SEX EDUCATION TO ADOLESCENTS
( By Dr. Vithal Prabhu )

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Psycho-sexual Development

Masculine or feminine attitudes and preferences for certain sexual partners or certain form of sexual activity are not established at one particular moment, but are acquired gradually over a period of time. This outcome depends on child’s inherited abilities and on social influences from parents, teachers, friends etc. These influences can be positive or negative. If a girl is treated as a boy, then she learns to consider herself as a male. This early role assignment may become irreversible.

Sexual behaviour was thought to be instinctive and was assumed that at some time after puberty, sexual desire and sexual activity came naturally to every male and female. The first challenge to this view came from Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his followers. According to Freud there is basic sexual drive present in all human beings from the moment of birth. This instinct which strives for sensual pleasure, is at first diffused and attains its eventual proper maturation only through a process of “Psycho-sexual Maturation.”

A child’s personality development is a contest between biological drive and cultural constraint. The contest proceeds in three major phases which are coordinated with child’s physiological maturation. They are oral, anal and phallic phases. Oral Phase This phase lasts from birth to ten months of age. In this phase sucking is the chief source of pleasure. The baby’s persistant sucking shows signs of an enjoyment independent of hunger and nourishment. Anything going wrong at this stage of psycho-sexual development, disappointment at breast, separation from mother can lead to frustration and can cause fixation of the personality at this phase.

Excessive satisfaction can also cause fixation at this stage. An orally fixated person may be talkative, impatient, dependent, overambitious, generous, sociable, very fond of food, inclined to smoke or drink, or have oral sexual traits like kissing, or oral sex (fellatio or cunnilingus). Anal Phase From ten months to three years of age the pleasurable sensations are obtained by the baby from places other than the mouth. The acts of passing stool gives the child extreme pleasure. The child now begins to gain control over the bowel movements and thereby indirectly over the attending adults, whom it can now please/displease by eliminating/withholding the faeces.

If the toilet training is very strict or there is much rejection or there is separation from the mother at this stage, the child can get fixated at this stage of psycho-sexual development. Sexuality of anally fixated person could result in homosexual trends where the anus remains the focus of sexual interest. Phallic Phase This phase lasts from three to seven years of age. Now, the interest of the child shifts to the genital organ. From this point the psycho-sexual development differs in boys and girls.

The most pleasurable zones of the body are no longer the mouth or the anus, but penis for boys and the clitoris for girls. Freud believed that every child normally progresses from oral to phallic phase unless some negative influences interfere with the development. However, if the particular needs of any of these phases were either unfulfilled or gratified to excess, the child could get “fixated and thus hampered in its psycho-sexual development. Genital Phase Children who progress through all the three phases normally and without getting fixated reach “Latency Period” that lasts from seven years of age till puberty. During this period the sexual interests are suspended. Eventually the child reaches “Genital Phase” at puberty when the sexual instinct reawakens and seeks satisfacation through genital intercourse.

Many scientists have challanged the psychoanalytic view of Freud. Freud’s theory has never been scientifically tested sufficiently to be proven or disproven. After Freud important research regarding psycho-sexual development came from John Money, a world renowned researcher from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, U.S.A. Gender Identity Gender identity is an individual’s perception of being male or female. It is a feeling of, “I am a boy” or “I am a girl.” Gender identity becomes established between eighteen months and three years of age. However the child may not understand what it means to be a male or a female. He may say, “He is a boy because he has short hair” or “She is a girl because she wears skirt.” Gender Role Gender role is an individual’s outward expression of maleness or femaleness in social setting. The child begins to develop awareness of gender role by the age of two to three years.

Boys and girls tend to follow the behaviour patterns demonstrated by their parents. They learn from Parents such things as how to relate to members of the opposite sex and what type of work and displays of emotion are appropriate to members of each sex. Girls are taught to be home loving, passive and subservient; whereas boys are encouraged to be outgoing, self relient and not to show their emotions. Recent years have seen a blurring of traditional gender stereotypes and more and more activities are accepted as equally appropriate to males or females.

Forces that Shape Gender Identity and Gender Role



  1. Learning Theory: Gender identity and role development is shaped by cultural influences to which the young child is exposed. The child learns to imitate the same sex parent’s behaviour. In addition the parents treat boys and girls differently from the time of the birth. This is known as “differential socialization.”


  2. Cognitive Theory: It is only at the age of five or six when children understand that the gender is constant, and that they are able to form a firm gender identity. Only after this consistant self concept, children learn by observation certain behaviours appropriate for each gender.


  3. Biosocial Interaction: Many researchers believe that gender identity and role development are mainly influenced by social learning. The fundamental establishment of sense of one’s self as male or female is set in place by the age of three years.


The most important influences on gender identity and role development are learnt rather than biologically controlled by hormones or genetics. Transvestites and Transsexuals are the examples of faulty gender identity and role. Sexual Orientation Every one is born as a boy or a girl. The boys grow up as men and the girls as women. As they grow and develop they begin to feel attracted to other people.

