Sex Roles (Bibliography Included) Essay, Research Paper
Freud’s Developmental Stages
Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centered on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, a single body part is particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation. These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genitals. The child’s libido centers on behavior affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age; he cannot focus on the primary erogenous zone of the next stage without resolving the developmental conflict of the immediate one.
A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; Overindulgence stems from such an ample meeting of these needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. Both frustration and overindulgence lock some amount of the child’s libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation. If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if he fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality.
The Oral Stage
The oral stage begins at birth, when the oral cavity is the primary focus of libidal energy. The child preoccupies himself with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth. The oral character who is frustrated at this stage, whose mother refused to nurse him on demand or who stopped nursing sessions early, is characterized by pessimism, envy, suspicion and sarcasm. The overindulged oral character, whose nursing urges were always and often excessively satisfied, is optimistic, gullible, and is full of admiration for others around him. The stage centers around the primary conflict of weaning, which both deprives the child of the sensory pleasures of nursing and of the psychological pleasure of being cared for, mothered, and held. The stage lasts approximately one and one-half years.
The Anal Stage
At one and one-half years, the child enters the anal stage. With the arrival of toilet training comes the child’s obsession with the erogenous zone of the anus and with the retention or expulsion of the feces. This represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions. The child meets the conflict between the parent’s demands and the child’s desires and physical capabilities in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight or he simply refuses to go. The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character. This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. Conversely, a child may choose to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character. This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual propensities to possession and attitudes towards authority. This stage lasts from one and one-half to two years.
The Phallic Stage
The phallic stage is the setting for the greatest, most crucial sexual conflict in Freud’s model of development. In this stage, the child’s erogenous zone is the genital region. As the child becomes more interested in his genitals, and in the genitals of others, conflict arises. The conflict, labeled the Oedipus complex (The Electra complex in women), involves the child’s unconscious desire to possess the same-sexed parent and to eliminate the opposite-sexed one.
In the young male, the Oedipus conflict stems from his natural love for his mother, a love which becomes sexual as his libidal energy transfers from the anal region to his genitals. Unfortunately for the boy, his father stands in the way of this love. The boy therefore feels aggression and envy towards this rival, his father, and also feels fear that the father will strike back at him. As the boy has noticed that women, his mother in particular, have no penises, he is struck by a great fear that his father will remove his penis, too. The anxiety is aggravated by the threats and discipline he incurs when caught masturbating by his parents. This castration anxiety exceeds his desire for his mother, so he represses the desire. Even though the boy sees that though he cannot posses his mother, because his father does, he can posses her vicariously by identifying with his father and becoming as much like him as possible. This identification converts the boy into his appropriate sexual role in life. A lasting trace of the Oedipal conflict is the superego, the voice of the father within the boy. By resolving this incestuous obstacle, the boy passes into the latency period, a period of libidal dormancy.
On the Electra complex, Freud was more vague. The complex is rooted in the little girl’s discovery that she, along with her mother and all other women, lack the penis which her father and other men posses. Her love for her father then becomes both erotic and envious, as she wants a penis of her own. She comes to blame her mother for her perceived castration, and is struck by penis envy, just like the boy’s castration anxiety. The resolution of the Electra complex is far less clear-cut than the resolution of the Oedipus complex is in males. Freud stated that the resolution comes much later and is never truly complete. Just as the boy learned his sexual role by identifying with his father, so the girl learns her role by identifying with her mother in an attempt to posses her father vicariously. At the resolution of the conflict, the girl passes into the latency period, though Freud implies that she always remains slightly fixated at the phallic stage.
Fixation at the phallic stage develops a phallic character, who is reckless, resolute, self-assured, and narcissistic–excessively vain and proud. The failure to resolve the conflict can also cause a person to be afraid or incapable of close love. Freud hypothesized that fixation could be a root cause of homosexuality.
The Latency Period
The resolution of the phallic stage leads to the latency period, which is not a psycho sexual stage of development, but a period in which the sexual drive lies dormant. Freud saw latency as a period of repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses. During the latency period, children convert this repressed libidal energy into the concentration of asexual activities such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships. But soon puberty strikes, and the genitals once again become a central focus of libidal energy.
