Chapter 9

Sexual Expression Chapter 9

Lecture Notes

Sexual Expression

Lecture Notes

Sexual expression is a complex process through which we reveal our sexual selves. Sexual expression involves more than simply sexual behaviors; it involves our feelings as well. As human beings, we do not separate feelings from behavior, including sexual behavior. Our sexual behaviors are rich with emotions,


If we study sexual activities apart from emotions, we would distort the meaning of human sexuality. It involves both behaviors and feelings. In this lecture we will address sexual attractiveness, sexual scripts, autoeroticism, and sexual behavior with others.

Sexual Attractiveness - A Cross Cultural Analysis

Lecture Notes

Sexual attractiveness is an important component in sexual expression. However, there are few universals in what people from different cultures consider attractive.


In a landmark cross-cultural survey, anthropologists Clelland Ford and Frank Beach discovered that there appear to be only two characteristics that women and men universally consider important in terms of sexual attractiveness: Those characteristics are,


Good health


All other aspects may vary significantly from culture to culture.


Men prefer young women because they are most likely to be fertile and in good health related to their reproductive potential. Women prefer slightly older men because they are more stable, mature, and have greater resources to invest in children, as well as to be a good provider. Various cultures emphasize aspects such as eyes, height and weight, as well as size and shape of genitals. Other physical features include good muscle tone, fuller lips, clear and smooth skin, lustrous hair, or clear eyes. We often think that American ideals of beauty are universal but they're not. In other cultures breasts are not erotic, as well as plump women are preferred over thin women. These are contradictory to the ideals of American beauty.


Sexual Attractiveness - Evolutionary Mating Perspectives

Lecture Notes

One prominent theoretical explanation for human mating is the sexual strategies theory. The Sexual Strategies Theories by Buss addresses gender differences in short and long-term heterosexual relationships from an evolutionary mating perspective.


It emphasizes that males and females differ in their preferred traits in partners as well as their strategies for commitment. The most fundamental difference is that women are predicted to be most selective in mate choices for both short-term and long-term relationships given the costs of reproduction. In contrast, in choosing a short-term partner, the man may want to minimize commitment. Once a man commits to a long-term relationship, the costs increase and the level of choosiness is also predicted to increase.The evolutionary biologist believes that men's short-term mating strategy is based on a desire for sexual variety, regardless of global culture, relationship status, or sexual orientation.

Sexual Attractiveness - Evolutionary Mating Perspectives

Lecture Notes

Today, adolescents and young adults have their own form of casual sex, commonly called hooking up or "friends with benefits." These types of casual sex, analogous to the "one-night stands" of prior generations, describe sexual interactions ranging from kissing to intercourse between two people who are not engaged in a romantic commitment.

Evolutionary biologists have hypothesized that men's short-term mating strategy is rooted in the desire for sexual variety. Men possess more desire than women for a variety of sexual partners and are more likely to seek short-term relationships than women. This behavior, from an evolutionary perspective, would maximize reproductive success. Furthermore, sociologist Kathleen Bogel noted that compared to men, women were more likely to report a hope that their hookup would become a committed relationship.


Rank Ordering of Mate Characteristics by College Undergraduates Across Six Decades, by Gender

Lecture Notes

College students also have certain view when it comes to partner characteristics. Mutual attraction and love, dependable character, emotional maturity and stability, and a pleasing disposition were rated highly at all times by both men and women suggesting physical characteristics or attractiveness is not the most important trait in mate selection.

Figures from McGraw Hill image library

Sexual Scripts

Lecture Notes

Gender roles have a significant impact on how we behave sexually, for sexual behaviors and feelings depend more on learning more than on biological drives. Scripts serve as blueprints or roadmaps, giving direction but not specifying everything that must be done. The sexual scripts in our culture are highly gendered, meaning that they strongly influence our sexuality as men and women. Our sexual scripts have several distinct components:

Cultural. The cultural component provides a general pattern that sexual behaviors are expected to take. They tell us which behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable. There is little spontaneity or unlearned behavior. In addition, individual views may not match cultural views of what is erotic. For example, in our cultural script heterosexuality is emphasized and gives primacy to sexual intercourse and discourages masturbation.


Intrapersonal. The second component is the intrapersonal. It deals with the internal and physiological states that accompany or identify sexual arousal such as pounding heart, erection, and vaginal lubrication. Unfortunately erection does not always mean sexual excitement and could mean someone is frightened, anxious, or worried. The increasing heartbeat, tensing muscles, and curling toes are also physiological states that occur with sexual arousal.


