Portal:Sexuality

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Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors. Because it is a broad term, which has varied over time, it lacks a precise definition. The biological and physical aspects of sexuality largely concern the human reproductive functions, including the human sexual response cycle. Someone's sexual orientation can influence that person's sexual interest and attraction for another person. Physical and emotional aspects of sexuality include bonds between individuals that are expressed through profound feelings or physical manifestations of love, trust, and care. Social aspects deal with the effects of human society on one's sexuality, while spirituality concerns an individual's spiritual connection with others. Sexuality also affects and is affected by cultural, political, legal, philosophical, moral, ethical, and religious aspects of life.

Interest in sexual activity typically increases when an individual reaches puberty. Opinions differ on the origins of an individual's sexual orientation and sexual behavior. Some argue that sexuality is determined by genetics, while others believe it is molded by the environment, or that both of these factors interact to form the individual's sexual orientation. This pertains to the nature versus nurture debate. In the former, one assumes that the features of a person innately correspond to their natural inheritance, exemplified by drives and instincts; the latter refers to the assumption that the features of a person continue to change throughout their development and nurturing, exemplified by ego ideals and formative identifications.

Evolutionary perspectives on human coupling, reproduction and reproduction strategies, and social learning theory provide further views of sexuality. Socio-cultural aspects of sexuality include historical developments and religious beliefs. Examples of these include Jewish views on sexual pleasure within marriage and some views of other religions on avoidance of sexual pleasures.[page needed] Some cultures have been described as sexually repressive. The study of sexuality also includes human identity within social groups, sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), and birth control methods.

Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone (e.g., masturbation) to acts with another person (e.g., sexual intercourse, non-penetrative sex, oral sex, etc.) in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners (courtship and display behaviour), or personal interactions between individuals (for instance, foreplay or BDSM). Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Human sexual activity has sociological, cognitive, emotional, behavioural and biological aspects; these include personal bonding, sharing emotions and the physiology of the reproductive system, sex drive, sexual intercourse and sexual behaviour in all its forms.

In some cultures, sexual activity is considered acceptable only within marriage, while premarital and extramarital sex are taboo. Some sexual activities are illegal either universally or in some countries or subnational jurisdictions, while some are considered contrary to the norms of certain societies or cultures. Two examples that are criminal offences in most jurisdictions are sexual assault and sexual activity with a person below the local age of consent.

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The relationship between biology and sexual orientation is a subject of research. A simple and singular determinant for sexual orientation has not been conclusively demonstrated; various studies point to different, even conflicting positions, but scientists hypothesize that a combination of genetic, hormonal and social factors determine sexual orientation. Biological theories for explaining the causes of sexual orientation are more popular, and biological factors may involve a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. These factors, which may be related to the development of a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual orientation, include genes, prenatal hormones, and brain structure.

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July - December 2008

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