Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes (heterosexuality
Heterosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the opposite sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, heterosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, physical or romantic attractions to persons of the opposite sex";...

), to the same sex (homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

), to either sexes (bisexuality
Bisexuality is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or romantic attraction to both males and females, especially with regard to men and women. It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a heterosexual and a homosexual orientation, all a part of the...

), or not being attracted to anyone in a sexual manner (asexuality
Asexuality , in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction and, in some cases, the lack of interest in sex. Sometimes, it is considered a lack of a sexual orientation...

). The term human sexuality can also cover cultural, political, legal and philosophical aspects of life. It may even refer to issues of morality, ethics, theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

, or religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, and how they relate to all things sexual.

Interest in sexual activity increases when an individual reaches puberty due to hormones. Upon reading this article, someone will walk away with a piece of mind as to how society explains sexuality in humans. Some researchers believe that sexual behavior is determined by genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 and others believe that is molded by the environment. This is the nature versus nurture
Nature versus nurture
The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...

 debate in which one can define nature as those behavioral traits that are developed due to innate characteristics such as instincts and drives. The concept of nurture can be defined as the environmental factors or external stimuli that influence behavior and intelligence. There are also biological and physical differences between sexes that will be explored. One of these physiological aspects to sexuality one will walk away with knowledge about is the human sexual response cycle among men and women which is part physical and part psychological in interpretation.

Different theorists that dealt with sexuality will be explored, such as Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

. Also this article will touch basis on the different theories on sexuality such as the “Sexual Strategies Theory” which is an evolutionary perspective on human mating and using “Social Learning Theory” to explain the differences in individuals’ views on sexuality and sexual behaviors. There are also socio-cultural aspects to sexuality to which one can find influences throughout the present, within history, and in religion such as the Jewish views on sexual pleasure within the marriage and the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 views on avoidance of sexual pleasures.

After reading this article one will understand the meaning of sexual behavior: its pros and cons, sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD’s and STI’s): what they are, how to prevent them, and birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 methods. In reading this, one will know what sexual attraction is, how to create a relationship, and the different legal issues involving sexuality.

Finally, people will be able to differentiate between theories is childhood sexuality, such as Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality in which he speaks of the innate sexual drive being dominant, from theories on adult sexuality. Along with this, what is considered normal or proper sexual behavior for children and adults by society’s standards will be discussed.

Nature versus nurture debate

Like all things in biology, there is no simple answer. This is where the nature versus nurture debate comes into play with human sexuality. Certain things are known in humans to be innate, although modifiable by interactions with family, education, religion and society. Sexual drives among humans are driven partially by genetics and also superior mental activity. Normative characteristics as well as social, cultural, educational, and environmental characteristics of an individual also tie into their sexual drives. Each of these sexual lifestyles will then drive personal identity
Personal identity
In philosophy, personal identity refers to the unique identity of persons through time. That is to say, the conditions under which a person is said to be identical to himself or herself through time. Identity is an issue for both continental philosophy and analytic philosophy...

 in the social evolution of individuals. It is clear that sexual drives are a powerful force that affects social activities.

There are two well known theorists that take different positions in the nature versus nurture debate. Sigmund Freud, a firm supporter of the nature argument, believes that sexual drives are instinctive and views sexuality as the central source of human personality. John Locke on the other hand, believed in the nurture argument, using his theory of the mind being seen as a “tabula rasa”, or blank slate; the environment in which one develops drives their sexuality. In the remainder of this section, the two sides of the nature versus nurture debate will be presented from Freud’s and Locke’s perspectives.

Sigmund Freud

Freud was a theorist who believed in natural instincts. He supposed that instincts are the principal motivating forces in the mental realm, and they energize the mind in all of its functions. He held that there are a large number of instincts but they are reduced into two broad groups; Eros
Eros , in Greek mythology, was the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid . Some myths make him a primordial god, while in other myths, he is the son of Aphrodite....

 (the life instinct), which covers all the self preserving and erotic instincts, and Thanatos
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology, often referred to but rarely appearing in person...

 (the death instinct), which covers instincts toward aggression, self-destruction, and cruelty. Freud gave sexual drives an importance and centrality in human life, actions, and behaviors. Sexuality is seen as the driving instinct or force for humans. He raised the notion that the genital zones are primitive and serve as gateways to preliminary enjoyment preceding sexual intercourse and orgasm. He reasoned that pleasure lowers tension, while displeasure raises it, influencing the sexual drive in humans. Freud successfully redefined the term sexuality to make it cover any form of pleasure that can be derived from the human body. His theory of the instincts and drives is in essence that humans are driven from birth by the desire to acquire and enhance bodily pleasures thus supporting the nature debate.

Sigmund Freud’s developmentalist perspective was governed by inner forces, especially biological drives and maturation. His view that humans are biologically inclined to seek sexual gratification demonstrates the nature side of this old debate.

John Locke

British philosopher John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 rejected the widespread belief that there are innate differences among people. He argued that people are shaped strongly by their social environments and especially by education. He believed that it would be accurate to view a child’s mind as a tabula rasa or blank slate, and whatever goes into the mind will come from the surrounding environment. As the person develops, they discover their identity. He proposed to follow a child from its birth and observe the changes that time makes. He says one will find that as the mind, by the senses and surroundings, becomes furnished with ideas, it becomes to be more awake and aware. He continues to note that after some time the child’s mind begins to know the objects which are most familiar with it. As a child’s brain develops they begin to know the people and social surroundings of daily life and can then distinguish the known from the unknown. This is clearly supporting the nurture side of the debate.

Human sexual behavior is different from the sexual behavior of other animals in that it seems to be run by a variety of different factors. For example, while animals or species lower than humans are driven by a force to reproduce and partake in sexual behavior, humans are not sexually active just for the sake of reproduction, there are a variety of complex factors that lead people to have sex. The environment, culture, and social settings play a major role in the perception, attitudes, and behaviors of sexuality. Sexual behavior is then affected by the inability to detect sexual stimuli, incorrect labeling, or misattribution. This may in turn impede an individual’s sexual performance. Locke believed that there are no natural obstructions that would block development of children’s inherent potential for acting freely and rationally; everyone was born to become independent beings and benefit from the environment.

Evolutionary aspects

Sex in private distinguishes us from Bonobos
Bonobos is a dub band from Osaka, Japan. They formed in August of 2001. Their current lineup includes; Chunho Sai , Yasuyuki Sasaki , Natsuko Morimoto , Bondo Tsuji and Izumi Matsui...

, Chimpanzees and Gorillas. Testis and Penis size are related to family structure: monogamy
Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction...

 or promiscuity
In humans, promiscuity refers to less discriminating casual sex with many sexual partners. The term carries a moral or religious judgement and is viewed in the context of the mainstream social ideal for sexual activity to take place within exclusive committed relationships...

, harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

, in human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

, chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

 and gorilla
Gorillas are the largest extant species of primates. They are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous apes that inhabit the forests of central Africa. Gorillas are divided into two species and either four or five subspecies...

, respectively (see The Third Chimpanzee
The Third Chimpanzee
The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal is a wide-ranging book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles , which applies insights from biology, anthropology, and linguistics to questions such as why one species...

 and “Why is Sex Fun?” by Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

). Involvement of the father in education, concealed ovulation
Concealed ovulation
Concealed ovulation or hidden estrus is the lack of distinctive signaling that the adult female of a species is "in heat". These signals may include swelling and redness of the genitalia in baboons and bonobos Pan paniscus, pheromone release in the feline family, etc...

 and menopause
Menopause is a term used to describe the permanent cessation of the primary functions of the human ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining...

 in women, are quite unique to our species, at least when compared to other Homininae
Homininae is a subfamily of Hominidae, which includes humans, gorillas and chimpanzees, and some extinct relatives; it comprises all those hominids, such as Australopithecus, that arose after the split from orangutans . Our family tree, which has 3 main branches leading to chimpanzees, humans and...

. Concealed (or “hidden”) ovulation means that the phase of fertility is not detectable in woman, whereas chimpanzee advertise ovulation by an obvious swelling of the genitals. Women can be partly aware of their ovulation, along the menstrual phases, but men are essentially unable to detect ovulation in women. Most primates have semi-concealed ovulation, thus one can think that the common ancestor had semi-concealed ovulation, that he transmitted to gorillas, but that later evolved in concealed ovulation
Concealed ovulation
Concealed ovulation or hidden estrus is the lack of distinctive signaling that the adult female of a species is "in heat". These signals may include swelling and redness of the genitalia in baboons and bonobos Pan paniscus, pheromone release in the feline family, etc...

 in humans and advertised ovulation in chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

 (see"Why is Sex Fun?").

Biological and Physiological Aspects

The biological aspects of humans' sexuality deal with human reproduction and the physical means with which to carry it out (sexual intercourse). They also deal with the influence of biological factors on other aspects of sexuality, such as organic and neurological responses, heredity, hormonal issues, gender issues, and sexual dysfunction.

Physical Anatomy and Reproduction

Men and women are anatomically similar except when it comes to the reproductive system and genitalia. Both men and women have different physical mechanisms that enable them to perform sexual acts and procreate. Both men and women react to sexual stimuli in somewhat of the same fashion with only minor differences. Women have a monthly reproductive cycle and the male sperm production cycle is more continuous.

The Brain: the Most Sexual Organ of them All

The brain
The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

 is the structure that translates nerve impulses from the skin into pleasurable sensations. It controls nerves and muscles used during sexual behavior. The brain regulates the release of hormones. It is the origin of our sexual desires. The cerebral cortex
Cerebral cortex
The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the mammalian brain. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is constituted of up to six horizontal layers, each of which has a different...

 which is the outer layer of the brain, allows for thinking and reasoning. It is also the origin of sexual thoughts and fantasies. Beneath the cortex is the limbic system
Limbic system
The limbic system is a set of brain structures including the hippocampus, amygdala, anterior thalamic nuclei, septum, limbic cortex and fornix, which seemingly support a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, long term memory, and olfaction. The term "limbic" comes from the Latin...

 which consists of the amygdala
The ' are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.-...

, hippocampus
The hippocampus is a major component of the brains of humans and other vertebrates. It belongs to the limbic system and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation. Humans and other mammals have two hippocampi, one in...

, cingulate gyrus, and septal area. These structures are where emotions and feelings originate and are important for sexual behavior. The hypothalamus is the most important part of the brain for sexual functioning. This is the small area at the base of the brain consisting of several groups of nerve cell bodies that receives input from the limbic system. Studies have shown that within lab animals, destruction of certain areas of the hypothalamus causes complete elimination of sexual behavior. One of the reasons for the importance of the hypothalamus is its relation to the pituitary gland
Pituitary gland
In vertebrate anatomy the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, is an endocrine gland about the size of a pea and weighing 0.5 g , in humans. It is a protrusion off the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain, and rests in a small, bony cavity covered by a dural fold...

 which lies right beneath it. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that are produced in the hypothalamus and itself. The four important sexual hormones that are secreted are oxytocin
Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain.Oxytocin is best known for its roles in sexual reproduction, in particular during and after childbirth...

, prolactin
Prolactin also known as luteotropic hormone is a protein that in humans is encoded by the PRL gene.Prolactin is a peptide hormone discovered by Henry Friesen...

