History of Sexuality

Thanks to the help of Mr. Coffee, I think I finally have a direction where I want to take this topic. In the past century, sexuality as we know it has evolved. As technology advances and the development of things such as the Birth Control Pill, HIV/AIDS, medications like Viagra and Cialis, have become available to us, our perspectives of human sexuality have evolved. This got me thinking about what influences sex and sexuality, and the list I’m about to post is from this website.

• Technology is allowing sexual satisfaction to be less dependent on the presence of another person.
• Pharmaceutical companies are creating medications that increase arousal, desire, passion, and sexual performance.
• Science is making a perpetually youthful appearance and physical perfection achievable.
• Demographic changes in the United States are leading to increasing arousal to a wider variety of ethnicities and skin colors, and cross-cultural dating is more evident. Furthermore, a myriad of new sexual practices and beliefs are being introduced.
• Sex research is increasing our knowledge about human sex and sexuality.

So how has the perspective of human sexuality evolved? From what, to what? How will they continue to evolve with technology? Let’s first take a look where we were at the beginning of the Victorian Era, and views on sexual activity, masturbation, homosexuality, and prostitution during that time period.

Sexual activity was not something that women of the Victorian Era were able to experience, unless strictly for the purpose of procreation. Women seeking sexual pleasure were thought not to be leading “God-filled lives.” During this time period, multiple pamphlets were printed suggesting that women too needed sexual gratification. However, there were some that continued to preach marital continence, “the voluntary and entire absence from sexual indulgence in any form.” A combination of lack of knowledge and what was socially acceptable lead to a “race of sexless creatures,” practically “married nuns.”

Masturbation, or “sexual self gratification” according to www.dictionary.com, was highly frowned down upon. It was considered a “moral disgrace” and was “shunned by the majority of society.” Once again, due to a lack of knowledge, people thought masturbation led to diseases like heart disorders, cancers, hysteria, and insanity. Even if they didn’t think that masturbation caused the problems, they whole heartedly believed that masturbation worsened your condition. One final thing that really shows how things have evolved as far as masturbation is concerned is the fact that they believed masturbating could be passed down to a person’s offspring, therefore a parent who had masturbated was more likely to have a child that masturbated. Oh, how the times have changed.

Homosexuality, “the practice of same gender sexual relations,” was known as the “practices of a sinner.” It wasn’t until later on that people suspected that homosexuality was caused by a mental defect. Originally people thought that only men engaged in this act, and Queen Victoria once said “ladies would never engage in such despicable acts.” Obviously while this is completely false, men did tend to participate in homosexual relationships more than women. In the late 1800’s there was a shift from being a sinner to being a pervert if one was a homosexual.

Prostitution was considered a “moral dilemma” but also a “necessary evil.” Many young women were forced into this business to try to keep themselves off the street and earn money. At this time period, women still didn’t have the same job opportunities as men did. Society viewed these women as whores, and contributors to “moral decline.”

Clearly times have changed. Societies views on sexuality have also changed, however, a lot of the views we see and hear about today are clearly rooted from the Victorian Era and have not done a complete 180. I consciously chose the term “evolution” to describe this phenomenon because while outlooks have evolved, they are not completely different than the opinions and views we see regarding these issues today; they have a clear connection to history.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Perceptions are influenced by religion. What do our faiths have to say about some of these issues? I think some are addressed in the Judeo-Christian faith in Leviticus (though I could be wrong).
    Also: http://www.newsweek.com/id/40963

  2. 2

    Also, pharmaceuticals are directed to which gender?
    I read a book for my masculinity class that I was taking I think when you were a sophomore called: “Gay New York” http://www.amazon.com/Gay-New-York-Culture-1890-1940/dp/0465026214/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268826687&sr=8-1

    And there’s also the psychological term called neurasthenia around the Victorian age: http://artofmanliness.com/2009/07/20/modern-neurasthenia-curing-your-restlessness/

    Some might argue the Ed Norton character in Fight Club suffers from it. Or Dissociative Identity Disorder, but it is related to sexuality and Victorian repression.


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