- Human sexual behavior
Human sexual behavior or different human sexual practices encompass a wide range of activities such as strategies to find or attract partners (
matingand display behaviour), interactions between individuals, physical or emotional intimacy, and sexual contact.
Some cultures find only sexual contact within marriage acceptable; however, extramarital sexual activity still takes place within such cultures.
Unprotected sexposes a risk in unwanted pregnancyor sexually transmitted diseases. In some areas, sexual abuseof individuals is prohibited by law and considered against the norms of society.
Aspects of human sexual behavior
As with other behaviors, human intelligence and complex societies have produced among the most complicated sexual behaviors of any animal. Most people experiment with a range of sexual activities during their lives, though they tend to engage in only a few of these regularly. Most people enjoy some sexual activities. However, most societies have defined some sexual activities as inappropriate (wrong person, wrong activity, wrong place, etc.) Some people enjoy many different sexual activities, while others avoid sexual activities altogether for religious or other reasons (see
chastity, sexual abstinence). Some societies and religions view sex as appropriate only within marriage.
Social norms and rules
Human sexual behavior, like many other kinds of activity engaged in by human beings, is generally governed by social rules that are culturally specific and vary widely. These social rules are referred to as sexual morality (what can and can not be done by society's rules) and
sexual norms (what is and is not expected). Sexual ethics, morals, and norms relate to issues including deception/honesty, legality, fidelityand consent.
Some activities, known as sex crimes, are illegal in some jurisdictions, including those conducted between (or among) consenting and competent adults (examples include
sodomy lawand adult-adult incest). Scientific studies suggest sexual fantasy, even of unusual interests, is usually a healthy activity.Fact|date=April 2007 Some people engage in various sexual activities as a business transaction. When this involves having sex with, or performing certain actual sexual acts for another person, it is called prostitution. Other aspects of the adult industry include (for example) telephone sex operators, strip clubs, pornographyand the like.
Nearly all developed societies consider it a serious crime to force someone to engage in sexual behavior or to engage in sexual behavior with someone who does not consent. This is called sexual assault, and if sexual penetration occurs it is called
rape, the most serious kind of sexual assault. The details of this distinction may vary among different legal jurisdictions. Also, precisely what constitutes effective consent to have sex varies from culture to culture and is frequently debated. Laws regulating the minimum age at which a person can consent to have sex ( age of consent) are frequently the subject of political and moral debate Fact|date=March 2008, as is adolescent sexual behaviorin general. Additionally, many societies have forced marriage, so consent does not really figure in to the equation of a sex crime.Fact|date=May 2008
It is possible to engage in sexual activity without a partner, primarily through
masturbationand/or sexual fantasy.
Frequency of sexual activity
The frequency of
sexual intercoursemight range from zero ( sexual abstinence) to 15 or 20 times a week. [ [http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sexual-health/HQ01363 Sexual health: An interview with a Mayo Clinic specialist] ] It is generally recognized that postmenopausal women experience declines in frequency of sexual intercourse. [ [http://www.athenainstitute.com/sciencelinks/acog03.html ACOG 2003 Poster, Sociosexual Behavior in Healthy Women] ] . The average frequency of sexual intercourse for married couples is 2 to 3 times a week (in America). [cite book
last = Varcarolis
first = E.M.
title = Foundations of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing
publisher =W.B. Saunders Company
location = New York
pages = p. 787
isbn = 0-7216-1976-2 ]
afety and ancillary issues
There are four main areas of risk in sexual activity, namely:
* choosing to trust a partner who is physically at risk
sexually transmitted disease
* seeking or engaging in an activity which is legally or culturally disapproved
These risks are raised by any condition (temporary or permanent) which impairs one's judgement, such as excess
alcoholor drugs, or emotional states such as loneliness, depression or euphoria (e.g. new students at college). Carefully considered activity can greatly reduce all of these issues.
Sexually transmitted disease
Sexual behaviors that involve contact with the bodily fluids of another person entail risk of transmission of
sexually transmitted disease. Safe sex practices try to avoid this. These techniques are often seen as less necessary for those in committed relationships with persons known to be free of disease; see fluid bonding.
healthconcerns arising from HIV/ AIDS, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, HPVand other sexually transmitted infections, some people may want potential sexpartners to be tested for STDs before engaging in sex.
Sexual behaviors that involve the contact of
semenwith the vaginaor vulvamay result in pregnancy. To prevent pregnancy, many people employ a variety of birth control measures. The most popular methods of prevention are condoms, spermicides, hormonal contraception, and sterilization.
Legal issues related to sexual behavior
odomy and same sex laws
Various forms of same-sex sexual activity have been prohibited under law in many areas at different times in history. In 2003, the
Lawrence v TexasUnited States Supreme Court decision overturned all such laws in the US. [ [http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZS.html Lawrence V. Texas ] ]
Usually, though not always, such laws are termed
sodomy laws, but also include issues such as age of consent laws, "decency" laws, and so forth. Laws prohibiting same-sex sexuality have varied widely throughout history, varying by culture, religious and social taboos and customs, etc. Often such laws are targeted or applied differently based on sex as well. For example, laws against same-sex sexual behavior in the United Kingdomduring the reign of Queen Victoria, sodomy or "buggery" laws were aimed specifically at male same-sex sexual activity and did not target or even address female homosexuality. A well known example of such laws applied in relatively modern times can be found in the life story of Alan Turing.
