As we have emphasized, the sexual development of human beings neither begins nor ends with their physical maturation. People acquire many sexual attitudes and capacities well before puberty, and they may acquire many more in the course of their adult lives. They may also lose certain capacities with advancing age, or they may learn to view them differently. They may develop new sexual tastes and habits and, over the years, they may go through several periods of increased or diminished sexual activity.
These changes, adjustments, and reorientations occur not only for natural biological reasons, but also in response to varying cultural demands. For example, in our culture people are held to very different sexual standards depending on whether they are male or female, heterosexual or homosexual, single or married, young or old. Furthermore, men and women may also be forced to adopt different sexual attitudes when they rise to a higher social class, move from a small rural town to a big city, or emigrate to another country. Individuals who do not live up to the expectations of their community may be made to feel guilty or inadequate, and, in some cases, they may risk criminal prosecution or forced "rehabilitation". Even a person who tries to avoid all such trouble and leads an unoffensive "normal" life may suddenly be affected by larger social movements and events. Thus, the invention of reliable contraceptives and the legal emancipation of women have forced many otherwise "stable" adults to change their behavior and to search for new sexual values.
In short, there is sexual development as long as there is life, and it is therefore impossible to offer a definite description of adulthood. All we can do here is to provide a few broad hints at some of the sexual problems encountered by adults today. More detailed discussions of specific issues can be found in other relevant sections of this book.