Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Doris Vasconcellos,
Universite Descartes - Paris 5,


Sexuality is not a priority topic in introductory courses of Psychology but there are a few reasons to consider including this topic. Responsible sexual behavior is one of the 10 leading health indicators of the United States national health objectives for 2010 and Sexual Health has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a basic human right. Although, sex is not a simple and universal biological function that everybody performs automatically. Human beings depend on education to behave humanly in the sexual arena, and psychology teachers can positively contribute in this area.

This topic should be easy to teach because the students are so highly motivated, but in doing so, we touch issues that involve not only personal beliefs but also morals and religion, and as much so for the teachers as for the students.

Research on the social psychology of love shows that young men and young women differ significantly in their expectations concerning intimate relationships. Their emotional careers will eventually converge through experience, but some might never free themselves of early and problematic influences.  Some specialists think that one of the main reasons is that there is a misunderstanding between men and women regarding beliefs and expectations about close relationships and sexuality.

Although evolutionary theory sounds quite relevant to explain these facts, human sexuality differs from animal sexuality because, in humans, the correlation between reproduction and sexuality masks their separate meaning. With the advent of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies, it is now possible to explore these separate meanings. We have to consider other approaches like social gender role theory that takes into consideration the relativity of cultures, implicitly acknowledging the plasticity of human beings during their early development. From this perspective, we can introduce the interactional construction of sexuality from the point of view of developmental and psychodynamic theories explained by neuroscience research.

Gender differences start by the way boys and girls perceive and interpret their body experiences through sensation and perception, but also through the information about gender and sexuality communicated to them by their parents and other agents of culture.  In humans, the standard biological apparatus has been hijacked by mental representations. A heavy stock of early childhood interaction experiences that qualified (or disqualified) gender identity and sexual excitement experiences left a pattern difficult - but not impossible - to change.

In this session, we will consider how social injunctions support and reinforce biological predispositions, how widespread these influences are, and the degree to which human beings are capable of modifying the effects of these influences.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev