What is Human Sexuality? The ways in which we experience and express ourselves as sexual beings

What is Human Sexuality? The ways in which we experience and express ourselves as sexual beings


Hi! Welcome to BIO 301 with me, your instructor, Cynthia Anderson Sanchez. What is sexuality? Sexuality encompasses the entire realm of human experience which includes; and in relation to… sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, sexual and romantic relationships, becoming a parent, and sexual identities, in relation to the law, religion, medicine and politics. Our objectives for this course is to gain an understanding of the complex biological and psychosocial aspects of sexuality. Also, to gain acceptance and insight about what your own sexual nature and the sexual nature of others is. One of the objectives that us that are involved in “higher education” have for our students, is that by the time you graduate from college you should be a critical thinker. Let’s talk about what that means and what that means in relation to the objectives for this specific class. Critical thinkers are open-minded. They are able to imagine an argument from a viewpoint other than their own. So, they can kind of “walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes”, so to speak. They are able to think logically and clearly and they’re able to put aside their own emotional and social biases. One of the things that I personally hope that you will get out of this class, is you’ll realize that humans don’t fit into tiny little boxes. Because we communicate using language, a lot of times we need to know what to call certain things, but the issue comes up when we have preconceived notions (preconceived notions and stereotypes); not just just the “male” and “female” roles, but also a lot of other things. Even some things you might not even be aware of, which I’m hoping will broaden your own perspectives and broaden your own horizons. So, people that are small-minded would like to believe that humans are “simple”. Well, we’re not! And definitely, when it comes to sexuality, we are definitely NOT. There are more variations of biological, physiological and emotional types of attraction than we’ve seen anything else (compared to other biological systems). I have a quote here from Charles R. Swindle. He says that “Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it.” I think this is important, because we want to see, in the next generation.. Are we, ourselves, instilling prejudices and stereotypes and biases in our youth today, or are we breaking those stereotypes? We need to really keep an eye on this, so that hopefully we will progress as a species and as a nation to embrace our diversity; not just our sexual diversity, but diversity overall. A lot of people want to assume that if they can identify somebody’s sex (sexual identity) or their sexual orientation, that they can meet all sorts of assumptions about what type of person they are, what types of things they would like, what their personality is like, and they’d like to think that they would know a whole lot about them just by being able to identify their sexuality. This “familiarity” brings comfort to small-minded people. It’s a natural human reaction to gravitate towards things that you’re familiar with. Well, the trouble is that, staying in that comfort zone is that if you never expose yourself to anybody that is not “very much” like you, you are never going to grow as a person. Not only that, but you might have aspects of yourself that you have not even developed or explored, because you’ve stayed in this very narrow range of what you think you are or what you think that you SHOULD be. When people that have a very biased point-of-views… unfortunately, when small-minded people encounter someone who does not fit into their preconceived notion of what they “should be”… depending on what their own feelings and perspective is… when they don’t fit into these nice little boxes, people can actually become very uncomfortable, they can become angry, and, unfortunately, even violent sometimes. It is for this reason that that we have such strict rules (laws) on hate crimes. So, when we talk about bias and labels, my hope is that, even though we’re going to have to go through some definitions here, let’s keep in mind that a label is just a word. That all it is. people are so much more complex than any label we could possibly ever put on them. Also, they are more complex than any box that we could put them in, that has our preconceived notions. So you will have to kind of keep that in mind, hopefully, as we go forward. Since we use speech to communicate we like to use words to simplify things and to categorize things, even though we probably shouldn’t categorize people at all and look at each person as an individual. The trouble is that the false generalizations or stereotypes that often come with these associated labels are not good. You know, nobody wants to be preconceived or prejudged (based) on the way that somebody else feels or looks at them. They want to be judged by their actions and I think that we all deserve that right. All people are individuals. Even identical twins, that are genetically identical, have some significant differences. I, for one, am very happy that not everybody is alike. It makes the world a lot more interesting. Let’s look at this kind of “binary view” that we have. It’s like we’ve got… you guys that are male over HERE, and you guys that are female over HERE… So we have (it’s getting better) but, historically we’ve really had these very “male” “female” dichotomy roles, where there is this