Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality

Theoretical Perspectives on Sexuality
Social Science Theories Explaining Sexuality
Evolutionary Perspectives
• Sociobiology
– sexual behaviors are result of natural selection in evolution
– gender differences result from sexual selection
• Evolutionary Psychology
– sexual strategies (behaviors) are result of psychological mechanisms and
environmental influences
• Criticisms
– By assuming behavioral patterns are genetically controlled, this perspective
ignores the importance of culture and learning.
– This perspective assumes that the central function of sex is reproduction, which is
false at this point in history.
Psychological Theories
• Psychoanalytic theory
– concepts
• id, ego, superego
• libido, erogenous zones
• psychosexual development (oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital stages)
– limitations & criticisms
• assume females are inferior and female sexuality is inherently passive
• data based on patients seeking therapy
• overemphasize biological determinants of behavior and instincts
• Learning theory
– classical conditioning (US, UR, CS, CR)
– operant conditioning (operant, reward/punishment, immediate/delayed
– behavior modification (aversion therapy)
– social learning (identification, imitation, self-efficacy)
• Social Exchange theory
- reinforcement explains stability and change in relationships
• rewards, costs, comparison level for alternatives, equity
• Cognitive theory
– cognition (perception, labeling, evaluating)
– gender schema (consistent & inconsistent behavior, stereotypes slow to change)
Sociological Perspectives
• 3 basic assumptions
– all societies regulate sexuality
– social institutions affect sexual norms
– “appropriate’ behavior depends on the culture
• levels of analysis
– macro, subcultural, interpersonal, individual
– social institutions: religion, family, education, media
• Symbolic Interaction theory
- meaning or definition of situation, role taking
• sexual scripts
– sexual behavior is the result of elaborate prior learning that teaches us an
etiquette of sexual behavior
• widespread acceptance and agreement within and between sexes on meaning
and sequence of sexual acts
• Reiss’s theory
– accounts for cross-cultural variations & cross-cultural universals
– sexuality associated w/physical pleasure & self-disclosure
– sexuality linked to kinship system, power structure, & ideology of society