Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Topic: Sexual Behavior and Lifespan Sexual Development Format/Length: 400-600 Words | APA Format | | Office Paper
+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com
  

 Topic: Sexual Behavior and Lifespan Sexual Development

Format/Length: 400-600 Words | APA Format | MUST INCLUDE/CITE ATTACHED CLASS RESOURCES.

Due: Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Discussion Question: What was the most intriguing or inspiring topic you learned about this week from the Week 6 learning resources? What did you learn about this topic that captured your attention? 

· Write a composition of 400-600 words addressing these questions.

· Give at least two examples to support your conclusion.

· Following your composition, on the next line, including one resource (article, website, video, podcast) that informs on your selected topic. Provide the reference and an accurate link to the resource.

235

The Psychology of Human Sexuality, Second Edition. Justin J. Lehmiller.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Companion Website: www.wiley.comgolehmiller2e

9

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Introduction, 236
Solitary Sexual Behaviors, 236

Asexuality and Celibacy, 236
Sexual Fantasy, 238
Masturbation, 241

Partnered Sexual Behaviors, 246
Kissing, 246
Touching, 248
Oral Sex, 248
Vaginal Intercourse, 249
Anal Sex, 250
Same-Sex Behaviors, 251
Sex With Three, or Four, or More, 252

Frequency and Benefits of Sex and Orgasm, 255
Sexual Behavior in Psychological Perspective, 257

Self-Regulation, 257
Attachment Style, 259
Mortality Salience, 259

Sexual Behaviors

©ginasanders/123RF.COM.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

9 Sexual Behaviors236

Introduction

What does it mean to be “sexually active?” It is difficult to say because everyone has different
ideas about what “counts” as sex and how frequently you need to do it in order to be con-
sidered “active.” Consider this: in a study in which college undergraduates were given a long
list of sexual behaviors (e.g., kissing, nipple stimulation, vaginal intercourse) and asked to rate
whether each one counted as “having sex,” researchers found that there was not a single act that
everyone agreed was “definitely sex” or “definitely not sex” (Sewell & Strassberg, 2015)!

Rather than getting bogged down in a debate about what sex is and is not, this chapter
will instead focus on the incredible diversity that exists in human sexual practices. As some
evidence of just how much variability there is when it comes to sexual behavior, the National
Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) revealed that Americans reported 41 different
combinations of sex acts during their most recent sexual encounter (Herbenick et al., 2010a).
The NSSHB also revealed that the prevalence of specific sexual acts varied considerably across
sex, age, relationship status, and numerous other demographic variables. For a sampling of just
a few of the ways that sexual activities differ across individuals, check out Table 9.1. Please pay
particular attention to the finding that sexual activity persists across the lifespan. At least some
participants in each age group reported practicing each activity, which tells us that there is no
definitive end point to our sex lives. Although it is true that the frequency of sexual activity
often decreases as we age (more on this in chapter 10), the stereotype that older adults do not
desire or engage in sexual activity is patently false.

This chapter will shed light on some of the most common forms of sexual expression. We will
consider both the prevalence of each behavior and the different forms each can take. Before we
delve into the details, please recall that sexual behavior is a biopsychosocial event: as discussed
in chapter 1, everything from hormones, to evolved traits, to cultural standards, to our current
mood state affect both our general level of interest in sex and our specific sexual practices. That
said, our psychology has a particularly profound influence on sexual behavior, affecting when
and how it is expressed. As a result, we will explore the role of psychology in greater depth
toward the end of this chapter.

Solitary Sexual Behaviors

We will begin our discussion of sexual practices by focusing on sexual thoughts and behaviors
at the individual level.

Asexuality and Celibacy

Some individuals are not sexually active for a part of their life or for their entire life for reasons
that vary widely. For instance, as discussed in previous chapters, some people are asexual,
meaning they have a general lack of desire for partnered sexual activity. Asexual persons may
still masturbate and have sexual fantasies, but some do not engage in any type of sexual behav-
ior whatsoever (Bogaert, 2013). Contrary to popular belief, many asexual individuals still desire
relationships and intimacy (e.g., cuddling), and some even go on to enjoy sexless marriages
(Travis,  2010). In contrast to asexuality, individuals who have sexual desire but intentionally
refrain from acting on it are practicing celibacy. There are two variations of celibacy. Complete
celibacy refers to abstention from any kind of solitary or partnered sexual activity, whereas
partial celibacy refers only to abstention from partnered acts, while still engaging in masturba-
tion. Whereas asexuality is increasingly being viewed as a sexual orientation, in the sense that

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Ta
b

le
9

.1
M

al
e

an
d

fe
m

al
e

se
xu

al
b

eh
av

io
rs

a
cr

o
ss

t
h

e
lif

es
p

an
.