The Genital Stage
In the genital stage, as the child’s energy once again focuses on his genitals, interest turns to heterosexual relationships. The less energy the child has left invested in unresolved psycho sexual developments, the greater his capacity will be to develop normal relationships with the opposite sex. If he remains fixated, particularly on the phallic stage, his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression.
Kinsey was more of a researcher. His main point was that there is no such thing as sexual normality, that people enjoyed a variety of sexual activities. In 1953 he did an experiment on the effects of a person being bitten during sex. He found that 25% of the men and women he surveyed had an erotic reaction to the bite. He did another experiment in 1974 where he found that 10% of women and 6% of men found some type of pain to be sexually stimulating. He liked to look into the less severe cases of paraphilias and see what things “normal” people found sexually stimulating, things that wouldn’t be considered normal by society’s standards.
He also believed that society had a great influence on our sex lives. He thought that if there were no social restrictions that most men would be promiscuous all their lives. He thought that the sex drive between men and women was very different. That difference, he also believed, was the reason for a lot of unhappiness. He said that early on in life the man’s sex drive is much greater than the women’s. As people age, the man’s sex drive drops lower than the women’s more constant drive.
Clelia Duel Mosher
There is not much information on Mosher and the work that he did. In 1892 he started the first systematic survey of normal women’s sexual feelings. His experiment included 52 respondents, of which 80% were able to have, and had, orgasms. His survey was inconclusive though. He thought that women were reluctant to have sex because of the risks and the fear of not being socially excepted. That they would be happier alone than with a man.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) breaks down sexual disorders into three groups: sexual dysfunction, paraphilias, and gender-identity disorders.
Male Erectile Disorder – difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. Can cause distress for the individual or the relationship.
Female Sexual Arousal Disorder – the inability to attain/maintain adequate lubrication-swelling. Also the inability for a female to become sexually aroused or to reach orgasm. Can cause distress for the individual or the relationship.
Male/Female Orgasmic Disorder – a delay in, or absence of, orgasm following adequate stimulation and a normal sexual excitement phase.
Dyspareunia – recurrent or persistent genital pain associated with sexual intercourse (male or female). Not exclusively caused by vaginismus or lack of lubrication.
Vaginismus – involuntary spasm of muscles in outer part of vagina interfering with intercourse.
Premature Ejaculation – ejaculation with minimal sexual stimulation before, or soon after penetration and before person wishes.
Inhibited or Hypoactive Desire – sexual desire is not what it might be, what it should be, what it used to be, or what it is with a different partner.
Sexual Aversion or Panic – a powerful, unpleasant, physical response to sexual activity, which can include nausea, migraine headache, dizziness, or outright panic. This problem usually occurs in people who are single or in relationships that are sexless, whether it be by choice or by default.
Hyperactive Desire – where sexual desire is a singular, fixed, unconscious way of reducing anxiety. There are different levels of this disorder. This usually is evaluated as something that disrupts relationships.
The most recent DSM-IV considers paraphilia to have three characteristics:
1. An intense, recurrent sexual experience existing for at least six months that involves fantasy, urges, or behavior.
2. A particular object of the sexual experience – non human things, individuals who suffer or are humiliated, children or non-consenting persons
3. A particular result of the sexual experience – clinically significant distress or significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of function.
DSM-IV classifies perversions into eight categories:
Exhibitionism – exposes genitals in public to a stranger for the mere reaction of other people. Sometimes they masturbate in public.
Fetishism – sexual activities involving the use of non living objects. The fetishist’s most sexual activity is masturbation.
Frotteurism – rubbing up against a stranger in a crowded place for sexual gratification.
Pedophilia – intense sexual urges/fantasies involving children.
Masochism – sexual urges/fantasies involving the act of being humiliated, bound, beaten, or made to suffer.
Sadism – likes to see the psychological or physical suffering of another.
Transvestic fetishism – sexual urges/fantasies involving cross dressing.
Voyeurism – seeks out situations where they can secretly observe another person undressing, naked, or engaging in sexual activity. The voyeur usually masturbates while looking or soon after when the memory is still fresh.
Gender-identity Disorder – a desire to become the other sex, or in cases where they really do switch.
Gender-identity Disorder in Children – the rejection of the child’s biological gender, including the clothing and the behaviors.
