A brief summary of Dr. Buehler’s descriptions of the subsystems of the sexological ecosystem:
This subsystem is the one that contains those who are closest to the person, including their family of origin and any extended family members with whom the person has regular contact. Parents and other important people in our lives have significant influence over how we learn to conceptualize and express our sexuality. What kinds of messages did we get, directly or indirectly, about sex, sexuality, men, women, etc.? What messages did we get indirectly by observing behavior or conversations? What information did we glean by how we were responded to as a child when expressing ourselves sexually or asking questions about things like gender or sexuality?
This is the subsystem that contains the interactions between and among systems. When working with adult couples who have sexual complaints, this would be an important area of study to understand the dynamics that perpetuate circular patterns of behavior.
The exosystem includes people and places that a person interacts with and that have a strong influence on their sexuality. Examples include place of worship and religious leaders; the workplace; and the neighborhood or community.
This subsystem includes things that are remote but that still have influence, such as the legal system, cultural values, entertainment, economic forces, technological advances (such as the Internet), and the media.
This subsystem suggests the abstract effect that time has on each person. The chronosystem may be related to a person’s development over time, or it could relate to the times in which a person lives. For example, your parents or grandparents likely have somewhat or very different values than you do about relationships and sexuality.
The sexological ecosystem is not a rigid structure, but a fluid one. Information passes between and interactions take place among the systems.
How can we use this?
The sexological ecosystem can be used as a way to gather, organize, and conceptualize information about how a person functions in the world sexually, and can help us understand which areas we might want to target to help a person increase their sexual safety. It can help us wrap our minds around where a person’s beliefs come from, and what current influences in their lives might be supporting any thoughts or beliefs that contribute to moving a person away from sexual safety. We can use this model to understand challenges that a couple might be experiencing related to sexual safety in their relationships. We can consider the various subsystems and the ways we can target each subsystem to improve sexual safety.