Students’ personal experiences in a human sexuality course can often trigger emotional reactions, sometimes very strong ones. These feelings may include general discomfort, confusion, anxiety, embarrassment, anger, arousal, surprise, nervousness, and even fear. Because these emotions make some people uncomfortable about the study of human sexuality, we will spend a moment near the beginning of each chapter, in a feature called “Focus on Your Feelings” (see p. 7), to comment on and prepare you for possible motional reactions may experience as you read and learn. Ender identity The sex (male or female) that a person identifies himself or herself to be. Sexual orientation Term specifying the sex of those to whom a person is primarily romantically, emotionally, and sexually attracted. Part of discovering yourself sexually usually involves developing your personal set of morals and values as they relate to sexual issues. You probably already have a sense of the morals and values that were instilled in you by your parents, your religious teachings, your peers, or other factors hat have influenced you throughout your early life (Ere, Davis, & Peacock, 2001).
As you have grown into adulthood, however, you may have begun to question those beliefs and wonder if they still apply to you as an independent, mature individual. Some of you may feel the need to make modifications in your system of values and morals that are more in line with how you choose to live your life. Whether or not this is true for you, morality and personal values play a central role in how you experience most, if not all, of the issues discussed in this book. It is not the job or intention of this book o encourage you to adopt anyone else’s sexual morals or values (including the authors).
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As you study human sexuality, you will acquire or enhance the knowledge and awareness you need to develop your own sexual standards and belief systems that make sense and feel right to you in your life. Consider the value in taking the time to weigh these issues and make some conscious decisions about how you want to live your sexual life. In this way, your values and moral beliefs can help guide you through the complexities of life as a sexual being and form an important part of your sexual philosophy.
At any moment, you may find yourself facing difficult decisions about your sexual behavior and your interactions, without time for thought or reflection. In the absence of a personal moral compass, you may make choices that you later regret. In other words, the situation may take charge of you rather than the other way around. Having a clear sense of your sexual morals and values is only one factor in making responsible sexual choices throughout your life. Freely choosing to be sexually active in today’s world requires you to make an almost overwhelming number of crucial decisions.
For example, how will you protect yourself and your partner from HIVE and other sexually transmitted infections? How can you be sure to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? How can you keep yourself safe from sexual violence and coercion? What are your expectations of dating and relationships? How can you and your partner communicate your needs and desires openly and honestly to each other? How will you handle a sexual problem with your partner? Yes, you read it right: sex is more than intercourse. This theme runs throughout this book and plays a role in many of the topics in various chapters.
Why? Partly because equating sex with intercourse neglects the full range of sexual experience and pleasure that is available to us as human beings. Western cultures often tend to take sex as a synonym for intercourse (Godson et al. , 2003). Consequently, any other pleasurable, arousing, and satisfying sexual behaviors-??such as kissing touching, massage, masturbation (solo and mutual), and oral sex-??become lumped together into a single category called “foreplay,” or ‘that which leads up to intercourse,” and are not thought of by a majority of people as “having sex. But in reality many behaviors can be sexually fulfilling in themselves, ND for some individuals or couples they may even be more satisfying than intercourse. Another reason for understanding that sex is more than intercourse is that most of today’s sexual problems, such as unwanted pregnancy, transmission of sexually transmitted infections, and sexual dysfunctions, stem from insensitive sexual practices, especially vaginal oral and anal sexual activities.
Students studying human sexuality often experience unexpected emotional reactions; they are surprised, and they sometimes try to hide their emotions. At times, you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, aroused, shocked, offended, angry, confused, fearful, amused, or various combinations of these and Other emotions. Your personal, individual reactions will depend On your current attitudes about sexual issues, your family and religious background, and your past and present sexual and relationship experiences.
For example, here are two journal entries from students in the author’s human sexuality classes: was raised in a very strict religious household. Sex was never discussed, and even mentioning anything related to sex was not allowed. I’m learning a lot in this course, but find it very difficult to read the material and participate in the class discussions. I’m embarrassed and feel that I am doing something wrong (guilt! . This is why I have missed so many classes.