Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender

pp 177-186

Sexual Attitudes and Practices

  • Gwen J. Broude

Sexual Attitudes and Practices: Perspectives

Major Theoretical Paradigms

Sexual behavior is a cross-cultural universal. Across time and place, the vast majority of human beings engage in sexual relations. The biologically ubiquitous drive to engage in sexual activity is also transparently related to reproduction in our own and other species. Among human beings, however, different cultures also elaborate and interpret sexuality in different ways. Each of these three observations regarding human sexuality motivates one of three major theoretical perspectives regarding the study of human sexual attitudes and practices.

The first perspective assumes that matters having to do with sex, as with any human function, are basically a product of learning. Individuals pick up beliefs and customs regarding sex from members of the culture in which they grow up and live. Theorists sympathetic to this point of view expect to see a wide variety of attitudes and ...

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