Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

5.1: Sexual Scripts

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    A script is what actors read or study and what guides their behavior in a certain role. A script is a blueprint for what we “should do” in our roles. Sexual scripts are blueprints and guidelines for what we define as our role in sexual expression, sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, sexual desires, and the sexual component of our self-definition. All of us are sexual beings, yet none of us is exactly identical to another in our sexual definitions and script expectations. Having said that, keep in mind that we are not just born with sexual scripts in place; they are learned. Sexual socialization is the process by which we learn how, when, where, with whom, why, and with which motivations we are sexual beings.

    We are all born with drives, which are biological needs that demand our attention and behavioral responses to them. The most powerful drives are circulation, breathing, voiding our urine and other waste, eating, drinking, sleeping, and sexual involvement. Sexual drives are biological urges to participate in sexual activity and in certain sexual roles. Sexual scripts, once learned, will shape how that drive is answered. Sexuality is learned via culture and socialization. There are as many unique sexual scripts as there are people, yet some of these scripts have common themes and can be viewed as a collective pattern or trend in the larger social level.

    Many of us learn our sexual scripts in a passive way. In other words, we don’t learn from experience, but from a synthesis of concepts, images, ideals, and sometimes misconceptions. For example, the commonly held belief that men and women are two different creatures, perhaps even from different planets, was a very successful fad in recent years that led an entire generation to believe that men might be from “Mars” while women might be from “Venus.”

    Today more and more people living in the U.S. have less religious values and more diverse experiences with sexuality. Further, much of the younger generations’ focus on sex is on the orgasm. An orgasm is the sexual climax that accompanies sexual intercourse and includes muscle tightening in the genital area, electrical sensations radiating from the genitals, and a surge of a variety of pleasure-producing hormones throughout the body. Many cultures have records of sexual expression and some even have records of sexual pleasure maximization.

    Some traditional sexual scripts that have been studied include a number of problematic assumptions. Some of these assumptions include but are not limited to: the man must be in charge, the woman must not enjoy (or let on that she enjoys) the sexual experience, the man is a performer whose skills are proven effective upon arrival of his partner’s orgasm, men are sexual while women are not, women can’t talk about it and turn to men for sexual interests and direction, and finally sex always leads to a female orgasm (her orgasm being proof of his sexual capacity). Numerous studies have shown that most of these traditional scripts are not realistic, healthy, conducive to open communication, nor negotiation of sexual needs and desires for couples. In sum, rather, these traditional notions can be an undermining influence in a couple’s intimacy. Scripts that are more contemporary include these simple ideas:

    1. Both partners need to learn to take ownership of the couple’s sexual experiences.
    2. Both partners need to learn to communicate openly and honestly about their feelings.
    3. Both partners need to learn to meet one another’s desires, needs, and wishes while making sure that their own needs are being met.

    This page titled 5.1: Sexual Scripts is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Garrett Rieck & Justin Lundin.