binary view that you have to be one or the other. And, unfortunately, that comes from a place of ignorance and we will learn exactly what we mean by that. We can throw in a philosophy and psychology and all that stuff which is wonderful and it definitely has its place, but even the “hard science” of biology shows us that it is really not just one or the other (male or female), but absolutely everything, even our secondary sexual characteristics, such as our genitalia, has an absolute continuum. Not everybody fits into “this is male” / “this is female”. It’s much more of a continuum than anything else. Genetically speaking and looking at hormonal and physiological changes, everybody is very very unique, especially when it comes to sexual characteristics. The reason is, because the way that the body works is very unique. It’s all governed by the endocrine system and hormones and you’ll find that those things are very very individual between each and every person. So we will find that there is a huge variance and continuum, if you will, of human sexual identification, genitalia formation, the actual physical secondary sexual characteristics that we have, sexual attraction, physiological and hormonal gender characteristics, and we’ll see that that line is blurred and its really not this “one or the other” type of of old-fashioned view, if you will. Sexuality is fluid. What I mean by that is that it can change. Hopefully for most people, as they go through puberty and grow up, the sexuality and the attractions that you feel today are probably not the same as you felt when you were five years old. If they are, that’s kind of interesting and kind of rare, but for most of us our sexuality and what we are attracted to is going to change. It’s going to change maybe moment-by-moment or even within a day or a year or a decade or over a lifetime. So, being able to really have an objective view about what human sexuality totally encompasses is going to help us also be more comfortable with our own selves and our own bodies and be informed so that we can make informed decisions for ourselves. As evidence of this fluid continuum that I’m talking about, we’re going to look at gender and sexual orientation with respect to the 1) genetic components of gender and sexual orientation, 2) hormonal and physiological component of gender and sexual orientation during development, (for example, fetal development as well as development during puberty), 3) and also to look at societal, religious and historical views and how those have changed over time. I absolutely love this this site called ” http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com ” I’m going to be using this as a resource going forward, especially when we talk more about gender identities. But, I wanted to start by just introducing it very very briefly today. I love the name of this. It’s called “The Genderbread Person”. There are a couple of different versions of this. This is the latest one. I really like it. It really breaks it down. Sexuality is not just one thing. So we have our we have our gender identity and you’ll see here you have gender identity is in your mind. So we’ve got our nice Ginderbread man here, this little cartoon of a gingerbread and he has a brain here with the word “identity” pointing to it. We will look at that here. Your gender identity is really in your mind. What do you think about? Do you identify more with what we call male or female or somewhere in-between. Then we have a gender expression, which means do you have more masculine traits vs feminine traits. Those don’t always have to match up. Not all females are 100% “feminine”. I’m very glad that I have a lot of masculine traits and you can have a somebody that’s male have very feminine traits and that is a wonderful wonderful addition to our lives and our society. So it’s really kind of getting away from this, “IF you’re this you HAVE to be this”. So, anything goes when we talk about biology and sexuality. Then we have your biological sex and that is the physical sexual characteristics. Even that is not all “cut and dry” and we’ll talk about we even have people that have a what they call this the is called “ambiguous genitalia” where they are really kind of not either one. You also have a hermaphrodites (modern term is INTERSEX) which actually have the genitalia both sexes. So even we talk about the physical secondary sexual characteristics, it is not “black and white” or should I say “male or female”. then also you have sexual attraction, sexual expression, what you’re sexually attracted to vs romantically attracted to… As you can see, it’s very, very complex and that’s one of the things we’ll be talking about as we go forward. In addition to that, we are going to be talking about the anatomy and physiology of sexual attraction reproductive tracts over learn about fertility and hormonal cycles as well as contraception so this is going to help you take control over your own sexuality and how you express it and be able to make good decisions about how you’re going to proceed. Now i’m going to…. this is my cat (laughs)… now we’re going to go to youtube while I give my cat some love and I’d like to call this, “No Shiny Boxes”. I think this is an excellent youtube video and I have little the link here if you’d like to see more from this person. This is called, “Human Sexuality; It’s Complicated.” Enjoy. Good morning, John! Today we plumb the depths of the marvelously complex you. But my first allow me to acknowledge that i am not a sociologist. I’m also a straight white man who doesn’t have to worry about a lot of the hate that a lot