Interpersonal. The third component is interpersonal. This involves the shared conventions and signals that enable two people to engage in sexual behaviors. It includes body language, words, and erotic touching. The looks we exchange, tone of our voices, movements of our bodies, and other culturally shared phenomenon also serve as interpersonal cues. And these cues are also related to sexual experience and age.


Lecture Notes

Sexual expression can occur with or without a partner or partners. Autoeroticism is the sexual activities that involve only the self. Autoeroticism is an intrapersonal activity rather than an interpersonal one. It includes sexual fantasies, erotic dreams, and self-masturbation.<br /><br /> Autoeroticism is one of our earliest expressions of sexual stirrings. It is also one that traditionally has been condemned in our society. By condemning it, however, our culture sets the stage for the development of deeply negative and inhibitory attitudes toward sexuality.


Sexual Fantasies

Lecture Notes

Men and women, but especially men, think about sex often.


Although sexual fantasies and dreams are the most universal of sexual behaviors, they are often not discussed because they are viewed as personally or socially unacceptable feelings or desires. Whether occurring spontaneously or resulting from outside stimuli, fantasies are part of the body's regular healthy functioning.


Research indicates that sexual fantasies are related to sexual drives: The higher the sexual drive, the higher the frequency of sexual fantasies and the level of satisfaction in one's sex life.

The Function of Sexual Fantasies

Lecture Notes

Sexual fantasies serve many functions.

They help direct and define erotic goals. They take generalized sexual drives and give them concrete images and specific content.


Sexual fantasies help plan for or anticipate situations that may arise. They provide a form of rehearsal, allowing a mental practice on how to act in various situations such as on a date or in bed with a partner.


Sexual fantasies provide escape from a dull or oppressive environment. Routine or repetitive behavior often gives rise to fantasies as a way of coping with boredom such a sitting through a dull lecture.


Sexual fantasies are a way to bring novelty and excitement into a relationship. Fantasy offers a safe outlet for sexual curiosity.


Lastly, Sexual fantasies have an expressive function in somewhat the same manner that dreams do. Sexual fantasies may offer a clue to current interests, pleasures, anxieties, fears, or problems.

Erotic Dreams

Lecture Notes

Although people tend to feel responsible for their fantasies, which occur when they are awake, they are usually less troubled by sexual dreams. Erotic dreams can accompany nocturnal orgasm for both men and women. Furthermore, individuals may wake up to find their bodies moving like they were engaging in sexual behaviors during sleep. The content of the dreams may not be overtly sexual and cannot be controlled, therefore, it often runs the gamut of sexual possibilities. Women seem to feel less guilty or fearful about nocturnal orgasms than men do, accepting them more easily as pleasurable experiences.



Lecture Notes

Masturbation is the most common form of autoeroticism and is done by most men and women. It is the rubbing, caressing, or otherwise stimulation of the genitals. It is done for many reasons&#8212;relaxation, relief of sexual tension, it can be done when the partner is not available, it is used as a source of physical pleasure, an aid to falling asleep, and is the best way to avoid STIs and HIV. Masturbation is an important means of learning about one's body. Through masturbation, children and adolescents learn what is sexually pleasing, how to move their bodies, and what their natural rhythms are. It can be done alone or with a partner. It is not necessarily a substitute for interpersonal sexual activity but is a legitimate form of activity in its own right. There are no harmful physical effects, and it's safe because there's no exchange of genital secretions, or blood that transmit HIV and other STIs. Sex therapists often encourage their clients to masturbate as a means to overcome specific sexual problems and discovering personal sexual potential. Masturbatory behavior is influenced by education, ethnicity, religion, and age, with education being a particularly strong factor. The more educated one becomes, the more frequently he or she masturbates.

Image from McGraw-Hill Image Library

Masturbation in Adulthood

Lecture Notes

Masturbation occurs over a lifetime. Children accidentally discover playing with their genitals and find it to be pleasurable. But it is important to know that a neutral and nonjudgmental parental reaction to masturbation of children and adolescents is very important in sexual development.   There are also gender differences which result from social conditioning and communication. Boys are taught to discuss masturbation, and girls are taught to repress and hide it, which can also translate into adulthood. Of course there are gender differences in how we masturbate. Women utilize clitoral stimulation with their fingers, rubbing against an object or vibrator. The rubbing or stimulation tends to increase prior to orgasm and to continue during orgasm. This can also be accompanied by the stimulation of the vulva, breasts, nipples, and anal area, or the insertion of objects into the vagina. Men typically grasp the penis and stroke at the shaft with an up and down or circular movement of the hand. This is so that the edge of the corona around the glans and the frenulum on the underside are stimulated. Variations occur in how much pressure is applied, how rapid the strokes would be, and how many fingers are used, as well as where they are placed. The breasts, testicles, and anus can also be stimulated during masturbation and the stroking increases prior to ejaculation and then slows or stop during ejaculation.     Masturbation can also continue after marriage. The reasons for masturbation continuing after marriage varies. Of course it is pleasurable, but there also may be a partner that is away or unwilling to have sexual intercourse. Masturbation could also occur if a sexual intercourse is not satisfying or the partners fear personal sexual inadequacy. Masturbation can also be used to act out fantasies in relationships, release tension, or used as an emotional protection during conflict. Image from McGraw-Hill Image Library

