Academic journal article East Asian Archives of Psychiatry

Sexuality in the 21st Century: Sexual Fluidity

Academic journal article East Asian Archives of Psychiatry

Sexuality in the 21st Century: Sexual Fluidity

Article excerpt

Introduction

Sexual attraction has historically been seen as rigid even though Kinsey1 investigated a gradation of sexual behaviour over 60 years ago. There appears to be confusion between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. Sexual act is influenced by attraction, availability, fantasy, and the actual act. Historically, sexual orientation has been regarded as division between heterosexual and homosexual, with bisexuality somewhere in the middle. Society defines what sexual behaviours are considered as normal or deviant. There has been a gradual shift towards non-binary classifications of sexual behaviour, sexuality, and gender. Sexuality is broader than sexual acts alone; it is a combination of attraction, thoughts, fantasies, and sexual roles.

Recent debate has raised issues about sexual behaviour in which sexuality is increasingly contextdependent.2,3 Humans are sexual beings; human sexuality is a 'vital principle' of each human being and includes feelings and energy of the body with a knowledge and expectations of human intimacy. Sexual behaviours serve functions of pleasure and procreation. Human sexuality in particular carries multiple meanings in different settings. It is important for clinicians to be aware of potential sexual variations in patients. Individual cultures often have strong views on sex and sexuality, and especially on sexual orientation. Individual sexual fantasies may vary from actual sexual acts, and these may differ from actual sexual orientation. For example, a heterosexual male in prison or in a same-sex institution may need heterosexual fantasies to achieve arousal but may perform sexual acts with a male partner.

Recognition of such variations and sexual rights remains controversial. In Italy, there is ongoing political turmoil about these issues involving religious authorities, intellectuals, writers, mass media, and socio-cultural factors. We believe that it is time to classify sexual behaviour in a different way, to take into account increasing sexual fluidity. Diamond4 defines sexual fluidity as situation-dependent flexibility in women's sexual responsiveness. For this study, we define sexual fluidity as changes in sexual identity and sexuality as a result of internal and external factors. In the present study, we aim to explore the concept of sexual fluidity and argue that most individuals have a degree of sexually fluid behaviour.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation has four key components:5,6 (1) selfidentified labels (homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual): in the context of sexual fluidity, these labels change and as Tortorella sees himself as label-less. (2) actual sexual behaviour: this depends on availability of individuals and opportunity. (3) self-reported sexual feelings (fantasies and desires): these are personal and may not be acknowledged publicly or even within the sexual act or in a relationship. (4) genital or brain responses (physiologically measured arousal to male or female images): these are probably the most objective observations and assessments. It is important that sexual orientation must be seen in the context of these four components and dimensions.

Human Sexuality and Its variations

Sexuality forms a core part of an individual identity and affects both sexual behaviour and totality of human functioning and is influenced by social attitudes.7 Different individuals have varying levels of importance for two aspects of human sexuality (procreative and recreational or pleasurable). These are affected by both cultural norms and cultural expectations. Procreative aspect is a very small part of sexuality, whereas recreational aspects (pleasure and hedonism), intimacy, and sexual activity as socialconnection are more complex components of sexuality.

Bullough8 described societies as sex-positive, wherein sex is seen as a pleasure or a pleasurable activity, or as sex-negative, wherein sex is seen as a purely functional procreative activity. …

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