Embodied Sexual Development
Creating an amalgamated concept of “gender/sex” addresses certain theoretical problems on how to describe gender and sex but it does not tell us how gender/sex develops biologically. Psychology, philosophy, sociology, neurobiology and physiology offer useful ways of thinking about gender/sex and sexual orientation.
Theoretical and empirical approaches to the development of gender/sex and sexual orientation used to be explained in nature versus nurture. Most scientists try to follow a wholistic view on sex, gender, orientation and bodies is followed, which eliminates the need to elevate one above the other.
Scientists treat sexuality as something that can and should be understood, rather than accepting it as a given fact and they do research on how the human mind reacts to it. There is procreation sexuality, there is taking care of offsprings and there is the formation of in-groups and out-groups, all part of our genetic code that constitutes life within us. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
To find definitions, to focus on how intertwined the concepts of sex and gender really are, to look at the processes by which traits become embodied are important as they ultimately reflect on identity development. Some dynamic systems in infant development overlap with the development of complex sexual systems in infancy, toddlerhood and childhood.
The real impact of the first awareness of sexuality, mostly around three years of age and the way it is dealt with by the environment, like peers and parents, this can place the child on a “bodily awareness” path about sexuality or a “rational consciousness” about own sexuality.
Discussions of the origins of “sexual orientation” demand that we think about how children develop sexual feelings in the first place. The idea that infants and children are sexual beings and discussions around what sexuality looks like in a child, is one of the most side-stepped discussions as adults carry unsolved traumas from their own childhood. Most modern people were coached out of sexual awareness and into mental consciousness.
To pretend that children are asexual human beings leaves us unable to study sexual development. It is also irresponsible as most adults have a vivid recollection of their own and first sexual awareness. The awareness came through either touching themselves or other children who were around them. Should we deny this beautiful natural human instinctual development then we are on the slippery slope of denial or projection.
The development of authentic and frank responses to infant and childhood sexual feelings and expression should be under the spotlight all the time as the age-old response of “don’t do that” is unnatural and unhealthy. Children respond to “life” that flows naturally through them, they gain awareness of the life force and respond authentically till adults interfere and convert natural awareness into unnatural consciousness. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
The study of childhood origins of adult sexuality doesn’t call for a code of ethics with which to guide such study, unless that researchers are still traumatised by their own experience regarding societal punishment about their first sexual awareness. It almost sounds like that we should take God to court for child abuse for handing three-year-old children a natural dose of sexuality.
Preschool-aged children are naturally ostentatious and may display open curiosity about other bodies and bodily functions, such as touching a women’s breasts or wanting to watch when grownups undress. Three-year-old kids want to be naked and show or touch private parts while in public as they are curious about their own bodies and may quickly discover that touching certain body parts feels nice.
The way adults respond to this natural behaviour will leave irreversible impressions on the consciousness of the child. Should they be condemned and shamed then it can develop into a life long trauma. Should children be explained what they do and some parameters set for when and where not to do it, then the children are placed on a worse path possible as they learn that natural awareness is inferior to mental consciousness.
The online Oxford English Dictionary defines erotic as “relating to or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement” and sexual as “relating to the instincts, physiological processes and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.” The use of the words sexual and erotic seems odd when speaking of infants because general language use is so tied to discussions of love, dating, mating and adolescent and adult pleasures.
Looking at the phrase “sexual intimacy”, then words like intercourse, coitus, or lovemaking appear. It is possible to separate the sexual concepts of intercourse and mating from sexual relating, physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals. It also reflects on the inability of adults to have clarity about emotional sex and reproductive sex.
The technique of tantra got drawn into the domain of pleasure and orgasm. To make it more palatable it got sprinkled with a “divine” topping or even covered with a “spirituality” dressing. This is unfortunate as it assumes that there is something wrong, or something lacking about our natural procreation drive. If we are on the mental consciousness road about sexuality then something might be lacking. If we are on the awareness road then all is fine, healthy and natural. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
Psychologists know little about how sexual feelings, the emotional and physical expressions of desire and attraction, become to shape adult behaviour. When cognitive mental consciousness becomes to only reality then the researcher becomes blind to awareness that is an ever-present phenomenon.
Development of Sexual Sensations Within the Body
Routine parental care, such as touch and rocking calming activities, supports continued development of the infant’s physiology. It is argued that infants develop neural sensitivities that adults link to coitus or adult lovemaking due to the routine set of interactions between infants and caregivers.
Cranial nerves enable skills, feelings and sensory features of communication in infants according Trevarthen and Aitken (2001).
· The olfactory nerve facilitates an internal sense of smell and taste and mediates the intersubjective experiences of smelling and kissing another.
· The trigeminal nerve facilitates facial feelings, enabling an infant to experience another’s touch.
· The vagus nerve innervates the heart and gut and mediates the ability to feel one’s own emotions.
There is nothing special about sexuality when we treat it as an awareness reality. When it is treated as a conscious reality then it dismantles itself from being normal and takes on a persona that can be judged and labelled. The conscious reality of sexuality offers a heightened emotional release and a distinct experience of love and lovemaking as an emotional rollercoaster, as a superior sensual position is assigned to conscious sexuality, way above awareness sexuality. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
Borneman (1994) is in agreement with much of the psychoanalytic literature, stating that oral sensitivity, including the infant’s lips, gums and tongue, associated with suckling, is possibly the earliest stages of infant sexuality. It is also seen as part of a broader developmental phase of pair-bonding and attachment which includes all aspects of body contact, cuddling, clinging and touching and also rhythmic and rocking movements. It is noteworthy to comment that only pair-bonding is mentioned and not alpha state that is equally present in human expression of procreation.
