The history of human sexuality is as long as human history itself—200,000+ years and counting (Anton & Swishier, 2004).
For almost as long as we have been having sex, we have been creating art, writing, and talking about it.
Some of the earliest recovered artefacts from ancient cultures are thought to be fertility totems. The Hindu Kama Sutra (400 BCE to 200 CE)—an ancient text discussing love, desire, and pleasure—includes a how-to manual for having sexual intercourse.
Rules, advice, and stories about sex are also contained in the Muslim Qur’an, Jewish Torah, and Christian Bible.
Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is credited with being the first scientist to link sex to healthy development and to recognize humans as being sexual throughout their lifespans, including childhood (Freud, 1905).
Freud (1923) argued that people progress through five stages of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital. According to Freud, each of these stages could be passed through in a healthy or unhealthy manner.
In unhealthy manners, people might develop psychological problems, such as frigidity, impotence, or anal-retentiveness.
Today, a broad range of scientific research on sexuality continues. It’s a topic that spans various disciplines, including anthropology, biology, neurology, psychology, and sociology.
Here’s a thought-experiment to further demonstrate how reproduction has relatively little to do with driving sexual attraction: Add the number of times you’ve had and hope to have sex during your lifetime. With this number in mind, consider how many times the goal was (or will be) for reproduction versus how many it was (or will be) for pleasure. Which number is greater?
“Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each one of its
The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behaviour, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948, pp. 638–639)
The international scientific and medical communities (e.g., World Health Organization, World Medical Association, World Psychiatric Association, Association for Psychological Science) view variations of sex, gender, and sexual orientation as normal. Sexual orientation is as diverse as gender identity. Instead of thinking of sexual orientation as being two categories—homosexual and heterosexual—Kinsey argued that it’s a continuum (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948).
He measured orientation on a continuum, using a 7-point Likert scale called the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, in which 0 is exclusively heterosexual, 3 is bisexual, and 6 is exclusively homosexual. Later researchers using this method have found 18% to 39% of Europeans and Americans identifying as somewhere between heterosexual and homosexual (Lucas et al., 2017; YouGov.com, 2015).
These percentages drop dramatically (0.5% to 1.9%) when researchers force individuals to respond using only two categories (Copen, Chandra, & Febo-Vazquez, 2016; Gates, 2011).