A
g

e
r

an
g

e

1
8

–1
9

2
0

–2
4

2
5

–2
9

3
0

–3
9

4
0

–4
9

5
0

–5
9

6
0

–6
9

7
0

+

B
e

h
av

io
r

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
F

M
as

tu
rb

at
ed

a
lo

ne
81

%
60

%
83

%
64

%
84

%
72

%
80

%
63

%
76

%
65

%
72

%
54

%
61

%
47

%
46

%
33

%
Re

ce
iv

ed
o

ra
l s

ex
fr

om
w

om
en

54
%

4%
63

%
9%

77
%

3%
78

%
5%

62
%

2%
49

%
1%

38
%

1%
19

%
2%

Re
ce

iv
ed

o
ra

l s
ex

fr
om

m
en

6%
58

%
6%

70
%

5%
72

%
6%

59
%

6%
52

%
8%

34
%

3%
25

%
2%

8%
G

av
e

or
al

se
x

to
w

om
en

51
%

2%
55

%
9%

74
%

3%
69

%
4%

57
%

3%
44

%
1%

34
%

1%
24

%
2%

G
av

e
or

al
se

x
to

m
en

4%
59

%
7%

74
%

5%
76

%
5%

59
%

7%
53

%
8%

36
%

3%
23

%
3%

7%
V

ag
in

al
in

te
rc

ou
rs

e
53

%
62

%
63

%
80

%
86

%
87

%
85

%
74

%
74

%
70

%
58

%
51

%
54

%
42

%
43

%
22

%
Re

ce
pt

iv
e

pe
ni

le

an
al

in
te

rc
ou

rs
e

4%
18

%
5%

23
%

4%
21

%
3%

22
%

4%
12

%
5%

6%
1%

4%
2%

1%
In

se
rt

iv
e

pe
ni

le

an
al

in
te

rc
ou

rs
e

6%
11

%
27

%
24

%
21

%
11

%
6%

2%

N
ot

e:
M

=
m

al
e,

F
=

fe
m

al
e.

N
um

be
rs

r
ep

re
se

nt
th

e
pe

rc
en

ta
ge

o
f p

eo
pl

e
re

po
rt

in
g

ea
ch

b
eh

av
io

r
in

th
e

pa
st

y
ea

r.
A

da
pt

ed
fr

om
th

e
N

at
io

na
l S

ur
ve

y
of

S
ex

ua
l H

ea
lth

a
nd

B

eh
av

io
r

(H
er

be
ni

ck
e

t a
l.,

 2
01

0a
).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

9 Sexual Behaviors238

it can be seen as an enduring characteristic of a person, celibacy is instead regarded as a form
of sexual expression because it reflects a voluntary decision to forego certain types of sexual
behavior for a period of time ranging from months to years.

Celibacy is practiced for various reasons, but it is perhaps most frequently associated with reli-
gion. For example, nuns and priests are usually required to take vows of celibacy, and many ado-
lescents and adults abstain from sex before marriage because they believe it is the moral thing to
do. However, there are a number of other reasons one might choose to become celibate, includ-
ing a desire to focus on personal growth, physical and psychological health concerns, and having
endured some bad sexual experiences (Siegel & Schrimshaw, 2003). Regardless of the reason, some
people find that they benefit from the experience, while others find it challenging and lonely.

Of course, not everyone becomes celibate by choice. Involuntary celibacy is a reality for some
individuals when they lack access to a desired partner due to separation (e.g., military deploy-
ment), institutional restrictions (e.g., nursing homes may have rules that restrict sexual activity
among patients), and other constraints (e.g., persons with physical and psychological disabili-
ties may have caregivers who discourage or do not allow sex). Involuntary celibacy can also
arise when a long-term relationship becomes sexually inactive (e.g., one partner loses interest
in or desire for sex), or when a single individual desires a sexual relationship but encounters
barriers to establishing one. Barriers to establishing a sexual relationship can include shyness,
issues with body image, as well as unfavorable living and workplace arrangements (e.g., living
at home with one’s parents, working in an environment that is segregated by sex) (Donnelly
et al., 2001). By and large, involuntary celibacy tends to be experienced negatively.

Sexual Fantasy

One of the most common forms of sexual expression occurs entirely within the brain: fantasiz-
ing. Sexual fantasies have been defined as “any mental imagery that is sexually arousing or erotic
to the individual. A sexual fantasy can be an elaborate story, or it can be a fleeting thought of
some romantic or sexual activity. It can involve bizarre imagery, or it can be quite realistic. It can
involve memories of past events, or it can be a completely imaginary experience” (Leitenberg &
Henning, 1995, p. 470). Sexual fantasies are thus very diverse in nature, ranging from mild to wild.

The vast majority of people fantasize. In fact, studies have revealed that more than 95% of
men and women have fantasized at least once in their lives (Davidson, 1985; Pelletier & Her-
old, 1988). That said, men tend to fantasize more frequently than women, and the sexes have
different fantasy content. For a discussion of some of the ways that male and female fantasies
differ and how sexual orientation factors into this, see the Digging Deeper 9.1 box.

Sexual fantasies serve a number of functions, including enhancement of sexual arousal, compen-
sation for a less than ideal sexual situation, and reduced sexual anxiety (McCauley & Swann, 1980).
Others may fantasize in order to express hidden desires (e.g., for culturally taboo activities) or to
break free of traditional gender role expectations. Our fantasies may also serve a self-protective
function. For example, consider a study in which participants were primed to feel either attach-
ment security or anxiety by subliminally exposing them to photos of either (1) a mother looking
at and caressing her child (security prime) or (2) a mother who had turned her back on a crying
child (insecurity prime) (Birnbaum, Simpson, Weisberg, Barnea, & Assulin-Simhon, 2012). After-
ward, participants wrote down one of their sexual fantasies. Participants who were primed to feel
insecure and anxious reported more fantasy content that involved distancing the self from one’s
partner (i.e., emotionless sex) than participants who received the security prime. This suggests
that among persons who are feeling situational anxiety or are chronically insecure, the nature of
their fantasies may shift so as to protect the self from further feelings of rejection. In other words,
when we are feeling anxious, our fantasies may contain less content that could potentially result in
further harm to our self-esteem (e.g., feelings of dependence on one’s partner).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Soliiarry Sexual Behaviors 239

Figure 9.1 Sexual fantasies are very common in both men and women and serve a number of different
purposes. ©gpointstudio/123RF.COM.

Digging Deeper 9.1 How Do Men’s and Women’s Sexual Fantasies Differ?

“Hoi iub filled wiih whipped cream, pudding, and muliiple blondes”
“We’re oui for a drive in ihe counirry and ii siaris io rain. We pull inio ihe drivewary ai home and
mry pariner pulls me inio ihe barn, where we make love on a bale of hary as ihe rain coniinues
ouiside.”

