Within 40 seconds of “What’s happening to me?” the sex education video illustrates the very sexual development stages all human species encounter as outlined by Desmond Morris within his documentary “The Human Animal: Biology of Love”. The video was given to me by a friend, a science teacher and this video is used for sex education at the school at which he works.
We are born as babies, as either male or female, we are secure and protected. We grow to be children, where we separate ourselves into the sex categories almost unconsciously. Whilst we occasionally cross over to the other sex group, most of the time we are hostile, favoring our own sex as company. When we become teenagers these feelings of hostility toward the opposite sex are replaced by a mutual curiosity for them, as we reach and experience puberty. As a result, prime evil biological tendencies begin to kick in. We all seek a partner to fulfill the embedded desire to mate and pro-create, thus the species and our genetic material continue. Our bodies experiences vast changes, naturally developing a body, which accentuates your biological sex and functions as either a male or female.
The reason I’m referring to this video is to further my knowledge and focus merely on the biological and scientific traits of human males and females. Is heterosexuality really biological and considered ‘natural’? Is everything really based on hormones and genetics? And if true, where does this leave all those whose identities, genders and sexualities do not fit within these supposed ‘natural’ and ‘biological’ states. Why does the sex video only illustrate heterosexual desire when there exists so much more? We already know that sex as an activity is pleasurable and not just the means for pro-creation so why not highlight all those other sexualities out there? How about sex education for those who are transgender, whose sex, gender and sexuality blur? Would this reach out to those who feel as if they are experiencing the ‘wrong’ puberty?
First let’s back track. I will use this video as evidence to prove that such educational videos live up to and illustrate what both biology and culture consider ‘normal’. I mean think about it, did you ever have a sex education video on a bisexual male to female transsexual? Of course, young humans’ learning about heterosexuality and reproduction is necessary as being cisgender and straight are common and necessary for our species to continue. However, is it common because it’s biological: heterosexuality, gender and sex? Or is it because of such videos portraying relationships and sexuality in such ways? I think, maybe it’s both.
So, let’s begin. What is puberty? What is sex? The video begins with a boy and a girl playing. Both are illustrated as having stereotypical male and female identities: the boy is dressed in blue clothing and has short hair whilst the girl is seen in pink clothing and has long hair. These simple visual techniques tap into our unconscious understanding of what it is to be a boy and what it is to be a girl. Do such colours and hairstyles come ‘naturally’ to both sexes? Or is it the result of conditioning and culture, perhaps even mimicking what we see? Either way, this simple illustration of male and female accentuates just how much as a culture and society we categorize and stereotype sex and gender.
We then see the boy and girl act out certain behaviours, gestures and activities, illustrating what are considered ‘normal’ masculine and feminine identities and roles. For example, the girl is seen dressing up and applying lipstick. Lipstick application is a cultural custom used by women to accentuate the lips, thus to make themselves more attractive and mimic the natural effects of sexual arousal aesthetically. Darkened fuller lips indicate sexual arousal, which attracts a mate. Of course, for a young girl playing with make-up is a form of mimicry of perhaps what she’s seen her mother perform. Nonetheless, whether consciously or unconsciously the young girl knows that this behaviour is ‘correct’ and acceptable for her sex. Desmond Morris, would argue that this a biological tendency being expressed whereas Judith Butler, for example, would argue that this is an act which is ‘unnatural’ but gives the illusion of being ‘natural’ as its stylized and repeated over time, thrust upon her by rearing, culture and society making her believe its come naturally to her. Being cis-gender and feminine is expected, as she is biologically female. Meanwhile, we see the boy play with a suit tie and dress in an oversized suit, presumably his fathers, which denotes the stereotypical gender role for males: breadwinner, worker and protector. In this short section, it becomes quite clear that biology and culture have very clear ideas of the roles and destiny’s of male and female identities and genders.