Child sexuality examines sexual feelings, behaviors, and developments in children. Children are naturally curious about their bodies and sexual functions — they wonder where babies come from, they notice anatomical differences between males and females, and many engage in
genital play(often mistaken for masturbation). In the past, children were often assumed to be sexually "pure", having no sexuality until later development. Sigmund Freudwas one of the first researchers to take child sexuality seriously. While his ideas, such as psychosexual developmentand the Oedipus conflict, have been rejected or labeled obsolete, acknowledging the existence of child sexuality was a milestone. Alfred Kinseyalso examined child sexuality in his Kinsey Reports.
Child sexual abuse is a form of
child abusein which a child is abused for the sexual gratification of someone else; "child abuse" is also a legal umbrella termdescribing criminal and civil offenses in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exploits a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification. [ [http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/~restes/CSEC_Files/CSEC_Bib_August_2001.pdf The Sexual Exploitation of Children] , "Chart 1: Definitions of Terms Associated With the Sexual Exploitation (SEC) and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)" (p. 4), University of PennsylvaniaCenter for Youth Policy Studies, U.S. National Institute of Justice, August 2001.] [http://www.nspcc.org.uk/helpandadvice/whatchildabuse/sexualabuse/sexualabuse_wda36370.html Child sexual abuse definition from the NSPCC] ] cite web |url=http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childsexualabuse.html |title=Child Sexual Abuse |work=Medline Plus|date = 2008-04-02 |publisher=U.S. National Library of Medicine,] cite journal | author = Committee on Professional Practice and Standards (COPPS), Board of Professional Affairs (BPA), American Psychological Association (APA) | authorlink = American Psychological Association | coauthors = Catherine Acuff, Ph.D.; Steven Bisbing, Ph.D.; Michael Gottlieb, Ph.D.; Lisa Grossman, Ph.D.; Jody Porter, Ph.D.; Richard Reichbart, Ph.D.; Steven Sparta, Ph.D.; and C. Eugene Walker, Ph.D | year = 1999 | month = August | title = Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters | volume = 54 | issue = 8 | pages = 586–593 | doi = 10.1037/0003-066X.54.8.586 | journal = American Psychologist | url = http://www.apa.org/practice/childprotection.html | accessdate = 2008-05-07 | laysummary = http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=main.doiLanding&uid=1999-03403-007 | laysource = APA PsycNET | laydate = 2008-05-07 | quote = Abuse, sexual (child): generally defined as contacts between a child and an adult or other person significantly older or in a position of power or control over the child, where the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the adult or other person.] In addition to direct sexual contact, child sexual abuse also occurs when an adult exposes their genitals to a child, asks or pressures a child to engage in sexual activities, displays pornographyto a child, or uses a child to produce child pornography. [Martin, J., Anderson, J., Romans, S., et al (1993). " [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8330225 Asking about child sexual abuse: methodological implications of a two-stage survey] ," "Child Abuse and Neglect", 17, 383-392.] The American Psychiatric Associationstates that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults", [http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/rind/apa.html Leadership Council - APA Statement on Child Sexual Abuse] ] [http://www.apa.org/releases/delay.html APA Letter to the Honorable Rep. DeLay (R-Tx.)] ] and condemns any such action: "An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior."
Effects of child sexual abuse include depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems.Dinwiddie S, Heath AC, Dunne MP, et al (2000). " [http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=26191 Early sexual abuse and lifetime psychopathology: a co-twin-control study.] " "Psychological Medicine", 30:41–52] Roosa M.W., Reinholtz C., Angelini P.J. (1999). [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0902/is_1_27/ai_54422556/print "The relation of child sexual abuse and depression in young women: comparisons across four ethnic groups,"] "Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology" 27(1):65-76.] Widom C.S. (1999). [http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/156/8/1223 "Posttraumatic stress disorder in abused and neglected children grown up,"] American Journal of Psychiatry; 156(8):1223-1229.] Levitan, R. D., N. A. Rector, Sheldon, T., & Goering, P. (2003). [http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/102529637/ABSTRACT?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 Childhood adversities associated with major depression and/or anxiety disorders in a community sample of Ontario: Issues of co-morbidity and specificity] ," Depression & Anxiety; 17, 34-42.] Terri L. Messman-Moore & Patricia J. Long, " [http://jiv.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/15/5/489 Child Sexual Abuse and Revictimization in the Form of Adult Sexual Abuse, Adult Physical Abuse, and Adult Psychological Maltreatment] ," "15 Journal of Interpersonal Violence" 489 (2000).] Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.cite book|title=Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy|last= Courtois|first=Christine A.|publisher=W. W. Norton & Company|pages=p208|year=1988|isbn= 0393313565]
List of sexology topics
History of human sexuality
List of sex positions
Human sexual response cycle
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