What are some ways in which cultures differ regarding sexual behavior and taboos?

Sexuality Read more from
Chapter The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage

While all cultures have some code by which they regulate sexual behavior, attitudes toward sexuality and sexual permissiveness vary tremendously across cultures. For one, the degree to which bodily exposure is socially acceptable differs widely. American law generally prevents public exposure of women’s breasts or of either sex’s genitals. In contrast, women sunbathe topless in many European countries. In orthodox Judaism, married women cover their hair when in public so as not to excite sexual desire in men who are not their husbands. Similar patterns are found in many Muslim countries in which women must cover their hair and most of their body when out in public.

There is also wide cultural variation in attitudes toward homosexuality. In many cultures, homosexuality is considered sinful and morally unacceptable. In other cultures, homosexuality is considered a normal rite of passage. Both in ancient Greece and in the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, homosexual relations between young boys and older males were considered a normal part of development. In the United States today, the subject remains intensely controversial, with some people accepting homosexuality as a normal part of human sexuality and others still finding it religiously and morally objectionable.


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