Sexual Behavior With Others

Lecture Notes

We often think that sex is sexual intercourse, but sex is not limited to sexual intercourse. Heterosexuals engage in a wide variety of sexual activities, which may include erotic touching, kissing, oral-genital sex, vaginal intercourse, and anal eroticism. Except for vaginal intercourse, gay and lesbian couples engage in basically the same sexual activities as do heterosexuals.

Image from McGraw-Hill Image Library


Lecture Notes

Touching does not need to be directed solely toward the genitals or erogenous zones. The entire body is responsive to a touch or a caress. Touching is the sign of caring and signal for arousal. It can be used over the entire body as well as the genitals.

Sex researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, suggest a form of touching they call "pleasuring." Pleasuring is nongenital touching and caressing. Neither partner tries to sexually stimulate the other; they simply explore, discovering how their bodies and their partner's bodies respond to touching.


Some forms of touching are directly sexual, such as caressing, fondling, or rubbing our own or our partner's genitals or breasts. The pressing together of bodies with genital thrusting is called tribidism, or "dry humping" among heterosexual couples. Many lesbian women enjoy the overall body contact and eroticism of this form of genital stimulation; sometimes, the partners place their pelvic areas together to provide mutual clitoral stimulation.


Rubbing the penis between the thighs of a partner is a type of touching called interfemoral intercourse. Heterosexual couples who do not use contraception must be sure the man does not ejaculate near the vaginal opening so as to avoid conception.

Stimulating a partner's clitoris or penis with the hand or fingers can increase excitement and lead to orgasm. Mutual masturbation can also be intensely sexual. Some people use sex toys such as dildos, vibrators, or ben-wah balls to enhance sexual touching.

Image from McGraw-Hill Image Library


Lecture Notes

Kissing is usually our earliest interpersonal sexual experience, and its primal intensity may be traced back to our suckling as infants. Kissing is probably the most acceptable of all sexual activities. The tender lover's kiss symbolizes love, and the erotic lover's kiss represents passion. Both men and women regard kissing as a romantic expression, a symbol of affection as well as desire.   The lips and mouth are highly sensitive to touch and are exquisitely erotic parts of our bodies. Although kissing may appear innocent, it is in many ways the height of intimacy. The adolescent's first kiss is often regarded as a milestone, a rite of passage, the beginning of adult sexuality. The amount of kissing differs according to sexual orientation. Lesbian couples tend to engage in more kissing than heterosexual couples, while gay couples kiss less than heterosexual couples.   Ordinary kissing is considered safer sex. French kissing is probably safe, unless the kiss is hard and draws blood or either partner has open sores or cuts in or around the mouth. Image from McGraw-Hill Image Library

Oral-Genital Sex

Lecture Notes

Oral-genital sex has became part of more Americans sexual scripts in the 20th century. The two types of oral-genital sex are cunnilingus and fellatio, which may be performed singly or simultaneously. Cunnilingus is the erotic stimulation of a women's vulva and/or clitoris by her partner's mouth and tongue. There are certain concerns when administering cunnilingus. Concerns include whether the administering partner is enjoying the act and whether the vulva has an unpleasant odor. This can be eased by washing and checking for vaginal infections. It is recommended that individuals use dental dams when administering cunnilingus. These are non-lubricated latex squares that are placed over the vulva to reduce transmission of HIV and other STIs. They also prevent the mixing of body fluids, thus reducing the risk.

For men, oral sex is called fellatio. This is the oral stimulation of a man's penis by his partner's sucking and licking. The man receiving fellatio should let the partner administering control how deep the penis is in the mouth to avoid gag reflex. And the partner should administer from being on top. Fellatio is the most common position performed by prostitutes on men, and is an important component of homosexual activity. Condom use is strongly recommended and flavored condoms are optional. However, it is important to realize that protection for cunnilingus as well as fellatio is often not used.

