Pastoral Care and Sexuality: Sexuality- is it pre-ordained or trained?

Before I begin I would like for you to take a quick poll.  I just want to see what people believe regarding sexuality and the development of sexuality.  The basic debate is to what extent gender (and by extension sexuality) is determined by biological factors (Nature) and how much is determined by sociocultural factors (Nurture).  In short do you believe men are born men, and women are born women, or are men taught to be men and women are taught to be women, or somewhere in the middle.

Now that we have that out of the way…

In two weeks I start an intensive on Pastoral Care and Sexuality.  To this end I’ve already read three of the four assigned books and started researching for my final paper.  While doing research I picked up a copy of Authentic Sexuality by Jack and Judith Balswick.  In one of the opening chapters they discuss how gender identity is formed that I found to be quite intriguing.  They suggested someone’s sexuality is composed of four different dimensions.

Natal Sex:  This is the physical gender that the person is born with; they either have the female anatomy or the male anatomy.  The vast majority of people are born either male or female though this is not the case for every human individual.

Gender Role:  This is the role that the person is assigned by their wider community to play.  Men and women are taught by their culture, their family, their friends, etc. what is expected of them and how they are expected to behave. This is usually in line with their natal sex but again is not always the case.  A small example of this might be a girl who is encouraged to be very athletic (a stereotypical male trait) because the family always wanted a boy but didn’t get one.

Sexual Identity:  This would be what the person believes themselves to be.  Does the person think they are male or female (or something in between)?  This is usually in line with natal sex but again there are variations, to provide an extreme example I’m sure we’ve heard of someone who has felt “they were a woman trapped in a man’s body…” or vice versa.

Sexual Orientation:  This would be what gender the person is sexually attracted to.  In today’s environment this is usually talked about in terms of someone having a homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual orientation.  (I desire to avoid saying “people are homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual” because it implies all the person is is their sexual orientation…which I do not believe to be true.)

The Balswick’s go into detail and talk about how biological and sociocultural factors influence these various aspects.  Their conclusion is that God uses both Nature  (such as genetic factors and physiological factors), and Nurture (society, culture and family) as to shape human sexuality.  Human sexuality is not exclusively a product of divine action, a social construct, or a biological fact but an interplay between all three.

This spawned another question that I’m sure will produce some heated debate with my next post, but before we get there.

I’m wondering what you think about this?  Do you care to explain your answer to the poll?  Would you change it?  If anyone wants more information from the book just ask.

About Speakfaithfully

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
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2 Responses to Pastoral Care and Sexuality: Sexuality- is it pre-ordained or trained?

  1. Jim Comfort says:

    If Sexuality is defined as the following:
    “The sum of a person’s sexual behaviors and tendencies, and the strength of such tendencies.
    One’s degree of sexual attractiveness.
    The quality of having sexual functions or implications.”

    Then I would have to say that while sexuality is, by default, determined by the biology (genetics)of being male or female, culture and family may have even a greater influence in the long run. When healthy nurturing from the family,(which God’s desire), fails in childhood one’s sexuality becomes greatly influenced by needs and desires (affection & acceptance) not met. People struggling with homosexuality and other unhealthy sexual desires are common behaviors that stem from this lack of healthy nuturing.

    Read the book, “You Don’t Have To Be Gay”
    by Jeff Konrad.Consider the following excerpts from his book: “Gender identity is our identification with our own sex, our sense of maleness (or lack thereof), and what we perceive to be masculine and feminine – it’s the perception we have of ourselves as being a male or a female, or something in between.

    As children begin to explore and understand their own bodies, they combine this information with the way society treats them to create an image of themselves as boys and girls.

    The crucial point here is how we view ourselves, for the breeding ground of homosexuality is a profound feeling of masculine inadequacy caused by the lack of being affirmed in our male gender identity. (i.e.: feeling different or less of a boy than the rest)

    “All of us, gay and straight alike, are products of the environment in which we’re reared – how we respond to any given situation today is frequently an unconscious, learned behavioral reaction from our past.”

    “The greatest single common denominator among gays was a poor relationship with their fathers.”

    I have found this to always be true when I have counseled with guys struggling with homosexuality. Hope this helps a little in your study Kevin.

    Your old bro,
    Jim Comfort

  2. Graham Bates says:

    Kevin, that’s a great explanation.
    Jim, your experiences are helpful as well.

    The nature vs. nurture debate is always faulty because it assumes one OR the other instead of a combination of both. To me, everyone has something within them that pushes them towards a sin. Some sins are different than others. However, we must all reject those feelings and follow God. Some have harder fights than others but we are all able to resist if we are willing to.

    Thanks for the conversation!

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