Can you guess which of the above fantasies was written by a man and which was written by a
woman? If you guessed a man wrote about the hot tub and a woman wrote the romantic farm
story, you would be right. When it comes to sexual fantasies, is it usually this easy to categorize
which fantasies belong to which sex? Are men’s and women’s fantasies really that different?

Research has found that fantasy content differs in several ways between the sexes, and those
differences frequently align with modern stereotypes (Zurbriggen & Yost, 2004). First, men’s sex-
ual faniasies are more sexuallry explicii ihan women’s on average. That is, not only are men’s fanta-
sies more focused on the sexual act itself, but they frequently include mention of specific body
parts (including pieces of their own and their partner’s anatomy). Second, women’s faniasies irypi-
callry coniain more in ihe wary of emoiional and romaniic conieni ihan do men’s. Women frequently
describe the setting of their sexual encounter in detail (e.g., on the beach or under the stars), as
well as the “prelude” or build-up to sex (e.g., drinking champagne at a candlelight dinner before
adjourning to the bedroom).

(Coniinued)

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

9 Sexual Behaviors240

Digging Deeper 9.1 (Continued)

Figure 9.2 The content of men’s and
women’s sexual fantasies differs, and often
in a way that is consistent with gender role
stereotypes. ©altafulla, 2013. Used under
license from Shutterstock.com.

Figure 9.3 ©zhu difeng, 2013. Used under license from
Shutterstock.com.

Third, men are more likely than women to fantasize about having several sexual partners at
the same time (e.g., threesomes, “fourgys,” gangbangs, and more). Finally, the sexes also differ
when it comes to fantasizing about dominance and submission. While men are equallry likelry io
faniasize aboui being dominani and submissive, women iend io faniasize more aboui being submis-
sive ihan dominani.

How does sexual orientation play into all of this? Do gays and lesbians have different fantasy
content than their heterosexual counterparts? Most research on this topic suggests that the only
reliable difference between the fantasies of gay and heterosexual men and between lesbian and
heterosexual women is the sex of the person(s) they are fantasizing about (Leitenberg & Hen-
ning,  1995). Thus, the same sex differences in fantasy content observed among heterosexuals
also emerge when you compare gay men to lesbians.

In short, the fantasy worlds that occupy men’s and women’s minds are quite distinct and, while
there is always a vast amount of individual variability (e.g., there are many men who fantasize
about romance, just as there are many women who fantasize about group sex), there appears to
be at least a hint of truth to some of the gender stereotypes that exist regarding fantasy content.

Note: Reprinted with permission from Sex and Psrychologry (www.lehmiller.com).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Soliiarry Sexual Behaviors 241

Sexual fantasies used to be viewed as problematic and revealing of psychological troubles.
Indeed, Sigmund Freud once argued that “a happy person never fantasizes, only an unsatisfied
one.” In the modern world, however, sexual fantasies are generally regarded as a healthy aspect
of human sexuality. Indeed, people who fantasize more often tend to report being more sexu-
ally satisfied (Leitenberg & Henning, 1995). That said, people are sometimes concerned about
the content of their fantasies. In particular, students have frequently asked me whether it is
normal to fantasize about (1) being “forced” to have sex, and (2) having sex with someone other
than one’s current partner. As it turns out, both of these are very common fantasies and they
do not signify anything pathological about the individual or the relationship. With respect to
forced sex (i.e., “rape”) fantasies, studies indicate that 31 to 57% of women report having them
(Critelli & Bivona, 2008); however, this should not be taken to mean that 31 to 57% of women
want to be sexually assaulted. This research simply tells us that many women find the thought
(not the reality) of some type of forced sex to be arousing, and it is important to emphasize
that the amount and type of force desired varies, as does the nature of the resistance (for many
women, arousal comes from providing token resistance). Thus, “rape fantasies” generally do
not resemble a rape, if for no other reason than that the woman remains in control—a feature
that is absent in actual rape. Although it was once thought that only victims of sexual assault
fantasized about forced sex, research has found that this is not the case (Gold, Balzano, &
Stamey,  1991). Where do these fantasies come from? It appears that forced sex fantasies are
most likely a product of greater openness to sexual experience (Bivona, Critelli, & Clark, 2012).
The idea is that women with more positive feelings about sex have more fantasies, and that as
the frequency of fantasizing increases, so does the range of fantasy content. Thus, forced sex
fantasies are not a reflection of past experience or a product of unhealthy attitudes toward
sex. With respect to fantasies about cheating and infidelity, research indicates that 98% of men
and 80% of women in relationships have fantasized about someone other than their current
romantic partner, and these fantasies become more common the longer a relationship goes on
(Leitenberg & Hicks, 2001). Thus, cheating fantasies appear to be normative and do not mean
that someone actually wants to cheat or has plans to do so. If such fantasies signified trouble, it
would be extremely rare for a monogamous relationship to last.

Of course, this is not to say that all sexual fantasies are inherently good. There are certainly
some cases where the desire for a specific sexual activity could be dangerous. For more on the
darker aspects of sexual fantasy, check out the Your Sexuality 9.1 box.

Masturbation

Sexual fantasies go hand-in-hand with a variety of sexual behaviors, especially masturbation.
Masturbation refers to all solo forms of self-stimulation focusing on the genitals. Mastur-
bation practices vary widely depending upon the individual’s body and personal preferences.
For instance, masturbation among women may involve manipulation of the clitoris and labia,
stimulation of the breasts, or vaginal penetration with a sex toy. To learn more about sex toys
and how they came to be so popular among women, check out the Digging Deeper 9.2 box.
Among men, masturbation most frequently involves using one or both hands to stimulate the
penis. Of course, men sometimes utilize sex toys too (e.g., masturbation sleeves, butt-plugs,
etc.). Across individuals of all sexes, masturbation habits vary in terms of the motion, speed,
and amount of pressure applied, as well as whether they incorporate pornography (e.g., erotic
images, videos, or stories).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

9 Sexual Behaviors242

Your Sexuality 9.1 The Dark Side of Sexual Fantasy.

