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Sexuality As Process Essay, Research Paper

The aim of this essay, is to try and establish if sexuality, is an innate

biological process that takes place as a result of our genetic make-up or wether

sexuality is a result of our cultural back ground and the environment in which

we are raised. These two differing theories are known as the nature/nurture

debate, nature representing the biological theory for our sexuality and nurture

representing environmental influences for our behaviour. The first part of the

essay, will focus on the biological side of our sexuality and will put forward

theories by Barnard, Hamer and Young, who will argue the point, that our

sexuality is established at the foetal stage of our development. It is at this

early stage of life, that genes carry specific information about who we are. A

gene is a unit of hereditary that our sexuality is established through and the

genes determine the biological characteristics of an individual, both physically

and mentally. The essay will then give further evidence that our sexuality is

biologically driven, by describing the changes our bodies undergo when we reach

puberty, changes that are triggered by hormonal transitions. Hormones are

chemical messengers, they send massages from glands around the body, which

triggers a response in other parts of our anatomy. The essay will give evidence

that, hormones are a biological indicator that we are biologically driven

towards our sexuality. The second part of the essay will argue that, sexuality

is greatly influenced by environmental factors, environmental factors such as

rearing styles and differing cultural practises. It will look at different

societies and the way in which they perceive sexuality and argue that sexuality

is learned through a combination of expected social norms and observational

learning, giving evidence from Bandura, Mead and Money along the way. Finally

the essay will look at the evidence that has been put forward and sum up what

has been debated, it will then draw a conclusion. From the point of conception,

human beings are made up of 46 chromosomes, 23 male and 23 female. After

insemination, paternal and maternal chromosomes fuse, this fusion determines the

sex of the child. The amalgamation of two X chromosomes creates a female child,

while the combination of X and Y chromosomes, leads to the development of a male

offspring. Each chromosome contains thousands genes and each gene contains

specific information about how part of the body will be formed. Genes are

responsible for almost every aspect of the human body, from hair colour to the

development of our organs, organs like the brain and it is within the brain were

the biggest changes take place when our bodies under go their sexual

metamorphous, during sexual maturation. When we reach sexual maturity, we have

our first insight into our sexuality, an insight which is genetically programmed

into our consciousness through our DNA, this theory is supported by the work of

hamer et al ( 1993) who conducted a study of male sexual orientation. "Hamer

examined 40 pairs of gay brothers. He examined 22 genetic markers distributed

across the X chromosome in order to see if brothers concordant for

homosexuality, were also concordant for the markers. He found that the

chromosomal region of xq28, at the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome, 33

of the 40 pairs of brothers shared all the markers. This was statistically

different from the expected rate (20 out of 40) suggesting that the gene

influencing male sexual orientation, lies within that chromosomal region"

In this study, Hamer along with many other fellow geneticists, is claiming that

he has found the gene which dictates our sexual orientation, therefore genes are

a precursor to our sexuality and our sexuality is decided at an anatomical level

in the womb. Whilst in the womb, it seems that our sexuality is being pre

programmed by our genes but there are other biological developments taking

place, namely the formation of our hormones, hormones which will lie dormant

until the onset of puberty. "The hypothalamus an important co-ordinating

centre in the brain, signals the onset of puberty. The hypothalamus stimulates a

gland just below it, the pituitary, to secrete hormones (chemical messengers

carried in the blood). These are carried to other hormonal secreting glands. In

their turn these release other hormones which regulate physical growth and

development" (DR Christian Barnard. 1981) The two main hormones released at

sexual maturity are testosterone for males and oestrogen for females. When

Testosterone is distributed throughout the sexually maturing male, his testes

will enlarge and begin producing sperm. His body will begin to grow pubic hair,

his voice will deepen, his muscles will become larger and he will show more

aggression when trying to assert his masculinity. By comparison, the manufacture

of oestrogen within the adolescent female will promote quite different

developments throughout her body. She will develop breasts, her hips will grow

and widen, she will grow pubic hair and most importantly she will start her

menstrual cycle, meaning, like the sexually maturing male, she will have

attained full reproductive capacity. So therefore, it seems that it is

testosterone what gives man his masculinity and it is oestrogen that helps

establish womens femininity. This theory is given support by an experiment

carried out by W.C.Young. Young carried out an experiment on a pregnant monkey,

that was carrying a female foetus, she gave the primate large daily doses of the

male hormone testosterone to try and ascertain if the hormone would have any

effect on the monkey’s sexuality. When it was born, the female monkey behaved in

a much more assertive and aggressive manner, than other females of her kind, her

behaviour was noted to be more like that of a male monkey. She participated in

all the boisterous activity with the male members of her species and challenged

them in fights, which helped establish her social status amongst the male

monkeys. Other experiments have shown that monkeys injected with testosterone

between birth and puberty, developed similar assertive, typically male behaviour.