, follicle-stimulating hormone
Follicle-stimulating hormone
Follicle-stimulating hormone is a hormone found in humans and other animals. It is synthesized and secreted by gonadotrophs of the anterior pituitary gland. FSH regulates the development, growth, pubertal maturation, and reproductive processes of the body. FSH and Luteinizing hormone act...

, and luitenizing hormone. Oxytocin is also known as the “Hormone of Love.” Oxytocin is released in both men and women during sexual intercourse when an orgasm
Orgasm is the peak of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle, characterized by an intense sensation of pleasure...

 is established. It is believed that oxytocin is involved with maintaining close relationships. The hormone is also released in women when they give birth or are breastfeeding. Both prolactic and oxytocin stimulate milk production in women. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FHS) is responsible for ovulation in women by triggering egg maturity and in men it stimulates sperm production. Luitenizing hormone (LH) triggers ovulation which is the release of a mature egg.

Female Anatomy and Reproductive System

Women have both external (genitalia) and internal reproductive organs. For the women, their genitalia can be collectively known as the vulva
The vulva consists of the external genital organs of the female mammal. This article deals with the vulva of the human being, although the structures are similar for other mammals....

. The vulva includes the mons veneris, labia majora
Labia majora
The labia majora are two prominent longitudinal cutaneous folds that extend downward and backward from the mons pubis to the perineum and form the lateral boundaries of the pudendal cleft, which contains the labia minora, interlabial sulci, clitoral hood, clitoral glans, frenulum clitoridis, the...

, labia minora
Labia minora
The labia minora , also known as the inner labia, inner lips, or nymphae, are two flaps of skin on either side of the human vaginal opening, situated between the labia majora...

, clitoris
The clitoris is a sexual organ that is present only in female mammals. In humans, the visible button-like portion is located near the anterior junction of the labia minora, above the opening of the urethra and vagina. Unlike the penis, which is homologous to the clitoris, the clitoris does not...

, vaginal opening, and urethral opening. Women’s genitalia vary in appearance from person to person, differing in size, shape, and color. A woman’s feelings towards her genitalia are directly related to her participation and enjoyment of anything sexual.

The first part of the female genitalia is the mons veneris. This is also known as the “Mount of Venus.” This area is the soft layer of fatty tissue overlaying the area where the pubic bone comes together. This area usually is covered with hair once a female has hit puberty. This area is considered to be very erotic once puberty hits. It is up for debate the purpose of this hair, but some say it’s for appearance purposes, or it’s for the collection of vaginal secretions to increase sexual odors which are considered to be erotically stimulating. This area is sensitive to stimulation due to many nerve endings gathering in this area.

The labia (minora and majora) are collectively known as the lips. The labia majora are two elongated folds of skin extending from the mons to the perineum in women. Its outer surface becomes covered with hair after puberty. Labia majora would also be known as the outer lips. In between the majora, there are the labia minora. These two hairless folds of skin meet above the clitoris to form the clitoral hood which is highly sensitive to touch, and they become engorged with blood during sexual stimulation causing it to swell and turn bright red or wine colored. Near the anus, these minora merge with the majora. The minora are composed of connective tissues that are richly supplied with blood vessels which cause the pinkish appearance. The purpose of the minora is to protect the vaginal and urethral opening by covering them in a sexually unstimulated state. Located at the base of the labia minora are the Bartholin’s glands which contribute a few drops of an alkaline fluid to the vagina via ducts which helps to counteract acidity of the outer vagina since sperm cannot live in an acidic environment.

The clitoris is developed from the same embryonic tissue as the penis and shares the same amount of nerve endings making it extremely sensitive to touch. This small, elongated erectile structure has only one known function—focus sexual sensations. The clitoris is also the main source for orgasm in women. The thick secretions that collect here in the clitoris are called smegma. It may cause discomfort during intercourse, but can be easily overcome by showering.

The vaginal opening and the urethral opening are only visible when the labia minora are parted. This opening has many nerve endings making it sensitive to touch. It is surrounded by the bulbocavernosus muscle which is a ring of sphincter muscles that contract and relax. Underneath this muscle and on opposite sides of the vaginal opening are the vestibular bulbs which help the vagina grip the penis by swelling with blood during arousal. Within the vaginal opening there is something called the hymen which is a thin membrane that partially covers the opening in many virgins (sexually inexperienced). To rupture the hymen is considered to be losing one’s virginity. The urethral opening is the opening in which one urinates from. This is located below the clitoris and above the vaginal opening. This opening connects to the bladder with the urethra.

The last part of the external reproductive organs on women is the breasts. Western culture is one of the few countries that find breasts to be erotic. The breasts are the subcutaneous tissues on the front thorax of the female body. Their purpose is to provide milk to a developing infant. They develop during puberty due to an increase in estrogen, and each adult breast consists of 15 to 20 mammary glands which are milk producing glands. It is the more fatty tissue one has that determines the size of breasts, and heredity plays a huge role in determining size. “A mammary gland is composed of fifteen to twenty irregularly shaped lobes, each of which includes alveolar glands, and a duct (lactiferous duct) that leads to the nipple and opens to the outside. The lobes are separated by dense connective tissues that support the glands and attach them to the tissues on the underlying pectoral muscles. Other connective tissue, which forms dense strands called "suspensory ligaments," extends inward from the skin of the breast to the pectoral tissue to support the weight of the breast. The breasts are really modified sweat glands, which are made up of fibrous tissues and fat that provide support and contain nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.”

The female’s internal reproductive organs consist of the vagina
The vagina is a fibromuscular tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. Female insects and other invertebrates also have a vagina, which is the terminal part of the...

, uterus
The uterus or womb is a major female hormone-responsive reproductive sex organ of most mammals including humans. One end, the cervix, opens into the vagina, while the other is connected to one or both fallopian tubes, depending on the species...

, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The vagina is the sheath like canal in women that extends from the vulva to the cervix. The vagina receives the penis during intercourse and serves as a depository for sperm. This is also known as the birth canal and can expand to 10 centimeters during labor and delivery. The vagina is located behind the bladder but in front of the rectum. During stimulation, the vagina opens up for the penis to be inserted otherwise, it is always collapsed. The vagina has three layered walls, and is a self cleaning organ with natural important bacterium within it to keep the production of yeast down. The vagina is the outlet for menstruation
Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining . It occurs on a regular basis in sexually reproductive-age females of certain mammal species. This article focuses on human menstruation.-Overview:...

 which is the vagina’s way of cleaning itself. The vagina is surrounded by a large muscle called the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle which is richly innervated with nerves. Another important part of the vagina is the Grafenberg (G) spot, named after the German doctor who first reported it in 1950. The G spot is located in the front wall of the vagina and is only found in about ten percent of women. This area is also known to be a cause of orgasm.

The uterus is also known as the womb; a hollow, muscular organ where a fertilized egg, called a zygote, will implant itself and grow into a fetus. The uterus lies in the pelvic cavity behind the bladder, in front of the bowel, and above the vagina. Normally it is positioned in a ninety-degree angle tilting forward, although in about twenty percent of women it tilts backwards. The uterus consists of three layers with the innermost layer being the endometrium
-Function:The endometrium is the innermost glandular layer and functions as a lining for the uterus, preventing adhesions between the opposed walls of the myometrium, thereby maintaining the patency of the uterine cavity. During the menstrual cycle or estrous cycle, the endometrium grows to a...

. The endometrium is where the egg is implanted. During ovulation, this thickens up for implantation, but if implantation does not occur, it is sloughed off during menstruation. The cervix is the narrow end of the uterus. The broad part of the uterus is the fundus.

The Fallopian tubes are the passageways that an egg travels down to the uterus during ovulation
Ovulation is the process in a female's menstrual cycle by which a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and discharges an ovum . Ovulation also occurs in the estrous cycle of other female mammals, which differs in many fundamental ways from the menstrual cycle...

. These extend about four inches from both sides of the uterus. There are finger like projections at the end of the tubes that brush the ovaries and pick up the egg once it is released. The egg then travels for about three to four days down to the uterus. “After sexual intercourse, sperm swim up this funnel from the uterus. The lining of the tube and its secretions sustain both the egg and the sperm, encouraging fertilization and nourishing the egg until it reaches the uterus. If an egg splits in two after fertilization, identical or "maternal" twins are produced. If separate eggs are fertilized by different sperm, the mother gives birth to un-identical or "fraternal" twins.”

The ovaries are the female gonads, and they are developed from the same embryonic tissue as the male gonads (testicles). These are suspended by ligaments and are the source where the egg or ova are stored and developed before ovulation. The ovaries are also responsible for producing female hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Within the ovaries, each egg is surrounded by other cells and contained within a capsule called a primary follicle. At puberty, one or more of these follicles are stimulated to mature on a monthly basis. Once matured these are now called Graafian follicles. “The female, unlike the male, does not manufacture the sex cells. A girl baby is born with about 60,000 of these cells.” Only about 400 eggs in a women’s lifetime will mature.

A female’s ovulation is based on a monthly cycle with the fourteenth day being the most fertile. Days five through thirteen are known as the Preovulatory stages. During this stage the pituitary gland in the brain secretes Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). Then a negative feedback loop is enacted when estrogen is secreted to inhibit the release of FSH. This estrogen thickens the endometrium of the uterus. Luitenizing Hormone (LH) surge triggers ovulation. Day fourteen, ovulation, the LH surge causes a Graafian follicle to surface the ovary. Once the follicle ruptures, the ripe ovum is expelled into the abdominal cavity where the fallopian tubes pick up the ovum with the fimbria. The cervical mucus changes to aid in the movement of sperm. Days fifteen to twenty-eight, the Post-ovulatory stage, the Graafian follicle that once held the ovum is now called the corpus luteum, and it now secretes estrogen. Progesterone increases inhibiting LH release. The endometrium thickens to get ready for implantation, and the ovum travels down the Fallopian tubes to the uterus. If the egg does not become fertilized and does not implant menstruation begins. Days one to four, menstruation, estrogen and progesterone decreases and the endometrium starts thinning. Now the endometrium is sloughed off for the next three to six days. Once menstruation ends the cycle begins again with an FSH surge from the pituitary gland.

Male Anatomy and Reproductive System

Males also have both internal and external (genitalia) structures that are responsible for procreation and sexual intercourse. Along with this, men also produce their sperm on a cycle, but unlike the female’s ovulation cycle, the male sperm production cycle is constantly producing millions of sperm daily.

The male genitalia are the penis (which has both internal and external structures) and the scrotom (holds the testicles). The penis' purpose is for sexual intercourse and is a passageway for sperm and urine. An average sized unstimulated penis is about 3.75 inches in length and 1.2 inches in diameter. When erect on average, men are most between 4.5 to 6 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter. The penis' internal structures consist of the shaft
- Long narrow passages :* Elevator shaft* Ventilation shaft, vertical passages used in mines and tunnels to move fresh air underground, and to remove stale air* Shaft , an underground vertical or inclined passageway...

, glans
The glans is a vascular structure located at the tip of the penis in men or a homologous genital structure of the clitoris in women.-Structure:...

, and the root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...


