A Short History of Human Sexuality
Published on Saturday, December 17th, 2011 at 3:54 pm and is filed under Sex and Relationships
The attitude toward various forms of sexual deviance in the past and present
The entire history of human sexuality has seen a series of expression forms of the sexual instinct, forms that don’t have an unitary or homogeneous character, but have a great variability and diversity, according to the traditions, customs, etc. written or unwritten rules. Thus, as there is only one cultural model of human sexuality it can’t be judged the “deviations” or forms of “deviance”. Therefore, it is said that what bears label of deviant in a certain society in other societies or historical periods is defined as a normal phenomenon.
For example: In a tribe from Zambia a married woman complained that her husband is a “sexual pervert”. On a closer examination of the case was found that “perversion” consists of kissing and caring wife’s breast as a pre-sexual act. For this the elders have punished the guilty one. In other cases, other sexual habits and practices from other cultures than European arouse disgust to European people.
M. Eliade said that for modern man sexuality is only a physiological act, while for the ancient man this was a ceremony, a holy act. Therefore, in traditional beliefs and religions phallus was a symbol of power without an erotic character.
Many old sexual habits and rituals were closely related to the fruitfulness of the earth. The most important and eloquently presented example is one when girls were having sex with priests to ensure fertility of the earth. Today, these acts are punished and the guilt ones as well. A current example would be the case of guru Gregorian Bivolaru who was accused of sex with a child. Guru’s situation is different than that of thousand years ago, but resembles a little.
Since sexuality can be a source of conflict that can affect social order, each society wants to control more or less. Among the most common sexual practices there are: adultery, prostitution, rape and homosexuality.
In the past, the Code of Hamurabi provided penalties for sexual offenses. A married who committed adultery was punished by drowning with her lover. In other cultured, husband was allowed to kill his wife and her lover if he found them during sexual act.
In Ancient Egypt, adultery was considered as the greatest crime and was punished with death (wife was burned and the lover was thrown to crocodiles).
In Ancient Greece, the law provided fidelity from wife not from husband. Meanwhile husband was obliged by law to have sex with his wife at least three times a month. Another obligation imposed to husband was to not appear in public with other women, but he can appear with teenagers with whom he was having sex. However men enjoyed more rights than women in matters of sexuality.
In Germany, France, polygamy was widespread and the notion of adultery was unknown.
Today adultery is punished differently depending on the society in which it occurs. In our country while there is a law providing prison for cheating. It is essential that the other spouse make a complaint in court and bring strong evidences. The denunciation of unfaithful spouse is not common, usually they divorce.
In Ancient Egypt, prostitution was not considered a crime. Egyptian prostitutes were famous, gaining many material benefits. Herodotus recalls in his works that Pharaoh Kheops forced his daughter to prostitute herself to face outgoings for Kheops pyramid.
In Ancient Greece, prostitution was widespread and encouraged. There were holy prostitution which was taking place in temples dedicated to Aphrodite and secular prostitution, commercial one, which was held without any fencing. Often rich and respected women were courtesans, they were educated from all city. In fact, the only women who were treated equally with men were courtesans. There was also male prostitution which was widespread homosexuality was appreciated as noble practice.
Although religion had much influence on Greek people, on sexual attitudes and behaviors it had less influence, thus alcoholism and greed were punished more harshly than sexual acts.
In Ancient Rom, prostitution was also accepted, but unlike the Greeks, the Romans regarded it as a necessary evil.
In Rome there were male prostitution and child prostitution practiced by both genders.
Child prostitution exists today in many states, it can be distinguished 3 categories of child prostitution:
- Fugitives, who flee their home and are not found by parents or run away every time after being brought home;
- Vagabonds who usually live home but don’t come home for some period of time;
- Rejected, whose parents are indifferent or deny them.
Unlike European countries where are taken measures to combat these acts, in Asian countries such as Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and others, there is a real “sex tourism” which includes these “services” for European, American or Japanese customers.
Today, in many countries, prostitution is legal (no the child one). Some states prohibit only certain types, such as requiring street or male prostitution. Most permissive countries are the Netherlands and Germany.
It is well known that law against prostitution seldom punishes customers.
In Greece, this act was considered as an unpremeditated action, sanctioned in the worst case with fine. There rules were not spread in all Greek cities.
For Romans, rape was tolerated only in the Republic time. In Imperial era this act became one of the most serious crimes. The penalty led to the death sanction.
In the VII-VIII centuries AD, in some European countries, women, victims of rape were named “corrupt” and losing any value to have any rights on property. The only left possibility was prostitution, but it was forbidden.
Today, rape is one of the most serious social crimes and is punished with prison for a long or short term, depending on the seriousness of committed rape. As a distinct feature of Romanian legislation, rape is not punished if before sanction the author of rape marries with his victim.
The main causes of rape are:
- consumption of alcohol and drugs;
- biological-instinctual needs;
- incitement and sexual provocation
- misogynist attitudes;
- existence of inferiority complex, rape constituting a form of resolution of this complex;
- bad influence on young people;
- porn material;
There is marital rape, quite common in almost all countries. There are laws against it only in some countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada and some U.S. states.
There is rape of men, which is performed only by men, usually in prison. Against this act there is not law.
This practice existed in all times and in all cultures, the difference is only in perception of this fact. Many people didn’t forbid homosexual relations, moreover they were considered more acceptable then heterosexual ones. For example, among ancient Greeks a man’s love for a young man was idealized as the highest form of sexual love.
For Romans, homosexuality was a common practice, normal one even desirable in situations where their men were in military service. What was condemned is the passive role of man or the active role of women. Important for Romans and for Greeks was to be active partner, the gender of sexual partner wasn’t important as it is important today.
In the Middle Ages, most of marital partners’ behaviors were dominated by severe rules which didn’t allow public affection and sanctioned any act that could ne interpreted as a disclosure of privacy. During this period, around sexuality has been influenced by religious dogmas of the Catholic Church. Despite some severe rules, sexuality was widespread and practiced by priests, even in the most deviant forms.
From the Middle Ages to the end of the XVII century in Europe, those who were found guilty of homosexual practices were killed. In the U.S. only in 1800 Thomas Jefferson proposed to abolish the death penalty for homosexuals, suggesting castration for men and for women to cut nose.
Severe sanctions against homosexual relations were maintained in European legislation until the seventh and eight decades of the last century. Today, of all Western countries, the most severe laws on gays are applied in U.S. In half of American states these acts are punished from a simple fine to 2o years in prison. These laws punish and other unnatural sexual practices such as cruelty or necrophilia and even oral or anal sex, between men or between men and woman.
Although attitudes about sexuality have changed, especially in the last 20-30 years, becoming more liberal and less restrictive, there is till a consensus in this area. While for some individuals, certain aspects of sexuality are natural things, for other it continued to be a sin and a form of depravity.