Hello and welcome. The history of human sexuality is a wonderful journey for the curious, open minded person. Sex is a fascinating aspect of being human, involving both our biology and culture. It is interesting to see how different cultures have understood sexuality in different times, and how our biological instincts remain largely constant. It is useful to understand cultural change, as it allows us to reflect upon our own society and sexuality and realise what is normal for us has not always been so.
On this webpage I would like to present information on sexuality from many different cultures, to show how our cultural ideas about sex change over time. Other ideas to explore are the impact of religion, ancient erotic texts, art and cultural views on homosexuality, pedophilia, contraception, feminism and treatment of women, obscenity, laws and revolutions.
While this page is a work in progress, I hope you enjoy the following articles and websites I add here over time.
Karene Jade Howie
An essay on the evolution of sex, human sexual behavior and culture from the Journal of Evolutionary Philosophy, 'Dedicated to promoting the theory of evolution as a solid foundation upon which to build a meaningful philosophy of human life.'
Exploring the evolutionary benefits / advantages of sexual reproduction over asexual reproduction, promiscuity & monogamy, dominant males, child rearing, evolution of culture, religion and sexual morality, modern relationships and the 'meat market', homosexuality and evolutionary theories of aging.
The content of this web site, Sex and Philosophy, is taken from or adapted from the book, 'The Architecture of Thought: A New Look at Human Evolution' by John A Hewitt.
The work is an exploration of human evolution but unlike most studies on the evolutionary origins of man, does not take genetics or genes as its basic idea. The antecedents of this work are to be found in studies that apply evolutionary thought to epistemology, the theory of knowledge, a subject usually seen as philosophy rather than science.
Using data rather than genes as the basis for evolution, is a significant change that especially informs our understanding of our own species, homo sapiens. Man possesses much more social knowledge than does any other species and the coevolution between our genetic and social natures has had a great impact upon humankind. Bioepistemic evolution explores this impact, greatly enhances our understanding of the ways in which human nature differs from that of other animals and offers several new and significant interpretations. For example, it enables an understanding of aspects of human sexuality that have previously been mysterious, such as homosexuality and other sexual deviations.
'Although attitudes toward masturbation varied greatly among ancient peoples, it was generally accepted and in certain cultures encouraged. The extreme negative view of masturbation probably evolved because the practice by itself is nonprocreative and solitary. This view is especially prevalent in early Judeo-Christian thought, when it was believed that the only reason for sexual intercourse was procreation and anything that interfered with that function was immoral. Jewish tradition said that man must not waste his seed. The practice is also pleasurable, and that was seen as another reason for its condemnation.
Religious bigotry found medical support in the work of S.A.D. Tissot (1728-1787), who published his influential Onania, or a Treatise upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation in 1758. Tissot observed that the body became flushed during and after sexual intercourse, a response which we now know is a result of increased peripheral circulation. Given his religious views, he reasoned that all sex was potentially dangerous because it caused the blood to rush to the head and thus starved the nerves, leaving the person vulnerable to insanity. He recognized that some sex was necessary for reproduction but taught that solitary sex was far more dangerous because it would inevitably lead to excessive ejaculation.
The views of Tissot and Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an influential figure in medicine) initiated what has been called the 'age of masturbation insanity'. There was no disease of the body or mind that could not be attributed to masturbation. Insanity, syphilis, blindness, deafness, cancer, afflictions of the female reproductive organs, nosebleeds, heart murmurs, sterility, acne, undesirable odors of the skin, epilepsy, headaches, infantile paralysis, infantile rheumatism, pederasty, and homosexuality were only a few of the conditions thought to be caused by masturbation.
Because of the dire consequences of masturbation, extreme measures were thought necessary to cure it. Indiana and Wyoming passed statutes making it a crime to encourage a person to masturbate. Women were forbidden to ride astride a horse or on a bicycle. Widows and older unmarried women were forbidden to own a dog or a male slave for fear that they would use them during masturbation. Even into the 1950s, bananas served in women's dormitories in colleges were cut up so the women could not use them.'
(The URL is for the Index page. Select 'Masturbation' from the Table of Contents on left.)