Having sexual fantasies is generally considered a sign of a healthy sex life (Leitenberg & Henning, 
1995). However, there is wide variability in terms of what people fantasize about. Although most
fantasies are relatively harmless, some are potentially problematic and even dangerous to others.
For instance, if a man develops an obsession with a very idiosyncratic fantasy that is incompat-
ible with his partner’s desires, it could negatively impact the relationship. In addition, to the
extent that someone fantasizes about an activity that is harmful to another person (e.g., sexually
assaulting children or adults), there is a risk of other people getting hurt should this person act
on their fantasy.

Unfortunately, however, determining which fantasies are acceptable and which are unaccep-
table is not as clear-cut as it sounds. For instance, the fantasy most common among people who
identify as feeders is that their partner will gain an excessive amount of weight, sometimes to the
point where that person becomes physically immobile and requires a caretaker. Such individuals
often find complete dependency on someone else to be sexually arousing. Is this a healthy or an
unhealthy fantasy? What about a heterosexual man who only fantasizes about having sex with mar-
ried women who are secretly cheating on their husbands? In these scenarios, the subject of the
fantasy is consensual sex, but somebody ends up getting hurt. The question therefore becomes
this: at what point does a sexual fantasy cross the line? And who should be the one to draw this line?

Are there certain fantasies that you think are potentially problematic? What should someone
do if they have a sexual fantasy that is potentially harmful?

Digging Deeper 9.2 The History of Motorized Sex Toys.

Believe it or not, human beings have been making sex toys since the Stone Age. Dildos, Ben Wa
balls, and various other devices to aid in sexual pleasure have a surprisingly long (and quite inter-
esting) history. However, out of all of the different sex toys ever created, one in particular stands
out for having a most unique and “hysterical” backstory: the vibrator.

In the modern world, vibrators are a sex and masturbation aide utilized by men and women
alike. In fact, approximately half of US men (44.5%) and women (52.5%) today say that they have
used a vibrator before (Herbenick et al., 2009; Reece et al., 2009). However, the world’s first vibra-
tor was designed as a therapeutic device for doctors to use on their female patients who were
diagnosed with hysteria. At one point in time, hysteria was among the most common medical
disorders diagnosed in women, and included a wide range of symptoms from nervousness and
insomnia to loss of appetite for sex with one’s husband, to a “tendency to cause trouble for oth-
ers” (Maines, 1998). The symptoms were so broad that almost any woman with any medical com-
plaint could be diagnosed as hysterical. Although hysteria was originally thought to be the result
of a woman’s uterus “wandering” throughout her body and causing problems, later physicians
viewed the disorder as a consequence of inadequate or insufficient sex.

For centuries, the primary treatment for hysteria was a “pelvic massage” culminating in “hys-
terical paroxysm” (i.e., orgasm) (Maines, 1998). Massages of this nature were usually performed
by doctors, who made a hefty profit practicing this “therapy,” given that hysteria was so prevalent
and required multiple treatments. In reality, all these doctors were doing was helping women
have the orgasms they weren’t having with their husbands and taking the husbands’ money for
the privilege of doing so! The only problem was that these treatments were very time consuming
(even with effective stimulation, an average woman may take up to 20 minutes to reach orgasm)
and the doctors were doing it by hand. The first vibrator was thus invented to cut down on the
length of office visits, thereby allowing doctors to “treat” more patients.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Soliiarry Sexual Behaviors 243

Digging Deeper 9.2 (Continued)

Figure 9.4 Sizes, and shapes, and colors, oh my! ©IVL, 2013. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.

As electricity started making its way into people’s homes, the consumer market for vibrators
grew rapidly. Not only could a personal vibrator save money on trips to the doctor’s office, but it
could also be utilized within the privacy of one’s own home day or night. The demand for vibra-
tors was so strong that motorized sex toys became just the fifth electric device approved for
home use after the sewing machine, fan, teakettle, and toaster (Maines,  1998). Vibrators thus
made their way into homes long before vacuum cleaners, electric irons, and television sets.

Modern vibrators are battery operated (or solar powered, for the environmentally conscious),
many are waterproof, and hundreds of variations exist to serve many different sexual purposes.
Certain vibrators are optimized for clitoral stimulation, others for the G-spot, and yet others for
the anus. Some vibrators are lifelike, others are pointy and ribbed, and some look like probes
taken from an alien spaceship. And, of course, vibrators come in all different sizes, shapes, and
colors and are made for people of all genders and sexualities. However, please keep in mind that
if you incorporate vibrators or other sex toys into partnered sex, those toys need to be properly
cleaned before sharing to reduce the risk of transmitting sexual and other infections. Using con-
doms with shared sex toys is also an advisable practice, given research demonstrating that, even
after cleaning, infectious agents are sometimes still detected on vibrators (Anderson et al., 2014).

As you can see, the history and evolution of vibrators is a fascinating subject. If you want to
know more, check out The Technologry of Orgasm by Rachael Maines (1998).

Note: Reprinted with permission from Sex and Psrychologry (www.lehmiller.com).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:22:55.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

9 Sexual Behaviors244

Most people masturbate. For instance, as seen in Table 9.1, the NSSHB revealed that a major-
ity of men and women across all age groups reported masturbating before. The percentage of
masturbators is higher today than it was in the original Kinsey reports as well as the NHSLS;
however, it is not clear whether this reflects a true increase in masturbation, or simply an
increase in comfort admitting to this behavior. Although masturbation is something that
most people have done, there are some important sex differences in this practice. Specifically,
research indicates that men are more likely to masturbate than women, and also that men do
it with greater frequency (see Table 9.2). Despite these differences, the NHSLS found that men
and women masturbate for similar reasons, including tension relief, pleasure, relaxation, and
the unavailability of a sexual partner. Research in the United States finds that masturbation
practices also vary according to age, education level, and race (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, &
Michaels, 1994). Specifically, being younger (i.e., under age 49), having a higher level of educa-
tion, and being White are associated with a greater likelihood of masturbating compared to
being older (i.e., over age 50), having less education, and being African American.

