sexual activity

Human sexual behavior

Human sexual behavior or different human sexual practices encompass a wide range of activities such as strategies to find or attract partners (mating and display behaviour), interactions between individuals, physical or emotional intimacy, and sexual contact.

Some cultures find only sexual contact within marriage acceptable; however, extramarital sexual activity still takes place within such cultures. Unprotected sex poses a risk in unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. In some areas, sexual abuse of individuals is prohibited by law and considered against the norms of society.

Aspects of human sexual behavior

Cultural aspects

As with other behaviors, human intelligence and complex societies have produced among the most complicated sexual behaviors of any animal. Most people experiment with a range of sexual activities during their lives, though they tend to engage in only a few of these regularly. Most people enjoy some sexual activities. However, most societies have defined some sexual activities as inappropriate (wrong person, wrong activity, wrong place, etc.) Some people enjoy many different sexual activities, while others avoid sexual activities altogether for religious or other reasons (see chastity, sexual abstinence). Some societies and religions view sex as appropriate only within marriage.

Social norms and rules

Human sexual behavior, like many other kinds of activity engaged in by human beings, is generally governed by social rules that are culturally specific and vary widely. These social rules are referred to as sexual morality (what can and can not be done by society's rules) and sexual norms (what is and is not expected). Sexual ethics, morals, and norms relate to issues including deception/honesty, legality, fidelity and consent.

Some activities, known as sex crimes, are illegal in some jurisdictions, including those conducted between (or among) consenting and competent adults (examples include sodomy law and adult-adult incest). Scientific studies suggest sexual fantasy, even of unusual interests, is usually a healthy activity. Some people engage in various sexual activities as a business transaction. When this involves having sex with, or performing certain actual sexual acts for another person, it is called prostitution. Other aspects of the adult industry include (for example) telephone sex operators, strip clubs, pornography and the like.

Nearly all developed societies consider it a serious crime to force someone to engage in sexual behavior or to engage in sexual behavior with someone who does not consent. This is called sexual assault, and if sexual penetration occurs it is called rape, the most serious kind of sexual assault. The details of this distinction may vary among different legal jurisdictions. Also, precisely what constitutes effective consent to have sex varies from culture to culture and is frequently debated. Laws regulating the minimum age at which a person can consent to have sex (age of consent) are frequently the subject of political and moral debate , as is adolescent sexual behavior in general. Additionally, many societies have forced marriage, so consent does not really figure in to the equation of a sex crime.

It is possible to engage in sexual activity without a partner, primarily through masturbation and/or sexual fantasy.

Frequency of sexual activity

The frequency of sexual intercourse might range from zero (sexual abstinence) to 15 or 20 times a week. It is generally recognized that postmenopausal women experience declines in frequency of sexual intercourse.. The average frequency of sexual intercourse for married couples is 2 to 3 times a week (in America).

Safety and ancillary issues

There are four main areas of risk in sexual activity, namely:

These risks are raised by any condition (temporary or permanent) which impairs one's judgement, such as excess alcohol or drugs, or emotional states such as loneliness, depression or euphoria (e.g. new students at college). Carefully considered activity can greatly reduce all of these issues.

Sexually transmitted disease

Sexual behaviors that involve contact with the bodily fluids of another person entail risk of transmission of sexually transmitted disease. Safe sex practices try to avoid this. These techniques are often seen as less necessary for those in committed relationships with persons known to be free of disease; see fluid bonding.

Due to health concerns arising from HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, HPV and other sexually transmitted infections, some people may want potential sex partners to be tested for STDs before engaging in sex.

Unwanted pregnancy

Sexual behaviors that involve the contact of semen with the vagina or vulva may result in pregnancy. To prevent pregnancy, many people employ a variety of birth control measures. The most popular methods of prevention are condoms, spermicides, hormonal contraception, and sterilization.

Legal issues related to sexual behavior

Sodomy and same sex laws

Various forms of same-sex sexual activity have been prohibited under law in many areas at different times in history. In 2003, the Lawrence v Texas United States Supreme Court decision overturned all such laws in the US.

Usually, though not always, such laws are termed sodomy laws, but also include issues such as age of consent laws, "decency" laws, and so forth. Laws prohibiting same-sex sexuality have varied widely throughout history, varying by culture, religious and social taboos and customs, etc. Often such laws are targeted or applied differently based on sex as well. For example, laws against same-sex sexual behavior in the United Kingdom during the reign of Queen Victoria, sodomy or "buggery" laws were aimed specifically at male same-sex sexual activity and did not target or even address female homosexuality. A well known example of such laws applied in relatively modern times can be found in the life story of Alan Turing.

Child sexuality

Child sexuality examines sexual feelings, behaviors, and developments in children. Children are naturally curious about their bodies and sexual functions — they wonder where babies come from, they notice anatomical differences between males and females, and many engage in genital play (often mistaken for masturbation). In the past, children were often assumed to be sexually "pure", having no sexuality until later development. Sigmund Freud was one of the first researchers to take child sexuality seriously. While his ideas, such as psychosexual development and the Oedipus conflict, have been rejected or labeled obsolete, acknowledging the existence of child sexuality was a milestone. Alfred Kinsey also examined child sexuality in his Kinsey Reports.

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which a child is abused for the sexual gratification of someone else; child abuse is also a legal umbrella term describing criminal and civil offenses in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exploits a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification. In addition to direct sexual contact, child sexual abuse also occurs when an adult exposes their genitals to a child, asks or pressures a child to engage in sexual activities, displays pornography to a child, or uses a child to produce child pornography. The American Psychiatric Association states that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults", and condemns any such action: "An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior."

Effects of child sexual abuse include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems. Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.

See also


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