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- This article is about the issues and phenomena pertaining to human sexual function and behavior. For information about sexual activities and practices, see the article human sexual behavior. For information on animal sexuality see Animal sexuality. For information specifically dealing with adolescents see Adolescent sexuality.
Human sexuality refers to the expression of sexual sensation and related intimacy between human beings, as well as the expression of identity through sex and as influenced by or based on sex. There are a great many forms of human sexuality (sexual functions). The sexuality of human beings comprises a broad range of behavior and processes, including the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, and spiritual or religious aspects of sex and human sexual behavior. Philosophy, particularly ethics and the study of morality, as well as theology, also address the subject. In almost any historical era or culture, the arts, including literary and visual arts, as well as popular culture, present a substantial portion of a given society's views on sexuality. In most societies and legal jurisdictions, there are legal bounds on what sexual behavior is permitted. Sexuality varies across the cultures and regions of the world, and has continually changed throughout history.
A large variety of books, educational websites, and local education/support/social organizations exist for various forms of sexuality.
Scope of human sexuality
The term human sexuality covers a very wide range including:
- The physiology (or actual biology) of human sexuality, and sexually-related aspects of how the body works.
- Who and what people are sexually attracted to. (Sexual orientation)
- How we see ourselves, which may differ from the physical form we have, ie, personal identity. (Intersex, transsexual)
- How we come to choose the sexual choices we make. (Environment, choice, and sexual orientation)
- How humans act in seeking sexual activity, and with sexual partners, and the scope of sexually oriented behaviours. (Human sexual behavior)
- The psychological significance of sex, which may be related to its emotional effects, its physiological effects, or tied up with other psychological aspects, such as power, control, or the need for security.
- Sex and its relationship to social structure, thus sex within marriage, religion, morality and the law.
- Arts and media depiction of sexuality.
- Sex education.
- Social norms, traditions and rituals related to sexuality.
- Understanding of sexual activity outside those norms. (see Paraphilia)
- How society judges where lines are to be drawn, what constitutes unacceptable conduct, who is vulnerable to its abuse, and how they are protected or violators dealt with.
- Research into human sexuality. (such as the Kinsey Reports)
- Sexual positions
- Safe sex
Human sexuality can be influenced by hormonal changes in the development of the fetus during pregnancy. Some hypothesize that manner of expression is largely because of genetic predisposition. Others hypothesize it is because of personal experimentation in early life, and thus the establishment of preferences. A less divisive approach recognizes that both factors may have a mutual role to play. Human physiology and gender makes certain forms of sexual expression possible.
Sexual dysfunction addresses a variety of biological circumstances whereby human sexual function is impaired. These manifestations can be in the form of libido diminution or performance limitations. Both male and female can suffer from libido reduction, which can have roots in stress, loss of intimacy, distraction or derive from other physiological conditions.
Performance limitations may most often affect the male in the form of erectile dysfunction. Causes of this may derive from various forms of disease pathology including cardiovascular disease, which can reduce penile blood flow along with supply of blood to various parts of the body. Moreover environmental stressors such as prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels or over-illumination can also induce cardiovascular changes especially if exposure is chronic.
Human sexuality can also be understood as part of the social life of humans, governed by implied rules of behavior and the status quo. Thus, it is claimed, sexuality influences social norms and society in turn influences the manner in which sexuality can be expressed. Since the invention of the mass media, things such as movies and advertising have given sexuality even more ability to shape the environments in which we live. Some see sexuality as distilled (often into stereotypes) and then repeatedly expressed in commercialized forms.
Gender identity is an aspect of human sexuality that can be affected by one's social environment, and differerent social environments can have specific attributes they associate with each sex, such as certain types of dress, colors, behaviors. A common example in Western media could be the portrayal of a little boy in blue shorts and a white T-shirt playing with a toy truck, while a girl is shown in a pink dress playing with a doll.
Society and politics
Sex education is the introduction of sexual topics within an educational context. Almost all western countries have some form of sex education, but the nature varies widely. In some countries (such as Australia and much of Europe) "age-appropriate" sex education often begins in pre-school, whereas other countries (notably the USA) leave sex education to the teenage years and even the late teenage years. Sex education covers a whole range of topics from "where do babies come from?", contraception, abstinence, signs of sexual diseases, and the social and psychological implications of sexual relationships.
Cultural and psychiatric aspects
Human sexual behavior in most individuals is typically influenced, or heavily affected by norms from the culture in which the individual lives. Examples of such norms are prohibitions on sexual intercourse before marriage, or against homosexual sexualities, or other activities, because the religion to which the individual's culture adheres forbids such activities (see taboo). Sometimes, if not most times, such culturally induced behaviors do not reflect the natural sexual inclinations of the individual.
