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Running head: HUMAN SEXUALITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Human Sexuality versus Sexual Orientation Name of Student Name of Establishment

HUMAN SEXUALITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Human Sexuality versus Sexual Orientation Sexual orientation and human sexuality have become subjects of contemporary research as they are very important issues in psychological treatment. The formation of sexual orientation relates to innate physiological processes, and sexuality refers to the choices specified by both biological and mental factors. Since human sexuality and sexual orientation concern human sexual life, there should be a clear insight discriminating between these two notions. The key difference lies in the origin of these phenomena. Firstly, according to Dick F. Swaab and Ai-Min Bao (2011), sexual orientation is determined during the early stages of fetal development and during the neonatal period. The most critical periods when testosterone levels influence the formation of sexual orientation comprise the mid-pregnancy and first three months after the birth. Meanwhile, sexuality is rather a personal trait developing throughout ones life, starting from prenatal processes. However, sexuality becomes apparent as a sexual response under the influence of gonadal steroids increase at the age of nine or ten years (John Bancroft, 2002). Thus, sexual orientation is a shaped preference, while sexuality is an ongoing process modifying with the lapse of time. Secondly, human sexuality and sexual orientation are formed by different factors. Two physiological factors influencing sexual orientation include hormone levels and genes. They define the brain structure and may be accompanied by some external conditions (for example, traumas, environmental factors, and so on) that can alter the level of testosterone and lead to certain changes in the brain. On the other hand, sexuality is also dependent on genes and hormones; nevertheless, it is refined by mental perception of sexual behavior as part of life activity, predetermined by culture and upbringing. For example, according to some tribal traditions found in the New Guinean Dani (William Yarber et al., 2010), sex is a relatively

HUMAN SEXUALITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

unimportant aspect of life (p. 15). Thus, sexual techniques are underdeveloped in this tribe and sexuality of its members is rather suppressed. Thirdly, both notions should be taken into consideration in the light of such an aspect as irreversibility. At the moment when a new-born child ceased to be regarded as a tabula rasa, their sexual orientation was proved to be not a life choice, but an irreversible characteristic (S. LeVay, 1991). At the same time, sexuality may alter under the influence of changes in ones outlooks and principles. It depends upon satisfaction of such human needs as the desire for contact, tenderness, love, and so on. Finally, sexual orientation and human sexuality are connected with the concept of sexual identity. According to William S. Wilkerson (2009), sexual identity itself is a self-consciously directed project that a person develops around this orientation (p. 98). Thus, sexual identity does not obligatory coincide with sexual orientation, since a homosexual person can choose partners of the opposite sex as it is dictated by social norms. However, upon admitting their actual orientation, they may adhere to the choice determined by their innate preference. At the same time, sexual identity is predetermined by sexuality as a pattern of behavior. Talking about similarities between sexual orientation and human sexuality, one should admit that they both are stipulated by genetic and hormonal factors. Furthermore, sexuality as the choice of sexual behavior can reflect sexual orientation, though it may differ in cases when a person does not want to reveal their actual preferences for reasons of social accessibility, that is, in order not to violate cultural, moral or religious traditions. To conclude, there is an urgent need to differentiate between sexual orientation and human sexuality, as they represent different psychological characteristics and result from

HUMAN SEXUALITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

different physiological and mental processes. Also, they can be discriminated on the basis of their permanence and the relation to sexual identity. The differentiation between the above-mentioned characteristics is crucial for psychology, since it defines various approaches to the perception of human nature as part of psychological treatment. On the one hand, sexual orientation should be regarded as a formed preference towards a particular gender, that is, it should not be a subject for any therapy. On the other hand, psychological assistance should tend to reveal ones innate preferences and help patients to come to terms with their orientation. For instance, a homosexual patient should know that their sexual orientation is not their personal wrong choice, but a physiological and mental peculiarity. Furthermore, sexuality remains a changeable pattern of sexual behavior. Thus, it can be refined under the influence of different sources. To begin with, the formation of sexuality can be regarded as a component of psychological assistance. At the same time, certain sexual choices can be introduced by the mass media (television, the Internet, radio, and so on) that are one of the most influential sources of information. Generally speaking, the formation of sexuality should be included into goals of sexual education. Thereby, the distinction between sexuality and orientation provides a valuable understanding that can be applied for further psychological research and practices.

HUMAN SEXUALITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

References Bancroft J. (2002). Biological factors in human sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 39 (1), 16-21. Bao A.-M., Swaab D. F. (2011). Sexual differentiation of the human brain: relation to gender identity, sexual orientation and neuropsychiatric disorders. Frontiers in

neuroendocrinology, 32(2), 214-26. LeVay S. (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men. Science 253, 10341070. Wilkerson W. S. (2009). Is it a choice? Sexual orientation as interpretation. Journal of Social Philosophy, 40 (1), 97-116. Yarber W., Sayad B., Strong B. (2010). Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, Seventh Edition. NY, the McGraw-Hill Companies.