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influence on sexual behavior is the presence of a healthy partner. As persons age, they may lose the partner through death; in some cultures, including the United States, women in heterosexual relationships are much more likely to experience this than men.
The Effects of Social Group Membership on Sexuality
Sexuality varies as a function of the history and experience of the individual, and is influenced by cultural norms. However, it is also influenced by membership in certain social categories. In the United States, sexual behavior and attitudes vary systematically by gender, social class, ethnicity, and religion.
Throughout this chapter, we have noted research that has documented the variations in sexual expression by gender in the United States. Women are more likely to report little or no sexual activity in the preceding year. Fewer women than men report masturbating in the past year or the past month. Women are less approving of and less likely to report sexual activity with casual partners. Men in some racial/ethnic groups report engaging in intercourse for the first time at younger ages than women. Following the loss of a partner, especially to death, women are less likely to resume sexual activity. Several explanations for these differences have been offered. One emphasizes the role of cultural factors, particularly differing norms for male and female sexual behavior, often referred to as the double standard. Some cultural groups are more accepting of sexual behavior and sexual exploration by men than by women. There may be several reasons, including the fact that women carry pregnancies and give birth, and that society (men) wants to control women’s sexuality in order to ensure paternity of any children. Another explanation relies on the concept of sexual scripts. The traditional sexual script specifies the