There are depictions of male masturbation in prehistoric rock paintings around the world, though these are all entirely matters of interpretation. Male masturbation was an important image / myth of ancient Egypt. When performed by a god it could be considered a creative or magical act. The god Atum was believed to have created the universe by masturbating to ejaculation, and the ebb and flow of the Nile was attributed to the frequency of his ejaculations. The ancient Greeks had a more natural attitude toward masturbation than the Egyptians did, regarding the act as a normal and healthy substitute for other forms of sexual pleasure.
In many religions, such as some forms of Conservative Protestantism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Judaism and Islam masturbation is regarded as taboo, a sinful practice.
In the Victorian Era, medical censure of masturbation was in line with the widespread social conservatism and opposition to open sexual behavior common at the time. The medical literature of the times describes procedures for electric shock treatments, infibulation, restraining devices like chastity belts and straitjackets, and surgical excision of the genitals. Routine circumcision was widely adopted in the United States and the UK at least partly because of its believed preventive effect against masturbation. In later decades, the more drastic of these measures were increasingly replaced with psychological techniques, such as warnings that masturbation led to blindness, hairy hands or stunted growth. Some of these persist as myths even today.
Learn about the Islamic perspective of sex. An interesting read, even if you are not Muslim, to understand the impact of religion upon sexuality. Topics include sexual relations between husband and wife, sex education, oral, anal & vaginal sex, masturbation, circumcision, abortion, condoms, rape, flirtation, homosexuality, pornography etc.
Read More: Islamic Religion & Sexuality
From the website: 'Though rarely acknowledged, the prevalence of sodomy between Afghan men is an open secret, one most observant visitors quickly surmise. Ironically, it is especially true here in Kandahar, which was the heartland of the puritanical Taliban movement.
It might seem odd to a Westerner that such a sexually repressive society is marked by heightened homosexual activity. But Justin Richardson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says such thinking is backward - it is precisely the extreme restrictions on sexual relations with women that lead to greater prevalence of the behavior.
'In some Muslim societies where the prohibition against premarital heterosexual intercourse is extremely high - you will find men having sex with other males because they are the most attractive of the limited options available to them,' Richardson says.
Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, estimates that about 50% of the city’s male residents have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives. He says the prime age at which boys are attractive to men is from 12 to 16 - before their beards grow in. The young, beautiful boys are called halekon.'
Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2002, By Maura Reynolds, Times Staff Writer
From the website: 'The tool, Google Trends reveals how Africans use the Internet. 'Sex' is one of the most searched words in the Internet, but it may come as an embarrassment to many Muslim countries that their citizens are the world's most frequent digital sex searchers; in particular North Africans. Homosexuality, also creates much interest.'
Page Title: 'The History of Human Sexuality: Summary of Sex &
Different Cultures, Taboos & the Sexual Revolution'.
Want to be Involved? Join us in this research, which provides an excellent opportunity to present to the world the latest knowledge about the thing we all find most interesting - sex! The work will not just benefit humanity, it will profoundly enhance your own sexuality as you learn more about our complex and diverse sexual evolution.
We seek help in finding the latest scientific (evolutionary) research on our biological and cultural sexual evolution and distributing content (overviews / summaries) to relevant pages.
This site is well respected. We are listed as the Top Philosophy Website on the Internet with around 600,000 page views each week. So your contributions will be seen and read, and will be providing humanity with a great source of wisdom about a very important subject (that currently suffers due to cultural / religious myths).
If you would like to be involved (or have comments about this website) please write to us. Many thanks! Karene
Analyse any human emotion, no matter how far it may be removed from the sphere of sex, and you are sure to discover somewhere the primal impulse, to which life owes its perpetuation. ... The primitive stages can always be re-established; the primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable. ... Mans most disagreeable habits and idiosyncrasies, his deceit, his cowardice, his lack of reverence, are engendered by his incomplete adjustment to a complicated civilisation. It is the result of the conflict between our instincts and our culture. (Sigmund Freud)
We get a lot of people writing to us asking questions about sex. So we have added an 'Ask a Question' feature to our sexuality pages - to help share questions and answers as a way of helping one another.
Please use Facebook Connect (below) to add your questions / comments - the best questions and answers will be added to the page.
Karene (September, 2012)
Come and say hello to Karene - join a friendly (kind, sexually enlightened, moral) network.
Related PagesLaws, Politics, Religion & Morality: Age of Consent, Abortion, Marriage, Sodomy, Taboos
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