The body goes through some spectacular changes from childhood to adulthood, including mental and physical changes, which the entire human species experiences. These changes are apart of puberty. But why do these changes take place? The answer is simple: in order to reproduce, ensuring the human species continues. This is our biological function as humans, as expressed by Morris in ‘The Biology of Love’. The desire and need to reproduce is shared across all living species. Of course, you must become an adult to have children in order to rear your offspring sufficiently, preferably within a loving pair bond. And so the process of growing up is spread over the years, the years of puberty. This may begin at the ages of 8 or 9 years up until your 12 or 13. The ages vary as we all grow at different speeds and therefore, at different times, which is not to be an issue for concern.
The process of puberty is illustrated through a pinball game, the characters the male and female act as the pinball moving around the stages of the game. Ladies first. Between the ages stated above, typically 11-12, the female will begin to develop breasts and nipples as well as pubic hair and widened hips. The body will keep growing and developing in this way throughout her young teenage years. By 15-16 years old a females’ emotional life is as busy as her body. She may become interested in boys. These feelings are natural and expected within society, as outlined in Judith Butler’s theory of the ‘heterosexual matrix’ where gender and sex are seen to cause sexuality, which is that of a heterosexual desire. Between 17-18 years of age, the female is no longer a child, instead a young adult. Whilst her emotional feelings and mind will change, her body is mostly developed and completed. Females usually develop sooner then boys during puberty but of course they soon get there in the end.
Now the males, at 11-12 years of age the human male’s body will begin to develop into a man. Shoulders, chest and penis are all growing and their voice will deepen. By 13-14 years of age pubic hair will develop and voice break as well as experiencing some erotic/sexual dreams. By 15-16 years of age, the male may develop spots or acne because the texture of the skin changes as the body grows. By 17-18 years of age the male may begin the need to shave his face., perhaps once or twice a week. Physically he is now a developed man but of course the human body can still incur some further developmental stages such as increased in height.
We now witness the stage of boy meets girl as expressed in more detail in Morris’s ‘Biology of Love’ documentary here. All of these changes are biological, caused by changes in hormones, which we make inside our bodies during puberty. Hormones like people come in two sexes: the female hormone is estrogen and the male hormone is testosterone. Of course there are many more hormones inside the human body but these are the two key hormones to remember, as these are the ones, which cause the main physical changes. The female will develop breasts. However, they are not just for sexual appeal, they have a biological function to feed offspring. Nature provides milk in the breast, however babies are not always breastfed. I know I wasn’t! Breasts also cause sexual arousal in the male, which ensures reproduction. Meanwhile the males are dealing with the occurrence of the erection. Erections happen when the penis becomes stiff, typically when thinking sexually about a female. Of course, again the video is only considering heterosexual desire, as this is the necessary desire so humans reproduce.
The males’ testicles are busy producing sperm and the male hormone testosterone. Put simply in the video: when the sperm and the egg of a female meet, they create a baby. This is fertilization. When two sperm meet two eggs that create twins, when three sperm meet three eggs, triplets and so on. This fertilization is achieved through sex. The female has a womb, which is where the baby will grow. However, if the eggs are left unused, they move away from the lining and come out from the vagina in the form of blood. During a menstrual period, a woman bleeds from her uterus (womb) via the vagina. This lasts anything from three to seven days. The period can occur from 10-11 years of age onwards. It can cause mood swings and pains. The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have periods every 28 days. Women use tampons and sanitary towels to absorb the blood, making life endurable. Meanwhile, the male’s voice will becomes deeper as his vocal chords grow bigger. His voice may take some time to settle but once it does it’s here to stay. Unfair right? However, both sexes may develop spots and acne, which are caused by oil, which prevents your skin from drying up. During puberty humans produce excessive oil, which need to escape through the pores of the skin. The video then gives some tips as how to prevent spots.
Throughout puberty the desire to have sex will increase, a natural development. Both sexes as a result will masturbate until they have an orgasm, which will release all the sexual pressure. This may feel ‘bad’ but is perfectly normal, the video assures. An orgasm can also happen unconsciously. A nocturnal emission or ‘wet dream’ is a type of spontaneous orgasm involving either ejaculation during sleep for a male or lubrication of the vagina for a female.
However naïve and slightly humorous the video is gentle in explaining the changes humans encounter during puberty and why these changes necessary. All of which link to the ideas expressed by Desmond Morris, that our biology causes desire which allows for reproduction, our ultimate function in life.