Those who wish to express a dissident sexuality are often forced to form sub-cultures within the main culture due to various forms of oppression or repression. In other cases, forms of sexuality may develop into a fetish or alternately develop as a form of psychiatric disorder or paraphilia.
Study of sexuality
- See also: Non-human animal sexuality
- Sexology (the study of sex)
- Sex organs
- Genital modification and mutilation are practiced for a variety of reasons, including medical and socio-cultural. This area is often controversial.
- Castration: the removal of some or all of male external sexual organs, practice often for punitive purposes, or cultural reasons
- Sterilization, the surgical modification of sexual-reproductive organs to prevent fertility
- Male circumcision (often simply, circumcision)
- Foreskin restoration
- Female circumcision (also known as female genital mutiliation)
- Sexual development
- Sexual lifestyles
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Sexual behavior (sexual acts & practices) and directly-related topics
- The Basics
- Safer sex
- Sexual arousal
- Cruising for sex
- Erogenous zone
- List of sexual slang
- Sexual intercourse
- Mutual masturbation
- Oral sex
- Opposite-Gender sexual practices
- Same-Gender sexual practices
- Casual sex
- Dirty Talk
- Cyber sex
- Phone sex
- Lingerie (erotic clothing)
- Makeup sex
- Premarital sex
- Sexual fantasy
- Alternative/explorative sexual activities
- Penis enlargement
- Fisting and handballing
- Public sex
- Sexual roleplaying
- Cross dressing
- Sensual massage
- Wax play
- Sex toys
- Strap-on dildos
- Sexual lubricants
- Sex dolls
- Nipple clamps
- Anal beads
- Penis sleeves
- Penis extensions
- Ben wah balls
- Kegel exercisers
- Group sex
- Body modification
- Fetishism or Sexual fetishism
- Kinky sex
- Modern primitive
- Play piercing
- The Basics
- Socio-cultural aspects
- Casting couch
- Club wear
- Male prostitution
- Sex in advertising
- Nightclubs, sex clubs, and swing clubs
- Sex scandals
- Sexual morality
- Sexual slang
- Sexism: generally, a form of discrimination based on gender, which may or may not be directly related to views on sexuality or sexual behavior per se.
- Situational sexual behavior
- Harem effect
- Prison sexuality
- Religious aspects
- Mythology of same-sex love
- Kama sutra
- Consecrated virgins
- Sex crimes and crime-related sexual topics
- Sex and the occult
- Sex magic
- Other related issues
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- Geary, D. C., Vigil, J., & Byrd-Craven, J. (2004). Evolution of human mate choice. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 27-42. Full text
- Greiling, H., Buss, D.M. (2000). Women's Sexual Strategies: The hidden dimension of extra pair mating. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 929-963. Full text
- Hill, S. E. & Reeve, H. K. (2004). Mating Games: the Evolution of Human Mating Transactions. Behavioral Ecology, 15, 748-756. Full text
- Kurzban, R., & Weeden, J. (2005). HurryDate: Mate preferences in action. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26, 3, 227-244. Full text
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- Marlowe, F.W. (2003). The Mating System of Foragers in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample. Cross-Cultural Research, 37, 282-306. Full text
- Pillsworth, E.G., Haselton, M.G., & Buss, D.M. (2004). Ovulatory shifts in female sexual desire. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 55-65. Full text
- Roberts S.C., Little A.C., Gosling L.M., Perrett D., Jones B.C., Carter V., Penton-Voak I.S. & Petrie M. MHC-heterozygosity and human facial attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior 26, 213-226. Full text
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- Schmitt, D.P., Alcalay, L., Allik, J., Angleiter, A., Ault, L., Austers, I., et al. (2004). Patterns and universals of mate poaching across 53 nations: The effects of sex, culture, and personality on romantically attracting another person's partner. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 560-584. Full text
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- Francoeur, Robert T. (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality full text
- Haeberle, Erwin J., [http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/GESUND/ARCHIV/SEN/INDEX.HTM Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Erwin J. Haeberle.
Original editors: Vern L. Bullough and Bonnie Bullough] [full text]
- Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas [full text]
- Program in Human Sexuality Studies
- National Sexuality Resource Center
- American Sexuality Magazine
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
- History of Surveys of Sexual Behavior from Encyclopedia of Behavioral Statistics
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHUCCP) creates behavior change communication programs related to Reproductive Health in developing countries.
- POPLINE is a searchable database of the world's reproductive health literature.
- Sex education - preschoolers
- Private Sector Partnerships USAID project focused on increasing the private sector's role in providing high-quality health products and services in developing countries.
- The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality
- The Sexuality and Rights Institute
- Sex and Sexuality in the 21st Century:How and Why We Got There
This article traces a series of issues related to sexuality and changing values regarding sexuality from post-WWII to the present.
- NEW Survey about Sexual Desire The sexual desire as a significant aspect of the Human Sexual Behavior
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