Sexuality is about responsiveness and orientation, which are both determined before we are born. Our responsiveness is innate, sporadic and beyond our conscious control. Our orientation is defined by who we are attracted to: for example, the same sex or the opposite sex.
Sexual responsiveness is the capacity to respond to eroticism to the point of orgasm. The more responsive we are, the more frequently we experience orgasm. Responsiveness is primarily a male characteristic. There are few men who orgasm rarely or infrequently. Male orgasm is the physiological trigger for ejaculation. All men (to varying degrees) are capable of orgasm because men’s prime reproductive role is to ejaculate into a woman’s vagina.
Primitive life, such as bacteria, reproduce asexually with offspring inheriting 100% of their parent’s
genes. Most animals and plants reproduce sexually so that offspring inherit genes from both parents.
Sexual reproduction allows more rapid development of genetic diversity, allowing life forms to adapt to changing environments. The female has a ‘passive’ role. The female genetic material (called ova or megaspores) contains the necessary nutrients for the developing young and so is relatively large. The male genetic material (called sperm or microspores) is smaller and more mobile. There are many more of them so they are more dispensable. They usually travel (cover some distance) to reach the female genetic material.
Humans belong to the group of animals called mammals. Mammals are different to other groups because the female mammal carries the young in her womb until it is old enough to survive in the open. So male and female mammals have very different roles. The key reproductive role of the male is the act of mating itself. The human reproductive process involves the man’s sperm meeting the woman’s egg. This involves:
- A man having an erect penis (male arousal);
- A man being motivated to penetrate a vagina (male sex drive); and
- A man being motivated to thrust until ejaculation (male orgasm).
Male arousal occurs (at least initially) as an automatic response to hormones. This arousal quickly transfers to specific fantasies or to the physical presence of a potential sexual partner. A man’s sex drive motivates him to initiate intercourse, which (after the first time) is further positively reinforced by his experience of the pleasures of intercourse. The male instinct to deposit glandular emissions to mark out territory ensures that men are motivated to continue thrusting until they ejaculate.
Most people are heterosexual, which means that they are attracted to people of the opposite sex. Some people are attracted to their own sex. When this is exclusive (they are never attracted to the opposite sex) we say that they are ‘homosexual’. When a man or a woman enjoys pleasuring with someone of either sex we say that they are ‘bisexual’. All of these orientations are completely normal and accepted in most societies today.
There is a biological precedent for heterosexuality because intercourse between a man and a woman is the basis of reproduction. But human sexuality is much broader than a purely reproductive function. So although it is usual for people to be heterosexual it is not abnormal if someone is attracted to the same sex either exclusively or just sometimes.
Sexual orientation is just one aspect of ourselves. Sexual orientation does not change how we are as human beings, our personalities and talents. We have no choice over our orientation. It is just the way we are. We do not become gay because of the people we associate with or because our parents raised us in a certain way. Men are more likely to identify their orientation because men are responsive. Orientation is less significant to women because of their lack of responsiveness.
The researcher Alfred Kinsey found that some people engage in sexual activity with the same sex just once perhaps as a form of experimentation when they are young. Others are ashamed of having a sexual response t the same sex and consciously avoid contacts with the same sex. Others are more relaxed about their relationships and have sex with people they find attractive regardless of their gender. It is a misconception that gay people look or behave differently to straight people. Some people naturally have mannerisms that may be associated with being gay. There is no guarantee that a ‘butch’ woman is lesbian or that an ‘effeminate’ man is gay.
Orientation is determined by who we are emotionally attracted to or who we are aroused by. Men’s orientation depends on explicit turn-ons: specifically, male or female anatomy. Given women are generally unresponsive and few women have sexual fantasies, their orientation is determined by those they form an emotional connection with.
Far from being a disorder, low libido is just the natural state of affairs for many women. (Bella Ellwood-Clayton 2013)