Essay Sample on Major Theory of Human Sexuality

Published: 2023-03-01
Essay Sample on Major Theory of Human Sexuality
Type of paper:  Term paper
Categories:  Gender Stereotypes Human sexuality Social issue
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1601 words
14 min read

From a sociological perspective, human sexuality is viewed from a different angle. It transcends the notion of biological sexuality. Human sexuality shows the ambiguity of men and women and the influence which it brings to society. When we look at human sexuality from a sociological perspective, we examine the sexual behaviors of society and its effects. Different theories consider the effects of various sexual practices on the community (Stein, 1989). The approaches help the sociologists in understanding the impact of sexuality on a group of people. A scholar might be looking for answers as to why women are underrepresented in the political office. To carry out his research, he will use conflict theory. In this paper, I am going to review a major theory of human sexuality, which is structural functionalism. I will also review some literature on this theory.

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Literature Review

Theorists on this perspective usually examine how a society can maintain social order. Emile Durkheim argued that social order was only possible if the community is able to control individual behaviors (Blake, Stycos, & Davis,1961). Sexuality is human behavior, and it is mostly controlled by the norms which guide the society. The marital union between a man and a woman is socially acceptable as normative behavior. Kingsley Davis (1961) argued that "the sexual impulse is both powerful and capable of intricate conditioning," principally by "linking it with marriage and the family"-for example, "by making marriage normatively superior to other types of sexual union. The legal, political, and also social structures agree on this value. There are certain rulings and acts which are in favor of different sex marriage. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denied the same-gender marriage federal recognition. It defined marriage as a union that is legal between a man and a woman only (Clarkson-Freeman, 2005). Any other form of marriage is considered deviant because they do not fit the set standards of the society. A critical function of the family is the regulation of sexual activity. According to the social norms in many cultures, sex is encouraged only within the marriage institution, and it discourages premarital and extramarital sex (Hill, 2008). From a functionalist point of view, sex within the marriage strengthens the union of the couple and ensures that procreation is done in a legally recognized relationship (Suarez & Balaji, 2007). When the children are born in a working marriage, there is a significant likelihood that the children will get their provisions and will be raised properly.

Gender Inequality from a Functionalist Perspective

According to this perspective, society is a complex system, and its parts work in unity in the promotion of solidarity and stability. Functionalism looks at the community as a whole, and the constituent elements are the customs, traditions, norms, and institutions. Herbert Spencer described these elements as organs that must work together for the proper functioning of the body (Simon, 2017). Talcott Parsons' model of the nuclear family is the one that mostly articulated gender inequality according to the functionalist perspective. This theory explains why gender inequalities exist. Gender inequality is a crucial way in which the division of labor is created. It is essential as it leads to maximum use of resources and also ensures that there is efficiency. According to the division of labor, the roles which are conducted are complementary. While men are providing for the family, women do take of their homes. We can therefore say that sexuality, just as gender and other social institutions ensures there is stability and growth of the whole society. When there is a division of labor, functional prerequisites, which are basically the basic needs are available(Suarez & Balaji, 2007). Food, clothing, and shelter is considered the most basic needs. Social order in a society is maintained when these prerequisites are available.

Non Normative Sexuality

The functionalist perspective explores the sexual behaviors which are acceptable to society. Sex is accepted within the family institutions, and this way of life is what regulates the individual actions. When it is done outside wedlock, it is a taboo in many communities. Some controversies are not accepted in society, such as pornography and sex work. When one does one of these, it is done mostly where other people will not see since the behavior will be highly condemned. Different authors define pornography and sex work differently. Some people will refer to sex work as prostitution. Pornography and sex work degrade mostly women (Simon, 2017). Men are not affected mainly by these behaviors in society. Many people connect sex work with poverty. Most of the communities which lead in poverty are the ones which also lead in sex workers, and this, in turn, leads to sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and others. In the United States and even globally, there are cases where children are forced into prostitution. While there also men who engage in prostitution and mostly the gays, most of the people focus on women who are involved in sex work. In many countries, sex work is not legal, although there are different groups that push for its legalization.

Sex Education

In the early days, it was not allowed to talk about sexual matters to children. Nowadays, children are exposed to information about sex in their early childhood. Access to sex information is due to the increase in technology and the high number of people who are using the internet. It has therefore become crucial for children to be educated in school so that they can be able to know what to follow and what to leave. Almost in every developed country, there is some form of sex education, but what is taught varies widely. The children are taught on different perspectives of sex, starting with their body that is physical, mental, and sexual behavior. It is on sexual behavior where the functionalism theory comes in. The children are taught the importance of abstinence until marriage. They are taught the adverse effects of having sex before marriage, which ranges from diseases to early pregnancy and hence, dropping out of schools (Suarez & Balaji, 2007). Nowadays, teenagers are also taught how to have safe sex if they cannot abstain. Based on the functionalist perspective, here we can critique sex education since there are many adverse effects of allowing sex to teenagers. Sex is not only about pleasure. It might lead to harmful impacts on marriages.

Religious Sexual Morality

Many religions support the functionalist perspective. Sex is encouraged to be enjoyed between a man and a woman, and it should be within the marriage institution. The Roman Catholic Church does not support sex without the possibility of conception (Stein, 1989). It is against the use of contraceptives, homosexual acts, and masturbation. The Muslim religion also encourages sex only in marriage. It is holy and considered an act of worship. A man is allowed to have many wives as long as he will be able to provide for them in all aspects.Importance of Functionalism

There are various benefits that society can benefit from as a result of functionalism. A family is the most crucial aspect of any society. For there to be a stable family, individual behaviors must be good. This perspective teaches people how to respect the institution of marriage. Sex is allowed only in marriage, and this creates a strong foundation for spouses. Once the family institution stands, it leads to a better society. The children who are raised in a morally upright family and also community have good characters. Once the right traits are passed to the children, they pass the same to the next generation. Children are taught not to engage in premarital sex. They should wait until they are married (Suarez & Balaji, 2007). This perspective focuses on strengthening the family, which is the basic unit of society.


While gender roles are beneficial according to the functionalist perspective, other people argue that they are discriminatory. According to the feminist movement, their stand is that functionalism should not be upheld as it neglects women's oppression (Blake, Stycos, & Davis,1961). According to feminists, there is oppression within the structure of the family. Another criticism is that this perspective does not take into consideration the increasing legal acceptance of same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians are able to raise children through a number of available means and resources. Functionalism also does not consider adverse effects in case of some events such as divorce.


There are different theories that explore human sexuality. Some researchers have focused on the biological perspective, others on psychological perspective while others study the sociological part. The paper has focused on the sociological perspective on the functionalist theory. I have explored the different aspects of functionalism. This theory encourages sex only in marriage. There are various cultural norms and values which support the idea of sex between man and wife only. Multiple religions are also in support of this theory; both Muslims and Christians agree that sex is holy and should be between a man and a woman who are married. All religions condemn homosexuality.


Blake, J., Stycos, J. M., & Davis, K. (1961). Family structure in Jamaica: The social context of reproduction. In Family structure in Jamaica: the social context of reproduction. The Free Press of Glencoe.

Clarkson-Freeman, P. A. (2005). The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Its Impact on Those Seeking Same-Sex Marriages. Journal of Homosexuality, 48(2), 1-19.

Hill, C. A. (2008). Human sexuality: Personality and social psychological perspectives. Sage.

Stein, A. (1989). Three models of sexuality: Drives, identities and practices. Sociological Theory, 7(1), 1-13.

Simon, W. (2017). Sexual conduct: The social sources of human sexuality. Routledge.

Suarez, A. E., & Balaji, A. (2007). Coverage and representations of sexuality in introductory sociology textbooks. Teaching Sociology, 35(3), 239-254.

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