Concerns About Masturbation
Masturbation has been a source of moral and medical concern for centuries. Historically,
penis-in-vagina intercourse within the context of a heterosexual marriage was seen as the only
“valid” form of sex by many world religions. Because masturbation provides pleasure with-
out the possibility of procreation, it was long condemned as a sinful activity. However, this
view of masturbation began to change in the eighteenth century with a movement that is best
described as the medicalization of sex. During this time period, masturbation, homosexual-
ity, and other sexual activities that had traditionally been seen as immoral came to be viewed
largely as health problems and diseases.

For instance, in the 1700s, Swiss physician Samuel Auguste Tissot wrote extensively about
the physical and psychological health damage that accompanies masturbation. In Tissot’s view,
semen was an “essential oil” that the body cannot function properly without. He argued …

265

The Psychology of Human Sexuality, Second Edition. Justin J. Lehmiller.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Companion Website: www.wiley.comgolehmiller2e

10

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Introduction, 265
Sexual Development From Infancy Through Adolescence, 267

Infancy and Childhood, 267
Puberty, 268
Adolescence, 270
Biopsychosocial Influences on Teenage Sexual Activity, 273
Implications of Early or Late Sexual Development, 274

Sexuality and Aging, 277
Biopsychosocial Influences on the Sexual Activities of Older Adults, 281

Lifespan Sexual Development

Introduction

Take a moment and think back to your very first sexual experience (if you have not had one yet,
envision what that experience might be like). Next, imagine what your sex life will look like ten
years from now—what kinds of things do you think you will desire, and which activities might

©JohnnyGreig/Getty Images

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

10 Lifespan Sexual Development266

you engage in? Finally, think about what your sex life will be like in the distant future, when you
are much older and in your retirement years.

If you’re like most people, you have probably never stopped to seriously reflect on how your
sex life has evolved over time, or how it is likely to change in the future. However, if you took the
exercise in the opening paragraph seriously, chances are that you discovered just how dynamic
human sexuality can be across the lifespan. It is precisely this insight that has led psychologists
to begin looking at human sexuality as a developmental process. Psychology has long since
abandoned the Freudian view that virtually all of our sexual development occurs in childhood
as we advance through a series of psychosexual stages (perhaps getting “fixated” in one of them
along the way). Instead, psychologists now view sexuality as something that continually evolves
over the lifespan in response to biopsychosocial influences.

In this chapter, we are going to look at sexuality at various stages of the life cycle. Specifically,
we will address the development of sexuality in childhood and adolescence, as well as the ways
in which it changes in older age. This chapter will devote particular attention to biopsychoso-
cial factors that trigger changes in sexual development at these different life stages. We will also
consider the implications of becoming sexually active much earlier or later than one’s peers.

Before we begin, it is worth pointing out that we do not have as many data and as much
information on lifespan sexual development as we would like. Most sex research has focused
on young adults (as described in previous chapters), with children and seniors being largely
neglected. There are a few reasons for this. Conducting research on sexuality in childhood
is politically challenging. For example, in the United States, sex researchers cannot survey
persons under age 18 about their sexual attitudes and behaviors unless they receive parental
consent. Many parents are reluctant to provide their consent, either because they do not see
their children as sexual beings or because they feel that it would be inappropriate or immoral
for their kids to participate in sex research. As some evidence of this, recall from chapter  2
that when the initial wave of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) was
undertaken, about 4 in 10 of the parents who were contacted refused to let their children aged
14–17 take part in the study (Herbenick et al., 2010). Due to such resistance, much of our data
on sexuality in childhood and adolescence comes from retrospective self-reports of adults who
try to recall what they can from the past, or from self-reports of parents who provide infor-
mation about behaviors they have observed among their children. However, these are both
imperfect methods that raise some concerns about the validity of the data, with the former
being subject to memory distortions and the latter consisting of secondhand information from
untrained observers (recall from chapter 2 that two people watching the same activity could
categorize it very differently).

Our lack of information on the sex lives of older adults has been hampered by the fact that
most sex research takes place on college and university campuses. The increasing move-
ment toward online research has enhanced older adults’ representation in sex studies to some
degree; however, there are limits to what online research can accomplish, given that seniors
are less likely than the rest of the adult population to go online—indeed, 41% of US seniors age
65+ say they do not use the internet at all, a figure that is about three times higher than that of
the overall adult population (Smith, 2014). In light of this, achieving representative samples of
seniors tends to be quite labor intensive and expensive. Another reason older adults have been
overlooked in most sex research probably stems from mistaken assumptions and stereotypes
about sexuality and aging and, perhaps, discomfort with the topic. Just as many parents refuse
to recognize their children as sexual beings, many people refuse to recognize seniors as sexual
beings, too.

Thus, as we explore sexuality across the lifespan in this chapter, keep in mind that this is an
area in which our empirical knowledge is limited in several ways.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Sexual Development Fom nfanncy TFouuT Aolesnenne 267

Sexual Development From Infancy Through Adolescence

Let us begin by taking a look at how sexuality develops and changes during childhood and
adolescence, as well as some of the most significant biological, psychological, and social factors
that contribute to early sexual development.

