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Sexuality 492 - agar" I l’art'IV i Social Inequality...

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Unformatted text preview: agar? " I l’art'IV i Social Inequality I " century that the Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwen- hoek observed that sperm ‘swam’ in human semen. And it was not until 1875 that Oscar Hertwig became the first scientist to observe the fertilization of an egg by sperm— in sea urchins. Much of the early scientific research on sex focused on the biomedical aspects of sex and procreation. From there, some scientific work shifted focus towards ‘sexual deviance’, which included any and all acts that did not have reproduction as a possibility and goal. In other words, the development of sexoiogy involved a shift in focus from reproductive processes to the study of sexual practices. For some time this branch of the field remained medical rather than social in orientation. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as physicians sought to strengthen their hold on the med— ical profession and to extend their professional control over the human body and mind, ‘sexual deviance’ was seen as a mental illness, to be treated by medical interven— tions. Indeed, the American Psychological Association only removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders¥found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Man— ual omeml Disorders—in 1973. This type of scientific approach to studying sex, which focused on sex for procreation in marriage as nor mal and all other sexual activity as deviant, was deeply ingrained in the social thinking until fairly recently. A 1967 academic textbook entitled Human Sexuality A Contemporary Marriage Manual (McCary, 1967) included chapters on such topics as (The Female Reproductive Sys— tem”, ‘Fertilization, Prenatal Development and Parturi— tion’, KTechniques in Sexual Arousal’, and cPositions in Sexual intercourse”, and the last chapter, ‘Sexual Aberra— tions', dealt with what was deemed to be deviant: sexual oralism, sexual analism (among a list of abnormal meth— ods), homosexuality, zoophilia, necrophilia, masturbation (among a list of abnormal choices of sexual partners), and frigidity, promiscuity, and seduction (among a list of abnormal degrees of desire). The message of this scholarly text was clear, and not very different from the very earli» est studies of sex: not only is human sexuality something that takes place between heterosexuals, but only within marriage, for procreation, and using prescribed and approved methods and positions. Throughout the 1800s and into the 19003, a num— ber of prominent thinkers contributed to a growing body of sex research. Sigmund Freud (1856—1939), for example, the founder of psychoanalysis, produced a comprehensive theory of human development with sex at the centre. According to Freud, the development of a healthy adult personality depended on the successful navigation through various stages of psychosocial and psychosexual development, each involving the careful management of various aspects of the sexual instinct. In fact, many of the early theories of sexuality used the metaphor of repression, which comes from hydraulics, and includes the idea or image of a gushing energy that must be held back and controlled. Sexuality, historically, has been perceived as an innate “force’ that needs to be regulated and successfully manipulated or (re)directed towards acceptable channels. Both scientific and popular examples of this way of thinking about sex and sexuality continue to this day. For example, Jim Popp, head coach and general manager of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, asked his players to refrain from sex during the week leading up to the 2006 Grey Cup championship game (Canadian Press, 2006b). Presumably, he wanted their energy and stamina channelled into hard»hitting play that would lead to a Grey Cup victory (they lost the game, by the way!). On the scientific side, while not specifically psycho— analytic in focus, Edward Shorter shares with his Freudian predecessors the idea that sexual behaviour is rooted in innate biological drives, Shorter argues in Witter: in the Flesh: A History of Desire that ‘sexual behaviour and sensual pleasure are products of biologi— cally driven desire rather than of fashion or social condi- tioning’ (Shorter, 2005: 3—4). He explains that just as our bodies tell us what we might like to eat, they also have brain-driven impulses that direct our sexual desires. According to Shorter, sexual gratifiCation =springs from unleashed human biology’ (ibid., 240). Another pioneer in the scientific study of sexuality was Henry Havelock Ellis (1859—1939). His is also conv sidered a biological approach to the study of sex; how- ever, unlike most others at the time, he tried to demystify sex and challenge many of the accepted sexual norms of Victorian England, famous for its sexually repressive norms and abundance of clandestine erotic lite erature (see Kearney, 1982). For example, he assured his readers that masturbation did not lead to illness and homosexuality was not a disease. He argued that homo~ sexuality was simply an innate variation from the norm, not a vice or an amoral choice. Social Survey Approach Like Ellis, the American biologist Alfred Kinsey (1894—1956) broke new ground in the scientific study of sex by challenging some of the accepted norms of his ...
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