Sexuality – Examining and Defining Human Sexuality

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“Examining and defining human sexuality is a complex issue and has been for a very long time. According to the textbook, human sexuality can be defined as “the ways in which people experience and express themselves as sexual beings” (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018, p.4). Another view of sexuality is considering the “orientation and attraction to people of the opposite gender, the same gender, or both” (Mogila, 2017). How sexuality is manifested is heavily influenced by culture, religion, values, life experiences, biology, and a variety of other factors that make it a complex issue that has been this way for a very long time (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018).

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Historically, varying attitudes in sexual trends show that there has always been differing attitudes and behavior when it comes to sexuality. Some cultures, such as the ancient Greeks and early Christians, had many contrasting trends.

In ancient Greece families were considered important (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). That being said, there also seemed to be a fascination with their interpretation of a fit male and would also engage in crude humor (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Ancient Greeks also embraced the idea of bisexuality, and males were able to have homosexual relationships as long as it didn’t negatively impact the family (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). A young man having a relationship with an older successful man wasn’t seen as taboo and could possibly elevate the family’s status (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Prostitution was also a common practice, and the locations were easy to locate and seeking sexual pleasure wasn’t stigmatized (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). While attitudes toward sex seemed more liberating towards men, women were still subjugated to their husband or closest male relative (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). They were restricted in their ability to receive an education, what they could do outside of the home, and could be easily divorced for no reason or for committing adultery (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Men seemed to be the major players in society, while the women were their property whose role was to raise the family.

Christianity also valued the family, but their emphasis on sexual acts was a little bit different from the ancient Greeks. Due to other influences at the time, they began to view sexual acts at giving in to physical temptations associated with sin (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). As such, celibacy was celebrated and sex was viewed to only occur within marriage between a husband and wife, and divorce wasn’t allowed (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Sex was strictly to be used for procreation and wasn’t viewed as something that should be pleasurable (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Any sexual act outside of vaginal intercourse was seen as abominable, including homosexual activity (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Being a virgin before marriage was also viewed as a must, although the emphasis seemed to be more on the woman being a virgin than the man (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Women were seen as either being “pure and virtuous” or “evil temptresses (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018).

The overarching theme in early Christianity is that sexual feelings were associated with sin and shame. As different factions began to form sex was also seen as something that could strengthen a marriage (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). One similarity that early Christians shared with the ancient Greeks is that women were limited in their ability to receive education and were seen to be mainly homemakers (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). While there are still some Christian religions that support those beliefs, many denominations have since evolved and their view on sexuality looks very different today than it did back then.

One major catalyst that has impacted modern views of sexuality is what the textbook refers to as the “sexual revolution” during the 1960s and 1970s (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). This period of time created a shift in our society by encouraging sex to be discussed more openly and to question some of the beliefs that have been held for generations (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). Double standards that had been held were challenged and women were encouraged to explore their sexuality (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2018). For example, the belief that heterosexual orientation is the norm has been prevalent in most societies, and that the only other option is homosexuality (Moglia, 2017). Instead it is now viewed to be more of a continuum according to researchers, although this is still challenged by some Christian beliefs (Jordan, 2011)(Moglia, 2017). Research has also disproved some long standing beliefs that homosexuality is caused by dysfunctional family environments (Moglia, 2017).

Christians also began to question their views on what sexuality meant and created opportunities to challenge some of the long held beliefs and gender norms that were prevalent in society (Jordan, 2011). That being said, there are still some concerns as to how prevalent sex is in our society (Jordan, 2011). The creation of birth control brought up many concerns among those who were against recreational sex, and there are still many debates surrounding the use of contraceptives (Jordan, 2011). This

The sexual revolution also challenged gender roles and, along with the ideas of sexual orientation, gender expression is also being discusses has having a spectrum by some. This has also caused the Christian religion to further define how they see gender and what that looks like. One belief is that gender is strictly binary and while men and women aren’t the same, they are complimentary towards each other (Balswick & Balswick, 2008). Sex is still seen as something that should occur within the bounds of marriage, but it is increasingly seen as something that can bring a couple closer together and experience something divine (Balswick & Balswick, 2008). While these beliefs have the potential to encourage some in exploring their sexuality, it can cause contention amongst social activists who are advocating for gay rights or who are fighting topics such as toxic masculinity that may be supported by these types of beliefs. Since society is made up of individuals with varying beliefs and values, sexuality will continue to be a complicated topic in society for years to come.”

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Sexuality - Examining and Defining Human Sexuality. (2021, Jun 17). Retrieved from