The development of sex and gender is predisposed by biological variables that are intertwined with culture. Although gender varies in roles and behaviours, there is a modest cultural influence, particularly in sociocultural variables. Gender-related behaviours, identities, roles, and how they are perceived in diverse social circumstances are profoundly influenced by culture. Culture determines how children are socialized, how adults adapt to their roles in society, and the expected attitudes and behaviours of both men and women. Let us explore a few points linking sexuality to culture.
A changing perspective
Religious and philosophical schools have historically affected how sexuality is described. For example, in relation to same-sex marriage (SSM), changing attitudes and opinions have been observed in recent years. Indeed, SSM has become legal in various nations, and they are recognised as legal entities. Consensual non-monogamy, swinging, and polyamory also seem to have increased in popularity. Even though they may go against traditional views, it is crucial to be aware of how attitudes about sexuality have changed.
Immigration and acculturation
Another way to look at sociocultural variables is through the process of acculturation – the process of adapting when an immigrant from one culture moves to another culture. A family may try to keep its patriarchal customs while integrating. Some may be at odds with the ‘new’ media and culture to which they are exposed to. In many societies, becoming ‘Westernised’ is equated with promiscuity. For example, learning a new language allows a woman to discuss topics that were forbidden in her native language. In order to decide how to address sexuality in the context of the client’s culture, it may be helpful to acknowledge the client’s level of acculturation.
Religious beliefs and sexuality
Numerous faiths place a high value on the meaning, ritual, and practice of sexuality. In literature, factors like sexual guilt and shame have been linked to religious influences. However, it is still unclear to what extent religious adherence and beliefs influence sexual function. Traditional beliefs could impose restrictions on access to sex-related information, which may lead to feelings of guilt and worry. Discussion of religious views may reveal underlying tensions that can result in fear and shame.
How a woman sees herself in the eyes of others may have an impact on her sense of self-worth. She could believe that because she is sexually active, people are criticising her. This influences her self-perception, and if negatively impacted, her sexual issues may persist. Furthermore, religious and cultural views may influence how much normal sexual behaviours are deemed abnormal, leading to feelings of guilt for men and women who engage in masturbatory habits.
Sexuality as defined by culture
Studies have revealed that because Asian women are culturally not allowed to experience sexual desire, they rarely view a lack of satisfaction as odd. Cultural ideals like the machismo of Hispanic American men and the expectation that women maintain a certain appearance have also been linked to lower levels of sexual pleasure. Latina women under the idea of ‘Marianismo’ are assigned a duty of sexual morality, self-sacrifice, and caregiving, which has its roots in Catholicism, whereas machismo specifies a man’s role of masculinity. Although men having sex might meet the function of machismo for Hispanic men, only pregnancy (premarital or during marriage) can truly serve as evidence of the males’ manliness.
The individual’s idea of appropriate sexuality or sexual function may differ from Western conceptions, which rely largely on empirical data and research-based concepts.
When discussing sexuality, the effects of culture must be taken into consideration. These concepts have an impact on many facets of sexuality, including views about the right partner/s, the right age for marriage, and accepted sexual behaviours. Although social and cultural variables influence sexuality, it is crucial to understand the individuality brought by the individual’s cultural influences and how they deal with them.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Charlot Cauchi is a Gestalt Psychotherapist at Willingness. He has experience working with adult clients with mental health difficulties, anxiety and depression, loss and grief, traumatic experiences, stress and relational issues.
Heinemann, J., Atallah, S. & Rosenbaum, T. (2016). The Impact of Culture and Ethnicity on Sexuality and Sexual Function. Current Sexual Health Reports. 8:144–150.