Sexual Attitudes Around the World
Human sexuality is the interest and expression of sexual sensation and intimacy that impacts the heart, mind, and body. It is a natural part of human’s social life and is highly governed by the culture’s social norms.
Every society has its own set of rules of behavior on sex, age of sexual consent, sex education, homosexuality, marriage, female desire, etc.
In the US, religion has historically dominated the social views on sex and still has some influence today. In 2017, Christianity dominated the US’s views with 20.6 percent. Though recently, peer and the media has risen as the dominating influencers.
But what about the rest of the world? Views change wherever you go.
Almost every developed country has some form of sex education. Sex Ed in the US is mainly pregnancy prevention, transmission of STDs, some anatomy, with a dash of what goes where. Less than half of high schools and one-fifth of middle schools in the US teach all sixteen topic of sex ed as recommended by the CDC.
Whereas in the United Kingdom, sex ed has been made mandatory in all schools. Beginning at age four kids are taught about safe and healthy relationships. Then, in secondary schools, they are given appropriate lessons on sex. France uses a 3-D printed model of the clitoris that goes along with an entire lesson on the clitoris and female pleasure. New Zealand has increased education to teens and community leaders to help make sex less taboo and teachable to the younger generation.
The Netherlands are the ones leading the pack in sex education with their “Spring Fever Week” in schools starting at age four. Eight-year-olds learn about positive self-image and stereotypes. Then, at age 11, they learn about sexual orientation and contraception. They also has the lowest pregnancy rates in Europe.
Homosexuality is viewed very differently in cultures and subcultures – many influenced by religion. Thankfully a lot of countries around the world are accepting people’s right to love whomever they please. In 2013, the Pope stated that God does not condemn homosexuality, having a large influence on the 1.2 billion Catholic population around the world. The United States Supreme Court made same sex marriage legal across all states in 2015. Most of South America and Western Europe are open to homosexuality, and Eastern Europe and most of Asia have almost no regulations around it. New Zealand recognizes same-sex marriages, and Australia recognizes partnerships and unregistered cohabitation.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world is not quite as open. Russia just completely restrict freedoms. The Middle East, most of Africa, and some parts of of Asia have penalties for homosexuality ranging from imprisonment to death –except for South Africa where same-sex marriage is legal.
Fun fact: In ancient Japan, during the time of the samurai, male-male companionship was very commonly accepted, and they were even required to be loyal until death!
In many western cultures, marriage is a legally binding – typically monogamous – communion between two people. In these places, sex is a symbol of the couple’s desire for one another, and neither the heart nor genitals can can be fulfilled without the chosen love. Other cultures, such as districts in India, some Muslims in Malaysia and the Philippines, practice polygamy and polyandry. In Afghanistan, arranged marriages with females as young as sixteen are still common.
Lesser known cultures have their own unique views on sex and marriage, as well. In Saudi Arabia and Egypt, some practice a type of marriage called “Misyar,” or “traveller’s marriage,” where the husband can walk away and marry another without even informing his first wife.
The Warao of Brazil have ritual relations called mamuse, where marriages are suspended periodically. During this time, adults are free to have sex with anyone they please.
Nikah Mut’ah (marriage for pleasure), a Shia Muslim tradition, is a predetermined termination point that can be a few minutes to several years.
When agricultural societies emerged, there was an increase in sexual behavior restriction. Men became more hierarchical, aggressive, and territorial – especially over female sexuality.
In Patriarchal societies, social norms focus on sexual possessiveness and control of female sexuality. This is expressed and ranges from diagnosing women’s sexual desire as “crazy” or “hysteria” (as the American Psychiatric Association did up until about the 1950s) to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In West, East, and Northeast Africa, Middle East, and Asia, nearly 200 million females have been victims of FGM.
One culture that I find absolutely fascinating is the one of the Mosuo in China. The Mosuo have a close to complete sexual freedom and autonomy view for both men and women. There aren’t even words for spouses, only friend – azhu. When girls come of age (13), they’re given their own private “flower room” with a separate entrance. Here, they can have as many lovers in a night as they want, so long as they are gone by sunrise. They believe in complete discretion and any child born are raised by the mother’s family and the entire community. Also, the girl’s brother takes on the parental responsibilities of the child, not the biological father.
Im many western cultures, and a few others, women are taking control of their sexual desires instead of repressing them. People are starting to open up to the idea that sex is natural and beautiful. Sex is something that should be enjoyed, not shamed. Whether you prefer gay or straight or queer, being on top or bottom, being with one person or multiples – it is your choice where you take your sexuality.