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Lecture%2012%20-%20Chapter%2012 - Chapter 12 Sexuality...

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Chapter 12
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Sexuality Sexuality “is a type of social interaction through which we perceive, experience, and express ourselves as sexual beings” (L&B p. 171). Although much argument can be made that sex and sexuality are biological and natural, sociologists are concerned with how sexuality is socially defined and patterned. Whether one’s sexual identity is biologically determined or socially determined is of interest to researchers. Much publicity has been given to studies illustrating that sexual orientation is determined genetically. Thus, many gay and lesbian groups argue that their sexual preferences are not chosen, as was believed in the past, but rather a genetic predisposition that they cannot control. Our book indicates that the research and evidence simply isn’t there to conclusively demonstrate whether sexual orientation has a basis in genetics, but that this shouldn’t worry us much, because, as sociologists, we are more concerned with how society influences sexuality.
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How is Sexuality Socially Defined? Sociologists see sexuality as shaped and influenced by social influences. We can see the social and cultural basis of sexuality in the following ways: Human sexual attitudes and behavior vary in different cultural contexts. If sex was purely a natural phenomenon, we wouldn’t expect to find variations across cultures. For example, in some cultures, women do not believe that orgasm exists, though biologically it does. Some African tribes practice FGM, female genital mutilation, also called female circumcision, whereby girls or women have parts of their genitilia removed or cut for non-medical (often religious) purposes. This controversial practice is used as a rite of passage for women in these tribes, as well as a way to control their sexuality and fertility. In India, the hijras are a sexual minority group that are considered to be a third gender, neither man nor woman. This is a good example of how sexuality is socially constructed. Sexual attitudes and behavior change over time. In many cultures today, like our own, incest is taboo and considered gross, and many forms are illegal (for example, you cannot legally marry your sibling or, in many states, your first cousin). However, this has not always been the case. In ancient times in Egypt, incestuous marriages were quite common and accepted, and many royal families in ancient civilizations includes incestuous relationships in order to keep royalty within the family. Masturbation is another sexual activity that has been culturally interpreted in a variety of ways. In the 18 th and 19 th centuries, and even into the 20 th century, myths about the evils of masturbation existed in the United States and elsewhere, products of religion. Nowadays, most people accept that masturbation is a normal sexual activity, though one we should not speak of in mixed company.
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How is Sexuality Socially Defined?
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