Human sexuality

Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors.

Last updated on June 1, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on February 10, 2022.

Sexual orientation

What is sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation is understood to be driven primarily by biology: Many sex characteristics are determined in the womb. Hormones are believed to play a role as well: Exposure to certain hormones during development may influence sexual behavior.

When an individual’s sexual orientation emerges it could be androphilic (finding male bodies erotic), gynephilic (finding female bodies erotic), bisexual, asexual, or something else. Most people’s orientation can be seen on a continuum, with substantial variation even among heterosexuals or homosexuals.

What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?

Biological sex refers to your chromosomal makeup at birth. Gender identity is your self-concept of being male, female, or non-binary. Sexual orientation describes who you feel attracted to, whether heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual.

Is bisexuality a sexual orientation?

Myths about bisexuality remain widely held in the culture—that it’s not a true orientation, that it’s a phase primarily experienced by young adults, or that people who believe they’re bisexual can’t be faithful to a partner.

Research finds that none of these are true. About 16 percent of women and 5 percent of men claim to be neither straight nor gay; only a small minority report having simultaneous relationships with both men and women.

How common is same-sex attraction?

Between 2 and 11 percent of the population report feeling same-sex attraction but since a higher percentage report having had same-sex experiences, the prevalence of people who have at least experienced some level of same-sex attraction is likely much higher; some of these individuals could be considered “mostly straight” or “mostly gay or lesbian.”

Do some people have no sexual orientation?

As much as 2 percent of the population experiences no sexual attraction. This sexual orientation is known as asexuality. But some asexuals do feel romantic attraction, and some are in committed long-term romantic relationships, which may include sexual acts.

Masturbation

Is masturbation healthy?

While many people are reluctant to talk about it openly because of long-held stigmas, especially in religious or conservative communities, the practice is common, and, sexual health experts agree, masturbation is healthy, normal, and often emotionally beneficial.

Masturbation is a safe way to discover what feels good and a way to relieve sexual tension, even within a committed relationship

Is masturbation a sign of trouble in a relationship?

Not necessarily. Masturbation is rarely the cause of problems in a relationship, but when a partner’s frequency of masturbation increases, or they come to prefer it to sex with their partner, it is likely a sign of a communication breakdown between a couple.

Experts suggest open and honest dialog between partners about what arouses them, how often they desire to have sex (or not), and how each feels about the other masturbating.

When does masturbation become problematic?

Masturbation becomes a problem when an individual believes it’s a problem, no matter how often they do it. People who believe that they are addicted to sex or pornography, for example, do not generally masturbate more often than others who do not believe that they have a problem.

Do people ever masturbate to the point of self-harm?

Excessive masturbation is believed to be prevalent among males with autism spectrum disorder; one case study reported that a 17-year-old male with high-functioning ASD experienced intrusive sexual thoughts and urges that led him to masturbate 25 to 30 times a day.

Monogamy and polyamory

Are people naturally monogamous or polygamous?

Human societies did not begin to embrace monogamy until the advent of monotheistic religions and the shift to primarily urban living arrangements. Before that—meaning for most of human history—men and women were primarily polygamous.

Evolutionary theorists believe that men’s larger size relative to women, the fact that men tend to die younger, and men’s continued greater interest in mating with multiple partners are all leftovers of our history of polygamy.

What does it mean to be monogamous?

Monogamy does not mean the same thing to every person, and when partners in committed relationships have not discussed their definitions of the term, problems can arise. One partner may feel strongly that masturbation is a violation of their monogamous relationship because it involves sex apart from each other (or while thinking of someone else).

How does polyamory work?

Polyamory, or consensual nonmonogamy—maintaining more than one sexual relationship, with the knowledge and consent of all involved—is not the same as polygamy, which refers to having more than one spouse at the same time.

One in five adults in the U.S. says they have had a consensual open relationship at some time. Strong communication skills are essential for the maintenance of polyamorous relationships, as are the maintenance of boundaries and the management of any feelings of jealousy.

Share

More articles you might like

People who are reading “Human sexuality”, also love these articles:

Browse all articles