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Aspects of Sexual Identity in Adolescence

Author Interview

Pages 266-267


From the Book:
"The Sex Lives of Teenagers"
by Lynn Ponton, M.D.
ISBN 0-525-94561-X
Dutton, Published by the Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Copyright © Lynn Ponton, 2000

Aspects of Sexual Identity in Adolescence

Sexual identity makes up a large part of the overall identity of some adolescents; for others, it represents a smaller part. Like most adults, most teens have both private and public sexual identities. Sexual identity in adolescence is not always fixed and stable, but can be more fluid, changing over the course of the teen years or over a lifetime. Vital aspects of sexual identity include the following:

1. Self-esteem.

2. Fantasy life.

3. Orientation (homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality).

4. Biological aspects (including a capacity for physical pleasure/orgasm), sexual drive, and the level of physical development (including menarche and semenarche).

5. Desire and desirability.

6. Style, including how one makes sexual decisions or takes risks (e.g., adventurers, exploiters).

7. Fertility and reproductive aspects of sexuality.

8. Relationships (e.g., with parents, with sexual partners).

9. Sex or gender roles. These are characteristics and behaviors defined by society and specific cultures as appropriate for members of each sex. Culture, especially popular culture, affects adolescent gender roles and sexual identity directly. Here again, the impact varies depending upon the adolescent and may change with development.

10. Life events (e.g., loss of parent or partner, trauma).

11. Sexual behaviors (e.g., masturbation, intercourse, and a whole range of activities).

12. Spirituality. Sexuality is a complex subject for all teens; it frequently provokes larger questions about the nature of existence, the meaning of life, etc.

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