thinking (Berger, R.

J., Searles, P., ; Cottle, C. E. 1991). There is no clear line between hard pornography practiced wholly by pornographers and soft pornography used as a marketing device by anyone who has something to sell. If “advertisers are intensely sensitive to public reaction,” as a recent magazine article describes the principle of advertising, then what the media campaigns explain may be taken as an accurate measure of how this line between hard and soft pornography has become extraneous in our culture.

From jeans to cologne, from shirts to the latest car or household appliance, America is rapidly impending a state in which, as one advertiser confesses, “There’s no way I can sell the product without selling sex.”Pornography is all together a legal definition, a historically shaped, and changing product, and a sociological phenomenon, organized into a particular industry in diverse social locations. It exists as a historical trend because of the regulation and control of what can and cannot be said concerning sexuality, and thrives on the belief that sex is naughty and dirty, that what is being purveyed is being distributed as it is illicit (Hennessy, R. 2000, 49). The institution of pornography results from the description of certain classes of representation as in some way ‘objectionable’. But what is defined as ‘objectionable’ changes over time, so that the themes of pornography diverge like the technology of representation on which it relies, and the opportunities for production and consumption are erratic. There is no doubt that there has been an immense increase in the pornography industry in recent decades.

Pornography must be a major issue in sexual politics. Long a concern of the moral right, it has become a decisive preoccupation of contemporary feminism. In the United States by the early 1980s the feminist campaigns against pornography were possibly the best organized and financed in the movement’s history and, though they did not have the same salience, there were similarly energetic groupings in countries like Britain and Australia. But at the similar time the campaign against pornography seemed to divide the women’s movement, for it posed essential questions about the nature of female subordination, and hence of the forms of power in modern society. ‘Pornography’ is an extremely ambiguous yet emotive term, which takes on diverse meanings in different discourses. For the traditional moralist pornography is a thing in itself—‘explicit sexual images’ which rouse sexuality in the vulnerable and immature.

For the liberal pornography is a variable feast, a product of shifting interpretations of taste and acceptability. For the radical feminist opponent of porn it is a visual revelation of male power.Pornography is an intricate historical phenomenon and has differing effects. And Commodification of the sexual socially constructs as it requires active, objectifying commodifiable eroticism. The inviolability of the moral order, however, requires that this homosexual consumer, as citizen, knows his moral and social place.It is also believed that Pornography is significant, because it is the distillation of male power over women, the cutting edge which makes certain female subordination. It is this which justifies the fervor and moral passion which infuses the anti-porn campaign.

At stake is women’s survival.While numerous people are obviously inclined to think that there ought to be a line drawn between good taste and bad taste, between romanticism and quasi-pornography in their advertising and in broad cultural attitudes toward sex, the market ethos of America is making that distinction more and more difficult to draw and next to impossible to maintain. Some may argue that there is a qualitative difference between selling sex outright (as in pornography) and using sex to sell another product (as in business). But the “difference” is at best a curative self-delusion and at worst a moralistic hypocrisy, for both activities share two essential ingredients of American culture: selling and sex. As has been demonstrated time and time again (most recently in the Meese Commission’s study), anyone who ever attempts to eliminate or isolate pornography from the community is overwhelmed by indefinite definitions and the ubiquity of this cultural phenomenon.Pornography industry is still an investment opportunity with enormously high returns and often fewer risks than most other sectors.

And the percentage returns seem constant, regardless of substantial variations in scale. A series of photographs devoted to coprophilia will attain only a very specialized market, but the costs of production are minimal, and the very costly French film series Emmanuelle (now in its seventh episode) has to date reported a profit of $600 million, about half that earned by all the James Bond movies put together.In the United States, almost all pornographic films are produced in southern California, not simply because of the climate, which permits less clothing, but mostly because that is where the film industry’s infrastructure and most of its technicians happen to live. The Adult Film Association of America, which includes the twenty largest pornographic film production companies (and which until a few years ago held its own annual Oscar night), estimates that in 1985 around one hundred feature length films were produced in the United States, which were then distributed to more than seven thousand specialized cinemas across the country, and that those same cinemas each sold on average 2,000 tickets a week, for a total annual national revenue of approximately a billion dollars.Saying that American society is in fact one big sex bazaar does not solve the immediate problem of understanding pornography as a social issue, but it does point to the extent of the problems we face.

For, when we are trying to pinpoint the root cause of pornography, we find ourselves coming back again and again to the very nature of American society, the relationship between ourselves and the marketplace. Despite the moral outrages it evokes in some, pornography is so natural, so American, and so profitable in the marketplace, that its very accomplishment clouds the moral issues surrounding it. When we look at pornography carefully, we find that people like it, the marketplace wants it, and the whole of American society supports it, for it is the very embodiment of our own philosophy and obligation. At first blush, this is an odd thing to say, but reflection inexorably leads us to that conclusion. Pornography in America is where the senses that crave to be pleased and entertained meet the marketplace that craves profit.