Attitudes about sex and sexual gratification have evolved from the point where sex was seen as a biological process to sex as a way of life, with many steps in between. When our species was young and more animal-like than human-like I am sure that sex served more of a reproductive/male dominance function than a recreational function. During the height of the English empire, sex was seen as a duty to one’s country. On the other hand, during the ’60s and ’70s, the secret was let out that sex can be an end in and of itself without reproductive considerations. Now comes my generation, not the baby-boomer generation, not generation X, but rather the generation that was spawned during the ’80s. And as Jim Horning (n.d.) was once purported to have said, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment” (p. 1). My generation was the first to be hit hard by sex on television, sex in the movies, even sex on the internet, which was not even possible until my generation was in their teens. As a result, I have seen many of my friends from school marry prematurely only to divorce, engage in premarital cohabitation, and premarital sex. I am of course no exception. My adolescent years were full of bad judgments. It is in this context that my male gender identity developed, my sexual relationships matured, and my environment and value systems informed my sexual decision-making process in the development of my sexuality.
I have always been of the opinion that context is absolutely necessary when considering any type of human development. To that end, I was brought up in a very conservative Southern Baptist church. One of those 100 members, everybody knows everybody type of churches. My mother was religious, as it were, about taking us to church every Sunday. During my time in church, I was heavily influenced by a legalistic value system. I was taught that there were rules that were meant to government human interaction and human development. Moreover, I was taught that breaking these rules brought with it severe consequences. This early religious influence greatly affected my perception of my ideal self and therefore my superego, according to Freudian psychoanalysis. In my adolescence, these early legalistic influences brought with them much regret but very little conformity. I can see now that during that time my ego was struggling with my superego and ID to find a socially acceptable outlet for my sexual impulses. Likewise, it was during my adolescence that I began to use the principles of critical thinking to evaluate the premises of my legalistic upbringing. When I entered adolescence I had no good reason to believe that the rules in the Bible were applicable to my life in the 21st century. There was no proof and without proof, I rarely believe anything. However, what followed was many years of ill-gotten sexual escapades and sexual promiscuity, but to no avail. With each failed relationship…with each misguided sexual encounter my religious upbringing was confirmed rather than discounted. I know that divorce is highly correlated to premarital cohabitation, but that this is not the whole story. After this class, and my experience confirms, I understand that the high divorce rate for those who cohabitate before marriage is due to some other causal factor, such as more liberal views about marriage and divorce. Therefore, with my conscience confirming, my sense of reason squelched, and my experience verifying I have come to the conclusion after this class that the legalistic value system I was brought up to believe in represents the ideal relational framework for my life.
Nonetheless, to put my entire adolescence within the context it is imperative to start from the beginning, the very beginning. The development of my male gender identity started with my father’s genetic contribution. When the sperm from my father and the egg from my mother combined they created a genetically unique organism. The 23 chromosome in my father’s gamete was a Y chromosome instead of an X chromosome. This is where my male gender identity started. Until about the 7th week of gestation I was basically a female, anatomically speaking (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2005). However, during the 7th week, the Y chromosome included in my genetic code started to exert itself. I began to develop male testes, genital ducts, and other external genitals. During the rest of prenatal development, my brain is exposed to testosterone and other androgens which masculinizes my brain. It is this masculinization of the brain which gives me my distinctly male mindset. After birth my genitals and behavior both indicated maleness, so my parents raised me with male gender identity. The influence of my father strongly indicated that men should not cry, that men should be unfeeling, and that men should command their wives like slaves. In my opinion, none of these statements are over generalized. I never saw my father cry. He seemed like he didn’t care about his family much but maybe financially. My mother had to stay home and take care of the family. After they divorced when I was 14 my mother went on to earn a Bachelors degree in sociology. It was in the context of this legalistic, macho male upbringing that I entered the sometimes unpredictable world of American adolescence. Likewise, according to the early Christian historical perspective I was brought up to believe that all sexual practices outside of reproductive sex within the confines of marriage were prohibited. This caused a great conundrum in my early adolescent years. Peer pressure is extremely powerful during those years and it seemed like everyone was having sex with someone, besides me. Therefore according to my macho male upbringing, I sought relationships where the female was submissive to my sexual whims. Accordingly, many sexual relationships developed and very few relationships of any substance. Therefore, at the conclusion of my adolescent years, I was thoroughly convinced that maleness has much more to do with sacrifice than dominance. Furthermore, at the end of this class, I am convinced that my male gender identity is the product of a complex interplay between genetics and the environment around me.
As a result of the aforementioned legalistic and macho male upbringing, the first few years of my marriage to my wife was very rocky. The style of love that best describes these first few years would be possessive, excited love (mania). We were both very taken with each other. We enjoyed each other’s company and loved to spend hours alone together. We were both very possessive and very jealous though. For both of us, our relationship was the first one of its kind. For us, opposites do attract because we are complete opposites. We test opposite each other on every personality, horoscope, or communication test we have ever taken. Moreover, she was brought up to be a very independent female and I was brought up to be a very dominant male. The outcome was disastrous. It was several years before we could even be around each other without arguing or disagreeing about something. It took some time, some religious consultation, some parental consultation, and three children for us to start developing a more romantic love (eros). For us, we had to develop this type of love before we could engage in selfless love (agape) or friendship (philia). It is difficult to be romantically involved or be friends with someone that you cannot even stand; therefore, we first developed a relationship around our romance. This romance eventually turned into a friendship and is now more along the lines of agape love. It was a long road. We had to overcome my legalistic and macho man upbringing. We also had to overcome her feminist upbringing. Collectively we had to realize that our place in this marriage was side-by-side rather than someone being in front and someone following. Therefore, as a result of my legalistic and macho man upbringing my marriage went through a progression of steps before arriving at our more mature, agape love-centered relationship.
Lastly, contraception or a lack thereof has played a large part in guiding the development of my family. My wife and I had all of our children before we were 20. They were about two years apart. Even though sex education was offered in our high school years we were still influenced by the media’s portrayal of consequence-free sexual activity. To that end, we engaged in coitus often during our adolescent years and with spotty use of contraceptives. Thinking back now we both had other sexual partners before we met each other and sexually transmitted infections were certainly possible. We were probably very lucky to escape adolescence without any adverse sexual consequences, other than having children out of wedlock that is. After our third child was born our doctor recommended female sterilization. Well, that is not entirely true. He recommended male sterilization first but we both declined. We were worried about negative sexual side-effects, besides we were not going to have any more children. And truth be told it was a psychological thing for me. I felt like the macho man image that I cherished so much might be in danger if I went through with this surgery. Consequently, we decided that my wife should undergo an irreversible female sterilizing by laparoscopy. We have been satisfied with the results of the surgery every since. There is literally no chance of further pregnancy, and we do not have to deal with adverse side-effects from birth control pills. Therefore, contraception was a major causal factor in the growth and limits of my family within the context of my distinctly macho male rearing.
In conclusion, within the context of a legalistic, macho male upbringing, a strict Christian historical perspective, a media-portrayed consequence-free sexual environment, and a distinctly male gender identity my sexual development seems more like the result of many factors than a decision-making process. However, after taking this class I can see clearly that these factors informed my sexual development but did not dictate my sexual development.
Horning, J. (n.d.) Retrieved July 23, 2008, from Quotations page Web site:
Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., and Fichner-Rathus, L. (2005). Human sexuality in a world of diversity. (6th ed.) Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.