Sexual Intercourse

Lecture Notes

Sexual intercourse is the more common, less technical name for vaginal intercourse, penile-vaginal intercourse, or coitus. Sometimes, sexual intercourse is also used to describe penile-anal sex. But, for this discussion, we mean penile-vaginal intercourse when we use the term "sexual intercourse." Sexual intercourse has intense personal meaning; it is a source of pleasure, communication, connection, and love. Its meaning changes depending on the context in which we engage in it. Being the most valued and sought-after sexual behavior among persons desiring sex with the other sex, the prevalence of sexual intercourse is very high.

All images from McGraw Hill Image Library

The Positions

Lecture Notes

The playfulness of the couple, their movement from one bodily configuration to another, and their ingenuity can provide an infinite variety of sexual intercourse positions.


Face-to-face is the most common postion. When the man is on top, this is often referred to as missionary style. The advantages the man on top include that it is traditional and the official position of our culture, it allows the man maximum activity, movement, and control of coitus, and it also allows the woman freedom to stimulate her clitoris to assist in her orgasm.


The disadvantages of the man on top position is that it is difficult for the man to caress the partner or stimulate her clitoris while supporting himself with his hands. It is also difficult for the woman to control the angle, rate, and depth of penetration of the penis, and it is difficult for some men to control ejaculation due to high stimulation.

The other face-to-face position is the woman on top or the astride. Advantages of it include the woman having the maximum activity, movement, and control, either the woman's labia or clitoris can also be caressed or stimulated, and kissing is easy with the woman on top. In addition is may be less stimulating for men and easier to control their ejaculation. However, there are also disadvantages of the woman on top position. Men or women may feel uneasy about the woman assuming an active role in coitus.

Another position is rear entry. This is when the woman is kneeled supported on her arms and receiving the penis in the vagina from behind. The couple can also lie on their sides with the woman's back to the partner. This position offers variety, is suitable for pregnancy, and facilitates clitoral stimulation by the woman or the man.

Tantric sex is another alternative for sexual behavior activities with others. It is the sharing of energy through minimal thrusting and is based on an Eastern religious beliefs. Tantric sex emphasizes the couple visualizing the energy of the genitals by moving upward in their bodies. With tantric sex comes harmonized breathing and an achievement of intimacy and ecstasy accompanied by looking into each other's eyes.

Anal Eroticism

Lecture Notes

Anal eroticism refers to sexual activities involving the anus, whose delicate membranes make it erotically arousing for many people. These activities include analingus, the licking of the anal region.   Anal-manual contact consists of stimulating the anal region with the fingers; sometimes, an entire fist may be inserted. Anal intercourse refers to the male inserting his erect penis into his partner's anus.   Individuals of all sexual orientations engage in anal eroticism. From a health perspective, anal sex is riskier than most other forms of sexual intercourse. The rectum is particularly acceptable to STIs, and the rectal tissues are easily lacerated, allowing HIV, specifically carried within the semen, to enter the bloodstream. Individuals should only engage in anal sex if knowledge of the STI status of both partners is known and a condom is used. The dental dam can also be used for oral stimulation and licking increases the risk of transmission of HIV, hepatitis, and STIs if it is not used. It is important to keep the anus clean because the intestinal tract, which extends to the anus, carries a variety of microorganisms. In addition, it is recommended that you wash any objects inserted into the anus before insertion into the vagina to reduce the risk of bacterial infections.

Health Benefits of Sexual Activity

Lecture Notes

Physician Eric Braverman, author of the book Younger (Sexier) You, contends that being sexually active can help keep one younger by decreasing stress, enhancing intimacy in relationships, and keeping hormone levels up, including testosterone, estrogen, and oxytocin.   Persons who frequently engage in sexual activity are reported to experience numerous benefits, such as a longer life, a healthier heart, better defense against illnesses, pain relief, lower blood pressure, a healthier body weight, lower risk of prostate cancer, better cognitive skills, better hormone levels, lower risk of breast cancer, and more satisfying relationships. Sex researcher Beverly Whipple states that ". . . it is not entirely clear whether sex makes people healthier, or whether healthy people tend to have more sex". Nearly all of the studies on the health benefits of sex show a relationship but not a cause and effect. Nevertheless, what we can say with some certainly is that good sex and good health reinforce each other. Image from McGraw Hill Image library

Final Thoughts

Lecture Notes

We have learned that the majority of sexual behaviors cannot be separated from attraction and desire. In addition, autoerotic behaviors are just as important as interpersonal sexual behaviors. Although the behaviors just examined are common, many people also engage in other less typical activities. Sexual expression is complex in which we reveal our sexual selves. Sexuality is one of the most individualistic aspects of life. Each of us has our own sexual values, needs, and preferences.