The shaft of the penis consists of three cylinder-shaped bodies of spongy tissue filled with tiny blood vessels, which run the length of the organ. Two of these bodies lie side by side in the upper portion of the penis called corpora cavernosa. The third is a tube which lies centrally beneath the others and expands at the end to form the tip of the penis (glans) called the corpus spongiosum. The raised rim at the border of the shaft and glans is called the corona. The urethra runs through the shaft so that sperm and urine have a way out the body. The root consists of the expanded ends of the cavernous bodies, which fan out to form the crura, and attach to the pubic bone and the expanded end of the spongy body also known as the bulb. The root is also surrounded by two muscles: bulbocavernosus muscle and ischiocavernosus muscle
Ischiocavernosus muscle
The ischiocavernosus muscle is a muscle just below the surface of the perineum, present in both men and women.-Function:It helps flex the anus, and stabilize the erect penis or tense the vagina during orgasm...

 which aid in urination and ejaculation
Ejaculation is the ejecting of semen from the male reproductory tract, and is usually accompanied by orgasm. It is usually the final stage and natural objective of male sexual stimulation, and an essential component of natural conception. In rare cases ejaculation occurs because of prostatic disease...

. The penis has a foreskin that usually covers the glans which is removed at birth in some men in a procedure called circumcision. The second external structure is the scrotom. Here the testicles are being held away from the body because sperm can only be produced in an environment several degrees lower than normal body temperature. This has many sweat glands to aid in temperature control. Males also have internal structures as well, and these consist of the testicles, the duct system, the prostate and seminal vesicles, and the Cowper’s glands.

The testicles are the male gonads. This is where sperm and male hormones (androgens) are produced. Millions of sperm are produced daily in several hundred seminiferous tubules that measure all together over a quarter of a mile. Cells called Interstitial Cells of Leydig are between the tubules and produce hormones. The hormones that are produced are called androgens, and they consist of testosterone and inhibin. The testicles are held by the spermatic cord which is a tube like structure that contains blood vessels, nerves, the vas deferens, and a muscle that helps to raise and lower the testicles in response to temperature changes and sexual arousal in which the testicles are drawn closer to the body.

The next internal structure is the four part duct system that transports sperm. The first part of this system is the epididymis
The epididymis is part of the male reproductive system and is present in all male amniotes. It is a narrow, tightly-coiled tube connecting the efferent ducts from the rear of each testicle to its vas deferens. A similar, but probably non-homologous, structure is found in cartilaginous...

. In fact, the seminiferous tubules
Seminiferous tubules
Seminiferous tubules are located in the testes, and are the specific location of meiosis, and the subsequent creation of gametes, namely spermatozoa....

 are the testicles converge to form these coiled tubes that are felt at the top and back of each testicle. Each tubule uncoiled is about twenty feet long. The second part of the duct system is the vas deferens
Vas deferens
The vas deferens , also called ductus deferens, , is part of the male anatomy of many vertebrates; they transport sperm from the epididymis in anticipation of ejaculation....

. The vas deferens is also known as “ductus deferens,” and is a muscular tube that begins at the lower end of the epididymis. The vas deferens also passes upward along the side of the testicles to become part of the spermatic cord. The expanded end is the ampulla which stores sperm before ejaculation. The third part of the duct system are the ejaculatory ducts which are one inch long paired tubes that pass through the prostate gland. This is where the semen mixture is produced. The prostate gland is a solid, chestnut-shaped organ that surrounds the first part of the urethra (tube which carries the urine and semen and the fourth part of the duct system ) in the male.

The prostate gland and the seminal vesicles help produce seminal fluid that gets mixed with sperm to create semen. The prostate gland lies under the bladder, in front of the rectum. It consists of two main zones: the inner zone which produces secretions to keep the lining of the male urethra moist and the outer zone which produces seminal fluids to facilitate the passage of semen. The seminal vesicles secrete fructose for sperm activation and mobilization, prostaglandins to cause uterine contractions which aids in movement through the structure, and bases which help neutralize the acidity of the vagina because sperm cannot survive in an acidic environment. The last internal structure is the Cowper’s glands, or bulbourethral glands, which are two pea sized structures beneath the prostate. These structures secrete a few drops of alkaline fluid prior to orgasm. This fluid also helps lower acidity.

Sexual Response Cycle

The sexual response cycle is a model that describes the physiological responses that take place in men and women during sexual activity. This model was created by William Masters and Virginia Johnson. According to them, the human sexual response cycle consists of four phases which are: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. On the other hand, others such as Helen Kaplan proposed models that divide the sexual responses into fewer or more phases (desire, excitement, and orgasm). To continue, the excitement phase is the phase in which one attains the intrinsic motivation to pursue sex. The plateau phase sets the stage for orgasm. Orgasm is more biological for men and more psychological for women. Orgasm is the release of tension, and the resolution period is the unaroused state before the cycle begins again.

The male sexual response cycle starts out in the excitement phase where two centers in the spine are responsible for an erection. Vasoconstriction begins in the penis, the heart rate increases, scrotum thickens, spermatic cord shortens, and the testicles become engorged in blood. The second phase, plateau, the penis increases in diameter, the testicles become even more engorged, and the Cowper’s glands secrete preseminal fluid. The third stage, orgasm, during which rhythmic contractions occur every eight seconds, consist of two phases in men. The first phase of orgasm is the emission phase in which contractions of the vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles encourage ejaculation which is the second phase of orgasm. This phase of orgasm is called the expulsion phase and this phase cannot be reached without an orgasm. Finally, the resolution phase is when the male is now in an unaroused state which consists of a refractory period (rest period) before the cycle can begin. This rest period may increase with a man’s age.

The female sexual response cycle is said to be motivated by relationship and intimacy needs. Again, this cycle starts in the excitement phase with vasoconstriction
Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels, particularly the large arteries, small arterioles and veins. The process is the opposite of vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels. The process is particularly important in...

. This happens immediately after stimulation, but takes longer than in men because the vagina needs some time to decompress before penetration can occur. This could be the reason as to why women value foreplay to be necessary for intercourse. The vaginal walls become engorged causing it to lubricate. The collapsed walls of the vagina balloon out and the labia and clitoris become engorged with blood. The second phase, plateau, the uterus elevates and the vaginal walls narrow. In women, this consists of three phases. In the first phase, the clitoris pulls back towards the pubic bone. In the second phase, the breasts engorge with blood, and in the final phase, the labia minora engorges in blood and darkens. In the orgasm phase, rhythmic muscular contractions occur every eight seconds to aid in preventing spillage of semen. These contractions aid in the movement of sperm through the vagina to the uterus. In women, this phase consists of a single stage unlike in males. On the other hand, according to Ladas, Whipple, and Perry women can have three different types of orgasm: the tenting type (clitoral stimulation), the A-frame type (g-spot stimulation), and the Blended type. The final phase of the female sexual response cycle is the resolution phase in which blood drains from the breasts and outer third layer of the vagina. The uterus lowers itself, and the vagina shortens in width and length.

Sexual Dysfunction/ Sexual Problems

Men and women have many sexual problems which frequently arise because of other problems within a relationship or simply because of individual differences. These differences consist of differences in expectations, assumptions, desire, preferred behaviors, and relationship conflicts. Although these differences create sexual problems in both men and women, problems amongst men and women are different. The World Health Organization’s International Classifications of Diseases defines sexual problems as “the various ways in which an individual is unable to participate in a sexual relationship as he or she would wish.” Sexual disorders, according to the DSM-IV-TR, are disturbances in sexual desire and psycho-physiological changes that characterize the sexual response cycle and cause marked distress, and interpersonal difficulty. There are four major categories of sexual problems: desire disorders, arousal disorders, orgasmic disorders, and sexual pain disorders.
  1. Hypoactive Sexual Desire
    1. Low sexual drive
    2. Occurs at the excitement phase
  2. Sexual Aversion
    1. Anticipation of any kind of sexual interactions causes great anxiety
  3. Sexual Arousal Disorder
    Sexual arousal disorder
    Sexual arousal disorder is characterized by a lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity in a situation that would normally produce sexual arousal, or the inability to attain or maintain typical responses to sexual arousal. The disorder is found in the DSM-IV...

    1. In men, this is erectile dysfunction
      Erectile dysfunction
      Erectile dysfunction is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual performance....

    2. In women, this is the characterized by the difficulty of becoming aroused.
  4. Orgasmic Disorders
    1. In men, this is known as premature ejaculation
      Premature ejaculation
      Premature ejaculation is a condition in which a man ejaculates earlier than he or his partner would like him to. Premature ejaculation is also known as rapid ejaculation, rapid climax, premature climax, or early ejaculation....

       and ejaculatory incompetence.
    2. In women, this is the inability to have an orgasm.
  5. Hypersexuality
    Hypersexuality is extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity. Hypersexuality is typically associated with lowered sexual inhibitions. Although hypersexuality can be caused by some medical conditions or medications, in most cases the cause is unknown...

     (sexual addiction.)
  6. Sexual Pain Disorders
    1. In men, there are four different disorders.
      1. Dyspareunia
        Dyspareunia is painful sexual intercourse, due to medical or psychological causes. The symptom is reported almost exclusively by women, although the problem can also occur in men. The causes are often reversible, even when long-standing, but self-perpetuating pain is a factor after the original...

        (pain during intercourse due to a physical problem.)
      2. Post-Ejaculatory Syndrome(pain in the genitals during or after orgasm.)
      3. Priapism
        Priapism is a potentially harmful and painful medical condition in which the erect penis or clitoris does not return to its flaccid state, despite the absence of both physical and psychological stimulation, within four hours. There are two types of priapism: low-flow and high-flow. Low-flow...

         (prolonged erection)
      4. Benign Coital Cephalalgia (migraine headaches during and after orgasm.)
    2. In women, there are three different disorders.
      1. Dyspareunia
        Dyspareunia is painful sexual intercourse, due to medical or psychological causes. The symptom is reported almost exclusively by women, although the problem can also occur in men. The causes are often reversible, even when long-standing, but self-perpetuating pain is a factor after the original...

         (recurrent genital pain during intercourse.)
      2. Vaginismus
        Vaginismus, sometimes anglicized vaginism, is the German name for a condition which affects a woman's ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons and/or menstrual cups, and the penetration involved in gynecological examinations...

         (vagina involuntarily closes.)
      3. Noncoital Sexual Pain Disorder (genital pain due to arousal.)

Psychological aspects

Sexuality in humans generates profound emotional and psychological responses. Some theorists identify sexuality as the central source of human personality.

Psychological studies of sexuality focus on psychological influences that affect sexual behavior and experiences. Early psychological analyses were carried out by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, who believed in a psychoanalytic
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 approach. He also conjectured the concepts of erogenous zone
Erogenous zone
An erogenous zone is an area of the human body that has heightened sensitivity, the stimulation of which may result in the production of erotic sensations or sexual excitement.People have erogenous zones all over their bodies, but which areas are more sensitive than others vary...

s, psychosexual development
Psychosexual development
In Freudian psychology, psychosexual development is a central element of the psychoanalytic sexual drive theory, that human beings, from birth, possess an instinctual libido that develops in five stages. Each stage — the oral, the anal, the phallic, the latent, and the genital — is characterized...

, and the Oedipus complex
Oedipus complex
In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrate upon a boy’s desire to sexually possess his mother, and kill his father...

, among others.

