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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, PSYCHOLOGY (oxfordre.com/psychology). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

Both academic and lay definitions of sex vary. However, definitions generally gravitate around reproduction and the experience of pleasure. Some theoretical approaches, such as psychoanalysis and evolutionary psychology, have positioned sexuality at the center of psychological phenomena. Much research has also linked sex to health and disease. On the one hand, certain sexual thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and identities have been described as pathological. Over time, some of these have been accepted as normal (especially homosexuality), while new forms of pathology have also been proposed (e.g., “porn addiction”). On the other hand, some aspects of sexuality are being researched due to their relevance to public health (e.g., sex education) or to counseling (e.g., assisted reproduction). Sex research has always been controversial, paradoxically receiving both positive attention and disdain. These contradictory social forces have arguably affected both the content and the scientific quality of sex research.

Keywords: sexual health, sexual behavior, LGBT, intersex, pornography, sexual pathology, minority stress, sex education

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