Human Sexuality Research and Analysis
Applied to the Claudia and Joseph Study
Erin A. Alexander, LPC
Human Sexuality Research and Analysis Applied to the Claudia and Joseph Study
Human sexuality refers to the ways in which people experience and express themselves as sexual beings (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus (2011). This paper will address the following questions as they apply to the case study of Claudia and Joseph: How are the anatomy and physiology of the human female and male identified? What are the types of sexual desire and sexual arousal disorders, and how do these apply to Claudia and Joseph? How do any psychosocial contributions apply to the case? How would one analyze the biological, cultural, and psychosocial issues related to sexual behavior as it applies to Claudia and Joseph?
Introduction to the Female Anatomy and Physiology
The female anatomy includes the external sex organs, the internal sex organs, the breasts, and the menstrual cycle. The mons veneris, “the mound of Venus”, is the fatty tissue that covers the joint of the pubic bones in front of the body, below the abdomen and above the clitoris (Rathus, et al, 2011). During puberty, this area becomes covered with hair. The mons veneris provides a cushion during the sexual act. It also has a number of nerve endings, which can produce pleasurable feelings when touched. The labia majora are the large folds of skin that run down from the mons along the sides of the vulva (Crooks & Baur, 1996). The labia minora, or inner lips, are located within the outer lips and often protrude between them. They are hairless folds of skin that join at the clitoral hood, and extend downward past the urinary and vaginal orifices. They contain sweat and oil glands, blood vessels, and nerve endings (Crooks & Baur, 1996).
The clitoris includes the external shaft and glans, and the internal crura. The word comes from the Greek word, “kleitoris”, which means hill or slope (Rathus, et al, 2011). It is the female counterpart of the penis. Both develop from the same embryonic tissue. The clitoris is very sensitive to sexual sensations. The vestibule refers to the area that contains the openings to the vagina and the urethra. Urine passes from the female’s body through the urethral opening, however, the other urinary organs are not related to the reproductive system. The vaginal opening lies below the urethral opening and is larger (Rathus, et al, 2011). The hymen is the fold of tissue across the vaginal opening, and is intact until the female engages in coitus. The perineum is the skin between the vaginal opening and the anus. It has many nerve endings, and stimulation of this area may heighten sexual arousal (Rathus, et al, 2011). Finally, there are structures that underlie the external organs, such as the vestibular bulbs and the Bartholin’s glands. The Bartholin’s glands secrete lubrication before orgasm (Crooks & Baur, 1996).
The internal sex organs for the human female include the vagina, the cervix, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. The neck of the uterus is the cervix, and it opens to the birth canal, or vagina (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The vaginal wall has many blood vessels but not many nerve endings. The wall secretes substances that help regulate the pH levels in that area. The cervix also secretes these substances. The uterus, or womb, is the organ in which a fertilized egg implants and develops until birth. The uterus is suspended in the pelvis by ligaments, and like the vagina, it has three layers. The innermost layer is the endometrium, which sheds and some of the tissue is discharged through the vagina during menstruation (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The fallopian tubes extend from the upper end of the uterus towards the ovaries. Ova pass from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes. The two ovaries are almond-shaped organs that lie on either side of the uterus. They produce the ova, or egg cells, and the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle (Rathus, et al, 2011).
The breasts are considered secondary sex characteristics, which distinguish women from men. Each breast has milk-producing mammary glands, and each gland opens at the nipple (Rathus, et al, 2011). The breasts are sensitive to stimulation.
During menstruation, eggs are expelled from the ovaries. The cyclical bleeding that occurs is called menstruation. The follicle that releases the eggs (the corpus luteum) produces large amounts of hormones. The entire menstrual cycle is governed by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The changes in the menstrual cycle include changes in the uterine lining, changes in the follicles, changes in the ovarian hormones, changes in pituitary hormones, and changes in basal temperature (Rathus, et al, 2011). An egg can be fertilized during the ovulatory phase, but if it is not fertilized, the hormone levels decrease and the lining of the uterus sheds.
Introduction to the Male Anatomy and Physiology
The male anatomy seems to be less complicated. It includes the external organs, which are the penis and scrotum; and the internal organs, which are the testes, the vas deferens, the seminal vesicles, the prostate gland, and the Cowper’s gland. The penis, like the vagina, is the sex organ used in sexual intercourse. Unlike the vagina, the penis is a passage way for both semen and urine (Rathus, et al, 2011).
The skin of the penis is hairless and loose, allowing expansion during erection or arousal. During sexual arousal, the corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum become congested with blood, causing the penis to enlarge and stiffen (Rathus, et, al, 2001). The average size ranges from 3 inches in length to 4 inches when flaccid. The average size of an erection ranges from 5 to 7 inches. In the Western culture, the size of a man’s penis is often seen as a measure of his masculinity and his ability to please his partner (Rathus, et al, 2011). An Internet survey of 52,000 heterosexual men and women found that about 66% of the men rated their penises as average size, 22% of them rated them as large, and 12% rated their penises as small (Lever, Frederick, & Peplau, 2006).