Infancy and Childhood

Sex researchers dating back to Alfred Kinsey have noted that sexuality has its roots in infancy.
Indeed, both male and female infants are capable of sexual response from the moment of
birth, if not before. For example, not only have erections been observed among male infants
in the first hours of life, but ultrasound studies indicate that male fetuses experience erec-
tions in the womb, too (Hitchcock, Sutphen, & Scholly, 1980). In addition to showing signs of
physiological sexual response, infant self-stimulation has been documented; however, there is
some debate about whether a behavior such as this that occurs so early in life is purposeful.
Kinsey’s writings include references to both male and female infants engaging in various forms
of self- stimulation, such as rubbing or thrusting their genitals against an object, followed by
what appears to be orgasm (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin,  1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, &
Gebhard, 1953). The orgasms of male infants are different from those of adult men, though, in
that they are dry orgasms, meaning no ejaculation occurs. What the psychological experience
of these behaviors is like for infants, we do not know, although it does appear that they find
these activities to be gratifying.

As motor development progresses, children begin to engage in genital manipulation that
more closely resembles adult masturbation, something that may occur as early as two-and-
a-half years of age (Martinson,  1994). Many children—both male and female—experiment
with masturbation at this time and in the years leading up to puberty. In fact, retrospective
self-report data indicates that approximately 4 in 10 adult men and women recall prepubertal

Figure 10.1 Ultrasound studies reveal that the human body’s capacity for sexual response begins in the womb.
©GagliardiImages 2016. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

10 Lifespan Sexual Development268

masturbation and, further, about 1 in 8 recall having their first orgasm before puberty (Bancroft,
Herbenick, & Reynolds, 2003). Parents who observe their children masturbating have a range of
reactions. Some discourage them from engaging in self-stimulation completely, others encour-
age them to do so only in private, and yet others ignore it, laugh at it, or punish the behavior.
The messages that parents send about masturbation at this very early age can have a significant
impact on how masturbation is viewed throughout one’s life.

As children grow older, sexuality is something that often expands from self-stimulation to
sexual experience with peers. For many, this includes “playing doctor,” a game in which chil-
dren inspect one another’s genitals. Which specific sexual behaviors are most common at this
age? In a study that involved parental reports of their children’s sexual behaviors (ages 2–12)
during the past six months, 34% were observed kissing other nonrelated children, 8% showed
their genitals to other children, 7% rubbed their bodies against others, and 6% touched others’
genitals (Friedrich et al., 1992). Keep in mind that these numbers are probably underestimates,
given that parents do not necessarily monitor their children’s activities at all times. Adults’ ret-
rospective self-reports of their own childhood sexual behaviors suggest participation rates that
are even higher than those obtained from studies that rely on parental reports. For instance,
Kinsey found that almost half of the adult women and a majority of the adult men he sur-
veyed remembered having a sexual experience by the age of 12 (Kinsey et al.,  1948; Kinsey
et al.,  1953). Experiences of this nature can occur with peers of the same sex or the other
sex; however, given the prevalence of sex-segregated play at this stage of life (i.e., boys playing
primarily with boys and girls playing primarily with girls), same-sex experiences may actually
be most common (Martinson, 1994). Keep in mind, though, that childhood same-sex experi-
ences are not necessarily indicative of adult sexual orientation and, sometimes, simply reflect
transitory behaviors.

All of the behaviors we have discussed here stem, in part, from an inherent curiosity children
appear to have about sex and the human body. This curiosity, which only increases as children
get older, is further reflected in the fact that it is not uncommon for parents to notice their
children watching others undress or looking at nude photos (Friedrich et al., 1992). Many par-
ents are reluctant to indulge their children’s curiosity by talking to them about sex or anatomy,
which may lead children to seek out alternative sources of information, such as their peers or
the Internet. This is particularly true in the United States, but less so in other countries such
as the Netherlands, where sex is normalized, parents tend to have a more open dialogue with
their children, and school-based sex education begins at a younger age (see chapter 11 for more
on this).

It is important to note that, in the modern world, expressing curiosity about sex, masturbat-
ing, and/or engaging in sexual activities with one’s peers are all generally regarded as normal
and perfectly harmless by the medical and psychological communities. This is quite a depar-
ture from the late 1800s and early 1900s, when childhood masturbation in particular was
considered unhealthy and physicians developed a number of cruel and unusual methods to
curb this behavior, as discussed in chapter 8.

Puberty

As the data reviewed in the previous section clearly reveal, sexual curiosity and behavior
set in well before puberty begins; however, they tend to increase significantly afterwards.
Puberty, of course, refers to a period of rapid physical changes that ultimately leads to sexual
maturity. Puberty typically begins between ages 10 and 12 and lasts for several years. Girls
tend to start puberty a little earlier than boys; however, there is significant variability in onset

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Sexual Development Fom nfanncy TFouuT Aolesnenne 269

of puberty, with some beginning as early as ages 7 or 8 (known as precocious puberty) and
others as late as 15 or 16 (known as delayed puberty). In addition to this gender difference
in age of puberty onset, there are also racial and cultural differences. For instance, in the
United States, 10% of White girls show signs of breast development by age 7, compared to
23% of African American girls (Biro et al., 2010), a finding that may reflect differences in diet
and obesity rates (obesity is linked to earlier onset of puberty, and rates of obesity are higher
among African American girls). This link between puberty and obesity also helps to explain
why puberty tends to begin later in developing and underprivileged countries—where many
children are starving or malnourished—than it does in the United States and other developed
nations (Parent et al., 2011).

During puberty, the body experiences a surge of sex hormones that leads to the develop-
ment of secondary sex characteristics, or physical features that indicate sexual maturity, such
as growth of pubic hair. Many secondary sex characteristics are sexually dimorphic—meaning
they are different across the sexes. This includes the development of breasts in girls, as well as
the deepening of the voice and growth of facial hair that occurs in boys. These hormones also
stimulate further development of the internal and external genital structures, ultimately leading
to menarche, a girl’s first menstruation, and spermarche, when sperm production in the testes
begins in boys. Thus, for both boys and girls, fertility is typically present by the end of puberty.

