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Title: Sex and Society
Contributor(s): Hawkes, G (author)orcid ; Scott, J (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: Human sexuality is not merely biological or natural but is charged with many and varied meanings, generating much public discussion and debate. It is firmly embedded in social relations that have a cultural and historical specificity. In this respect, ideas about sex have implications for social order. This chapter examines the paradox of human sexuality: that is, on the one hand, how it is endlessly variable in its potential, while on the other, how its expression is socially limited. One of the premises of this text is that sexuality falls within a social sphere that contains specific assumptions, norms, and values. Some are reflected in law, for example in relation to rape, sexual abuse of children, and incest. But increasingly, sexual expression is controlled at an informal level. This chapter is largely concerned with the social regulation of sexuality: Why and how is sex regulated? In addressing these issues, we can distinguish between two methods of sexual regulation: formal and informal controls. Formalised controls are codified, being represented, for example in legislation or religions taboos. Informal controls are likely to be represented in social mores and customs. Many social scientists have argued that formalised controls have tended to lapse in recent times as apparently more liberal attitudes to sex have become prevalent. This, however, does not mean that there is less regulation of sexuality today as compared with previous periods. What has changed is the way in which we manage sex and sexuality, with individuals becoming more active in self-regulating their sexual conduct. The chapter also examines how sexual activity is hierarchically ranked according to specific social valuations, and how social controls operate to maintain and reproduce heteronormative social relations and institutions.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Perspectives in Human Sexuality, p. 3-20
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Place of Publication: Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 0195517016
Field of Research (FOR): 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Psychology and Behavioural Science

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