The scrotum is a pouch of lose skin below the base of the penis. It has two compartments that hold the testes (Rathus, et, al, 2011). Each testicle is held in place by a spermatic cord, which is the structure that houses the vas deferens. The scrotal temperature tends to be about 5 degrees lower than the rest of the body so that sperm production can occur. The testes serve two purposes and are analogous to the female ovaries. They secrete sex hormones and produce germ cells. The hormones are androgen and testosterone (Rathus, et al 2011). Testosterone is the hormone that is responsible for a male’s secondary characteristics, such as facial hair, deep voice, and muscle mass.
The tube that lies against the back wall of the testicles is called the epididymis, and this is where the sperm is stored. The small glands behind the bladder are the seminal vesicles; this organ secretes fluids that combine with the sperm during ejaculation. The prostate gland is located beneath the bladder and it is responsible for the secretion of the milky part of the seminal fluid. It also neutralizes the acidity of the vaginal wall during copulation, which helps to prolong the life of the sperm cells (Crooks & Baur, 1996). Fluid from the Cowper’s gland also helps to buffer acidity. It precedes ejaculation and usually contains sperm cells.
An erection is caused when the penis becomes engorged with blood. It acts as a funnel for depositing the sperm into the vagina (Rathus, et al, 2011). A man can experience the loss of an erection if he feels anxious. Tactile stimulation of the penis may trigger an erection through the spinal cord, but the sexual sensations come from the brain (Rathus, et al, 2011). Ejaculation is also a spinal reflex, and generally occurs with orgasm.
The Human Sexual Response
The human sexual response can be divided in to four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution (Campbell & Reese, 2002). During sexual intercourse, or coitus, vasocongestion occurs in the clitoris and the erect penis. There may also be enlargement of the testes, labia, and breasts. This phase is where the penis and vagina are prepared for intercourse. In the plateau phase, breathing increases and the heart rate rises as an involuntary response to the stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. The vagina continues to expand. Orgasm is when there are rhythmic and involuntary contractions of the reproductive organs in both the male and female. There is an expulsion of the semen in to the vagina. The orgasm is the shortest phase, lasting just a few seconds (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The resolution phase completes the cycle and reverses the responses back to normal, which includes the loss of the erection and muscle relaxation.
Introducing the Couple Case Study and Applying the Human Sexuality
The case of Claudia and Joseph talks about a seemingly ordinary couple in their mid-thirties. They have been married for 5 years. Joseph is having problems with getting past the excitement phase of sex. Claudia is unsatisfied and frustrated. Upon review of their sexual histories, it is discovered that Claudia grew up in a family that was very open about sexual matters. Joseph was raised in a family that rarely expressed affection. Sexual issues were not discussed in the home, so his first sexual experience resulted in his feelings of shame and embarrassment.
Male sex hormones are known to influence the sex drive and sexual response. James Barbaree and Ray Blanchard reviewed ethical considerations regarding the practice of chemical castration for sex offenders in 2008. They discovered that men who are chemically usually exhibit a gradual decrease in the incidence of sexual fantasies and loss of desire. Men also gradually lost the capacity to get an erection and ejaculate. In the case Claudia and Joseph, it is possible that he may have some issues with low hormone levels, however, based on the sexual history, Joseph’s problem sounds more psychosocial and psychological, not biological.
According to the study presented, Claudia and Joseph had a whirlwind courtship and married quickly. They did not talk about sexual roles or expectations before they married. There was not time during the dating period for “small talk”, which is a useful way for a couple to find a common ground (Rathus, et al, 2011). Small talk enables people to find similar attitudes and interests. Self-disclosure is essential to building a healthy relationship. This type of communication, or intimacy is a key ingredient to enhancing the passion in a relationship. In Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, intimacy is listed as one of the basic components of romantic love (Sternberg, 2004). During intimacy, the couple would have the opportunity to discuss sexual roles, expectations, and cultural issues; Claudia was raised in a liberal New York community, while Joseph was raised in a traditional Latin Roman Catholic family.
In reading the case study, it was also noted that Claudia has continued to verbalize her frustration and disappointment regarding their sex life. Although she is engaging in communication, her comments seem to be negative in nature. Perhaps, it may be more beneficial if she were to approach her husband with word of affirmation, such as verbal compliments, encouraging words, and respectful words. He needs to be able to express himself without feeling punished. She could also encourage Joseph to spend more time being affectionate with her in ways that do not lead to sexual intercourse. She can also tell him what she likes in the bedroom, versus what she does not like.
There are 4 types of sexual dysfunction: sexual desire disorder, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder, and sexual pain disorder (Rathus, et al, 2011). Joseph seems to be suffering from sexual desire disorder; he is displaying a lack of interest in sex. Since Claudia has a higher sex drive, the couple may have to compromise. They can also participate in couples counseling to resolve issues within the relationship. Consulting a professional may also help them both to communicate more openly about sex.
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Lever, J., Frederick, D. A., & Peplau, L. A. (2006). Does size matter? Men’s and women’s views
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Sternberg, R. J. (2004). A triangular theory of love. London: Taylor & Francis.