The Psychology of Sex

ThePsychology of Sex

Thepsychology of sex

Humansexuality and sex instincts start developing from early childhood andcontinue throughout the life of an individual. The psychosexualtheory that was developed by Freud provides the most appropriateframework that explains the psychological aspects of sex andsexuality. Freud’s framework of psychoanalysis holds that sexualorientation, sex identity, and the value that adults attack to sex isinfluenced by their ability to navigate in all the five phases of thepsychosexual analysis perspective (Staub, 2014). Although sex is seenas a fundamental function that plays the role of propagatingdifferent species, it is considered as one of the key strategiesthrough which human beings are able to satisfy their psychologicalneeds (Manson, 2015). This paper will discuss the psychology of sex,with a focus on psychosexual analysis of sex in humans, involuntarymoments associated with sex, and the role of sex in the establishmentand maintenance of relationships.

Thepsychoanalysis of sex

Sexualdevelopment is a lifelong process that occurs in different stagesstarting from childhood. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis and thefive stages of sexual development indicate that parents play asignificant role in helping their children develop sexually. Freudheld that children should meet the needs of each of the phases ofpsychosexual development in order to achieve proper psychological,physical, and mental growth (Staub, 2014). However, parents have aprimary role of helping their children meet the needs of each stagethrough proper nurturing and good parenting.

Thefirst state, oral, occurs in 0-1 years and the mouth act as thepleasure center for human development. This explains the fact thatchildren are born with the suckling reflex as well as the desire fortheir mother’s breasts. During the second stage of psychosexualdevelopment (1-3 years), children desire to learn how to controltheir bodily functions in order to deal with the challenges of fecesand urine (Staub, 2014). During the third stage (3-6 years) childrenstart struggling with the desire for people of the opposite sex. Itis at this stage when boys undergo Oedipus complex, which is thedesire to replace the father and get the attention of the mother(Staub, 2014). However, boys start fearing their fathers afterobserving their strength and masculinity. The boys fear beingcastrated by the father and end conforming to the fathers, instead oftrying to oppose them. The boys start desiring to become masculineand develop the sexual identity as males. Girls, undergo the Electracomplex, which is the desire to get the father’s attention and takethe position of the mother.

Althoughthe society and the church have been condemning homosexuality instrong terms for several centuries, it is evident that sexualorientation is determined by the level of psychological developmentthat is achieved during childhood. This development is in turninfluenced by the environment that the family, especially theparents, provides for the kids during their psychosexual development.For example, boys who are brought up by rejecting and authoritarianmothers during the Oedipus complex tend to seek for assistance fromtheir fathers and continue to rely on men to help (including sexualsatisfaction) even when they grow up (Herek, 2012). A similar casehappens to girls who live with a hostile father during theirchildhood. The tendency of love and affection of these childrentowards individuals of the same gender becomes fixated at childhoodand manifests during adulthood.

Thefourth stage (6-12) of psychosexual development is unique in thatsexual instinct tends to subside and both boys and girls startdeveloping the superego element of human personality. Freud held thatthe human personality is composed of three components, namely the id,ego, and superego (Staub, 2014). The id is associated with impulsesand desires and it addresses the biological needs. The ego isassociated with human reasoning and it is responsible for monitoringand control of human behavior in order to reduce chances for negativeconsequences. The superego plays the role of controlling the id byapplying the values and morals that are accepted by the society. Theset of values and moral standards that facilitate the development ofthe superego are obtained during the fourth stage of psychosexualdevelopment. The pace of sexual development reduces to create roomfor acquisition of moral values and allow children to the superego,which in turn facilitates the development of psychopathology andpersonality development (Staub, 2014).

Themoral values acquired during the fourth stage help people makeappropriate decisions that govern their sexual behaviors startingfrom the age of 12 to the end of life (Staub, 2014). Successfuldevelopment of other stages of psychosexual development helps peopleadopt safe sexual behaviors that may culminate in marriage orchildbearing, while unsuccessful development results in inappropriatesexual behaviors and the adoption of a negative personality.Psychologists use the concept of fixation to explain the occurrenceof abnormal sexual behaviors, such as homosexuality, masturbation,and oral sex. The occurrence of these behaviors beyond the age of 12years indicates that an individual underwent incomplete developmentin at least one phase of psychosexual analysis.

Sexand involuntary moments

Ecstasythat people experience during sex has both psychological andspiritual qualities. Sex draws its psychological power from “eros”,which provides an intrinsic capacity for an individual to be takenover involuntarily during orgasm (Diamond, 2014). It reminds peopleof their possibility of surrendering control and being possessed bysex. Although human beings claim to control their world and haveacquired a perception that they can determine the fate of nature, theinvoluntary moments that people experience during sex gives a pictureof human beings who are motivated, passionate, and driven byirrational forces that operate below the surface of rationality andcivilization. Therefore, sex brings down the human ego, which helpspeople realize that there are other powers that determine theirpersonality, behavior, and motivation in life.

