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.
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
centuries, and even into the 20
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.