Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 97-120

First online:

Sexual scripts: Permanence and change

  • William SimonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Houston
  • , John H. GagnonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, State University of New York

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A general introduction to scripting theory is offered, attempting to provide links between macrolevel considerations of sociocultural development and general theories of individual development. The scripting of behavior is examined on three distinct levels: cultural scenarios (instruction in collective meanings), interpersonal scripts (the application of specific cultural scenarios by a specific individual in a specific social context), and intrapsychic scripts (the management of desires as experienced by the individual). These concepts of the scripting of behavior are then applied to sexual behavior. Interpersonal scripts are seen as the ordering of representations of self and other that facilitate the occurrence of a sexual act; intrapsychic scripts represent the ordering of images and desires that elicit and sustain sexual arousal. Issues of stability and change in sexual scripts are then examined in terms of the changing circumstances and requirements associated with movement through the life cycle.

Key words

scripts learning theory psychosexual development erotic sex and the life cycle culture and personality