Sexuality: A Lesser Known Definition

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Sexuality today has been discovered, opened up and made accessible to the development of varying lifestyles. It is something each of us has or cultivates, no longer just a natural condition, which an individual accepts as a pre-ordained state of affairs. Sexuality functions as a malleable feature of self, a prime connecting point between body, self-identity and social norms.

01homosexuality1 Sexuality is not just a human capacity to have erotic experiences and is not only related to the physical aspect; but it also has biological, emotional and spiritual aspects to it. Sexuality additionally affects and is itself affected by cultural, political, legal and philosophical aspects of life. It refers to the issues of morality, ethics and religion.There has been a debate of ‘Nature vs. Nurture’ with regard to human sexuality. The ‘nature’ side of the argument holds that sexual orientation or sexual behavior is determined by the genetics as opposed to the ‘nurture’ argument, which asserts that it is molded by the environment in which the individual lives or comes in contact to.

 There are two well-known theorists who formed the opposing positions in the nature versus nurture debate. Sigmund Freud, a firm supporter of the nature argument, believed that sexual drives are instinctive and viewed sexuality as the central source of human personality. He reasoned that pleasure lowers tension, while displeasure raises it, influencing the sexual drive in humans. His developmentalist perspective was governed by inner forces, especially biological drives and maturation, and his view that humans are biologically inclined to seek sexual gratification demonstrates the nature side of the debate.


John Locke, on the other hand, believed in the nurture argument, using his theory of the mind being seen as a “tabula rasa” or blank slate, the environment in which one develops drives their sexuality. He believed that there are no natural obstructions that would block the development of children’s inherent potential for acting freely and rationally and that everyone is born to become independent beings and benefit from the environment.

Thomas Aquinas, a well-known philosopher, held sexuality in accordance with virtues such as temperance and charity, not to be evil in itself. He argued that a reasoned use of sexuality; i.e. only for the sake of human procreation can said to be virtuous as long as it is not used as a means to satisfy one’s lust, which is a ‘mortal sin’ according to him.

A person’s sexual orientation is his own choice. That a person is inclined to satisfy his pleasures the way he wants to. No matter how different or same the nurturing of two persons is, their sexual orientation is hardly related to it. However, the type of environment a child is exposed to does affects his/her degree of understanding and accepting a particular issue, such as sexuality.

Sexuality is a controversial issue in many societies. But over the past few decades, with a kind of sexual revolution going on, societies, communities and people of different cultural backgrounds have openly accepted it as a sensitive yet important issue. For many, one’s sexual orientation is a potential realm of freedom. On the other hand, many are opposed to the idea of providing sexual freedom. Every person has a basic fundamental right to be free to make his own choices. But to what exteny a person is free is directly or indirectly influenced by the society and community one belongs to.

Sexuality is no longer a pre-ordained state of affairs that an individual accepts the way it is; it is something that each of us has or cultivates. People are now much more concerned about their conceptualization of sexuality. It is very clear that in modern times people have started to accept variations in sexual orientation and are now concerned about the social issues that are related to sexuality, which is in fact the demand of today’s scenario.

The concept of sexuality has not been discovered recently; it has historical and cultural values attached to it. Which is why people find it difficult to accept the changes that are taking place in the society. Because the changes, according to them, are not in harmony with its historical perspectives. For people, what has been said or written by their ancient scholars only is moral, ethical and adequate. Any action or demand in opposition to history is evil or immoral and is intolerable by the society and law in a few cases.

Our country has had a wide tolerance to social, cultural and sexual orientations. Indian sexuality is manifested in our attire, behaviour, recreation, literature, sculptures, scriptures, religion and sports. With increasing globalization and development, the newer generations of Indian people worldwide have been trying to define the sexual and sensual vocabulary on their own; rather than being influenced by external and foreign influences. Our society is gradually altering its hypocritical approach to the issues of sexuality; and with increasing education and awareness it is not wrong to expect from the youth to rediscover our norms and make the society much more compatible and open to such issues.

Moral or immoral, ethical or unethical and acceptable or unacceptable are the characteristics assigned to some actions by the society itself. Society in turn consists of people. It is only us who decide what is right or wrong. It is high time for all of us to look into our thought process and concepts and ask ourselves that which issues are more important to lay emphasis on. We all need to broaden our perspectives and accept each other’s views so that the dream of an economically, politically, socially and culturally independent society could be reached a step closer.

The philosophy of sexuality is concerned with the perennial questions of sexual morality and constitutes a large branch of applied ethics. Even though a discussion of sexual ethics might well result in the removal of some confusions and a clarification of the issues, no final answers to questions about morality of sexual activity are likely to be forthcoming from the philosophy of sexuality.