Human Sexuality > Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Concepts of Sexuality

Human sexuality is more than the completion of a sexual act. Sexuality also involves, to varying degrees, concepts of intimacy, behavior, identity,and reproduction. The majority of sexual relationships between couples today involve varying degrees of expectations regarding intimacy, what makes intimacy, and how it plays a role in a relationship. Likewise, behavior, attitudes, and expectations regarding relationships and sexual activities and preferences also play a large role in how individuals behave in a particular relationship.

[QN.No.#14.Sexuality involves, to varying degrees, concepts of:]

Concepts of identity, as well as, what is considered to be normal and abnormal is a personal decision for each individual. This identity has a large impact on how a person feels initiating, engaging in, and maintaining a sexual relationship. It affects how the needs of each individual, including self-confidence, assurance, self-worth, emotions, and feelings are met. At the outset of many sexual relationships, the couple engaged in sexual activities must determine whether pregnancy is desired or not. And if it is not desired, what actions should be taken to minimize the risk. For some women, fear of becoming pregnant inhibits the enjoyment of sexual relationships. This inhibition may also affect men. A man who is fearful of getting a female partner pregnant may also feel inhibited and therefore gain less pleasure from a sexual relationship.

Intimacy is considered a prerequisite to any type of lasting relationship. However, our perceptions of intimacy differ for each individual. What, exactly, is intimacy? Is it holding hands, hugging, and kissing? Or is it merely a physical presence in a time of need? Is intimacy physical or emotional in nature, or both? Different people consider intimacy to be different things; a knowing glance of the eye, a squeeze on the back, a hug, or an assurance that a partner will stand by you no matter what, are all considered signs of intimacy to different people.

This lesson will focus on various concepts of these different aspects of human sexual development and how they play a major role in the development of relationships and expectations.

The Impact of Feelings on Sexual Relationships

Many people believe that a sexual relationship without feelings or emotions is an empty and meaningless activity. Others seek out these unattached kinds of sexual relationships. The impact of feelings and emotion on sexual arousal is at the basis of the less thought about concepts of sexuality that include beliefs regarding behavior, intimacy, and sense of self or identity. If you have experienced an intimate relationship, you more than likely remember feelings that evoke happiness, joy, pleasure, disappointment, anger, and grief.

We are always in some kind of circumstance or situation regarding our sexual intimacy. Sometimes we steer ourselves into situations that repeat past relationships and experiences. Other times, we may use our past relationships and experiences to purposefully steer ourselves to different circumstances or situations. Hopefully we improve our circumstances or situation because of concepts we learn from experience and study. Some of us have been involved in relationships that were unhealthy, mismatched, and sometimes abusive. Many such relationships initiate pain, disappointment, sadness and frustration.

It is important for any individual who has experienced a disappointing, unhealthy, or abusive relationship to identify negative emotions related to that relationship. These emotions related to a failed relationship should be addressed and examined in order to improve the potential for enjoying a normal and balanced relationship in the future. It is perfectly natural for a person who has experienced abusive or unhealthy relationships to be suspicious or wary of developing any new relationships. It is also natural for him/her to compare current partners with past partners. Finding a strong and healthy relationship sometimes requires an individual to do some heavy soul searching, but this often enables an individual to determine where he or she draws the line in expectations and boundaries.

Most relationships are not easy, and are filled with ups and downs. Love is a mysterious, complex, and often confusing and frustrating condition. However, understanding yourself, your expectations, and the reasons why you feel certain ways about things will help generate a basic awareness, insight, sensitivity and understanding regarding your self. With this in hand, you and your partner will be well on your way to create a rewarding and healthy relationship.

Most people, regardless of age, closely link love, intimacy, and sex. Research confirms that the healthiest romantic relationships are both physically as well as emotionally satisfying. While many couples seem to be content with sexual relationships without deep emotions involved seem common, they are actually the exception to the rule. Even in the 21st century, the majority of individuals asked a question of whether or not they would have sex with someone they were not in love with responded "no."

It may seem that casual sex in the 21st century is pervasive, but even individuals who have engaged in casual sex in college have stated that they desire a meaningful and emotional connection with sexual partners in their future. Emotions therefore play a great role in the development of human sexual behavior, but focus more on environments than initiate sexual behaviors, rather on the sexual act itself.

Understanding how intimacy and emotional commitment and connections between partners develops and grows over a period of time and how enhanced intimacy and sexual behavior are interconnected is the focus of this lesson. A great majority of single as well as married and dating couples have stated that one of the most important components of any relationship is communication.