Figure 10.2 It is not uncommon for parents to observe their children engaging in behaviors of an intimate or
sexual nature with their peers, such as kissing. Such behaviors are generally regarded as normal and harmless.
©bikeriderlondon 2016. Used under license from Shutterstock.com.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

10 Lifespan Sexual Development270

Adolescence

Generally speaking, adolescence is the period of life between ages 10 and 19. Puberty usually
begins and ends during adolescence, but (as noted in the preceding section) it sometimes
begins in late childhood. Adolescence is a significant life stage because not only is it when most
people develop feelings of sexual attraction for the first time, it is also when most people have
their first experience with sexual intercourse and their first romantic relationship.

Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity Development
Research suggests that, regardless of sexual orientation, 10 is the average age at which both
men and women recall their earliest feelings of sexual attraction (McClintock & Herdt, 1996).
Thus, sexual attraction develops very early in life, and usually long before the gonads have fully
matured. Those whose initial attractions are to persons of the same sex do not necessarily come
to an immediate realization that they are gay or bisexual—in fact, there may be a period of years
in between someone’s first same-sex attraction and when that person begins to question and,
eventually, label their sexuality (Diamond, 1998).

The processes by which gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals come to adopt sexual identity
labels is itself another developmental process. This is something that often begins in ado-
lescence and may extend well into adulthood for some. Numerous models of sexual identity
development have been proposed, most of which are stage models, which argue that sexual
identity develops according to a very distinct, orderly pattern. One example of this would be
the Cass Model (Cass, 1979), which theorizes that a gay or lesbian identity develops after one
passes through a series of six stages. Briefly, they are: confusion (initial awareness of same-sex
attraction), comparison (consideration of the implications of being gay or lesbian), tolerance
(recognizing that you are not the only one), acceptance (seeing one’s sexuality in a positive
light), pride (coming out), and synthesis (integrating a gay identity with other aspects of the
self ). Although popular, these models are limited in that they fail to capture the vast diversity
that exists in the processes by which people come to form and integrate their sexual identities—
not everyone develops their identity according to such a predictable, linear pattern (Rosario,
Schrimshaw, & Hunter, 2011).

Sexual Exploration
After the onset of sexual attraction, it is common for adolescents to further explore sexual
behavior with their peers. Interestingly, those who start masturbating early seem to progress to
peer sexual behaviors more quickly. As some evidence of this, in a study comparing adults who
reported masturbating prepubertally to those who started masturbating after puberty, early
masturbation was linked to engaging in partnered sexual behaviors at a younger age (Bancroft
et al., 2003). This suggests that masturbation may be a marker for sexual development.

With respect to partnered sexual behaviors, there is usually a progression of sexual activities
that takes place over three to four years, with the activities gradually leading up to intercourse.
At least among American adolescents, kissing typically begins between ages 12 and 14,
followed by petting and genital fondling between ages 15 and 16, and first intercourse between
ages 16 and 18 (Reynolds, Herbenick, & Bancroft,  2003). Of course, as always, there is wide
individual variation, not to mention substantial variation across race and culture. For instance,
as discussed in chapter 9, African American adolescents tend to have their first kiss and first
intercourse experiences at younger ages than Asian Americans (Regan, Durvasula, Howell,
Ureno, & Rea, 2004). Despite this variability, what the available data suggest is that adolescent
sexual behavior tends to follow a given culture’s sexual script for the order in which intimacy
tends to be expressed in a dating relationship. For further information on the sexual activities

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Sexual Development Fom nfanncy TFouuT Aolesnenne 271

practiced among adolescents and how they vary across age and sex, check out Table  10.1.
This table focuses on data from the 14–17-year-old participants who took part in the NSSHB.

As you can see in this table, reports of both masturbation and partnered behaviors appear
to increase throughout adolescence, regardless of gender. However, the overall number who
have engaged in partnered activities is lower than you might expect based on the popular
media narrative that teenagers today are hypersexual and having sex of all kinds at younger
and younger ages. To the contrary, these data indicate that a majority of American adolescents
aged 14–17 have not engaged in any partnered sexual behaviors in the past year. When you
combine this with other research showing that the percentage of teens who report having ever
had penile–vaginal intercourse has actually decreased since the 1980s (see Figure  10.3), we
begin to see that the reality of adolescents’ sex lives is very different from the media spin.

On a side note, partnered sexual behavior in adolescence is often referred to in the media
and on sex surveys as “premarital sex.” However, this is a problematic term because it implies
that marriage is normative and something that everyone aspires to. It is also usually defined
very narrowly as penile–vaginal intercourse. As such, I have avoided usage of that term in this
section and throughout the rest of the book.

Romantic Relationship Initiation
Coinciding with a rise in sexual attraction and behavior is the pursuit of romantic relation-
ships. Contrary to popular belief, most adolescent sexual behaviors take place in the context of
relationships, not sexual hookups. Indeed, NSSHB data reveal that the majority of adolescent
boys and girls who engaged in partnered sexual behaviors in the last year did so with someone
they considered a boyfriend or girlfriend (Fortenberry et al.,  2010). Certainly, many adoles-
cents do engage in casual sex (e.g., one-night stands, friends with benefits)—it is just that most
adolescent sex occurs with a romantic partner.

Adolescent romantic relationships serve multiple purposes and represent far more than
simply a potential avenue to express and explore one’s newfound feelings of sexual attraction.
For example, just as adults’ romantic relationships help to fulfill needs for belongingness and
self-expansion (see chapter 8), adolescents’ relationships do just the same. Moreover, given that

Table 10.1 Male and female sexual behaviors among adolescents aged 14–17.

