Sex and sexuality are simultaneously biological and cultural. There are chromosomes, hormones and sex organs that make us genetically male or female – but culture takes over to determine what we do with these biological facts. From birth to old age, culture shapes almost every aspect of our thinking, feeling, and acting as sexual beings.
To the extent that we define and negotiate our sexual expression or sexuality through our social interaction, it remains socially constructed. Thus the notion of the “social construction of reality” applies as much to sexuality as to any other part of our social lives. Since it is constantly constructed and reconstructed, you can think of it in terms of symbolic-interaction, fluidity, and social change. The research or investigative approach you would use here is interpretive sociology since you are looking at the meaning that people attach to their sexuality or sexual interactions.
Consistent with the structural-functional approach, society and culture place many constraints on our sexuality from defining gender roles and appropriate courting behaviour to passing laws on marriage, prostitution, and abortion. Importantly, sexuality is the basis of family life and childbearing—both of which have crucial functions in maintaining stability and perpetuating society and social order.
The social-conflict perspective throws a different light on issues related to sexuality. Traditional gender roles and family life, according to critical sociology (which includes feminism), are based on patriarchy or male dominance and, in turn, exploit or oppress women. The fight for gender equality or equal rights for gay, lesbian, trans and other identities/folks brought about obvious gains—including the redefinition of marriage and family—but one can argue that we are a long way from achieving true equality. Similarly, a social-conflict approach may also critically examine the politics of pleasure – who is experiencing pleasure in certain sexual arrangements, i.e. heterosexual relations, same-sex relations, transsexual relations? For example, in many heterosexual relationships, many women ‘fake’ orgasm, and in a hook-up culture, it is very common for the male’s pleasure to be prioritized in the encounter, with women’s pleasure not given equal attention. In lesbian relationships, pleasure is more often balanced, with each partner experiencing pleasure and orgasm during each sexual encounter.
Observing expressions of sexuality (which are rarely irrelevant in social interaction) one notes stability of behaviour patterns as well as change over time. For this short paper, you are to pick one aspect of sexuality (like teen pregnancy, porn, prostitution etc.) (and society’s treatment of it) and explain both stability and change in behaviour patterns by using ONLY ONE of the above mentioned sociological perspectives to analyze your chosen aspect of sexuality: symbolic-interaction, structural-functionalism, or social-conflict. Be sure to identify in your paper which perspective (theory) you are using to analyze the aspect of sexuality you will be exploring – failure to identify the sociological perspective you are using will result in lost marks. So, tell us which perspective you are using and try to be consistent in your treatment of the topic: in other words, don’t mix two approaches (e.g. social conflict and symbolic interaction).