Currently, there are several major trends in human sexuality.
There is a breakdown of traditional gender stereotypes, manifested by a significant weakening of the polarization of male and female social roles. The gender division of labor has lost its former rigidity and standards, and a significant part of the social roles have ceased to differentiate by gender.
Cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are becoming less rigid and polarized. In them, traditional views are closely intertwined with new ones. They more fully take into account individual differences and reflect the views of both sexes. The traditional ideal of femininity involves a combination of tenderness, beauty, softness and passivity, dependence, which allows a man to feel strong and energetic next to a woman. All these qualities continue to be highly valued by men. But today, to be with a man on an equal footing, a woman needs a sharp mind, energy and enterprise, that is, those qualities that used to be considered the privilege of men. The stereotype of masculinity is also changing – the intellect of a man is increasingly placed above his physical strength, manifestations of tenderness and spiritual subtlety are allowed, it is assumed that he can curb aggression and rough impulses.
There are changes in the institution of marriage and family. Moreover, contrary to the predictions of the radicals, the attractiveness of a monogamous marriage and family relations does not diminish. In 1990, a survey of residents of 43 developed countries was conducted to determine the significance for them of various spheres of human life: 83% of those surveyed put family at the first place. Despite the fact that modern people tolerate extramarital affairs, abortion, divorce, prostitution, they do not support the idea of the death of the marriage union. In many countries, the value of the family is likely to increase. According to opinion polls, married people are more satisfied with their lives, suffer less and have a longer life expectancy than single people. Family life with a regular sexual partner is optimal for most people. Increasing importance in marriage is attached to the quality of life and subjective well-being. Therefore, modern marriage often is not by calculation or duty, but on the basis of mutual love and psychological intimacy. However, the free choice of a marriage partner suggests the possibility of divorce on psychological grounds, which makes it less stable. The divorce statistics are also influenced by an increase in the overall life expectancy, a decrease in the material dependence of women, a decrease in family size (many couples have one child or are childless). The number of lonely people is growing. Legally unformed cohabitation, which previously served as a time-limited “trial marriage,” has now become a mass phenomenon, in fact, an alternative form of marriage. A new experimental form of marital relations is open marriage, in which the spouses recognize each other the right to have sex on the side to better meet their sexual needs. The number of individuals with the installation of “serial monogamy” is growing, the essence of which is that the subject lives with only one partner (wife, husband) at the same time, but during his life he can consistently join several legally registered marriage unions.
Moral liberalization and the collapse of traditional antisexual attitudes in culture are taking place. In sexuality, they cease to see something forbidden, shameful and base. Erotica is rehabilitated, which finds a diverse expression in popular culture, whether it be cinema, literature or visual arts. Cultural bans against nudity have weakened, the limits of speech propriety have widened, and some words that have recently been considered obscene have become widely used. It is sometimes said that this indicates a decline in morals, but the opportunity to freely discuss previously closed, “shameful” themes rather suggests that people have finally ceased to be afraid of them and can more freely discuss issues related to sexuality.
Changes are noted in the system of socialization of children and youth. Expanding the range of contacts and joint activities of boys and girls contributes to the alignment of traditional gender features, and the weakening of external control gives young people an incomparably greater freedom in making decisions, including in matters of sexual life. Earlier puberty, as a result of acceleration, leads to the awakening of the sexual interests of adolescents long before the age of majority. Therefore, adults are forced to create a sex education system to teach young people a responsible attitude towards their own sexuality.
According to I.S. Kohn (2004), the main trend of our time is the separation of sexual and reproductive behavior. To realize this fact, it is enough for the subject to compare how many children he consciously conceived and sired to how many times during his life and for what purpose he performed sexual acts. At the end of the 20th century, many contraceptives were created that free people who have sex with them from the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Artificial insemination and genetic engineering made possible the “immaculate conception”. To date, more than 1 million babies have been born worldwide due to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
I.S. Kohn (2003) also highlights other general trends in sexuality that are characteristic of all developed countries:
– earlier sexual maturation and the awakening of erotic feelings in adolescents;
– an earlier start of sexual life (according to the type of their sexual behavior, adolescents are 3–4 years ahead of their peers from previous generations);
– social and moral acceptance of premarital sexuality and cohabitation (and how could it be otherwise, if puberty occurs earlier, and the age of marriage in industrialized countries rises);
– weakening of the “double standard”;
– recognition of sexual satisfaction with one of the main factors of marriage satisfaction and its strength;
– re-sexualization of women whom Victorian morality considered generally asexual; modern women get much more pleasure from their sex life than previous generations;
– the narrowing of the sphere of the forbidden in culture and the growth of public interest in erotica;
– the growth of tolerance towards unusual variant and deviant forms of sexuality, especially homosexuality;
– the increasing gap between generations in sexual attitudes, values and behavior – many of the things that were absolutely unacceptable for parents, children consider normal and natural.
A group of German specialists led by G. Schmidt conducted interviews with 776 30-, 40-, 45- and 60-year-old men and women living in cities of Germany (G. Schmidt et al., 2003). It turned out that people of both sexes are now getting married less often and later than before, and their marital union breaks up more often. Due to frequent divorces, more and more children are brought up without the participation of one of the parents. Various forms of unmarried unions appeared. Today, a “couple” actually recognizes any union, where two people say that they form a single whole, regardless of marital status and gender of partners, and “family” is any couple with children, regardless of whether their parents are married, one or two households. The researchers identified the identified shifts as the “family revolution”, which, in their opinion, changes society more than the sexual revolution that preceded them in the 60s and 70s of the last century.
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