The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook

By Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty | Go to book overview

6
Sexual Behavior and Orientation: Learning and Conditioning Principles

Geary S. Alford, Joseph J. Plaud, and Tavia L. McNair

Sexual behavior entails, a multitude of complex and interactive components. Traditionally, in both animal studies and human research, these are divided into four behavioral clusters: sexual arousal pattern, courtship, mating, and, in humans at least, gender identity, as sometimes distinct from biological gender. This chapter focuses on the development of the first and most central of these, sexual arousal pattern. We consider it the primary and most fundamental of the components because regardless of actual or self-identified gender, or courtship and seduction behavioral repertoires, or even actual sexual mating acts desired or performed, it is the sexual arousal pattern that determines the nature and type of potential sexual objects toward which a person or organism's other sexually related behaviors are focused and directed.

Sexual arousal pattern is defined here as incorporating both stimulus events and psychophysical response events, including those of sexual-reproductive organs, associated autonomic and central nervous system reactions, and sensory- perceptual events of a sexual nature. The pattern of sexual arousal, then, refers to the parameters of stimulus properties of potentially sexual objects to which an organism responds with one or more patterns of sexual excitation. By identifying these "effective" stimulus characteristics (i.e., effective in eliciting psychophysiological sexual arousal), one can thereby identify and define sexual orientation and the core components of sexual arousal.

In spite of over a century of psychodynamic theorizing and several decades of empirical research, it is still not known how and why human beings develop

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