However, some relationships that start out well don’t end well. In many cases, issues of control, abuse, and violence develop within relationships, and finding or determining reasons for such behaviors and understanding what causes them will help many individuals to learn to spot trouble signs early on in a relationship before things get out of hand and individuals are harmed by verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse.

So ask yourself this - are love and romance part of human nature or are they influenced by culture or time? Did people in the Victorian era feel differently about love and romance than we do today? Have attitudes regarding relationships and sexual behavior changed over the decades? Most of you will answer a definitive yes. For example, in the old days, parents often arranged marriages for their children long before they met or were even of marriageable age. Matches between children of families were designed to strengthen family power and wealth. In most cases, a woman was considered exceedingly attractive if she came with a wealthy dowry that included money, land, or homes.

Of course, we must remember that the life age expectancy, for example, in the 1700s was on average 40 years of age, so couples married young. In those days, a woman was considered an "old maid" anywhere between 22 and 26 years of age.

In many cases, men and women in the "old days" were married very quickly after meeting. In many situations, marriages were a matter of convenience, propagating the family line to reproduction, and to avoid the stigma of being considered unmarriageable.

Today, most marriages are entered into because of love and feelings of intimacy between individuals, and not because of the pressures placed on them to parents, culture, or tradition, although it is still remain true in some cultures.

The Eligibility Factor

How do we approach relationships? The criteria we use to determine what we may hope are suitable partners differs among individuals. Many of us try to get to know potential partners before we even meet them. For example, a certain number of criteria may enable individuals to narrow down a field of "eligible" for those looking for that perfect partner. Asking ourselves various questions may help with such considerations, including:

  • Is an individual of the same ethnic or racial background?
  • Does ethnicity matter?
  • In regard to relationships, does it matter whether the other person is male or female?
  • Does the person’s age matter? For example, do you care if a potential partner is older or younger than yourself?
  • Do physical attributes matter? Is the person you're interested in tall enough, short enough, thin enough, pretty enough, handsome enough or muscular enough?
  • What if the person's religion? Does it matter?
  • What is the person’s socio-economic status? Does it even matter how much or how money or potential earnings this person makes?
  • Does this person have a job? What are his or her hopes for a career?
  • Do I like this person's personality?

Consciously or subconsciously, we all mentally compare attributes and desirability when meeting someone for the first time. In most cases, we also have a positive, mediocre, or negative reaction to meeting individuals, which of course may change over time, though gut instinct usually prevails.

In many cases, an individual on the lookout for a sexual or lifelong partner is able to initially determine whether or not that individual can be more than merely a friend upon the first few contacts. Ideas and considerations of attraction and potential romance factor also is a very individual and personal emotion.

While physical attractiveness plays a great deal in physical attraction between couples, society and the media today seems to be inordinately focused on attractiveness, physical appearance, ideal body weight, shape, and so forth. Studies have shown that society does have a bias toward those who are beautiful and attractive. For example, it is long been accepted that attractive individuals applying for jobs typically win out over those who are overweight or unattractive. We will address how the media affects attitudes and behavior in a later lesson, but suffice it to say that for generations, physical attraction is the key factor when it comes to looking for a sexual partner.

However, ideas of physical attraction have changed over the years. For example, in the Victorian age, ideal female body types ranged just under 5'5" tall and weighed roughly 140 pounds. Today, women are considered especially attractive if they are around 5 foot eight or 9 inches tall and weigh roughly 120 pounds, or less.

Different Types of Love

Yes, there are different types of love. A Canadian sociologist named John Allen Lee broached a theory in the 1970s that suggested that people adhere to specific psychological motives regarding relationships. These six categories were called styles of love and have continued to serve as a foundation for research on intimacy and relationships. Lee named the six "styles" of love after figures from Greek mythology.

Take the following survey (adaptation of Hendrick and Hendrick 1986) and provide a true or false to each statement according to your own beliefs and perceptions. Then check your answers as defined by Lee. Below the survey, we will provide detailed explanations that incorporate the various styles of love as proposed by Lee.

  • My partner and I were attracted to each other immediately when we first met.
  • My partner and I have great physical chemistry between us
  • I feel that my partner and I were meant to be together.
  • I have sometimes had to prevent two of my partners from finding out about each other.
  • Sometimes, I enjoy playing "love games" with several partners at once.
  • I believe it's a good idea to keep my partner a little uncertain about my commitment to him or her.
  • I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly when my partner and I fell in love.
  • The most fulfilling love relationship grows out of a close friendship.
  • It is necessary to care deeply for someone for a while before you can truly fall in love.
  • When I am in love, I am sometimes so excited about it that I can't sleep.
  • I am constantly worried that my partner may be with someone else.
  • When my partner is busy or seems distant, I feel anxious and sick all over.
  • It is best to find a partner who has similar interests to your own.
  • I try to make sure my life is in order before I choose a partner.
  • A person's goals, plans, and status in life are very important to me in choosing a partner.
  • I would rather suffer myself than allow my partner to suffer.
  • I cannot be happy unless my partner's happiness needs are met first.
  • I am usually willing to sacrifice my own needs and desires to allow my partner to achieve his or hers.

