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Young, white, heterosexual couple kissing and holding baby

Welcome to Module 9: Sexuality (Nov 14-20). In this section we will read Chapter 6: Sexuality, p. 186-223. We have an assignment: First draft of your research website. On the discussion board thread, reply to your original post with your abstract, and add the link to your wordpress blog page or post by November 20th. And we have a feature length documentary to watch: How to Lose Your Virginity

Description: How To Lose Your Virginity is an eye-opening and irreverent documentary journey through religion, history, pop culture and $30 internet hymens. By turns hilarious and horrifying, the film reveals the myths and misogyny behind virginity in America, and what we can do to change the conversation.  A film by Therese Shechter, director of I Was A Teenage Feminist

Sexual Identity and Orientation


a chart listing various sexual orientations

The first concept that the chapter covers is the idea of sexual identity and orientation. Our understanding of sexuality is heavily dependent on our social context: time period, country, nationality, geographic location, social class, race/ethnicity, and gender orientation. How does the social location of your time and place create a different understanding of sexuality compared to your parents or grandparents generation? In our contemporary era, we have different options available than those available to other people in different times and places. “Sexual orientation is the pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to others in relation to one’s own gender identity. The pattern of attraction exists on a continuum that ranges from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, with variations in between that represent degrees of bisexuality” (190). However, even with this range providing bisexuality as the widest category, people still are socially pressured to chose limited categories, such as straight or gay. It is important to remember that sexual orientation is different than behavior. One can be attracted to certain types of people long before they have any sexual activity. And one’s sexual activity may not represent one’s actual attractions. Therefore, things can get quit complex, and in our society, we often like to be very simplistic and reductionist when it comes to these concepts. But as sociologists, we should revel in the complexity of possibilities. (Be sure to memorize the various statistics in the chapter, as that will be the basis for the exam.) When did you first realize your sexual orientation and who you were attracted to? I remember my first crush as a small child on someone my parents had hired to work in our house for a short amount of time. The feelings were intense enough that I remember them to this day. But when I looked at a picture of myself at that age I was shocked: I must have been around three years old.

Modern Intimacy

The chapter discusses ways in which society tries to control, define, and maintain “acceptable” sexuality, and this is always heteronormative, chaste, and based on a gender double standard. The U.S. is an extremely religious country, especially compared to our counterparts in Europe, which has more progressive attitudes and policies regarding sexuality, with far better outcomes. Because of such dominant ideology coupled with a lack of actual historic research about the reality of people’s sex lives, we knew very little until the research conducted by Kinsey. You are encouraged to watch this feature film about Kinsey, but not required.

  • What were the outcomes of this Kinsey research? What is the Kinsey scale?
  • What are the statistics on sexual behavior in the chapter for different age cohorts?
  • What is the sexual double standard and what are examples?
  • Is teen sex more or less prevalent now than 20 years ago?
  • Is teen pregnancy up or down compared to 20 years ago?
  • Which contraception is most common?
  • What are the use percentages of contraceptions?
  • What is the timeline of contraception development?
  • What do contraceptions focus more on women than men?
  • What data did the federal government discover in its national survey on youth sexuality?
  • What are the statistics around sexually transmitted infections?
  • What is the state of sex education in the U.S.? How does this compare to other countries?

In the comments section below, please do write a response to one of the questions for review on page 223. What stands out to you about the chapter? Does it relate to your peer group?