Psychology and sexuality in historical time

Pettit, M. and Hegarty, P. (2013). Psychology and sexuality in historical time. In: Tolman, D. and Diamond, L. eds. The Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology. Washington, DC, USA: American Psychological Association.



Sex and sexuality are inconceivable outside of time. Like all living things, humans are fundamentally entities that unfold over time in a unidirectional fashion. We think, feel, and behave in time. To explain human conduct, psychologists have looked to at least four different kinds of temporality. These are (1) the very slow evolutionary time which has shaped the species, (2) the considerably less slow historical time within which cultural change happens, (3) the developmental time within which individual lives are lived, and (4) the immediate situational time which can be captured by experiments and studies of interventions, lasting anywhere from milliseconds to a few weeks. These are not mutually exclusive kinds of time, as time is continuous. These temporalities are nested within each other. Historically, when it comes to sexuality, psychology’s methods and theories have tended to privilege lines of debates between evolutionary time versus developmental time or ‘nature versus nurture.’ Such dichotomies (and even discussions of their interaction) particularly neglect the relationship between psychology and events that unfold in Type 2 time courses that vary in length between the span of human history to a single generation. This chapter explains why psychologists ought not to let historical time (or Type 2 time) slip from their view. This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council standard research grant to Michael Pettit. Please address correspondence to Michael Pettit, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele St, Toronto, ON, Canada, M3J 1P3, or Peter Hegarty, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK, ph8658

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