Statements 1, 2 and 3 define Eros love
Statements 4, 5 and 6 define Ludus love
Statements 7, 8 and 9 reflect Storge love
Mania love is reflected in statements 10, 11 and 12
Statements 13, 14 and 15 define Pragma love
Agape love is reflected in statements 16, 17, and 18

Eros love is considered to be passionate and erotic nudist common with short-term relationships. Individuals involved in this type of relationship place emphasis and focus on romance and strong physical attraction to potential partners. Many such individuals believe in love at first sight and enjoy touching, kissing and hugging.

Ludus love focuses on the initial excitement involved in the formation of her relationship, more than on the development of the relationship. Such individuals typically move from one relationship to another. Many individuals who claim this type of style enjoy "playing the field" and enjoy the game of pursuit and conquest.

[QN.No.#15.According to Canadian sociologist named John Allen Lee, individuals focus on the initial excitement and typically move from one relationship to another in: ]

Storge love is defined as being characterized by emotional caring and friendship. This type of relationship is based on friendship and is most often the result of close friendships that develop over a long period of time into love. The emphasis on this type of relationship is friendship, stability, and security.

Pragma love is as the word implies, pragmatic. It involves relationships that are selected according to rational as well as practical criteria almost in a businesslike manner. Mania love is often associated with controlling, and possessive relationships. Such individuals often cling to his or her partner. The receiving partner often feels stifled or smothered by a partner. In some severe cases, this type of love also precipitates stalking, physical violence, threats of violence, and in some cases, suicide.

Agape love is focused and pays particular attention to the concept of giving or offering to another a partner when he or she particularly needs without expectation or receiving something in return. This type of relationship is often self-sacrificing and altruistic. In many situations, these relationships are one-sided, and are also non-demanding and patient. While this type of relationship is often held up as an example, any relationship should be a balance of giving and receiving, and not the continual giving or receiving of only one partner within the relationship.

[QN.No.#16.Agape love is:]

Of course, if you answered two or three within any given set of styles doesn't necessarily mean that your expectations, emotions, or attitude regarding relationships won't change in the future. Many individuals find that he or she agrees with more than one style, which implies a multitude of possibilities. In addition, after experience, expectations change and relationships can also change as well as grow over length of time. Your expectations regarding relationships may differ between your teens, your 20s, your 40s, and your 60s.

Many individuals have no idea what type of style of love they would prefer, as they may never have been in love or thought very much about the rationale involved in such styles.

The Love Triangle Theory

We're not talking about a sexual love triangle here, but what psychologist Robert Sternberg called the Triangular Theory of Love. According to Sternberg, love involves three major fundamental components of passion, intimacy, and commitment (The Triangle of Love,Robert J. Sternberg, 1998).

[QN.No.#17.According to psychologist Robert Sternberg, love involves several values or considerations that include:]

According to Sternberg, relationships can consist of any of the three listed components, any combination of two, or even all three. In this context, intimacy is not meant to imply sexual intimacy, but emotional closeness between two people. Passion on the other hand it is the physical side of a relationship, while commitment is the rational aspect of a love relationship. According to Sternberg, these components may appear in combinations, which range from "liking" to infatuation, commitment only, or a combination of intimacy and passion, which equates to romantic love.

In most relationships, purely sexual or otherwise, individuals often feel unhappy if any of the three components are missing from a relationship. Individuals who are committed to relationships can at the same time feel lonely and disconnected if they lack intimacy with a partner. Relationships that let commitment often lead to feelings of frustration, anger and betrayal. Many couples that lack passion often express a longing for physical closeness.

In addition to intimacy, passion and commitment, one overriding factor has a great influence over all three. That's communication. Communication is considered by many to be an integral component of any relationship and is the driving force of the three components listed by Sternberg; passion, intimacy and commitment.

[QN.No.#18.An integral component of any relationship, and the driving force of the three components listed by Sternberg is:]

Behavior and Communication

In many cases, our behavior is determined by our ability or inability to communicate our feelings and emotions to sexual partners throughout the relationship. Communication has long been understood as one of the most meaningful methods of maintaining happiness as well a success in a romantic relationship. Adequate communication skills enable couples to express different aspects of the relationship with each other and help to deal with problems or negative emotions.