Behavior theorists
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 such as John B. Watson
John B. Watson
John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it which was given at Columbia University in 1913...

 and B. F. Skinner
B. F. Skinner
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American behaviorist, author, inventor, baseball enthusiast, social philosopher and poet...

 examine the actions and consequences and their ramifications. These theorists would, for example, study a child who is punished for sexual exploration and see if they grow up to associate negative feelings with sex in general. Social-learning theorists
Social cognitive theory
Social cognitive theory, used in psychology, education, and communication, posits that portions of an individual's knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences.-History:Social cognitive theory...

 use similar concepts, but focus on cognitive activity and modeling
Mental model
A mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person's intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences...


Gender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

 is a person's own sense of identification as female, male, both, neither, or somewhere in between. The social construction of gender has been discussed by a wide variety of scholars, Judith Butler
Judith Butler
Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.Butler received her Ph.D...

 notable among them. Recent contributions consider the influence of feminist theory
Feminist theory
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical discourse, it aims to understand the nature of gender inequality...

 and courtship research.

Sexual behavior and intimate relationships are strongly influenced by a person’s sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

. Sexual orientation refers to your degree of emotional and physical attraction to members of the opposite sex, same sex, or both sexes. Heterosexual people are attracted to the members of the opposite sex. Homosexual people are attracted to people of the same sex. Those who are bisexual are attracted to both men and women.

Before the High Middle Ages, homosexual acts appear to have been ignored or tolerated by the Christian church. During the 12th century however, hostility toward homosexuality began to spread throughout religious and secular institutions. By the end of the 19th century, homosexuality was viewed as a pathology. Havelock Ellis
Havelock Ellis
Henry Havelock Ellis, known as Havelock Ellis , was a British physician and psychologist, writer, and social reformer who studied human sexuality. He was co-author of the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897, and also published works on a variety of sexual practices and...

 and Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 adopted more accepting stances. Ellis argued that homosexuality was inborn and therefore not immoral, that it was not a disease, and that many homosexuals made significant contributions to society. Freud believed all human beings as capable of becoming either heterosexual or homosexual; neither orientation was assumed to be innate. Freud claimed that a person’s orientation depended on how the Oedipus complex
Oedipus complex
In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrate upon a boy’s desire to sexually possess his mother, and kill his father...

 was resolved. He believed that male homosexuality resulted when a young boy had an authoritarian, rejecting mother and turned to his father for love and affection and later to men in general. He believed female homosexuality developed when a girl loved her mother and identified with her father and became fixated at that stage.

Freud and Ellis thought homosexuality resulted from reversed gender roles. This view is reinforced today by the media’s portraying male homosexuals as effeminate and female homosexuals as masculine. Whether a person conforms or does not conform to gender stereotypes does not always predict sexual orientation. Society believes that if a man is masculine he is heterosexual, and if a man is feminine he must be homosexual. There is no strong evidence that a homosexual or bisexual orientation must be associated with atypical gender roles. Today, homosexuality is no longer considered to be a pathology. In addition, many factors have been linked to homosexuality including: genetic factors, anatomical factors, birth order, and hormones in the prenatal environment.

Child sexuality

In the past, children were often assumed not to have sexuality until later development. Sigmund Freud was one of the first researchers to take child sexuality seriously. His ideas, such as psychosexual development
Psychosexual development
In Freudian psychology, psychosexual development is a central element of the psychoanalytic sexual drive theory, that human beings, from birth, possess an instinctual libido that develops in five stages. Each stage — the oral, the anal, the phallic, the latent, and the genital — is characterized...

 and the Oedipus conflict, have been highly debated but regardless, acknowledging the existence of child sexuality was a huge milestone. Freud gave sexual drives an importance and centrality in human life, actions, and behavior arguing that sexual drives exist and can be discerned in children from birth. He explains this in his theory of infantile sexuality, and claims that sexual energy (libido) is the single most important motivating force in adult life. Freud wrote about the importance of interpersonal relationships to ones sexual and emotional development. From the initial days of life, the mother's connection to the infant has an effect on the infant's later capacity for pleasure and attachment
Attachment may refer to:Attachment- An emotional connection. Attachment involves being dependent on someone for something: emotional, mental or physical....

. Freud described two currents of emotional life in all of us: an affectionate current, including our bonds with the important people in our lives, and a sensual current, including our wish to gratify sexual impulses. During adolescence, a young person tries to integrate these two emotional currents. This is a difficult task and the risks are many. There are numerous inner conflicts and failures of development that may keep a person repeating immature sexual patterns; this is evident in much that we see on the news. The real challenge is to bring about a convergence of the two currents; the affectionate and the sensual. The sexual over excitement often characteristic of adolescent experimentation is not adaptive in a grown adult.

Freud’s work led him to establish the stages of psychosexual development where he describes infantile sexuality through steps. From the moment of birth an infant is driven in their actions by the desire for bodily and sexual pleasure. This is seen by Freud as the desire to release mental energy. At first, infants gain such release, and derive pleasure from the act of sucking. Freud terms this the oral stage of development. It’s followed by a stage in which the center of pleasure or energy release is the anus, mainly in the act of defecation. This is termed the anal stage
Anal stage
The anal stage, in Freudian psychology, is the period of human development occurring at about one to two years of age. Around this age, the child begins to toilet train, which brings about the child's fascination in the erogenous zone of the anus...

. Then, the young child develops an interest in its genitalia as a site of pleasure known as the phallic stage
Phallic stage
In Freudian psychology, the Phallic stage is the third stage of psychosexual development, spanning the ages of three to six years, wherein the infant’s libido centers upon his or her genitalia as the erogenous zone...

. According to Freud, the child then develops a deep sexual attraction for the parent of the opposite sex, and a hatred of the parent of the same sex. This is known as the Oedipus complex. However, this gives rise to socially derived feelings of guilt in the child, who eventually recognizes that it can never supersede the stronger parent. A male child also perceives himself to be at risk, he fears that if he persists in pursuing the sexual attraction for his mother, he may be harmed by the father. Both the attraction for the mother and the hatred are usually repressed, and the child typically resolves the conflict of the Oedipus complex by coming to identify with the parent of the same sex. This happens at the age of five, whereupon the child enters a latency period in which sexual motivations become much less pronounced. This lasts until puberty when mature genital development begins and the pleasure drive refocuses around the genital area. Freud believed that this is the progression inherent in normal human development, and is to be observed beginning at the infant level. The instinctual attempts to satisfy the pleasure drive are frequently checked by parental control and social influencing. For the child, the developmental process is in essence a movement through a series of conflicts. The successful resolution of these conflicts is crucial to adult mental health. Many mental illnesses, particularly hysteria
Hysteria, in its colloquial use, describes unmanageable emotional excesses. People who are "hysterical" often lose self-control due to an overwhelming fear that may be caused by multiple events in one's past that involved some sort of severe conflict; the fear can be centered on a body part, or,...

, Freud held, can be traced back to unresolved conflicts experienced at this stage, or to events which otherwise disrupt the normal pattern of infantile development. For example, homosexuality is seen by some Freudians as resulting from a failure to resolve the conflicts of the Oedipus complex, particularly a failure to identify with the parent of the same sex; the obsessive concern with washing and personal hygiene which characterizes the behavior of some neurotics is seen as resulting from unresolved conflicts or repressions occurring at the anal stage.

Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

 also examined child sexuality in his Kinsey Reports
Kinsey Reports
The Kinsey Reports are two books on human sexual behavior, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female , by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others and published by Saunders...

. Children are naturally curious about their bodies and sexual functions. For example, they wonder where babies come from, they notice the differences between males and females, and many engage in genital play (often mistaken for masturbation). Child sex play includes exhibiting or inspecting the genitals. Many children take part in some sex play, typically with siblings or friends. Sex play with others usually decreases as children go through their elementary school years, yet they still may possess romantic interest in their peers. Curiosity levels remain high during these years, but it is not until adolescence that the main surge in sexual interest occurs. Kinsey’s findings are very controversial because of the illegal acts committed between adults and children in one of his studies. He also manipulated his experiment to yield the results he wanted. Some Kinsey conclusions still accepted today as scientific fact are really research that was conducted on human subjects illegally, and against their will. It has become necessary to call on the scientific community to reexamine Dr. Kinsey's sex research effort. Because of this, the most profound shocking findings of both Kinsey Reports were almost totally ignored; they were Kinsey's conclusions on childhood sexuality.

Sexuality in late adulthood

The sexuality of the adult originates in childhood. However, like thinking and other human capacities, sexuality is not fixed, it matures and develops. Freud's ideas teach us the value of intimate personal attachment and its key place in mature sexual fulfillment. His ideas also help us to understand that the desire for pleasure is an important motivating force in our lives. Changes in sexual behavior occur with age and while humans in late adulthood may be impaired by weakness, relationship needs such as closeness and sensuality remain. Aging produces changes in sexual performance. Men are more likely to experience these changes than women. For men, orgasms become less frequent and usually need more direct stimulation to produce an erection. One out of four men, ages 65 to 80, has severe problems getting or keeping erections, and this percentage increased with men over 80 years of age. Yet the use of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction increases the expectations of older adults to have sex. Despite medical complications and opinions that people in late adulthood should not be sexually active, many older adults continue to engage in sexual intercourse. The results of a recent interview study involving 3,000 adults 57 to 85 years of age have shown that health plays a role in the level of older adults' sexual activity. The percentage of sexually active older adults is higher for those that are in good health than those in poor health. Older women may be less sexually active due to outliving their partners or men's tendency to marry younger women. Older adults who engage in sexual activity, intimacy, and companionship tend to be more satisfied with life. A common stereotype suggests that people tend to lose interest in and ability to engage in sexual acts once they reach late adulthood. This stereotype is mainly reinforced through Western pop culture. TV shows and movies ridicule older adults that try to engage in sexual activities. Men are shown suffering heart attacks from over excitement, and women are grateful if anyone shows an interest in them. Even language used encourages this behavior. If an older man is sexually interested or active he is called a dirty old man as some would say. This is considered so abnormal for women that there is not an equivalent term for older women. Rather the language for older women is sexless. Older women come off as sexually unattractive and undesirable. Sexuality and age is similar to most other aspects of aging. Age does not necessarily change our need or desire to be sexually expressive or active. If a couple has been in a long-term relationship, the frequency of sexual activity may decrease, but not necessarily their satisfaction with each other. Many couples find that the type of sexual expression may change, and that with age and the term of relationship there is increased intimacy and love. If sex and sexual intimacy are important aspects in one's life during young and middle adulthood they will continue to be factors in older adulthood.

One aspect of aging that is particular to a woman's experience is menopause. This process, which occurs toward the late forties or early fifties, is dependent on a woman’s biological makeup. Common signs of menopause include lengthening or shortening of the menstrual cycle and blood loss that becomes either heavier or lighter than usual. Hot flashes may occur up to two years prior to menopause and continue for several years after. Night sweats are a common symptom for women who are approaching menopause. Loss of muscle tone in the urinary tract may cause more frequent urination, while some women become more prone to urinary tract infections. Skin may also become more dry or oily than usual. Hormonal changes may also be the reason for vaginal dryness, joint pain and abdominal weight gain. Many women are made to feel that because they are no longer able to reproduce, they are no longer able to be sexually active. Some women may experience a decline in sexual desire because of the decline in production of the hormone estrogen. However, many other women report an increase in desire and activity. This is because there is no longer a concern about pregnancy, children are generally self-sufficient and postmenopausal woman may even be more assertive in expressing their needs.