There are many studies going on to find out more about the causes of homosexuality. A homosexual is one who is compelled to only have same-sex partners. Freud believed homosexuality was a mental disorder. He believed that it was resulting from a young boy’s failure to separate himself from an intense sexual bond with his mother. As a consequence, the boy identifies with her and seeks to reenact the relationship that existed between them, but this time as the mother. The boy regards his relationship with the father as distant or hostile. Freud saw anal intercourse as confirming that the homosexual mind has not fully resolved the anal phase.
What Causes Homosexuality
Science is only confirming what many observers have long deduced. The vast majority of gays has long reported that they knew their orientation since adolescence or even earlier, just like heterosexuals. Given the clear genetic basis of hormones and sexual attraction, this suggests that homosexuality is genetic too.
Homosexuality runs in the family. Critics argue this is because parents condition their children to become gay, but the facts prove this not to be true in every case. If the “conditioning” theory is correct, we would expect homosexuality to occur in these families randomly. But in fact it occurs far more frequently on the mother’s side of the extended family than the father’s. Today we know why: the gay gene occurs on the mother’s X chromosome, on a segment where it is impervious to natural selection. (This is why homosexuality is not bred out of the gene pool, as you might expect.)
Lately, science has proven the idea that homosexuality is genetic. Researcher Dean Hamer compared the DNA of 40 pairs of homosexual brothers and found that 33 shared genetic markers in the Xq28 region of their X chromosome. This may be either all or part of a “gay gene.”
There have been many statistical studies that have proven that having a gay brother or sister increases the chances of the sibling being gay. 25% of all brothers of gay men are gay, and 15% of all sisters of gay women are gay. This supports the hypothesis that being gay is genetic, but it can also support the hypothesis that it is also the environment that determines a person’s sexuality.
Critics of these tests argue that if homosexuality is half genetic, then it must be half environmental as well, and this proves that social factors and personal choice must be involved in becoming gay. But this is a serious misunderstanding of how genes work. Genes have a trait called “penetrance,” which is the chance that a gene will become activated. The gene for Huntington’s Disease comes in two varieties, or alleles. One allele suppresses the disease, the other activates it. The latter is 100 percent penetrant, meaning that if you have this allele, you are 100 percent certain to come down with the disease. By contrast, the allele activating the gene for Type 1 diabetes is only 30 percent penetrant. In other words, there is only a 30 percent chance this gene will become activated. (But if activated, diabetes is certain.) Therefore, two identical twins could share the same gene for diabetes, but only one might develop it. The penetrance of the gay gene appears to be 50 percent, which is why some twins do not share the same sexual orientation. Incidentally, no one knows what triggers this allele, but all evidence indicates that it is triggered in the womb or early childhood — too early for the person to make a “choice.”
Environmental Influences on Homosexuality
The observation by Freud and other analysts that gay men tend to remember their fathers as hostile or distant, and their mothers as unusually close does have some validity. Surveys of gay men in non-clinical settings support the same conclusion. Psychoanalyst Richard Isay pointed out that Freud may have confused cause and effect. It is possible that a pre-homosexual child already exhibits “gay” traits, and these traits evoke a negative response from the fathers, and a positive one from mothers. Fred Whitam (of Arizona State) pointed out that in countries, such as Brazil, where homosexuality is more tolerated, gay men are less likely to recall their relationships with their fathers as distant or hostile than they are in more homophobic societies such as the U.S.
Many so-called sex addicts are either (1) people whose sexual interests are non normative, which disturbs either them or others; or (2) people whose anxiety-driven choices, though gratifying in the short run, are eventually self-destructive. Neither of these cases is an addiction. A true sex addict is one who needs the hormones which having sex and an orgasm produce. They need them like a smoker needs nicotine or an alcoholic needs a drink.
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Charlton, Randolph S. Treating Sexual Disorders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997.
Laqueur, Thomas. Making Sex. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Levay, Simon. The Sexual Brain. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1994.
Moir, Anne. Brain Sex. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991.
Petrikin, Jonathan. Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1995
Teitelbaum, Michael. Sex Differences: Social and Biological Perspectives. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1976.
Williams, Mary. Homosexuality. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999.