Age

14 15 16 17

Behavior M F M F M F M F

Solo masturbation 53% 42% 71% 38% 75% 42% 73% 48%
Partnered masturbation 2% 10% 8% 5% 15% 15% 17% 24%
Gave oral sex 4% 8% 11% 17% 9% 22% 28% 26%
Received oral sex 4% 11% 18% 9% 27% 21% 36% 26%
Vaginal intercourse 2% 12% 16% 9% 20% 28% 40% 31%
Anal intercourse 1% 7% 5% 1% 6% 5% 5% 4%
Any partnered sexual behavior 5% 16% 20% 21% 33% 35% 48% 39%

Note: M = male, F = female. Numbers represent the percentage of adolescents reporting each behavior in the past
year. Adapted from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Source: Fortenberry et al., 2010.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

10 Lifespan Sexual Development272

adolescence is often a very tumultuous period of major life transitions, romantic relationships
may offer some much-needed stability and emotional support. On another note, it is worth
mentioning that the dynamics of adolescent relationships are strikingly similar to those of adult
relationships in terms of the factors that promote love and commitment (Levesque, 1993).

Figure 10.4 Most people report their first feelings of sexual attraction in early adolescence. Subsequently,
many begin pursuing sexual and/or romantic relationships. ©Dragon Images 2016. Used under license from
Shutterstock.com.

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

P
e
rc

e
n
ta

g
e
w

h
o
h

a
ve

e
ve

r
h
a
d
p

e
n
ile

-v
a
g
in

a
l i

n
te

rc
o
u
rs

e

Year of data collection

19
88

19
95

20
02

20
06

–2
01

0

20
11

–2
01

3

Women

Men

Figure 10.3 Note: This figure presents the percentage of never-married male and female teens aged 15–19 who
report having engaged in penile–vaginal intercourse at least once. Data obtained from Martinez and Amba (2015).

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

Sexual Development Fom nfanncy TFouuT Aolesnenne 273

Biopsychosocial Influences on Teenage Sexual Activity

It should be clear by now that not all adolescents are sexually active and, further, among those
who are, some become active much sooner than others. The reasons for this variability in sex-
ual behavior are biopsychosocial in nature. In this section, we will consider some of the myriad
factors that have been linked to timing of sexual debut (i.e., first sexual intercourse), number
of partners, and risky sexual practices among adolescents.

With respect to biological factors, precocious puberty (i.e., going through puberty early) is
linked to having sex prior to age 16 as well as a greater likelihood of having unprotected sex
(Downing & Bellis,  2009). The link between early puberty and early sex might be explained
by psychosocial factors, though, given that early puberty is confounded with lower parental
socioeconomic status (SES). To the extent that lower SES translates to less adult supervision
(e.g., by affecting parents’ ability to afford childcare), this could potentially account for the
association. Beyond puberty, physical disabilities represent another biological factor that has
the potential to impact age of sexual debut; however, different disabilities may have different
effects. For instance, adolescents with physical disabilities that permanently affect function
of their arms and/or legs have a sexual development trajectory that is quite similar to that of
their able-bodied counterparts, although those with minimal disabilities are more likely to be
sexually active than those with severe disabilities (Cheng & Udry, 2002). By contrast, persons
with visual impairments tend to have a later age of sexual debut compared to sighted persons
(Welbourne, Lifschitz, Selvin, & Green, 1983). One potential explanation for the differences
between these studies is that, compared to disabilities affecting the limbs, visual impairments
may make it more difficult to meet partners and/or to recognize many of the common social
cues relevant to sex and dating. Differences in others’ attitudes toward specific disabilities
could play a role as well.

Figure 10.5 Research suggests that the sexual development trajectory of adolescents with physical disabilities
is not necessarily different from that of able-bodied adolescents; however, sexual development patterns may
vary across different types of disabilities. ©iStockphoto.com/nullplus.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2017). The psychology of human sexuality. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Created from umuc on 2021-11-19 16:32:16.

C
o
p
yr

ig
h
t
©

2
0
1
7
.
Jo

h
n
W

ile
y

&
S

o
n
s,

I
n
co

rp
o
ra

te
d
.
A

ll
ri
g
h
ts

r
e
se

rv
e
d
.

10 Lifespan Sexual Development274

Next, in terms of psychological factors linked to adolescent sexual activity, having an anxious
attachment style is associated with having sex more often at a young age (Tracy, Shaver, Albino, &
Cooper, 2003). Why? Perhaps because fear of abandonment and rejection makes anxiously
attached teens more likely to agree to sex in the hope that their partner will stick around.
In other words, adolescents’ feelings of relationship security/insecurity may influence whether
and how often they have sex. In addition, adolescents with sensation-seeking personalities tend
to have more partners, more casual sex, and more unprotected sex (Arnett, 1996). Regardless
of where we are in the lifespan, sensation seekers tend to be more sexually active and engage in
riskier activities. Furthermore, adolescents who hold positive beliefs and attitudes toward sex
are more likely to have sex at an early age and to say they have had sex in the past year, whereas
those with positive attitudes toward abstinence are more likely to delay sexual activity (Buhi &
Goodson, 2007).

Finally, let us consider some of the many social and environmental factors that have been
linked to adolescent sex. Parent–child relationships are particularly notable. Several studies
have found that having a closer relationship with one’s parents, receiving more parental support,
and having more parental supervision/monitoring are linked to delayed sexual activity (Buhi &
Goodson,  2007). I should mention that several studies have found no association between
parent–child relationship quality and adolescent sexual behavior; however, this may be a func-
tion of the fact that researchers have not operationalized and measured relationship quality in
a consistent manner across studies. In addition to relationships with parents, peer relationships
also play an important role. Specifically, several studies have found that adolescents who believe
that most of their peers are having sex and/or who believe that their peers have positive attitudes
toward sex tend to have an …

error: Content is protected !!