Although men do not experience the same physical changes that women do with menopause they do experience physical changes with age that affect their sexuality. Erections may not be as firm or last as long, and there may be a longer waiting period between erections. These changes can be accommodated by increased manual stimulation and other modes of sexual expression in addition to normal intercourse. As women experience menopause, men experience something similar as well. They experience what is known as climacteric. The male climacteric occurs between the ages of 35 and 60; again, this is dependent on the males’ biological makeup. Although remaining fertile, climacteric men may feel unsatisfied with their achievements and lifestyles. They may also experience a range of unpleasant emotions and physical symptoms that are linked to the aging process. A gradual decrease in testosterone production may cause physical symptoms such as a lack of energy, erectile dysfunction, and muscle deterioration. The weakening health of a man's heart, prostate, kidneys, hearing and digestive systems are also signs of aging that occur during a males later life, or climacteric period. What can impact sexuality in old age is partner availability and health (two factors that have an impact throughout the lifespan). For older women, partner availability is a serious issue. Women outnumber men by increasingly larger numbers as they age; thus, the available pool of males decreases with age. Many divorced, widowed, or never-married older women may find themselves alone and looking more towards masturbation for sexual gratification.

There are certain diseases, health situations, and medications that can have an impact on sex and sexual activity. There are also many ways to accommodate the changes. Medications can be altered and the way we express ourselves sexually can be changed to accommodate physical limitations. Whatever the case, the need for intimacy continues throughout the lifespan and throughout late adulthood.

Sociocultural aspects

Human sexuality can also be understood as part of the social life of humans, governed by implied rules of behavior and the status quo. This focus narrows the view to groups within a society. The socio-cultural context of society places major influences on and form social norms, including the effects of politics and the mass media. In the past people fought for their civil rights, and such movements helped to bring about massive changes in social norms — examples include the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism.

The link between constructed sexual meanings and racial ideologies has been studied in the past. It is found sexual meanings are constructed to maintain racial-ethnic-national boundaries, by denigration of "others," and regulation of sexual behavior within the group. "Both adherence to and deviation from such approved behaviors, define and reinforce racial, ethnic, and nationalist regimes."

The age and manner in which children are informed of issues of sexuality is a matter of sex education. The school systems in almost all developed countries have some form of sex education, but the nature of the issues covered varies widely. In some countries (such as Australia and much of Europe) "age-appropriate" sex education often begins in pre-school, whereas other countries leave sex education to the pre-teenage and teenage years. Sex education covers a range of topics, including the physical, mental, and social aspects of sexual behavior. Where one is geographically placed also plays a role in when society feels it is appropriate for a child to learn about sexuality.
In fact, in the United States, sexuality is on the “hush-hush” or is unspoken of which happens to limit our sources of sexual knowledge. According to TIME magazine and CNN, 74% of teenagers reported that their major source of sexual information were their peers and the media compared to only 10% naming their parents or a sex education course; therefore society makes a huge impact on people’s views when it comes to the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and attitudes towards sexuality. Society’s views on sexuality have many influences from the past and the present. Even religion and philosophy make an impact. As long as people have opinions of their own, society will always influence social norms. One theorist, Vygotsky states that a child’s development cannot be understood only by the individual alone. The only way to truly understand development is by looking at the individual and the environment or external social world in which the development is occurring.

Religious sexual morality

Most world religions have sought to address the moral issues that arise from people's sexuality in society and in human interactions. Each major religion has developed moral codes covering issues of sexuality, morality, ethics etc., which have sought to guide people's sexual activities and practices. One can see the influences of religion on sexuality especially in the long debated issue of gay marriage versus civil union. In this section, the sexuality based on the views of the major world religions will be discussed.

When it comes to Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 it is said that sex is sacred between man and women, within marriage, and should be enjoyed. Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

 is sinful. Actually, the Jewish do not believe that sex is shameful, sinful, or obscene. Although, they believe that sexual desire should be controlled and channeled only to be satisfied at the proper time, place, and manner, between husband and wife, out of mutual love and desire for one another. This means that all sexual contact is permissible only within marriage because it is believed that all sexual contact leads to intercourse; therefore sex requires commitment and responsibility. The primary purpose of sex according to the Jewish is to reinforce the marital bond and to procreate making any sexual act permissible as long as it does not involve ejaculation outside the vagina. Sex is the right of the woman, not the man and it is should only be experienced in times of joy because it is a selfish personal satisfaction that must be pleasurable for both parties. Men cannot force women to have sex, and women cannot take away sex as punishment because it is an offense to use sex to manipulate or as a weapon. Finally, sex cannot be experienced while intoxicated or quarreling.

In the past, Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 had some strong views against sexuality. Saint Paul regarded the body as evil and struggled to control it. He stated that a celibate lifestyle was the only way to heaven, hence the reason for priests having to give up sex. Along with this, his followers believed that women should be subordinate to men thus they should always be on the bottom during intercourse therefore only permitting the missionary position which got its name due to Christian missionaries instructing that any other positions were unnatural. Saint Augustine believed that sex was sinful, shameful, and equated with guilt. He promoted the idea that sex is for procreation, not for pleasure. Although, when looking at the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 many of these assumptions are contradicted.

Yes, the Bible states within the first commandment to procreate, but the misconception about sex being shameful or sinful is contradicted. In the book of Genesis 2:24-25, it states that a husband must stick to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. The becoming one flesh is the sexual act which according to this, does not lead into shame. On the other hand, both husband and wife are supposed to be submissive sexually to their partner, no longer having authority over their own bodies, and cannot deny each other sex in order to refrain from satisfying in temptation from out the marriage since fidelity (faithfulness to a sexual partner) is important. The bible may permit sexual activity within a marriage between man and women; it is a sin to engage in homosexuality, bestiality (sexual relations with animals), incest (sexual relations within the immediate family structure), fornication (sex outside marriage), adultery (cheating on husband or wife), rape, and viewing pornography. It is believed that those who are sexually immoral are separated from God and will not share in God’s inheritance upon death. To engage in any of these sinful sexual activities in the past, punishment was death.

Traditional Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 views on sexuality place sexuality to be sinful. Saint Augustine states that pleasure during intercourse is the carrier of original sin, and Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome is a Christian church father, best known for translating the Bible into Latin.Saint Jerome may also refer to:*Jerome of Pavia , Bishop of Pavia...

 states that virginity is paradise, and marriage began after the fall. Along with these ideas, it was said that all forms of sex not directly open to conception is sinful, and the use of contraceptives, masturbation
Masturbation refers to sexual stimulation of a person's own genitals, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed manually, by use of objects or tools, or by some combination of these methods. Masturbation is a common form of autoeroticism...

, and homosexual acts are considered to be intrinsically disordered. One the other hand, Modern Catholic Theology states that sex is sacred because it is created by God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. Sex is sanctified by the rebirth of Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

. It helps us to grow and create bonds of love. It is only sinful when it causes harm towards one’s self or others.

Within the Islamic faith, sexual desire is considered to be a natural urge that should not be suppressed, although, the concept of free sex is not accepted; therefore these urges should be fulfilled responsibly. Marriage is considered to be a good deed and it does not hinder spiritual wayfaring. In fact, the term used for marriage within the Quran is “nikah” which literally means sexual intercourse. Although, Islam was sexually restrained, they still emphasized sexual pleasure within marriage. Along with this, it is acceptable for a man to have more than one wife, but he must take care of that wife physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. They oppose celibacy and monasticism (withdrawing from society to devote one’s self to prayer, solitude, and contemplation).

Just as all other cultures, the modern views on sexuality Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 emphasizes is that sex is only appropriate between husband and wife in which satisfying sexual urges through sexual pleasure is an important duty of marriage. Any sex before marriage is considered to interfere with their intellectual development, especially between birth and the age of 25 which is said to be brahmacharya; therefore, this should be avoided. Kama
Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

 (sensual pleasures) is one of the four purusharthas or aims of life (darma, arta, kama, and moksha). One of the sacred texts which happen to be popular within the American culture, the “Kama Sutra
Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature written by Vātsyāyana. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses...

,” was created by the Hindus as manual for love making in marriage. This text emphasizes pleasure being the aim of intercourse and even goes in depth about homosexual desires which are believed to be the same as heterosexual desires. Even within their temples (places of worship) there were depictions of sexuality within the sculptures. Such temples are at Khajuraho
The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho , a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about southeast of New Delhi, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for...

 and Konarak
Konarak may refer to:*Konarak, Iran, a city in the Sistan va Baluchestan Province of Iran*Konarak County, an administrative subdivision of Iran*Konarak, an alternative spelling for the Indian city of Konark...

, but due to colonialism, Hindus became more rigid in their views about sexuality, and then they internalized Victorian ideals of heterosexual monogamy
Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction...


Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 emphasizes the “Middle Way
Middle way
The Middle Way or Middle Path is the descriptive term that Siddhartha Gautama used to describe the character of the path he discovered that led to liberation. It was coined in the very first teaching that he delivered after his enlightenment...

” which is never reaching the extremes. According to this religion, moderation in everything is key to enlightenment or nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

; therefore, human sexuality should fall in the middle on a continuum from extreme Puritanism to extreme permissiveness. Buddhist also emphasize kama which is a sign that their basis of belief uses Hinduism as their foundation. But all in all, Buddhism does not have an specific rules to break that has horrible consequences as other religions do because Buddhist do not believe in sin, there is only the skilled and unskilled the feeling of pleasure is neither.

Sexuality in history

Sexuality has always been a vital part of the human existence and in societies from the long hunting and gathering phases of history to the rise of agriculture, the long centuries of the agricultural period of history, as well as during modern times (44). For all civilizations throughout time, there have been a few common, special characteristics of how sexuality was managed through sexual standards, representations, and behavior. Art and artifacts from past eras help portray human’s perceptions of sexuality throughout time.[6]
Sexuality and the Rise of Agriculture

Before the rise of agriculture there were groups of hunter/gatherers (H/G) or nomads inhabiting the world. Within these groups, some implications of male dominance existed, but there were also ample signs that women were active participants in sexuality with bargaining power of their own. These H/G groups had less restrictive sexual standards that emphasized sexual pleasure and enjoyment, but with definite rules and constraints. Some underlying continuities or key regulatory standards contended with the tension between recognition of pleasure, interest, and the need, for the sake of social order and economic survival. H/G groups also place high value on certain types of sexual symbolism. Two common tensions of H/G societies are expressed in their art which emphasizes male sexuality and prowess with equally common tendencies to blur gender lines in sexual matters. Some examples of these male dominated portrayals is the Egyptian creation myth when the sun god Atum masturbates in the water creating the Nile River, or in the Sumerian myth of the Gods’ semen filling the Tigris.

Within primitive art, female forms are depicted as passive, faceless, fat, and with clothing displaying their breasts or pubic hair. When it came to male forms, there were pronounced phallic apparatuses, males were associated with animals, and jewelry and ornaments to adorn the penis. They even had phallic sticks and their monuments depicted penises. Rituals of cross-dressing were also common. The Siberian Bear ceremony, these people would dress as the opposite sex for ceremonial purposes. Most people believed that to transcend gender boundaries has a spiritual meaning. Even some priests and shamans were bisexual or having “two-spirit behavior.” Some Native American groups had initiation rites where older uncles penetrate younger nephews at the first sign of puberty, clearly showing that H/G groups did not hold firm boundaries on sexual orientation. Even in Sicily, there are rock carvings of homoerotic scenes. The Inuit communities in North America had lover’s camps in which couples would go for sexual activity.

