Do You Know What Sexuality Is?
Sexuality is divided into three principle branches: biological, psychological, and social. They are all interconnected, and considering sexuality as a union of biopsychosocial characteristics allows us to truly understand the myriad ways it impacts human beings and their development.
The World Health Organization (WHO) gives the following definition of what represents human sexuality:
“The integration of physical, emotional, mental and social factors of sexual being, through positive enrichment and empowerment of people, communication, and love.”
It is possible that the biological aspect of sexuality has been, and will continue to be, that which we associate most strongly with the concept of sexuality; specifically, our genitalia and reproductive organs.
This is an extremely reduced and restricted view that does not consider the physical human form as a cohesive unit. The integration of the entirety of the human body into the concept of sexuality allows us to understand that we are sexual beings form the moment we are born to the moment we die. This implies that children and adolescents, just as adults and elderly people, possess sexuality.
When we only pay attention to the biological part of sexuality, we are focusing on the physical act of sex through genitalia, with reproduction as the general objective. However, it is possible to broaden the biological aspect and give it a greater meaning when it is interrelated to the other implicated factors:
Our body is that which learns and only through complete use of our body will [sexuality] be carried out. To break up the body, and to indicate only certain functions, means to deny the pleasure of knowing and communicating correctly with others.
This dimension of sexuality relates to our eroticism, which we develop through learned behavior and the acquisition of diverse customs and rituals. Certain beliefs surrounding sexuality exist in every culture and can vary depending on historical context and behavioral influences.
The political, religious, and cultural influences in our lives regulate the norms of what is appropriate and what is not. This has created space for many restrictions to be made when it comes to sexuality and what is considered “normal”.
As the social beings that we are, many of the fears that we have are part of our attempt to never feel rejected, cut off, and strange. Because of that, we obey and pass on the messages we have internalized, turning them into values and rules of behavior.
The way a given population views sexuality is the product of socialization. Being conscious of the behaviors and attitudes toward sexuality that we have internalized can help us to adapt to and modify them according to our needs and preferences.
This means breaking the erroneous restrictions and beliefs that have been imposed upon us through socialization, and changing our view of sexuality to allow for different experiences for each individual.
Sexual education, then, is very important since it, ideally, provides individuals to the tools they need to choose how to live and how to enjoy their own sexuality.
From the integration of the physical form and the experience of one’s own body (biological), and socialization and behavioral influences (social), is born the psychological dimension of sexuality. The psychological branch of sexuality is characterized by thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, and tendencies that have to do with what is behind our sexuality, and how we feel, both with others and by ourselves. Psychological sexuality is the emotions, feelings, pleasures and thoughts, that we’ve gained through both personal experience and what we’ve been taught.
In the development of our personality, from the moment we are born, we being developing our individual experience of sexuality. Our definition and its significance continue to evolve, and are different in every stage of our lives.
We all feel in a different way, and the emotions that stir inside us are different from one person to the next, even though the situation we are experiencing may be the same. For this reason, each person has a different way in which they experience pleasure, to the point that what may produce pleasure in some people may produce discomfort in others.
This is why individual knowledge of ones own sexuality is so important;,we are responsible for our own sexuality, and whether or not we want to share it with others.
With the analysis of the three branches of sexuality, it can be concluded that:
- Sexuality is present in every stage of human life, given that we are sexual beings from birth to death. It is not static, but rather dynamic, that changes depending on how we change.
- The information and knowledge we acquire from our external sexual environment influences us in our own knowledge and grasp of the concept of sexuality, when dealing with ourselves and the interactions we have with others.
- There is no one specific type of sexuality that determines how pleasure is experienced. Instead, there are many different sexualities, each with its own distinctive features. Sexuality is determined by personality, knowledge, and personal experience. By recognizing this, we can move away from designating certain behaviors or preferences as “normal,” and instead we can each choose own individual path, without fear and without guilt, exploring and enjoying our sexuality.
“Sexuality is not what we believe, it is not what we have been told. There does not exist one, but rather many sexualities.”
-Coronado, A. (2014). Concept of Sexuality. Granada: Instituto de Sexología Al Ándalus (not published).
-Quero, J. F. (1996). Practical Guide to masculine sexuality: keys to knowing yourself better. Themes of Today.