Sexuality As Process 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.