Most men and women are Heterosexual and fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. Some experience different kind of loving. They may become Homosexual and feel attracted to the individual of the same sex; or Bisexual and feel attracted to men and women. Sexual orientation refers to whether a person is heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. It is not known why a person has a particular sexual orientation. There are several theories. Genetics, prenatal influences, socio-cultural influences, psycho-social factors, or combination of all these factors are supposed to determine the sexual orientation. Many do not admit their sexual orientation if they happen to be homosexuals, since homosexuals are mistreated.

A small percentage of people in every society remain homosexual. Their sexual orientation cannot be changed by therapy or medicines. Homosexuals are as normal as others except for their sexual orientation. Homosexuals cannot be identified by their external appearance. Love Map John Money, world’s most respected sex researcher, has coined the term “Lovemap” to describe the mental pattern expressed in every individual’s sex-erotic fantasies and practice. Lovemap, like a native language of a person is unique for himself. Lovemap is developed during early years of life before the age of eight years and is executed after puberty.

Children learn their native language by practising it; similarly they get a native lovemap by engaging in sexual rehearsal play in childhood. When their play is not interfered with by parents, teachers, peers or by the society, the lovemap develops typically as heterosexual. At puberty and thereafter such individuals have fantasies, daydreams, nightdreams which are heterosexual. Like any other species, in the human species also most individuals have an inbuilt determinant to have young ones and so to replace themselves with a new generation. Sexual rehearsal play occurs in all primates that live in social troops.

Human primates are no exception. A lovemap, once it is formed, is rather uniquely personalized. It tends to be remarkably stable throughout life; and carries the programme of a person’s erotic fantasies and their corresponding practices. The normal heterosexual play of the childhood may be hampered by too much prohibition, prevention. and punishment. In such case the standard heterosexual lovemap does not develop properly in the brain. In consequence, the love map may be defaced in such a way that the parts are missing, thus impairing in adulthood the functioning of the sex organs in genital intercourse. Such lovemap is “Hypophilic.”

By contrast, the “Hyperphilic” lovemap is one in which the lovemap defies defacement, so that the sex organs in adulthood are used with exaggerated defiance, frequency, and compulsiveness and/or with multiplicity of partners, in pairs or in groups. The lovemap may not be completely defaced, but redesigned with detours that include either new elements or relocations of original ones. These may be derived from atypical sexual rehearsal play in childhood or from encounters in which the sexual organs become stimulated, e.g., enema, whipping. In such cases the love map gets compromised and distorted and changed beyond recognition. Distortion, therefore, gets carried over into fantasies and practices. Erotic murder/suicide is an example of distorted lovemap. Distorted lovemap is also responsible for “Paraphilia” (para=beyond usual; philia=love). A paraphilic lovemap may unfold after puberty. Paraphilias occur more in men than in women. Fetishism (object or body part causing arousal), sadism (infliction of pain), masochism (receiving of pain) zoophilia (animal), pedophilia (child), necrophilia (corpse), gerontophilia (elder) are some of the paraphilias. Paraphilias are difficult to treat.

Drugs like Cyproterone acetate, Medroxyprogesterone acete, Depot Provera which act as antiandrogens (against male hormone) along with counselling by experts have given favourable results in some cases. Body Image The way a person feels about his or her own body and physical appearance is known as “Body Image.” It affects feelings and behaviour of the person. A person’s view of himself has much impact on his ability to form intimate and loving relationship. A real or imagined physical flaw can stand in the way of nonsexual persuits like sports. A positive body image is an important part of self-esteem, and is vital to establish intimacy with others. It is feeling good about oneself and the belief that one is valuable and deserving of loving relationship. We all are different. Human bodies are different in size, shape, and colour. Therefore all bodies are special and unique, including those of disabled.

The male and female bodies are also equally special. The way the body looks is determined by the genetic factors. The shape, height, skin colour, hair, etc. depend, upon the inherited characters from parents and grandparents. The appearance depends upon environment and health habits also. The media like films and television project beautiful people, but most people do not fit in these images. However, the value of a person is not determined by the appearance alone. Each person can be proud of his body and the special qualities of himself. A person who feels good about his/her body will seem more likeable to others. People with physical disabilities have the same feelings, needs, and desires as the people without disabilities. Adolescents who appear to be physically different from their peers may have problems of body image that alter their sexual attitudes or behaviour. A boy who is short in stature may refrain from social activities; or a teenagar with severe acne (pimples) may avoid heterosexual situations out of embarrassment.

Girls with too small or too big breasts will be in similar situation. Many girls worry about the size of their breasts; but the size is normal. Many boys may be worried about the size of their penis seeing others in restroom who seem to have a larger penis; though their penis is normal. Adolescents may also be concerned about masturbation, homosexuality, contents of their sexual fantasies, confusion about love, sexual adequacy and many more issues. The existence of such problems over a period of years might lead to poor body image, poor self-esteem, guilt feeling and depression. This may reflect inexperience, lack of knowledge, misconceptions about sexuality, anxiety, psychological immaturity than anything else. All that they need to be told that they are normal. Those teenagers who appear to have major distress may need counselling. Good health habits like diet and exercise can improve the way a person looks and feels.

Factual knowledge can help in developing a positive body image. Physical attractiveness alone should not be a major factor in choosing friends or a life partner.

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