Chapter 13 Summary

  1. Physiological responses suggestive of sexual arousal are seen in infants and young children, but they seem to be triggered by a wide range of stimuli, such as strong emotion of any kind. Masturbation is common in young children, and other sexual behaviors, such as the display of genitals or the inspection of other children’s genitals, are also seen. These behaviors may be incorporated into sexual games such as “doctor.” Young children rarely engage in adultlike sexual behavior, however.
  2. Some non-Western societies tolerate or encourage childhood sexual behavior, while others attempt to restrain it. In the contemporary United States, children are often prevented from engaging in or learning about sexuality.
  3. Some children, usually older ones, have sexual contacts with adults. These contacts are usually one-time events rather than ongoing relationships. Most adults who have sexual contacts with children are relatives or acquaintances of the child, rather than strangers. Coercive or repeated adult–child sexual contacts can cause long-lasting psychological trauma. Noncoercive, sporadic contacts may cause little or no harm.
  4. In late childhood (preadolescence), children tend to socialize in same-sex groups and to impose strict gender codes. This practice can be traumatic for gender-nonconformist children. Although segregation by sex limits opportunities for heterosexual encounters, a few children do engage in coitus before the age of 13.
  5. Many cultures mark puberty by special celebrations or rites. Examples practiced in the United States are the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah and the Hispanic quinceañera.
  6. Adolescence is usually defined as the teen years. In early adolescence, rising sex hormone levels trigger an increasing interest in sex. Most adolescent males masturbate frequently, but females do so less often. Adolescent heterosexual behavior gradually progresses from kissing and fondling to coitus, oral sex, and, sometimes, anal sex. Some characteristics of teen sexual behavior reflect personal and demographic factors such as intelligence, education, and ethnicity. Girls’ and young women’s changing expectations as well as the availability of reliable contraception have modified teen sexual behavior over the last several decades.
  7. Teen pregnancy has declined over the last two decades thanks to improved use of contraceptives, but it is still much higher in the United States than in Canada or other developed countries. It is also higher among Hispanics and African-Americans than among whites or Asian-Americans. Teen pregnancies are often terminated by abortion. Teenage mothers and their children face numerous problems, but some thrive.
  8. Young adults typically spend a few years “hooking up” and/or dating before they enter their first live-in relationship, but the average number of sex partners during this period is quite low. During the dating years, sexual desires have to compete with other interests, such as pursuit of education or career advancement.
  9. For many adults, their first live-in relationship is a nonmarital cohabitation. Cohabitation may serve simply as a convenient alternative to dating, or it may represent a committed relationship without the legal trappings of marriage.
  10. Many past and present human societies have allowed polygamy. In the United States, group marriage and Mormon polygamy (which is no longer permitted by the Mormon church) exemplify nonstandard marital arrangements.
  11. Western society is moving from a traditional, one-size-fits-all institution of marriage to a greater variety of live-in sexual relationships. Because women have fewer pregnancies than in the past and are more likely to be in the labor market, distinct gender roles in marriage have diminished. People are marrying later and divorcing more readily; marriage may soon become a minority status for American adults. Nevertheless, most people desire to be in some kind of monogamous, long-term relationship.
  12. Married men and women tend to have less sex than those who are dating or cohabiting, and they are less adventurous sexually, but their physical and emotional satisfaction with their sex lives is high. For women, simply being married makes sex more satisfying. However, marital satisfaction tends to fall off over time, especially for women.
  13. One in three marriages breaks up within 10 years. The likelihood of breakup is increased by a number of factors, such as early (teen) marriage, dissimilarity between husband and wife, and low educational level.
  14. Divorced people experience a variety of physical and psychological ill effects, but most divorced men and women remarry.
  15. Menopause—the cessation of menstrual cycles—is the culmination of a gradual transition to infertility in women. The hormonal changes of menopause can impair the physiological processes of sexual arousal and may be accompanied by a decline in sexual interest and activity.
  16. Hormone therapy can alleviate menopausal symptoms but may have unpleasant side effects that cause many women to discontinue treatment, as well as long-term health risks including an elevated risk of breast cancer. Postmenopausal women are advised to use hormones only at dosages and for lengths of time that are sufficient to control symptoms.
  17. Men experience a gradual decline in fertility, physiological arousal, and sexual interest, rather than a rapid transition to infertility. A few men father children in old age.
  18. Many people continue to experience sexual desire into old age. The physical expression of this desire may be compromised by declining physiological responsiveness (for example, erectile dysfunction or loss of vaginal lubrication), by a variety of medical conditions and drugs, or by the lack of a partner. Nevertheless, many older women and men continue to engage in sexual behavior, including masturbation, coitus, and noncoital contacts.