The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage


How do values about sexuality vary across cultures?

Cultures vary dramatically in their approaches toward sexuality. Some cultures are extremely sensual, but very restrictive about the conditions in which sexuality can be expressed. For example, many aspects of Muslim culture celebrate sensuality, but orthodox Islam is adamant about segregation of the sexes and the covering of women’s bodies in public. Likewise, in orthodox Judaism, a husband is obligated to make love to his wife although women must cover their hair in public, and unrelated men and women cannot shake hands. Other cultures are restrictive about any aspect of sexuality, devaluing it as decadent and sinful. St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.), the early Christian theologian, wrote with great disgust about fleshly desire. Likewise, Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) was partially motivated to study sexuality in response to the sexually repressive Christianity he experienced in his childhood. In contrast, other cultures are far more liberal about sexual expression. In many ancient cultures, sexual acts were incorporated into religious rituals. Phallic processions were often used in the worship of Dionysus, the Greek God of wine. These are parades in which a large phallic statue is carried by the participants of the parade. Similar processions have been found in Japan and other countries. These served as fertility celebrations, which were common in early agrarian societies.


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