Another tension is also expressed in their actual sexual expressions which combine the importance of sexual pleasure with the need of birth control. There were three common methods of birth control used in these times, all having implications for frequency and pleasure in sexual expression. These methods are:
  1. Women nursed their babies for long periods of time, at least up to six years.
  2. They used fertility awareness or the rhythm method in which they kept tract of their menstruation, but the problem with this was they believed that conception occurs during menstruation.
  3. Couples also abstained from intercourse which could also be the reason for the acceptance of male homosexual behavior.

The Introduction of Agriculture (9000 BCE to 8000 BCE)

Once agricultural societies emerge, the sexuality framework shifts in many ways that persist for many millennia in much of Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and parts of the Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

. On common characteristic that became new to these societies was the collective supervision of sexual behavior due to the population increases and more concentrated communities due to urbanization. It was a normal event for a child to witness their parents having sex because many parents shared the same sleeping quarters with other relatives. Also, due to landownership, determining a child’s paternity became important, and society became patriarchal in their families. The used these changes in sexual ideology to try and control female sexuality and to differentiate standards by gender. With these ideologies, sexual possessiveness and increases jealousy emerged. Along with this, with the domestication of animals, new opportunities for bestiality (sex with animals) flourished. Mostly males performed these types of sexual acts and many societies acquired firm rules against it. These acts also explain the many depictions of the half man, half animal mythical creatures, and the sports of gods and goddesses with animals.

Along with agriculture came increased amounts of labor. Due to this increase labor, the importance of having children increased. Because of this, birth rates increased, breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts rather than from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for six months or...

 durations may have decreased, procreation gains more attention and significance, increases in infertility
Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term...

 among couples emerges, and women’s roles in society changes to the child bearer, mother, and care-giver. Because of this need for children, there was also an increase in disapproval about masturbation, especially for men. On the other hand, although having children were important for labor, it was also important to keep this to a minimum in order to keep the population to a minimum so again birth control is extremely important. Some methods of birth control used during these times are breastfeeding, not allowing sex before marriage especially for women, and the frequency of sexual activity might have decreased in mature adulthood, but before menopause
Menopause is a term used to describe the permanent cessation of the primary functions of the human ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining...

. Also, herbs were used to limit fertility
Fertility is the natural capability of producing offsprings. As a measure, "fertility rate" is the number of children born per couple, person or population. Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction...

 or induce abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

 is needed. It was even found that some societies used condoms made out of animal bladders, although, this was not common.
Sexuality in the Classical Period (1000 BCE to 500 CE)

While still holding onto earlier precedents of earlier civilizations, each classical civilization established a somewhat distinctive approach to gender, artistic expression of sexual beauty, and to particular behaviors such as homosexuality. Some of these distinctions are portrayed in sex manuals which were also common among these civilizations. These civilizations consist of China, Greece/Rome, Persia, and India, and each has their own history in our sexual world.
  1. China—with the introduction of Confucianism
    Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

     under the later Zhou dynasty
    Zhou Dynasty
    The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

    , and then greater acceptance of Confucian values under the mature Han dynasty
    Han Dynasty
    The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

     had direct implications on sexual standards in classical China. This society moves from tolerant and expressive to increasing regulation in interests of social hierarchy and family order. The Zhou dynast shared a strong appreciation for sexual pleasure, sexual prowess was widely appreciated, and polygamy
    Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

     was common. The classical Chinese in the 12th century BCE described male and female orgasms as fire and water, and poems used copulation imagery to represent the relationship between humans and gods. The Chinese also generated the first known sex manuals that portrayed graphic terms of body parts such as the penis being a dragon stalk or jade stalk and a clitoris being a jade pearl. Also, orgasms were described as bursting clouds. Along with these manuals, some explicit pornography
    Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

     was available for both men and women. The classical Chinese people also linked sexuality with basic philosophical principles such as being heterosexual helps a man balance yin
    Yin may refer to:*Yin, the dark force opposing yang in traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine*Yin , a rare Chinese surname claimed to be descendents from the dynasty above....

     and yang
    Yang may refer to:* Yang, in yin and yang, the word for one half of the two opposing forces in Chinese philosophy, described as "bright positive masculine principle" in Chinese dualistic cosmology* Yang County, in Shaanxi, China...

    . Also, masturbation was considered to be wrong for men, but accepted for women as long they did not penetrate themselves with a foreign object. Premarital sex was condemned, especially so in the “Book of Songs.” Fears of deviance increased, and accusations of incest increased. The emperor also lived a polygamous lifestyle with many concubines, but only one empress which he would only have sex with during his most fertile days. Also, due to the costs of taking care of a family, the more concubines one has, the more wealth they have.
  2. Greece and Rome—the ancient Greeks and Romans placed a strong emphasis on marriage and the family. There was also a belief in procreation being the primary purpose of marital sex, and couples had children for the state; therefore, in Greek society, marriage was based on economic arrangements, not sexual ones, and monogamy was emphasized with control over female sexuality. Due to this, value was placed on female restraint and virginity, and women were expected to experience periods of celibacy in order to conserve social energy for bountiful crops. Greek and Roman males were allowed considerable sexual freedom outside of marriage, and in Greece, sexual relations between men and adolescent boys were encouraged as part of the boy’s intellectual, emotional, and moral development. In Sparta
    Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

     (a Greek city-state), males were taken away to be trained by other males once hitting a certain age, and women had more public freedom with respect to their state duty of reproduction. In fact, by 500 BCE, in the Greek mainland of Miletus
    Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

    , an industry to manufacture dildos emerged, and the use of olive oil
    Olive oil
    Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

     as lubricant
    A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

     became popular. These societies did not use appropriate birth control methods because they had no knowledge of how pregnancy or conception
    Conception, or a concept, is an abstract idea or a mental symbol.Conception may also refer to:* Conception, or fertilisation, the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism.* Conception , an album by Miles Davis...

     occurs. They used a copper sulfate mixture as a contraceptive. Since birth control was unattainable, they used infanticide
    Infanticide or infant homicide is the killing of a human infant. Neonaticide, a killing within 24 hours of a baby's birth, is most commonly done by the mother.In many past societies, certain forms of infanticide were considered permissible...

     (killing of infant girls) to keep populations at bay. Female slaves were used as prostitutes. Brothels spread widely. Even one Athenian ruler, Pericles
    Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

    , took a mistress after his divorce that owned and ran a brothel to the elite. In this society, masturbation was tolerated for men, but for women it was limited—even with the manufactured dildos. Castrated men or eunuchs were responsible for the bureaucratic functions of the government
    Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

    , and they performed the hair cutting and dressing of the elite male. Greco/Roman times encouraged homosexuality between males. Lesbianism existed, but it was not as apparent. Once the Greeks gave power to the Romans, two shifts in sexuality became noteworthy. The first is that the opinion of women increased, and the second is the increased disapproval of homosexuality. One the other hand, Romans showed an increase interest in highly sexual art, they even generated sex manuals themselves, and now prostitutes have to register with the state for taxation purposes.
  3. Persia—in this classical civilization there were laws against abortion. They encouraged polygamy. Eunuchs were used in the courts. They absorbed influences from Egyptian precedents concerning sexuality and Indian ideas about the spirituality surrounding sex. Persia is also influenced by earlier Mesopotamian traditions. They learned exclusively from Greece particularly with regard to homosexual behavior between older men and younger boys in the elite classes.
  4. India—in this classical civilization, sexual pleasure was regarded as the best of all earthly pleasures. They also placed importance on reproduction, and state there is a link between sex and spirituality. The early stories about the gods and goddesses involved sexual themes. Incarnations
    Incarnations can refer to:*Incarnation of supernatural or religious entities*Incarnations of Immortality, a book series by Piers Anthony*Incarnate , a character class in a role-playing game...

     of the gods had sexual liaisons, and all major gods were always paired with goddesses who provided the basic life force. During the Gupta period, the sexual manual the “Kama Sutra
    Kama Sutra
    The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature written by Vātsyāyana. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses...

    ” became available, and is still available in the present times. This manual explained ways to maximize sexual pleasure and paid great attention towards the importance of foreplay
    In human sexual behavior, foreplay is a set of intimate psychological and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create desire for sexual activity and sexual arousal. Either or any of the sexual partners may initiate the foreplay, and they may not be the active partner during...

    . Arranged marriages were performed with the parents choosing a suitable mate within the same caste
    Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

    . In this society, it was the man’s responsibility to keep his wife and himself happy which showed an emphasis on mutuality. Although marriage was arranged based on caste and not love, love was also emphasized as important in marriage. This is why it is advised that after marriage, a couple should wait 4 nights before intercourse so that can be properly acquainted. Polygamy was also allowed, but not common. India also established the first ever global sex trade by trading female slaves with Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

     for prostitution or marriage as a concubine. Brothels also existed and were controlled by the government. Prostitutes were accomplished and educated, and they were considered to be powerful and divine in sexual force. Female virginity
    Virginity refers to the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions which place special value and significance on this state, especially in the case of unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth...

     was important for marriage, abortion was illegal, female beauty standards emphasized qualities appropriate for childbirth, and homosexuality and castration were looked down upon. Finally, in the final centuries BCE, some laws began to target non-vaginal sex.

Modern Developments

During the 18th and 19th centuries, during the beginning of the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, many changes in sexual standards have occurred. New dramatic artificial birth control devices are introduced such as the condom
A condom is a barrier device most commonly used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases . It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner...

 and diaphragm
-Optics and photography:* Diaphragm , a stop in the light path of a lens, having an aperture that regulates the amount of light that passes* Diaphragm shutter, a type of leaf shutter consisting of a number of thin blades in a camera-Acoustics:...

. Doctors started claiming a new role in sexual matters urging that their advice was crucial to sexual morality and health. Along with this, a significant new pornographic industry blossomed, and Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 adopted its first ever laws against homosexuality. On the other hand, in western societies, the definition of homosexuality is constantly changing, and their influence on others is increasing in strength. New contacts created serious issues around sexuality and sexual traditions. There were also major shifts in sexual behavior. During this period, the ages at which puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

 starts to decrease, so a new focus on adolescence
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

 as a time of sexual confusion and danger. Finally, there was a new focus on the purpose of marriage being for love rather than just economics and reproduction.
  1. Victorian Era—this era was during the 19th century after the Queen Victoria reigned in England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    . It was an era of public prudery and purity. Sexual pleasure was denied. People were influenced by conservative reforms of the British Evangelicals in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Victorian sexual morality consisted of many aspects. It was believed that sex should be confined to marriage, and that the young should control their impulses, especially men. In marriage, sexual pleasure was to be moderated by restraint. Also, sexual activity was negatively linked to health stating that male orgasm was taxing. In fact, Victorian physicians believed that the loss of semen was as detrimental to a man’s health as loss of blood. It was even said that man can go insane or prematurely die from excessive sexual intercourse. Warning about venereal diseases increased in order to scare people out of having sexual relations outside of marriage. Even a French doctor once advised that marriage was good for health because it leads to sexual boredom which in turns protect against heart attacks. Victorians were also against masturbation of any kind. They even imprisoned young men in asylums for treatment to obsessive masturbation. In fact masturbation was such an issue that different devices were created to prevent it. A spermatorrhea ring was used to prevent male nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), and a “surgical appliance” made up of leather straps and metal pockets to prevent masturbation. Cliterodectomies were performed against female habitual masturbators. Sex was emphasized to be for male pleasure, and something that women does not enjoy. During the Victorian Era, there was a ban on art and literature regarded as lewd. There was also a ban on the publicity and sale for the manufacture of any birth control items and abortion. Mainly, the people of this era showed extreme restraint.
  2. Sexual Revolution and Birth Control--“The sexual revolution is a sign of a new youth culture that included commitment to sexual expression.” The sexual revolution, occurring in the 1960s and ‘70s, happened to be an era of “Free Love
    Free Love
    Free Love may refer to:*Free love, a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social bondage, especially for women*"Free Love", a song by Morphine from their 1995 album Yes...

