Approaches to understanding sexuality are categorized as either essentialist or social constructionist. Essentialism, focusing on the individual expression of human desire and pleasure, favors a biological explanation.Social constructionism, focusing on the relationship between individual and society, explores how sexuality is embedded in historical, political, and social practices.Foucault (1979) traces the history of the heterosexuality/homosexuality dichotomy to processes that began in the nineteenth century and the birth of sexology.
Challenging essentialist conceptualizations of sex and sexuality as transhistorical and stable categories, Foucault claims that the discursive invention of sexuality as a biological instinct fundamental to understanding an individual's health, pathology and identity lead to biopower.While sex denoted the sexual act, sexuality symbolized the true essence of the individual.Sexual behavior represented the true nature and identity of an individual.While the sexologists favored a biological explanation, Freud's psychoanalytic theory of sexual development led to the psychological construction of different sexual identities. The individual progresses from an initial polymorphous sexuality in early childhood through to the development of a mature stable heterosexual identity in adulthood; homosexuality is a temporary (adolescent) stage of development.To sociologists, sexuality is derived from experiences constructed within social, cultural, and historical contexts. Sexual identities and behaviors develop herein; norms and cultural expectations guide individuals.
Source: The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology