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As Process
The aim of this essay, is to try and establish if sexuality, is an innate
biological process that takes place as a result of our genetic make-up or wether
sexuality is a result of our cultural back ground and the environment in which
we are raised. These two differing theories are known as the nature/nurture
debate, nature representing the biological theory for our sexuality and nurture
representing environmental influences for our behaviour. The first part of the
essay, will focus on the biological side of our sexuality and will put forward
theories by Barnard, Hamer and Young, who will argue the point, that our
sexuality is established at the foetal stage of our development. It is at this
early stage of life, that genes carry specific information about who we are. A
gene is a unit of hereditary that our sexuality is established through and the
genes determine the biological characteristics of an individual, both physically
and mentally. The essay will then give further evidence that our sexuality is
biologically driven, by describing the changes our bodies undergo when we reach
puberty, changes that are triggered by hormonal transitions. Hormones are
chemical messengers, they send massages from glands around the body, which
triggers a response in other parts of our anatomy. The essay will give evidence
that, hormones are a biological indicator that we are biologically driven
towards our sexuality. The second part of the essay will argue that, sexuality
is greatly influenced by environmental factors, environmental factors such as
rearing styles and differing cultural practises. It will look at different
societies and the way in which they perceive sexuality and argue that sexuality
is learned through a combination of expected social norms and observational
learning, giving evidence from Bandura, Mead and Money along the way. Finally
the essay will look at the evidence that has been put forward and sum up what
has been debated, it will then draw a conclusion. From the point of conception,
human beings are made up of 46 chromosomes, 23 male and 23 female. After
insemination, paternal and maternal chromosomes fuse, this fusion determines the
sex of the child. The amalgamation of two X chromosomes creates a female child,
while the combination of X and Y chromosomes, leads to the development of a male
offspring. Each chromosome contains thousands genes and each gene contains
specific information about how part of the body will be formed. Genes are
responsible for almost every aspect of the human body, from hair colour to the
development of our organs, organs like the brain and it is within the brain were
the biggest changes take place when our bodies under go their sexual
metamorphous, during sexual maturation. When we reach sexual maturity, we have
our first insight into our sexuality, an insight which is genetically programmed
into our consciousness through our DNA, this theory is supported by the work of
hamer et al ( 1993) who conducted a study of male sexual orientation. “Hamer
examined 40 pairs of gay brothers. He examined 22 genetic markers distributed
across the X chromosome in order to see if brothers concordant for
homosexuality, were also concordant for the markers. He found that the
chromosomal region of xq28, at the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome, 33
of the 40 pairs of brothers shared all the markers. This was statistically
different from the expected rate (20 out of 40) suggesting that the gene
influencing male sexual orientation, lies within that chromosomal region”
In this study, Hamer along with many other fellow geneticists, is claiming that
he has found the gene which dictates our sexual orientation, therefore genes are
a precursor to our sexuality and our sexuality is decided at an anatomical level
in the womb. Whilst in the womb, it seems that our sexuality is being pre
programmed by our genes but there are other biological developments taking
place, namely the formation of our hormones, hormones which will lie dormant
until the onset of puberty. “The hypothalamus an important co-ordinating
centre in the brain, signals the onset of puberty. The hypothalamus stimulates a
gland just below it, the pituitary, to secrete hormones (chemical messengers
carried in the blood). These are carried to other hormonal secreting glands. In
their turn these release other hormones which regulate physical growth and
development” (DR Christian Barnard. 1981) The two main hormones released at
sexual maturity are testosterone for males and oestrogen for females. When
Testosterone is distributed throughout the sexually maturing male, his testes
will enlarge and begin producing sperm. His body will begin to grow pubic hair,
his voice will deepen, his muscles will become larger and he will show more
aggression when trying to assert his masculinity. By comparison, the manufacture
of oestrogen within the adolescent female will promote quite different
developments throughout her body. She will develop breasts, her hips will grow
and widen, she will grow pubic hair and most importantly she will start her
menstrual cycle, meaning, like the sexually maturing male, she will have
attained full reproductive capacity. So therefore, it seems that it is
testosterone what gives man his masculinity and it is oestrogen that helps
establish womens femininity. This theory is given support by an experiment
carried out by W.C.Young. Young carried out an experiment on a pregnant monkey,
that was carrying a female foetus, she gave the primate large daily doses of the
male hormone testosterone to try and ascertain if the hormone would have any
effect on the monkey’s sexuality. When it was born, the female monkey behaved in
a much more assertive and aggressive manner, than other females of her kind, her
behaviour was noted to be more like that of a male monkey. She participated in
all the boisterous activity with the male members of her species and challenged
them in fights, which helped establish her social status amongst the male
monkeys. Other experiments have shown that monkeys injected with testosterone
between birth and puberty, developed similar assertive, typically male behaviour.

These case studies put forward, argue precisely the point, that it is biological
factors that decide our sexuality and we are therefore biologically driven
towards our sexuality. *************** The nurture theory, put simply, means
that our sexuality is not the result of our biology (nature) but rather that our
sexuality and characteristics are socially learned through experience. A study
by Albert Bandura et al ( 197-) has shown how “children learn their roles
from those influential models they observe around them, particularly their
parents. If the two sexes are treated differently and have different
expectations of their behaviour then they will learn to behave differently.

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These differences include their gender and this might be papering them for the
kind of social roles that they find them selves in later” In this
statement, Bandura is trying to tell us that the essence of who we are and who
we perceive our selves to be, is acquired at an early age, through observational
learning and it is through observational learning that we develop our concept of
social norms. Social norms are expected patterns of behaviour that develop in
any social group over time, they become a major part of our culture and one part
of that culture is the perception of our sexuality. In the 1930s, a social
anthropologist named Margaret Mead (193-) carried out a study of the sexual
roles of a native Indian society known as the Tchambuli people, who lived on the
island of New Guinea. Mead found “dramatic differences in the ways boys and
girls are treated and in the personalities and behaviour of the adults which
appeared as a result” Mead discovered that the women of the Tchambuli
people socialised their male children to be artistic, creative and sentimental.

The adult males would sit around the village gossiping, making themselves look
pretty and they generally took over the role as the female gender. The women on
the other hand had assumed the lead in all matters, they were competitive,
aggressive, they were the hunters and conducted all the trade necessary for
their village. Mead concuded, that it was a “classical gender role
reversal” This study helps to prove, that how we are raised and other
environmental factors, help shape our sexuality/gender. A study by John Money,
determined that it was environmental factors that helped a young Jewish boy (one
of identical twins) establish his sexuality after having his penis damaged
during a circumcision operation. His penis was so badly damaged, that his
doctors came to the conclusion, he would not be able to function as a male and
therefore, at the age of seventeen months, it was decided to make him into a
female. The boy had surgery and a course of hormone treatment began. With female
socialisation, the child soon began behaving like other girls. By the time the
child had reached the age of five, the differences between the twins was
considerable. She enjoyed feminine things such as playing with dolls, having her
hair brushed and putting on makeup, by the time she had reached adulthood, she
was indistinguishable from any other female of her own age. If sexual roles were
determined by innate forces then such a change in behaviour would not have been
possible, as this female was genetically male. The first part of this essay
argued that, sexuality is a biologically driven process that is established in
the womb. It reviled our gender is decided from the moment of conception,
through the fertilization of the female ovum. It then took a more in-depth look
at the biological side of our sexuality by looking at our genetic makeup. It
showed that a study by Hammer had indicated that it was possible to locate the
gene that is responsible for our sexuality by studying same sex family members.

The essay then further substantiated that our sexuality is a biological process,
by giving a descriptive account of how hormonal changes affect the human body,
when we reach maturation. It showed how an experiment by W.C.Young, helped to
prove that hormones play a major role in our sexuality, by injecting the female
foetus of a monkey with the male hormone testosterone. She found, after the
monkey was born, it was more predisposed to being male than it was female. She
concluded, that in all probability, it was because of the testosterone
injections. The second part of the essay concentrated on the nurture side of our
sexuality and tried to establish if our sexuality could be shaped by
environmental factors. It gave an account of a study by Bandura,which showed
that children use observational learning, to help them understand their
identity. Bandura argued that “children imitate influential models around
them. They try to live up to people’s expectations of them, expectations
including gender and this can lead to a self fulfilling prophesy in
adulthood” In the 1930s, Mead studied the native Indian people of New
Guinea and found dramatic differences in the way they reared their children
compared to other cultures. She observed that the gender roles were reversed,
boys were raised as females and girls reared as males. She determined this had
lasting ramifications on their sexuality and gender in adult life. Money
conducted a study of a young boy whose penis was damaged in a bungled
circumcision operation. The organ was so badly damaged that it was decided to
transform him into a female. After socialising and raising him as a girl, money
noted that he had become mentally and physically indistinguishable from any
other female of his own age. This essay has examined both sides of the argument
of how we acquire our sexuality and after giving much thought, has come to the
conclusion, that although our environment plays an important part in our sexual
development, it is an innate biological process that determines our sexuality.

It is our genes that dictate sexuality and therefore our sexuality is
genetically programmed within us at the earliest stages of foetal development.


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