Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

11

Sexual Roles of Women

*Sexual attitudes and behaviors in this country have been undergoing rapid change in this century. Each succeeding generation has been exposed to new values about what constitutes "proper" sexual activity, and each generation has tended to disagree with both the values of their parents and their children. This has resulted in continued interest and debate over the sexual activities of various groups in our society. Recently, feminists have become involved in analyzing some of the assumptions implicit in our sexual attitudes and morals. All of these trends suggest that a discussion of the sexual roles of women and men is particularly important for understanding the psychology of women.

Corresponding to, and perhaps reflecting, the increasingly open interest in sexuality evident in the general public is the growth of research into the topic of human sexuality. Psychological interest in sexuality was greatly stimulated by the writings of Freud in the early twentieth century. Freud felt that sexual drives were the underlying force for human behavior of all kinds. He wrote that civilization was based upon the repression of sexual desire and the channeling of sexual energies into socially acceptable behavior. Although many psychoanalytic theoriests—such as Adler, Jung, and Homey— criticized Freud for his extreme emphasis on sexuality, most psychologists today would acknowledge that sexual needs are important for everyone.

____________________
*
Irene Frieze was the primary author of this chapter. Background materials were assembled by Theresa Christerson Mason.

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