of other people do have to worry about. My goal of this video is I want people to understand. Because I think understanding will lead to less hate and also less self-hate. For a lot of people, it’s nice to imagine that humans are simple and that you can know a person’s sex and then you will know all sorts of things about them deeply and clearly. And if you don’t fit into this nice little box people, who do can get really confused and sometimes even angry. And if you yourself don’t fit into one of these nice little boxes and you think that people should, then you end up hating yourself and that’s probably even worse! The best and maybe only way to solve this problem is for people to understand that there are no nice tiny boxes. Or, if there are shiny boxes there are an infinite number of them; enough to put all the people who currently exist, have ever existed, and will ever exist. So together let’s understand. We’re gonna start simple with what’s going on down here, inbetween the legs. That is your sex; your biological sex. It tends to be binary though there are all sorts of conditions that resulted intersex individuals and as interesting and complicated as this is, the rest of it is much more complicated. So I’m just going to move on from here, because we all kind of get what sex is. Now we move on up to the top, to the brain, which is the thing that decides what gender you identify with; whether you feel like a man, or a woman, or neither, or both. Because the fascinating thing is as much as we try to label things there is no way to label every point on an infinite continuum and that’s what we’re dealing with here. So, to actually visualize how this works I’ve created a graph for you. On the x-axis we have gender (male —>female) and on the y axis we have the intensity of the identification with that gender. I would be about HERE, because identify as a man though I recognize that there are some “womany” parts of me. But let’s also put a hypothetical biological female on the graph that identifies very strongly as a man. Now that can be really uncomfortable, especially when there’s a bunch of people in the world who insist on calling him a “woman” just because of the body that he happens to be very uncomfortable with, which is why is sex does not determine the pronoun you should use; gender does. Now moving on to your heart (to your metaphorical heart, of course). This is who you’re attracted to. (For example) Men… Women… All Genders… Again, it’s a spectrum and that spectrum includes intensity, because there are people who don’t feel strong sexual attraction at all. That’s why asexual is a sexual orientation. Another idea that I was happy to be exposed to yesterday on tumblr, is the idea of romantic orientation. This is the people you want to have strong intimate relationships with but it sort of separates out the idea that sex has to be the goal or end-point or like end all and be all of every intimate relationship. Now that we’ve got with how we feel, let’s deal with what happens when other people actually get involved. That is sexual behavior which is actually very different from sexual orientation. And it might seem a little bit strange at first but it’s not. Consider for example a heterosexual priest. That priest’s orientation is heterosexual but because of his religion his behavior is celibate. Here we’re not talking about the preference we’re talking about the behavior. On top of all of this are gender roles which are built by society’s not by individuals. The obvious ones are masculine gender roles and feminine gender roles but as all dichotomies are false dichotomies this one is a spectrum too. As we go over all of this it’s important to note that every single one of these categories is independent from each other. So a biological female can be a man who only has sex with women despite the fact that he’s attracted to both men and women and kind of you know feels more comfortable and feminine gender roles. That may not be the most common combination of these factors but it’s certainly not “weird”. Another important point many people move across these spectrums sometimes from year to year sometimes hour to hour but what’s really important is that we trust ourselves and we understand ourselves we love and respect ourselves and we grant that same understanding and respect to the people around us when the world becomes one of infinite Continuum’s in those false dichotomies breakdown and those two shiny boxes break apart into seven billion shiny boxes that’s actually pretty beautiful. John I’ll see you on Tuesday. So why do we have sex in the first place? Well biologically speaking, reproduction can be done in one of two ways. It does not always have to be done sexually. There are two main types. We call one sexual and we call the other one asexual. In asexual reproduction individual organisms (cells) split from one cell into two cells and the entire genome is the same in both of the offspring. So we call these genetic clones because they are genetically identical to one another and they are genetically identical to what we call the “parent cell” that they came from. Whereas, in order to get genetically different offspring you would have to have two different parents that come together and shuffle their DNA together and then you’ve got the egg and sperm come together and you’ve got this wonderful brand new shuffled DNA that goes into the offspring. This creates genetic variation. So let’s compare side-by-side when we talk about asexual vs sexual reproduction. So why do we have sex anyways? The benefits of sexual reproduction include the fact that the