Sex plays an important part in our social and personal lives. The scientific study of sex is important for reproductive health, our psychological well-being and society as a whole.
Sex is something every group of people in the world has in common and plays a universal role in human life. It can create and destroy bonds in an instant and cause some of the most intense feelings of physical and emotional pleasure that we will ever experience.
It is a raw form of self-expression and can consume us in a moment. This makes sex not only incredibly interesting to research, but also important — it changes and evolves just like humans do.
Natalie Dinsdale is currently a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan and is working on a research project about female orgasms, which can be read about at nataleo.com. Dinsdale believes that researching human sexuality is of great importance.
“Sex research is important because sexuality forms the core creative and healthy foundation for many humans,” Dinsdale said.
“We’ve spent many years feeling ashamed and confused about our sexual functions, desires and capacities. There is so much we do not know and the more we learn, the more humans can understand and appreciate themselves and others.”
The research of human sexual behaviour is relatively new. Most sexologists would credit the beginning of sexual research to Alfred Kinsey in 1948, but even then, it was not researched scientifically until William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson began studying human sexuality in 1957.
Masters’s work became more fully appreciated with the sexual revolution in the 1960s, when people began to realize the importance of studying human sexuality in a scientific manner.
Sex is important to research for a number of reasons. The study of reproductive health is beneficial to anyone planning on having a child, those looking for a contraceptive that fits their lifestyle, those looking to terminate a pregnancy for health-related or practical reasons and more. This kind of support can be provided through biological as well as psychological studies.
Studying the psychology behind sexual feelings can help psychologists better understand and counsel those looking for help in their current, past and future sexual relationships. It can also provide aid for survivors of sexual assault, those who are confused about their sexual orientation and anyone who has questions about their sexual preferences or lifestyles.
Sexual research can also be introspective in nature. How do we define sex and how has this definition changed over time? What do our definitions of sex say about us? Why are some sexual acts morally permissible and how do they differ from ones that are labelled as wrong?
Linzi Williamson, a PhD student in applied social psychology at the U of S, is currently studying perceptions of childless and child-free individuals. For Williamson, the most enjoyable part of research is learning about others’ sexuality.
“I enjoy learning about the diversity of sexuality and figuring out ways to improve people’s sexual health and well-being,” Williamson said. “I love talking to people about the concept of sexual fluidity. There is a lot of new evidence to suggest that people are more fluid or transient in their sexual [or] affectional orientations than was once thought.”
Williamson added that she believes sex research is important because it “can help demystify poorly understood aspects of human sexuality and normalize stigmatized behaviours.”
Sex can be fun, awkward, passionate, bad and so much more. As we discover the diversity of sexual preference in human beings, we learn more about what makes us the same, how we are unique and how we fit in with those around us.
Photo: Liam Delparte