In his works, Sigmund Freud often focuses on the way in which the sexuality of an individual is developed. This author introduces such a concept as polymorphous perversity. This notion can be defined as the person’s ability and tendency to derive sexual pleasure from various parts of one’s body such as the mouth (Kristeva, 2007, p. 717). This description applies to children who are aged below five. It should be noted that at this point, children do not know that some forms of sexuality are forbidden by the existing cultural norms.
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For instance, Freud focuses on homosexual sex or incest. In part, this behavior can be explained by the fact that children are driven by the desire to seek new knowledge (Kristeva, 2007, p. 717). According to Freud’s theory, deviant sexual behaviors should be suppressed during the first five years. Overall, people can be called polymorphously perverse, if they do not adjust their sexuality to the existing conventions.
It should be noted that according to the psychoanalytic theory, there are several stages in the development of a person’s sexuality. In particular, one should distinguish oral, anal, and phallic stages (Garcia, 1995, p. 499). During the oral phase, this child can develop an intimate bond with his/her mother. In this cause, much attention should be paid to breastfeeding. Later, the child learns that this form of intimacy is not socially acceptable.
Additionally, children do not know that bisexual relations are usually considered to be inappropriate. As a rule, parents suppress this polymorphous perversity of children. If this goal is not achieved, the eroticism of a person can take deviant forms. It is important to remember that Freud regarded heterosexuality as a norm. Additionally, the sexual pleasure has to be derived from genitals. One should bear in mind that social conventions have evolved considerably during the twentieth century. In part, this argument is relevant to homosexuality that is not viewed as some abnormality in many societies. Moreover, homosexual individuals are less likely to be stigmatized.
Overall, Freud’s theory is often applied to show how the sexuality of an adult is shaped. To a large extent, this process is based on the evaluation or even discrimination against various sexual predispositions. It is expected that polymorphous sexuality should be ended during the early childhood. Nevertheless, this framework is not entirely sufficient for showing how the norms of sexual behavior are enforced.
One should consider other theories that are useful for describing the development of adult sexuality. Some of them are based on the ideas introduced by Sigmund Freud. However, it is possible to examine the model advocated by Albert Bandura. This framework is based on the premise that a person evaluates the appropriateness of a particular behavior by observing the consequences that it can produce. Moreover, this theory emphasizes the importance of positive and negative reinforcements that can influence the conduct of an individual. In turn, a person discovers that some expressions of sexuality are regarded as normal.
For instance, one should consider heterosexuality. In contrast, children or adolescents can see that the intimacy between same-sex individuals is often stigmatized. Moreover, they learn that certain gender should be adopted by males and females (Bryan, 1979, p. 13).
Furthermore, it is possible to mention the role of mass media that shape people’s attitudes toward various forms of sexuality. For instance, they can demonstrate that rape is totally unacceptable (Hogben & Byrne, 1998, p. 68). They help people can see that some types of sexual behavior can lead to adverse consequences. In turn, social learning theory is useful for explaining how various norms can be enforced. Apart from that, this model implies that the sexual identity is formed during childhood and adolescence. This process cannot be completed during the first five years of a person’s life.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this model may not be sufficient for explaining why some people tend to depart from sexual norms established in the community. For instance, homosexuality can exist even in those communities in which this behavior is severely punished.
The advocates of the social learning theory cannot tell why such deviations exist. In turn, researchers focus on the importance of genetic factors that influence the sexual identity of an individual. One should not suppose that certain sexual behaviors can always be suppressed. This part of a person’s identity cannot be shaped only by positive or negative reinforcements such as rewards and punishments.
This discussion shows that researchers can apply different theories to explain the way in which the sexual identity is shaped. In each case, scholars focus on those factors that help a person distinguish between accepted norms and deviations. Freud’s model is useful for showing how various abnormalities can emerge. At the same time, Albert Bandura’s theory is useful for understanding how an individual can adjust to the existing standards. However, it is critical to identify the limitations of these models. They cannot always show why some standards of sexual behavior are not always enforced. Finally, it is vital to remember that the very notion of a sexual norm has changed considerably.
Bryan, J. (1979). Sex-Role Learning: A Test Of The Selective Attention Hypothesis. Child Development, 49(1), 13-23.
Garcia, J. (1995). Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Conception: A Developmental Metaphor For Counselors. Journal Of Counseling & Development, 73(5), 498-502.
Hogben, M., and Byrne, D. (1998). Using Social Learning Theory To Explain Individual Differences In Human Sexuality. Journal Of Sex Research, 35(1), 58-71.
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Kristeva, J. (2007). Adolescence, A Syndrome Of Ideality. Psychoanalytic Review, 94(5) 715-725.