    .” Due to mechanization and more efficient means of production led to shorter work weeks and more leisure time was available. The invention of the automobile
    An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

     allowed for the escape from adult supervision at any time. Also, during this period, women gained equality in society through the Women’s Rights Movement. They also began to take active roles in sexual matters. Also, the introduction of penicillin in 1940 decreased fears about sexually transmitted diseases and infections. In the 1960s, the availability of birth control allowed for sexual freedom amongst women. The pill
    Pill or The Pill may refer to:* Pill , referring to anything small and round for a specific dose of medicine. The term is used colloquially in several ways:** A tablet or capsule which replaced dosing via pill...

     and the IUD came about. This emergence of birth control also allowed for spontaneity in sexual endeavors. Margaret Sanger brought about birth control while working with the scientist Gregory Pinkus who developed the birth control pill. Also, Sanger worked with Katherine McCormick who funded the birth control project, and John Rocke, a Catholic priest, whom tried to convince the Catholic Church to change their beliefs and regulations on birth control. The separation between sexual pleasure and reproduction emerged allowing for more emphasis on sexual pleasure in society. Then in the 1980s, HIV/AIDs surfaced to existence.
  3. Alfred Kinsey’s research—Alfred Kinsey initiated the modern era of sex research. He collected data by giving questionnaires to his students at Indiana University
    Indiana University
    Indiana University is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States. Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 100,000 students, including approximately 42,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus and approximately 37,000...

    , but then switched to personal interviews interested in male and female sexual behaviors. Kinsey and his colleagues sampled a total of 5,300 men and 5,940 women. His findings found that most people masturbate, that many engaged in oral-genital sex, women are capable of having multiple orgasms, and that many men had had some type of homosexual experience in their lifetime. Many believe that he was the major influence in changing 20th century attitudes about sex, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University continues to be a major center for the study of human sexuality.
  4. Masters’ and Johnson’s research—Before William Masters, a physician, and Virginia Johnson, a behavioral scientist, the study of fundamental anatomy and physiological studies of sex was still limited to experiments with lab animals. Masters and Johnson started to directly observe and record the physical responses in humans that are engaged in sexual activity under laboratory settings. They covered 10,000 episodes of sexual acts consisting of 312 men and 382 women. This led to methods of treating clinical problems and abnormalities. Masters and Johnson opened the very first sex therapy clinic in 1965. In 1970, they described their therapeutic techniques in their book “Human Sexual Inadequacy.”
  5. Today’s Influences—Sexuality of today has influences not only from our ancestry or religions. Sexuality of today is influenced by the internal commercial society within societies of today—mainly western. In fact, according to a Time Magazine/CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

     survey, 74% of teenagers said that friends and television were their main sources of sexual education. Also, the average American child spends six to eight hours a day watching, listening to, or reading some form of media.

Sexual behavior

Human sexual behavior, driven by the desire for pleasure
Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria...

, encompasses the search for a partner
Flirting is a playful, romantic, or sexual overture by one person to another subtly indicating an interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, and can involve verbal communication as well as body language...

 or partners, interactions between individuals, physical
Physical intimacy
Physical intimacy is sensual proximity or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself or be an expression of feelings which people have for one another...

, emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy is an aspect of interpersonal relationships that varies in intensity from one relationship to another and varies from one time to another, much like physical intimacy. Affect, emotion and feeling may refer to different phenomena...

, and sexual contact that may lead to foreplay
In human sexual behavior, foreplay is a set of intimate psychological and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create desire for sexual activity and sexual arousal. Either or any of the sexual partners may initiate the foreplay, and they may not be the active partner during...

, masturbation
Masturbation refers to sexual stimulation of a person's own genitals, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed manually, by use of objects or tools, or by some combination of these methods. Masturbation is a common form of autoeroticism...

 and ultimately orgasm
Orgasm is the peak of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle, characterized by an intense sensation of pleasure...


Human sexual activities or human sexual practices or human sexual behavior refers to the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts from time to time, and for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity normally results in sexual arousal
Sexual arousal
Sexual arousal, or sexual excitement, is the arousal of sexual desire, during or in anticipation of sexual activity. Things that precipitate human sexual arousal are called erotic stimuli, or colloquially known as turn-ons. There are many potential stimuli, both physical or mental, which can cause...

 and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity also includes conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners (mating
Courtship is the period in a couple's relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. In courtship, a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement or other such agreement...

 and display
Display (zoology)
Display is a form of animal behaviour, linked to survival of the species in various ways. One example of display used by some species can be found in the form of courtship, with the male usually having a striking feature that is distinguished by colour, shape or size, used to attract a female...

 behavior), and personal interactions between individuals, such as flirting
Flirting is a playful, romantic, or sexual overture by one person to another subtly indicating an interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, and can involve verbal communication as well as body language...

 and foreplay
In human sexual behavior, foreplay is a set of intimate psychological and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create desire for sexual activity and sexual arousal. Either or any of the sexual partners may initiate the foreplay, and they may not be the active partner during...


Human sexual activity has biological, physical
Physical intimacy
Physical intimacy is sensual proximity or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself or be an expression of feelings which people have for one another...

 and emotional aspects
Emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy is an aspect of interpersonal relationships that varies in intensity from one relationship to another and varies from one time to another, much like physical intimacy. Affect, emotion and feeling may refer to different phenomena...

. Biologically
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, it refers to the reproductive mechanism as well as the basic biological drive that exists in all species and can encompass sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

 and sexual contact in all its forms. Emotional aspects deal with the intense personal bonds
Human bonding
Human bonding is the process of development of a close, interpersonal relationship. It most commonly takes place between family members or friends, but can also develop among groups such as sporting teams and whenever people spend time together...

 and emotions generated between sexual partners by a sexual activity. Physical issues around sexuality range from purely medical
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 considerations to concerns about the physiological
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 or even psychological
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and sociological
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 aspects of sexual behaviour.
In humans, sex has been claimed to produce health benefits as varied as improved sense of smell, stress
Stress (biology)
Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance...

 and blood pressure reduction,
increased immunity
Immune system
An immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own...

, and decreased risk of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

. Sexual intimacy, as well as orgasms, increases levels of the hormone oxytocin
Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain.Oxytocin is best known for its roles in sexual reproduction, in particular during and after childbirth...

, also known as "the love hormone", which helps people bond and build trust. A long-term study of 3,500 people between 30 and 101 by clinical neuropsychologist David Weeks, MD, head of old age psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, found that "sex helps you look between four and seven years younger", according to impartial ratings of the subjects' photos. Exclusive causation, however, is unclear, and the benefits may be indirectly related to sex and directly related to significant reductions in stress, greater contentment, and better sleep that sex promotes.

In contrast to its benefits, sexual intercourse can also be a disease vector. There are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) every year in the U.S., and worldwide there are over 340 million STDs a year. More than half of all STDs occur in adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years. At least one in four U.S. teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. In the US, about 30% of 15–17 year old adolescents have had sexual intercourse, but only about 80% of 15–19 year old adolescents report using condoms for their first sexual intercourse. More than 75% of young women age 18–25 years felt they were at low risk of acquiring an STD in one study.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Many people believe that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are retributions for having premarital or immoral sex. Others believe they result from promiscuity. These beliefs are incorrect; hundreds of people, both men and women, have caught STIs from adulterous partners. In addition, newborns have contracted them from their infected mothers. In the past, STIs have been referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) but today, health professionals refer to them as STIs to emphasize that they are infectious diseases (other disease such as heart disease are not). For the most part, sexually transmitted infections are spread by sexual contact (including vaginal and anal intercourse and oral-genital contact) with someone who has the bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause the infections. Many people cannot tell that their partner has an STI because many are asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). Anyone that is engaging in sexual activity is at risk for contracting STIs. Some of the most common STIs are described below:
  1. Chlamydia:
    1. Most women have no symptoms. Those that do may have:
      1. Abnormal vaginal discharge
      2. Burning when urinating
      3. Bleeding in between periods
    2. Most men will experience:
      1. Pain when urinating
      2. Abnormal discharge from their penis
    3. If left untreated in both men and women, Chlamydia can infect the urinary tract and potentially lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause serious problems during pregnancy and even cause infertility. Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics.
  2. Herpes Simplex Viruses:
    1. The two most common forms of herpes are caused by infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV).
      1. HSV-1 is acquired orally and causes cold sores
      2. HSV-2 is acquired during sexual contact and affects the genitals
    2. Some people are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. Those that do experience symptoms usually notice them 2 to 20 days after exposure which last 2 to 4 weeks. Both men and women can have one or more of the following symptoms:
      1. Small fluid-filled blisters that leave small painful sores when they burst
      2. Headaches
      3. Backaches
      4. Itching or tingling sensations in the genital or anal area
      5. Pain when urinating
      6. Flu like symptoms; swollen glands or fever
    3. Herpes is spread through skin contact with a person infected with the virus. The virus affects the areas where is enters the body. This can occur during:
      1. Anal sex
      2. Vaginal sex
      3. Kissing (HSV-1 only)
      4. Oral sex (HSV-1 and HSV 2)
    4. The virus is most infectious during times when there are visible symptoms however; those who are asymptomatic might not have breaks in the skin or visible symptoms. There is still a risk of the virus being spread through skin contact. The primary attack is the most severe because the body does not have any antibodies built up. After the primary attack, one might have recurring attacks that are milder or might not even have future attacks. There is no cure for the disease but there are antiviral medications that treat its symptoms and lower the risk of transmission (Valtrex).
  3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV):
    1. The human papillomavirus is the most common STI in the United States. There are more than 40 different strands of HPV and many do not cause any health problems. In 90% of cases the body’s immune system clears the infection naturally within 2 years. Some cases may not be cleared and can lead to:
      1. Genital warts- small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like cauliflower bumps around the genitals
      2. Cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers- Symptoms might not show up until advanced stages. It is important for women to get regular pap smears in order to check for and treat cancers. There are also two vaccines available for women (Cervarix
        Cervarix is a vaccine against certain types of cancer-causing human papillomavirus .Cervarix is designed to prevent infection from HPV types 16 and 18, that cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. These types also cause some other genital cancers and some oropharyngeal cancers...

         and Gardasil
        Gardasil , also known as Gardisil or Silgard, is a vaccine for use in the prevention of certain types of human papillomavirus , specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancers, and are responsible for most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal,...