Higham also expanded the Freudian point of view by considering behaviours such as clinging to a favourite piece of cloth or stuffed animal, accompanied by thumb-sucking and rhythmic rocking, as a means to release stress and to self-calm as a biosocial range that is one of the earliest stages of developing sexuality. The development of sexual sensations within the body is firstly a response to genetic instinct of procreation and the environment, whichever form it takes, will always be utilised to develop the sexual expression of the human being.
Neural sensitivities of human libidinal regions connect to specific somatosensory regions of the cerebral cortex. The development of body-brain linkages involved with the physiology of sexual expression starts to develop during infancy. Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin (1948) reported parental observations of orgasm in both boys and girls as young as four months. Orgasm was identified as rhythmic body movements, the thrusting, the tension of muscles in the abdomen, hips, and back and convulsions of the perineal region followed by release and tranquillity.
Sexual expression leads to dopamine release and the progression of reflexes leading to feelings of pleasure. Martinson (1980), describes sex as a system of “tensional outlets” and Bieber (1965) defined sex in terms of arousal in genitalia and the limbic system of the brain. Pleasure can also be derived in the brain and genitalia when the individual becomes aware of what is happening in the body. The feeling that one is subject to some greatness of life expression, that one is part of the grand design of life, that also triggers hormonal functions of pleasure in adults.
Stern (1985) suggested that infants incorporate sentimental experiences of happiness, sadness, fear and interest in terms of intensity, in pleasurable or unpleasurable experiences that should be vocalised. Emde, Klingman, Reich, and Wade (1978) categorized infant emotions into three axes:
· hedonic (happy/like compared to unhappy/dislike),
· activation (startled, excited, or concentrating versus relaxed, asleep),
· and external-internal (curious or interested versus happy, sleepy or bored).
The embodied development is not only aimed at growth towards independence but is also geared towards procreation as procreation takes preference over development to independence. This is to the dismay of modern people, especially in the West and especially in social sciences. Sexual maturity is not dependent or subject to independence from the parents or group.
The drive to curtail teenage pregnancies is totally out of kilter with what is natural human instinct, that has developed over billions of years. Once social scientists open their eyes through awareness and not only consciousness, only then will there be progress regarding the understanding of the development of sexual sensations in the body. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
Development of an Awareness of Desire
The yearning to procreate is present in every living thing. Even the human foetus is subject to the call of instinct that prepares the body to procreate. The goal is not to produce an independent individual but to have a procreating individual. The over emphasis on independence, especially financial independence is a modern phenomenon.
The developmental timetable from infants, then children and then adolescents is exclusively linked to the physiological senses of pleasure and stimulation for reproduction. The active experience of sexuality is always present although the birth of an offspring can be regarded as the high point of awareness regarding procreation. The consciousness in the brain trails the awareness, the mind tries to explain what is happening and not the other way around.
It’s not clear how infants, toddlers and children produce a sensory, affective and intellectual state to move from preteenager, adolescent to adult sexuality. We do know that an awareness about the need to reproduce is the driver that stimulates cognitive recognition. Infants become aware of how this recurring theme sets them up to behave in a specific manner, they are also acutely aware how adults respond to their awareness. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.
Borneman (1994) divided an infant’s sexual development into two aspects:
· the increasing division of the body surface, the regions of touch sensitivity,
· the expansion from an infant’s first primary caregiver, to an increasingly large circle of love partners.
The infant transitions from an initial state of low awareness about an unfolding reproductive instinct, to much higher levels as the infant’s physiological abilities and control matures. The presence of a primary caregiver is the catalyst to move awareness into consciousness as the environment now becomes a strong stimulus. The consciousness of a greater arousal state and the expected control allows the incorporation of cultural information about expected behaviours.
The earliest cultural information about gender and orientation comes from caregivers as they provide the physical surroundings and patterns of sensory stimuli that acts as guidelines for their conscious development about self, sexuality and others. Fogel & DeKoeyer-Laros (2007), defined this as the actions of “coordinating and sharing with another person one’s attention, feelings and intentions toward a third pole of an object, event or action”.
Lavelli and Fogel (2005) documented the transitions during the first two months, from simple gazing and maternal direction of the interaction to active engagement from both the child and caregiver. Beebe and Lachmann (2002) took up a similar theme when they wrote, “Across development, interactive regulation reorganizes inner as well as relational processes; reciprocally, changes in self-regulation in either partner alter the interactive process”.
Stern (1985) divided the emergence of a sense of self in infancy into several periods:
· the first two months after birth …. he saw the infant as actively developing a growing sense of self,
· at two to three months of age …. the emergence of a fundamental sense of self as the infant develops the skill of being a self who interacts with another,
· between the seventh and ninth months …. infants gradually grasp that they can share their inner experiences with someone else.
Each quantum leap in the development of self is based on a consciousness of the awareness. The more the consciousness develops, the more the separation between infant and care-giver unfolds. When the child is able to reproduce at age thirteen then the most conflicts for separation happens between parents/caregivers and adolescents. Meditation, yoga and tantra are awareness techniques that can be practiced.