In some cases, our behavior is related to her inability or has a chance to expose everything about ourselves to a potential partner. Our ability to confide in our partner may increase as the love relationship develops and matures, but self-disclosure is often a step-by-step process that ranges from basic biographical information to very personal perceptions of identity and self worth.

For example, studies on social development of relationships have determined that our ability to communicate emotions and feelings in relationships follows a particularly hierarchy. For example, most of us are fairly comfortable with revealing biographical background information about ourselves including family, hometown, siblings, what we did in college, and so forth. From there, we move on to what are called superficial preferences that include the types of food, music and close we like. From there, most of us are willing to discuss our goals and aspirations including desires for family, marriage, careers, and lifestyles.

As our relationships deepen, we are able to express spiritual, philosophical, and religious beliefs, expectations, and convictions. From there, we tentatively move on to expressing our private fears, fantasies, or past experiences with our partners. The last level of personal information that is usually expressed is our concepts of our inner selves, which defined who we are as a person or individual.

Relationship Behavior and Attitude

An individual's behavior in it relationship or marriage is often attributed to positive as well as negative actions and reactions of a partner. It is understood that happy and well-adjusted couples are able to engage in what are known as relationship-enhancing attributions. Couples who are unable to communicate, or those who are generally unhappy tend to engage in distress-maintaining attributions.

For example, let's say you know a couple that generally personifies a healthy relationship. One day, one of the partners does something that makes the other upset, inconvenienced, sad or angry. How do you think this partner is likely to feel about such an attitude or behavior?

An individual in a healthy and positive relationship typically assumes that the negative reaction or behavior is due to outside or external influences. He or she may also realize that the negative behavior is uncharacteristic or unusual. The partner may also place little importance on the negative reaction and choose instead to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship.

However, the person involved in a distressed maintaining or unhappy relationship may assume that the negative behavior is due or caused by the individual, and that such reactions are typical in the partner. In addition, the negative reaction is also considered to be consistent with other occurrence.

[QN.No.#19.In distress-maintaining attributions the partner:]

While the relationship is completely black or white, relationship attributes generally either provoke pleasure or distress on partners. For example, in a healthy relationship even a partner who forgets an anniversary date is a typical situation. Let's say the man forgot the woman's anniversary date. In a healthy relationship, the woman may understand that a man is concerned or stressed overworked, that he usually remembers the anniversary date, and it is a great guy, and this is not really so much of a big deal.

However, in an unhealthy relationship, suspicion and frustration often rule. For example, in this type of relationship, the man may offer a card celebrating the anniversary, which prompts the woman to believe that he's feeling guilty about something, but he never sends or offers cards or flowers, or that he is "after something". In addition, if the man forgets the anniversary, she may believe that the man doesn't care about her, that he does this all the time, and that her feelings just don't matter to him.

Intimacy, Love, Sex and Communication

For many couples, a sexual happiness revolves around how the couple communicates in all types of situations and environments. In many situations, one, or both partners in a relationship are hesitant or unwilling to discuss fears, problems, or difficulties. In many cases, healthy and vigorous sexual relationships often suffer due to a lack of one or both partners’ ability to communicate not only sexual needs and expectations, but expectations and desires for intimacy, consideration, and respect.

Criticism, feelings of contempt and defensiveness often lead to decreased sexual attraction between partners. Individuals who are continually treated with contempt or criticisms experience a decrease in sexual attraction toward a partner. We will discuss such concepts of sexuality and power in a later lesson, but suffice it to say that if you feel unequal to your partner, or unable to communicate your innermost feelings, attitudes or beliefs with a partner, the sexual relationship between such couples will ultimately suffer.

Falling in love is a highly emotional event in our lives. The more you know how you feel about yourself and your expectations, the more you will enhance your ability to choose a partner who will be able to not only meet your needs, but enable you to meet those of your partner.

Focusing on feelings is one of the best things any individual can do when entering a relationship. Your ability to communicate expectations, wants and desires is an important aspect of the dating processes, from your teens through your Golden Years.

[QN.No.#20.Focusing on feelings is one of the best things any individual can do when entering a relationship.True/False?]

Understanding what you want in a partner is the basis for how you choose your partners. While we don’t always know how things are going to work out in any relationship, understanding your concepts of sexuality and relationships and those of your potential partner will help nurture positive and enhanced relationships that have a strong chance of survival.

Understanding who you are and what you want also means understanding what and whom you are attracted to, as well as sexual orientation in regard to your attitudes, beliefs and perception of heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Human Sexuality > Chapter 3
Page Last Modified On: February 17, 2015, 11:38 AM