        ) that protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
      3. HPV can be passed through genital-to-genital contact as well as during oral sex. It is important to remember that the infected partner might not have any symptoms.
  4. Gonorrhea:
    1. Gonorrhea is caused by bacterium that lives on moist mucous membranes in the urethra, vagina, rectum, mouth, throat, and eyes. The infection can spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus. Symptoms of Gonorrhea usually appear 2 to 5 days after contact with an infected partner however, some men might not notice symptoms for up to a month. Symptoms include:
      1. In men:
        1. Burning and pain while urinating
        2. Increased urinary frequency
        3. Discharge from the penis (white, green, or yellow in color)
        4. Red or swollen urethra
        5. Swollen or tender testicles
        6. Sore throat
      2. Many women do not experience symptoms however those that do may have:
        1. Vaginal discharge
        2. Burning or itching while urinating
        3. Painful sexual intercourse
        4. Severe pain in lower abdomen (if infection spreads to fallopian tubes)
        5. Fever (if infection spreads to fallopian tubes)
    2. There are some antibiotic resistant strains for Gonorrhea but most cases can be cured with antibiotics (same as those used to treat Chalamydia).
  5. HIV/AIDS:
    1. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damages the body’s immune system which interferes with fighting off disease causing agents. HIV is spread through sexual contact. In addition, it can also be spread by contact with infected blood, breast feeding, childbirth, and from mother to child during pregnancy. When HIV is at its most advanced stage an individual is said to have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). There are different stages of the progression of and HIV infection. The stages include:
      1. Primary HIV-Once infected, an individual will have flu like symptoms (headache, fatigue, fever, muscle aches) for about 2 weeks
      2. Asymptomatic HIV-Symptoms usually disappear and can remain asymptomatic for years
      3. Symptomatic HIV-Weakened immune system
        Immune system
        An immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own...

         and low cell (helper T cells and T4 lymphocytes) count
      4. AIDS
        Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

        —HIV is not called AIDS until it is life-threatening. People with AIDS fall prey to opportunistic infections and die as a result. When the disease was first discovered in the 1980s, those who had AIDS were not likely to live longer than a few years. Today however, there are 31 antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) used to treat HIV infection. There is no known cure for HIV or AIDS but the drugs help suppress the virus. By suppressing the amount of virus in the body, people can lead longer and healthier lives. Even though their virus levels may be low they can still spread the virus to others.

Birth Control

The birth control pill was introduced in 1960 however, until recently condoms and other birth control options that did not require a visit to the doctor were kept behind the counter in drugstores. This inhibited many people from purchasing them. Today, there are numerous contraceptive devices for males as well as females that are sold openly.
  1. Relatively Ineffective Methods
    1. Withdrawal (coitus interruptus): One of the most popular ways in which young people try to avoid pregnancy. This method involves the man withdrawing his penis just before reaching orgasm and ejaculating outside his partner’s vagina.
    2. Douching: Some women believe douching is an effective method because it washes out the contents of the vagina (doing it after sex would get rid of sperm). Many do not know that no matter how rapidly a woman douches after sex some sperm have already traveled into the cervix.
    3. Lactational Amenorrhea (breast-feeding): When a woman is breast-feeding the sucking response of the baby on her nipple inhibits the pituitary from releasing FSH and LH. This prevents ovulation and normal menstrual cycles.
  2. Fertility Awareness Methods
    1. Calendar Method: This method has been promoted by the Catholic Church as a morally acceptable form of family planning. The Calendar method is based on 3 assumptions :
      • Ovulation occurs 14 days before a woman’s menstrual cycle, plus or minus 2 days
      • Sperm can remain alive for up to 3 days
      • The ovum can be fertilized 24 hours after it has been released from the ovary

Using those 3 concepts, a woman with a regular cycle can count backwards from the first day of her period to figure out when she will be ovulating and avoid having sex during that time in the following month.
    1. Basal Body Temperature Method: This method involves recording a woman’s body temperature throughout her menstrual cycle. A woman’s basal (resting) temperature rises just before ovulation. The rise in temperature tells a woman when she is most fertile.
    2. Billings Method: Mucus is discharged from the cervix throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. It changes from white and sticky to clear and stretchy (like that of an egg white) a day or two before ovulation. The billings method is a form of natural birth control that teaches a woman to recognize when she is fertile by examining her cervical mucus. To prevent pregnancy, a woman should refrain from sex during the time when she is most fertile.
    3. Sympto-thermal Method: Combination of the basal body temperature method and the billings method to prevent pregnancy.
  1. Spermicides: Substances that Kill Sperm

A spermicide is a chemical product that comes in the form of a foam, jelly, or cream. The purpose of a spermicide is to kill any sperm before it reaches the cervix. In order to increase the effectiveness of them, spermicides should be used with other barrier forms of birth control (condoms, diaphragms, cervical cap, etc.).
  1. Barrier Methods: Preventing Sperm from Meeting Egg
    1. Male Condoms: Thin sheaths made from lamb intestine, latex rubber, synthetic or polyurethane elastomers that fit over the penis and trap sperm. Condoms are highly effective in preventing the transmission of STIs.
    2. Female Condoms: Thin sheath or pouch that a woman wears during sex. It lines the vagina entirely and helps prevent STIs as well.
    3. Diaphragm: A shallow, dome-shaped, silicone cup inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy.
    4. Cervical Cap: A cervical cap resembles a small thimble and is inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy
    5. Lea’s Shield: Similar to the cervical cap this method is cup-shaped and made of silicone. It has a 1-way valve that allows the passage of cervical secretions.
    6. Contraceptive Sponge: A soft, disk-shaped device that is made of polyurethane foam that covers the cervix.
  2. Intrauterine Devices (IUD)

An IUD is a small t-shaped piece of plastic or metal that is placed in the uterus to prevent fertilization. There are 2 types: one is covered with copper, and the other releases the hormone progesterone. IUDs have not been extremely popular in the United States. In the past, IUDs had a thread hanging outside of a woman’s body which easily spread bacteria causing pelvic inflammatory disease. Now, IUDs are very safe. They have polyerthylene strings which are not as likely to cause infection.
  1. Hormonal Methods
    1. Oral Contraception: Medications taken by women to prevent pregnancy. These pills may contain a combination of the hormones estrogen, progestin, or progestin alone. Combinations of estrogen and progestin prevent pregnancy by inhibiting the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Pills are taken for 21 days followed by a 7 day break when a woman menstruates. The pill is highly effective if taken every day at the same time.
    2. Injectable Contraception: A hormonal method for those who cannot remember to take the pill every day at the same time. Depro-Provera is an injectable (shot) medicine that prevents pregnancy for up to 3 months with each injection. It contains progestin and works by preventing ovulation by inhibiting the release of LH and FSH.

Sexual attraction

Sexual attraction
Sexual attraction
Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context...

 is an important aspect of the sexuality of the person being observed, as well as of the person observing. Each person determines the qualities that they find attractive, which vary from person to person. A person's sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

 has a significant influence on which qualities they will find attractive. The qualities that people can find sexually attractive may depend on the physical quality, including both looks and movements of a person but can also be influenced by voice or smell as well as by individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

 preferences resulting from a variety of genetic
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

, psychological, and cultural factors.

Creating a relationship

People both consciously and subconsciously seek to attract others with whom they can form deeper relationships. This may be for companionship, for procreation, for an intimate relationship
Intimate relationship
An intimate relationship is a particularly close interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic or passionate love and attachment, or sexual activity. The term is also sometimes used euphemistically for a sexual...

, besides other possible purposes. This involves interactive processes whereby people find and attract potential partners, and maintain a relationship. These processes, which involve attracting a partner and maintaining sexual interest, can include:
  • Flirting
    Flirting is a playful, romantic, or sexual overture by one person to another subtly indicating an interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, and can involve verbal communication as well as body language...

     can be used to attract the sexual attention of another in order to encourage romance or sexual relations, and can involve body language
    Body language
    Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously....

    , conversation, joking or brief physical contact.
  • Seduction
    In social science, seduction is the process of deliberately enticing a person to engage. The word seduction stems from Latin and means literally "to lead astray". As a result, the term may have a positive or negative connotation...

     is the process whereby one person deliberately entices another to engage in some sort of human sexual behavior
    Human sexual behavior
    Human sexual activities or human sexual practices or human sexual behavior refers to the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts from time to time, and for a wide variety of reasons...

    . The medium of communication of sexual interest can be verbal or visual.
  • Dating
    Dating (activity)
    Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse...

     is the process of arranging meetings or outings with a potential partner to investigate or enhance their suitability for an intimate partnership
    Intimate relationship
    An intimate relationship is a particularly close interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic or passionate love and attachment, or sexual activity. The term is also sometimes used euphemistically for a sexual...

  • The prospect of physical intimacy
    Physical intimacy
    Physical intimacy is sensual proximity or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself or be an expression of feelings which people have for one another...

     is, at times, the most effective means of sexual attraction. This can be by way of an expression of feeling
    Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

    s such as close friendship
    Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum...

     or love
    Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

    , including holding hands
    Holding hands
    Holding hands is a form of physical intimacy involving two or more people. It may or may not be sexual.Whether friends hold hands depends on culture and gender: in the Western culture this is mainly done by women and small children , spouses and romantic couples...

    , hug
    A hug is a form of physical intimacy, that usually involves closing or holding the arms around the neck, back, or waist of another person; if more than two persons are involved, this is referred to as a group hug. A hug, sometimes in association with a kiss, eye contact or other gestures, is a...

    ging, kiss
    A kiss is the act of pressing one's lips against the lips or other body parts of another person or of an object. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, and good...

    ing, or caressing.

Legal issues

There are many laws and social customs which prohibit, or in some way have an impact on sexual activities. These laws and customs vary from country to country, and have varied over time. They cover, for example, a prohibition to non-consensual sex, to sex outside of marriage, to sexual activity in public, besides many others. Many of these restrictions are non-controversial, but some have been the subject of public debate.

Most societies consider it a serious crime to force someone to engage in sexual acts or to engage in sexual activity with someone who does not consent. This is called sexual assault
Sexual assault
Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

, and if sexual penetration occurs it is called rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, the most serious kind of sexual assault. The details of this distinction may vary among different legal jurisdictions. Also, what constitutes effective consent in sexual matters 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
Age of consent
While the phrase age of consent typically does not appear in legal statutes, when used in relation to sexual activity, the age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. The European Union calls it the legal age for sexual...

) are frequently the subject of debate, as is adolescent sexual behavior in general.

See also

  • Index of human sexuality articles
  • Sex magic
    Sex magic
    Sex magic is a term for various types of sexual activity used in magical, ritualistic or otherwise religious and spiritual pursuits. One practice of sex magic is using the energy of sexual arousal or orgasm with visualization of a desired result...

  • Sexologies: European Journal of Sexual Health (Revue Européenne de Santé Sexuelle)
    Sexologies: European Journal of Sexual Health (Revue Européenne de Santé Sexuelle)
    The Sexologies: European Journal of Sexual Health is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Elsevier and is the official journal for the European Federation of Sexology...

  • Sexology
    Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behavior, and function. The term does not generally refer to the non-scientific study of sex, such as political analysis or social criticism....

  • Sexualization
  • Mental roots of sexual orientation
    Mental roots of sexual orientation
    A theory about the development of sexual orientation and sexual arousal suggests that these behavior patterns are learned unconsciously from asexual experiences during childhood. The learning begins when the child distinguishes between men and women by the pitch of their voice...

External links

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