Chapter summary imageBroad societal changes have impacted how people view and experience sexuality, particularly in the United States.


  • Sexology is a scientific quest to know and tounderstand how and why people experience their sexuality and sex the ways they do. It is a multidisciplinary science that includes the study of human sexual development, relationship development, relationship processes, the sexuality of certain groups, and sexual pathologies.


  • For thousands of years, people have written and illustrated manuals and literary works that document the attributes of sex and included advice on sexual techniques, information about sexual health and problems.


  • Sexuality involves three interrelated domains that all play an equal role in how we experience and express our sexuality: the biological, psychosocial/psychosexual, and sociocultural dimensions. All three of these domains are in constant interaction and are continuously growing and changing.


  • The understanding and practices of sexuality and sexual behaviors are influenced by culture. In order to understand sexuality, it is important to consider the impact of social factors such as media, religion, race, ethnicity, heritage, and concepts of social identity.

Key Terms


the systematic, organized study of human sexual behavior in all aspects


a person who has expert academic knowledge in sexual science and who devotes himself or herself to the objective, empirical study of sexuality

Kama Sutra

an ancient Indian text that addresses the rules of pleasure, desire, and intentions

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)

council that defines human sexuality as a dimension of our personality that encompasses our sexual beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, and knowledge

biological domain of sexuality

sexual exploration of areas such as male and female anatomy and physiology, gender, and genetics, including the contributions of hereditary factors that contribute to sexuality experiences

psychosocial domain of sexuality

the social and emotional/psychological aspects of sexuality


domain of sexuality a blending of the sexual aspects of our personality with other psychological factors

social identity theory

theory constructed by Tajfel and Turner to help us understand how people identify and define themselves through the social groups to which they belong, such as a racial or ethnic group, their friends, and their families

collectivist culture

culture in which individuals define their identity in terms of the relationships they hold with others

individualistic culture

culture in which people define their identity or sense of self in terms of personal attributes (such as wealth, social status, education level, and marital status) and promote individual over group goals


reflection of the depth to which a person experiences the sacred or a deity 10


an individual’s preference for religious expression

Sample Test Questions

1. Which is NOT true regarding sexology?

a. It includes the study of human development and relationship processes.

b. It is multidisciplinary.

c. It has ancient origins.

d. Its primary focus is on the mechanics of intercourse.

2. How has sexuality changed in the United States over the last 50 years?

a. Sexuality is censored more than ever in the media.

b. Sexuality has become more prominent in the media.

c. Sexuality is no longer censored by network television.

d. Sexuality has become a topic that society no longer cares about.

3. What is the oldest known sex manual?

a. Perfumed Garden

b. Kama Sutra

c. Art of Love

d. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

4. Sexual differentiation is a topic of interest under which domain of sexuality?

a. Biological

b. Psychosocial/Psychosexual

c. Cultural

d. Interpersonal

5. Which BEST describes human sexuality?

a. It is limited to the purpose of reproduction.

b. It is the quality of being either male or female.

c. It involves an identity independent of cultural influences.

d. It includes sexual beliefs, values, behaviors, and knowledge.

6. Which is NOT studied in the psychosocial domain of sexuality?

a. Intrapersonal feelings

b. Self-concept and self-worth

c. Hormones that direct sexual differentiation

d. The influence of family relationships on sexuality

7. Which is TRUE about the relationship of culture to human sexuality?

a. Culture shapes the sexual attitudes, norms, and behaviors of its members.

b. Sexual behavior can be fully understood without reference to cultural influences.

c. Culture determines the biological and physiological character of human sexuality.

d. All cultures have essentially the same attitude toward human sexuality.

8. What is a way to maintain healthy sexual response levels?

a. Having unprotected sex

b. Exercising regularly

c. Eating foods high in fat

d. Drinking alcohol to excess

ANSWERS: 1. d; 2. b; 3. c; 4. a; 5. d; 6. c; 7. a; 8. b

Short Response

1. Using what you learned in this chapter, respond to a friend who thinks that there is little need for a course in human sexuality.

2. Identify two different approaches to sex education in the United States.

3. Provide an example of one aspect of sexuality in which the psychosocial/psychosexual domain would be useful.

4. Describe the difference between collectivistic and individualistic cultures.

5. In your opinion, what has the largest influence on sexual behaviors? Why?

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