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ABNORMALITIES IN THE EXTERNAL STIMULUS

We have seen how vague and indefinite the external stimulus of the sex instinct is originally, and how chance experiences in childhood may give it its specific form. Since sexual development is usually of a haphazard sort, a young person may develop in adolescence or earlier a sexual response to external stimuli which may not be considered normal socially or may not be normal biologically. Usually because of the social pressure which is consciously or unconsciously felt as one approaches adulthood, these preliminary sexual interests give way to those of maturity. It is such a common experience for human beings first to pass through one or more stages of what is later considered abnormal sexual interest, that some psychologists (the Freudians, for example) regard this process as normal. No harm results from these early blind gropings of sex unless a young person develops a fixation upon some stage, which is not shaken off in adult life and which makes sexual adaptation difficult. Failure to pass beyond immature sex interests is often due to regarding them as absolute and inescapable abnormalities instead of social accidents. An understanding of the true nature of these fixations is the first step in escaping from them.

Since there is probably only a vague core in the external stimulus of sex that is instinctive, any object which contains this essential element may come to be the specific thing which most readily calls forth a sexual response. Any physical form, however remotely approximating the general type, may be sexually attractive. Especially in puberty when sexual habits are not yet definitely formed, one's own body, one of the same sex, one of the opposite sex, a child, an adult, a parent, a brother or sister—any of these or several in succession may be attractive, and yet it is obvious that only one of them, a member of the opposite sex of one's own generation, will survive the test of normality in later years. Social influences usually succeed in selecting the normal type for fixation without the individual's being conscious of the prpcess. Sometimes, however, social conditions foster the retention of an abnormal interest. In these cases it is important for the individual to understand what has happened, so that he may consciously remold his sexual taste.

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Men's Health-Erectile Dysfunction