These case studies put forward, argue precisely the point, that it is biological

factors that decide our sexuality and we are therefore biologically driven

towards our sexuality. *************** The nurture theory, put simply, means

that our sexuality is not the result of our biology (nature) but rather that our

sexuality and characteristics are socially learned through experience. A study

by Albert Bandura et al ( 197-) has shown how "children learn their roles

from those influential models they observe around them, particularly their

parents. If the two sexes are treated differently and have different

expectations of their behaviour then they will learn to behave differently.

These differences include their gender and this might be papering them for the

kind of social roles that they find them selves in later" In this

statement, Bandura is trying to tell us that the essence of who we are and who

we perceive our selves to be, is acquired at an early age, through observational

learning and it is through observational learning that we develop our concept of

social norms. Social norms are expected patterns of behaviour that develop in

any social group over time, they become a major part of our culture and one part

of that culture is the perception of our sexuality. In the 1930s, a social

anthropologist named Margaret Mead (193-) carried out a study of the sexual

roles of a native Indian society known as the Tchambuli people, who lived on the

island of New Guinea. Mead found "dramatic differences in the ways boys and

girls are treated and in the personalities and behaviour of the adults which

appeared as a result" Mead discovered that the women of the Tchambuli

people socialised their male children to be artistic, creative and sentimental.

The adult males would sit around the village gossiping, making themselves look

pretty and they generally took over the role as the female gender. The women on

the other hand had assumed the lead in all matters, they were competitive,

aggressive, they were the hunters and conducted all the trade necessary for

their village. Mead concuded, that it was a "classical gender role

reversal" This study helps to prove, that how we are raised and other

environmental factors, help shape our sexuality/gender. A study by John Money,

determined that it was environmental factors that helped a young Jewish boy (one

of identical twins) establish his sexuality after having his penis damaged

during a circumcision operation. His penis was so badly damaged, that his

doctors came to the conclusion, he would not be able to function as a male and

therefore, at the age of seventeen months, it was decided to make him into a

female. The boy had surgery and a course of hormone treatment began. With female

socialisation, the child soon began behaving like other girls. By the time the

child had reached the age of five, the differences between the twins was

considerable. She enjoyed feminine things such as playing with dolls, having her

hair brushed and putting on makeup, by the time she had reached adulthood, she

was indistinguishable from any other female of her own age. If sexual roles were

determined by innate forces then such a change in behaviour would not have been

possible, as this female was genetically male. The first part of this essay

argued that, sexuality is a biologically driven process that is established in

the womb. It reviled our gender is decided from the moment of conception,

through the fertilization of the female ovum. It then took a more in-depth look

at the biological side of our sexuality by looking at our genetic makeup. It

showed that a study by Hammer had indicated that it was possible to locate the

gene that is responsible for our sexuality by studying same sex family members.

The essay then further substantiated that our sexuality is a biological process,

by giving a descriptive account of how hormonal changes affect the human body,

when we reach maturation. It showed how an experiment by W.C.Young, helped to

prove that hormones play a major role in our sexuality, by injecting the female

foetus of a monkey with the male hormone testosterone. She found, after the

monkey was born, it was more predisposed to being male than it was female. She

concluded, that in all probability, it was because of the testosterone

injections. The second part of the essay concentrated on the nurture side of our

sexuality and tried to establish if our sexuality could be shaped by

environmental factors. It gave an account of a study by Bandura,which showed

that children use observational learning, to help them understand their

identity. Bandura argued that "children imitate influential models around

them. They try to live up to people’s expectations of them, expectations

including gender and this can lead to a self fulfilling prophesy in

adulthood" In the 1930s, Mead studied the native Indian people of New

Guinea and found dramatic differences in the way they reared their children

compared to other cultures. She observed that the gender roles were reversed,

boys were raised as females and girls reared as males. She determined this had

lasting ramifications on their sexuality and gender in adult life. Money

conducted a study of a young boy whose penis was damaged in a bungled

circumcision operation. The organ was so badly damaged that it was decided to

transform him into a female. After socialising and raising him as a girl, money

noted that he had become mentally and physically indistinguishable from any

other female of his own age. This essay has examined both sides of the argument

of how we acquire our sexuality and after giving much thought, has come to the

conclusion, that although our environment plays an important part in our sexual

development, it is an innate biological process that determines our sexuality.

It is our genes that dictate sexuality and therefore our sexuality is

genetically programmed within us at the earliest stages of foetal development.

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