offspring is going to be NOT genetically identical to the parent. This creates genetic diversity among the species. This is very important for evolution and survival. For example there are certain times in our history that we’ve had plagues that have come by. Basically everybody in the population or in a community was exposed to that particular plague. If there were not individuals that had particular mutations in their cells that caused them to be immune to certain plagues, we would basically have died out or at least that particular lineage or the particular community would have died out. We see over and over that having genetic variation among the population is very important for the survival of that species and the survival of the genetics are represented in that population. Hypothesis 1 for why we have sex and what are the benefits is that harmful mutations are reduced or eliminated there are several genetically inherited diseases which are recessive that are rare but if you happen to find two people that have this rare gene and they have they come together and they have offspring then it’s possible that offspring could end up with that very rare genetic disorder. Also, beneficial genetic combinations are generated natural selection factors of the survival and reproduction of the offspring with the most suitable gene combinations. So it helps all the way around. Here I have a depiction of what happens with asexual reproduction. Cells divide using a process called mitosis. Mitosis is a type of sexual reproduction and we see here that what happens is you have one single parent cell that is then going to double its genetic material and then that genetic material is then going to be separated and one cell is going to become two cells and those two daughter cells are genetically identical to the parent cell. We see that asexual reproduction is actually well suited for organisms that have to remain in one place or they don’t get to move very much but maybe they’re just very simple for example like bacteria. So if it’s really hard to find a mate or it’s just more trouble than it’s worth for that particular species to have sexual reproduction, we find that they will reproduce asexually. However, any species that reproduces asexually is at risk because they don’t have the genetic variation to be able to withstand certain catastrophic events that they might be exposed to. We see that asexual reproduction is used by plants, bacteria, hydra, yeast and jellyfish just to name a few. We see that this is important for those types of organisms because it’s fast, it doesn’t require a partner or mate so it doesn’t have to spend a lot of time “flexing its muscles” or “showing its wonderful plumage”. It doesn’t require much energy and it doesn’t report a lot of complexity of the cell. That’s why we see more simple organisms will be the ones to reproduce in this fashion. In sexual reproduction, gametes (which we call the eggs and the sperm) are produced through a very special process that’s called meiosis. What happens in meiosis is you’ll have one progenitor cell or one parent cell is going to go through two consecutive divisions… two consecutive divisions which look somewhat like mitosis but they’re actually called here meiosis 1 and meiosis 2. They’re going through two separate cell divisions and when that genetic material is split into two you will actually end up getting four haploid daughter cells. We’re going to go into a little bit more detail when we go over genetics on exactly how meiosis occurs and how the genetics are kind of shuffled during meiosis so that the eggs and sperm are actually a mixture of your mom’s dad and mom and your dad’s dad and mom. So in other words let me say that again. So your eggs, the egg that made you, had a mixture of genetic traits that came from your mom’s mom and your mom’s dad whereas the sperm that made you had a mixture of your dad’s dad’s DNA and your dad’s mom’s DNA. It’s very very interesting. But in that way we get a lot of genetic variation even within particular families. So that’s actually nice. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to look exactly like my father so this is good. Fertilization occurs when we get two gametes (one comes from the male and one comes from the female)… because they are haploid when they combine actually going to get a diploid which is what you want which has a full complement of 23 chromosomes from mom and 23 chromosomes from dad coming together and then that zygote will eventually become you. This is just a humorous youtube video that I found. I just wanted to show you a little bit of I thought it was just adorable. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent that survives is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Well what does that mean? What that means is you want to have a lot of genetic diversity and you want to be big in numbers, enough so that any catastrophic event that you are exposed to as a species that hopefully will be at least some subset of that species that will have a particular set of genes that is going to allow that organism to survive. Sexual reproduction allows for variation and this genetic variation is the most fundamental element of evolution. It is sexual reproduction that creates species that can adapt to new environments and that are very difficult to be wiped out by a single disease.

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  1. I real enjoyed the video on human sexuality. Sexuality is a way of survival for the human species, through the variances of the genetics

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