Variations in Sexual Behaviors
Throughout history, there is evidence of a variety of sexual behaviors but with a wide range of societal acceptance or condemnation. For example, monogamy was often the norm, yet in other phases, polygamy was not uncommon. Similarly, same-sex relationships have long been condemned, but at times have been tolerated, and in some societies were considered important for male bonding. Societies and periods fluctuate in acceptance of fidelity and condemnation of affairs. Prostitution is consistently part of societies, varying in acceptance or condemnation. Multiple-partner sex has occurred in most eras. Sex between adult and child is almost always condemned, although there are periods where it was common. Until relatively recently, children’s sex education occurred by living life in the family, observing animals, and sleeping in a one-room house with parents and siblings. From the earliest records of humanity, there are cave drawings of humans and animals having sex (zoophilia). Other variant sexual behaviors are also evident in different cultures—exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadomasochism.
The message from human history is that (a) sexual behaviors are prevalent, extensive, and variable; (b) amidst this variety is evidence that societies struggled to make sense of and regulate sexual behaviors; (c) many periods idealized the male and female body (Greek statuary, Hindu mystics, Roman gods, medieval paintings, contemporary models); (d) gender differences ranged from romantic idealization to resentful conflict; and (e) there are fluctuating periods of sexual repression and sexual openness (for example, the openness of the 1960s–1980s in the United States compared with current conservative trends). One consistent societal theme is that sex is a fundamental and powerful human energy, at times viewed as dangerous or even demonic (the medieval Inquisition) and at other times as joyful and spiritual energy (the Christian mystics; the Bible’s Song of Songs, and Hindu mysticism [Kama Sutra]).
Throughout human history, there has been an indisputable association of sex with life’s meaning. For example, the Egyptian mythology of Nut and Ged (earth and sky) have sex to create the firmament. Sexuality permeates man’s cosmology and spirituality—fertility cults, the deities seducing and progenating new gods, the sexual imbued with sacred meaning.