Accordingto the Eros and Thanatos, Freud’s poetic notion, sex isintrinsically associated with mortality or birth and death. Freudbelieved that the two forces (positive sexual life and the negativedeath instinct) that determine human existence engage in an eternalbattle with each other (Diamond, 2014). Sexuality fights with death,which leads to the affirmation of life. Although death eventuallydefeats the sex, the energy that results from instinctual sex trumpsby transcending death in the future by facilitating the birth ofchildren, the expression of a caring relationship, heroicaccomplishments, and artistic work. All these forms of expressionmake someone remain in the minds of their lovers, family members, andfriends. The close psychological connection that exists between lifeand death is expressed in French as “la petite mort”, whichrefers to a little death that occurs during organism (Diamond, 2014).Therefore, the study of sex in the psychological context allowspsychologists to examine the existential inseparability of death andrebirth, which is a psychologically renewing ritual that isaccomplished through sex.

Roleof sex in establishment and maintenance of relationships

Althoughsex may be separated from eros (love and caring), sexual instinct isan extremely strong force that affects human behavior andpsychological well-being in the entire life. This has been confirmedin several instances in which people have tried to separate sexualintercourse with eros, but such efforts have always resulted innegative or positive outcomes. For example, the attempt to forcepriests to take oaths prohibiting them from engaging in sexualbehaviors has failed to destroy sexual instinct and the outcome hasbeen the engagement in secret sexual affairs, rape, or guy practices(Diamond, 2014). Other instances where people have tried to separatesex from eros include prostitution and promiscuity. All theseinstances, the sexual urge, which drives human psychology and thesubsequent behavior, find expression in different ways, which impliesthat sexuality is part of human psychology that only disappears bydeath.

Althoughsexual attraction between partners can be explained using biologicalconcepts, intimate interpersonal relationships are maintained bypsychological or instinctual part of the human being. In other words,sexual energy is the primary factors that motivate people to enterinto and remain in intimate interpersonal relationships, even whensuch relationships are impossible and frustrating (Diamond, 2014).However, a persistent failure for the partners to meetpsychologically or emotionally makes their relationship worse. Thiscan be explained by the fact that persistent negative psychologicaland emotional response towards sexual partners culminates in divorceor separation, in spite of the fact that the partners involved canstill function biologically. The ability to learn how to listen, torecognize, and acknowledge the creaturely sexual instinct of theother parts results in self discovery. Psychotherapists takeadvantage of capacity of sexuality to bring about self discovery toformulate psychotherapeutic procedures that enhance the psychologicalwell-being of married partners (Muise, Schimmack &amp Impett, 2015).

Scholarsin the field of psychology have identified that sexuality isdifferent for men and women. According to Diamond (2014) most womentend to see sex as a secondary need while intimacy, which is acomponent of psychological satisfaction, comes first. Most men, onthe other hand, tend to be less discriminative and can easily engagein polygamous relationships as they seek for sexual satisfaction.However, some psychologists hold that sex is not a psychologicalneed, but a strategy used to animals (including human beings) to meettheir psychological needs. These psychologists classify psychologicalneeds as autonomy, self-esteem, connection, and security (Manson,2015). However, the considering of sex as a strategy towards thesatisfaction of psychological needs is still under-researched andmany people still consider sex as a psychological drive.


Althoughthe development of sex and sexuality is linked to some biologicalaspects, the theory of psychosexual analysis indicates clearly thatthe development of sexual instincts is highly influenced by thepsychological well-being of an individual. In addition, sexualinstinct can be utilized as a tool to pursue and satisfy otherpsychological needs, such as autonomy, self-esteem, connection, andsecurity. Moreover, the involuntary moments experienced during sexindicate that there are other powers that can control human behavior,personality, and motivation. Additionally, sex plays a critical roleof helping people establish interpersonal relations with partners ofopposing sex and help them maintain such relationships that by givingthem a sense of psychological well-being when they engage in a sexualrelationship.


Diamond,A. (2014). Thepsychology of sexuality.Sussex: Sussex Publications, LLC.

Herek,M. (2012). Factsabout homosexuality and mental health.Davis, CA: University of California.

Manson,M. (2015). Sex and our psychological needs. InfinitySquared Media LLC.Retrieved March 19, 2016, from

Muise,A., Schimmack, U., &amp Impett, A. (2015). Sexual frequency predictsgreater well-being, but more is not always better. SocialPsychological and Personality Science,1, 1-8.

Staub,J. (2014). SigmundFreud, an introduction.Chattanooga: Chattanooga School for the Arts and Science.