Patterns of Sexual Behavior Concept and Goal: This activity examines the cultura

Patterns of Sexual Behavior
Concept and Goal:
This activity examines the cultural differences in the sexual practices of three societies. You should read the passage and answer the discussion questions.
Following are descriptions of three societies that vary in their pattern of sexual behavior. Read the descriptions from Hyde and DeLamater (1994) and answer the discussion questions.
Inis Beag
Inis Beag is a small island off the coast of Ireland. It is probably one of the most naïve and sexually repressive societies in the world.
The people of Inis Beag seem to have no knowledge of a number of sexual activities such as French kissing, mouth stimulation of the breast, or hand stimulation of the partner’s penis, much less oral sex or homosexuality. Sex education is virtually nonexistent; parents do not seem to be able to bring themselves to discuss such embarrassing matters with their children, and they simply trust that, after marriage, nature will take its course.
Menstruation and menopause are sources of fear for the island women because they have no idea of their physiological significance. It is commonly believed that menopause can produce insanity; in order to ward off this condition, some women have retired from life in their mid-forties, and a few have confined themselves to bed until death years later.
The men believe that intercourse is hard on one’s health. They will desist from sex the night before they are to do a job that takes great energy. They do not approach women sexually during menstruation or for months after childbirth; a woman is considered dangerous to the male at these times.
The islanders abhor nudity. Only babies are allowed to bathe while nude. Adults wash only the parts of their bodies that extend beyond their clothing – face, neck, lower arms, hands, lower legs, and feet. The fear of nudity has even cost lives. Sailors who never learned to swim because it involved wearing scanty clothing have drowned when ships have sunk.
Premarital sex is essentially unknown. In marital sex, foreplay is generally limited to kissing and rough fondling of the buttocks. The husband invariably initiates the activity. The male-on-top is the only position used, and both partners keep their underwear on during the activity. The man has an orgasm quickly and falls asleep immediately. Female orgasm either is believed not to exist or is considered deviant.
In distinct contrast to Inis Beag is Mangaia, an island in the South pacific. For the Mangaians, sex – for pleasure and for procreation – is a principal interest.
The Mangaian boy hears of masturbation when he is about 7, and he may begin to masturbate at age 8 or 9. At around age 13, he undergoes the superincision ritual (in which a slit is made on top of his penis, along its entire length). The ritual initiates him into manhood; more important, however, the expert who performs the superincision gives him sexual instruction. He shows the boy how to perform oral sex, how to kiss and suck breasts, and how to bring his partner to orgasm several times before he has his own orgasm. Two weeks after the operation, the boy has intercourse with an experienced woman, which removes the scab. She provides him with practice in various acts and positions and trains him to hold back until he can have simultaneous orgasms with his partner.
After this, the Mangaian boy actively seeks out girls, or they seek him out; soon he has coitus every night. The girl, who has received sexual instruction from an older woman, expects demonstration of the boy’s virility as proof of his desire for her. What is valued is the ability of the male to continue vigorously the in-and-out action of coitus over long periods of time while the female moves her hips like a washing machine. Nothing is despised more than a dead partner who does not move. A good man is expected to continue his actions for 15 to 30 minutes or more.
The average nice girl will have three or four successive boyfriends between the ages of 13 and 20; the average boy may have 10 or more girlfriends. Mangaian parents encourage their daughters to have sexual experiences with several men. They want her to find a marriage partner who is congenial.
At around age 18, the Mangaians typically have sex most nights of the week, with about three orgasms per night. By age 48, they have sex two or three times per week, with one orgasm each time.
All women in Mangaia apparently learn to have orgasms. Bringing his partner to orgasm is one of the man’s chief sources of sexual pleasure.
Between Inis Beag, where there is little sex and plenty of anxiety, and Mangaia, where there is plenty of sex and little anxiety, is Mehinaku, where there is plenty of sex and plenty of anxiety.
In the central Brazilian village of Mehinaku, sex is believed to be very fascinating and the culture is highly eroticized. There is an openness with children about sex, and children can easily list the names of their parents’ extramarital lovers, who are typically many. The men have a very high libido, leading them to compete with each other for women’s sexual favors by bringing small gifts such as fish.
On the other hand, the culture is very gender-segregated. There is a men’s house and if a woman enters it and sees what she is forbidden to see, she is taken to the woods and gang-raped, in a culture that is otherwise very nonviolent. Women are believed to have a much weaker sex drive than men, and there seems to be no recognition of female orgasm. Women’s menstruation is believed to be dangerous.
The dreams and the mythic stories told by the people testify to their sexual anxieties – for example, those in myths who engage in extramarital sex typically die in fantastic ways. In reality, the people continue with a great deal of sexual activity while feeling intense ambivalence and anxiety about it.
Discussion Questions:
Based on reading about the sexual practices in these three societies presented, how does the United States compare in its restrictiveness or permissiveness to the people of Inis Beag, Mangaia, and Mehinaku?
Although cultures vary tremendously in their sexual practices, there are some sex acts that are condemned in almost every culture. Can you site a several?
Why do you think that no society has seen fit to leave sexuality totally unregulated?
Gregor, T. (1985). Anxious pleasures: The sexual lives of an Amazonian people. Chicago,: University of Chicago Press.
Hyde, J., and DeLamater, J. (1994). Understanding human sexuality, 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.
Marshall, D. (1971). Sexual behavior on Mangaia. In D.S. Marshall and R.C. Suggs (eds.). Human Sexual Behavior. New York: Basic Books.
Messenger, J. (1993). Sex and repression in an Irish folk community. In D.N. Suggs and A.W. Miracle (eds.), Culture and Human Sexuality. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks-Cole.
Whittlesey, V. (2001). Diversity Activities for Psychology. Needham, MA: Allyn & Bacon, A Pearson Education Company.

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