( By Dr. Vithal Prabhu )

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Society And Sexuality

Society and cultural environments shape the way individuals learn about and express their sexuality. Every culture communicates norms and taboos about sexuality. Culture formulates its own sexual code. The differences in various sexual ethics are great. What is considered acceptable in one culture might be considered perverted in another. Issues like masturbation, homosexuality, virginity, premarital and extramarital coitus are evaluated differently in different cultures. From early age boys are helped with masculanity and girls are taught to cultivate a submissive feminity. Every society calls these socially defined gender roles “natural”, eternal and unchangeable.

The truth is that human desires and capacities have a tendency to go beyond the natural limits of our traditional gender roles. All social authorities make a constant and combined effort to keep this tendency under control. One of the significant social changes to occur in recent years is the emergence of women toward a position of equality. Most women are unwilling to accept the notion that women and men should be subjected to different sexual standards. They feel that pleasure and restraints should be equally applicable to both sexes.

The influence of peer group and the sexual imagery found on TV programs also influence attitude formation in young people. Young women grow up believing that attractive appearance is the key to recognition, while young men learn that physical power and success are the indicators of male desirability. By accepting these warped manifastations of masculinity and feminity, young people often get caught up in vicious cycles of self-defeating behaviour. The media have a profound effect on the sexual information values and behaviour. Not all that is projected in film, on TV, in books and magazines, and on radio should be taken as the whole truth.

Nowadays, TV and films show violence and non-penetrative sex in abundance. These and other media often present an urealistic or negative image of what it means to be male or female, what it means to be in love, and what marriage and parenthood are like. The media can influence the way individuals think and behave. Therefore, it is important to communicate one’s reactions to the media about portrayal of sexual issues. Religious beliefs greatly influence people’s sexual attitudes. The influence of religion has at times been negative and detrimental. It is not the religion itself that influences sexual behaviour, but sex-related guilt and anxiety built up in certain individuals as a result of religious training.

Considering several influences that shape the sexuality of an individual a great variance in the sexual attitudes, values and behaviour in different individuals is obvious. Individuals have to demonstrate tolerance for the people with different sexual values and lifestyles. Every individual’s right to hold different opinion is to be respected. Everyone in born male or female. Society and culture teach what is to be man or a woman.

Boys and girls have many similarities and few differences. Boys and girls share equal talents characteristics, strengths and hopes for their future. There are no jobs that are only for boys or for girls. Almost all adult jobs and careers are open to men and women. The massages how boys and girls should behave are received by them from their family, friends, media and the society. Attitudes about proper behaviours for men and women differ among families, culture, and individuals. Boys and girls can be friends and respect each other. They can study, play or work together in groups. This is a healthy attitude in a mixed society.

Social problem related to Sexuality:

  1. Infertility: A woman is usually blamed and looked down upon for not being able to give birth to a child. The cause of infertility could be in the males as much as in the females; or could be in both. Many infertile couples resort to religious rituals only to experience disappointments. Adopting a child is the surest way to become parents.

  2. Teenage/Premarital Pregnancy: Surveys have shown that many teenage girls and unmarried girls become pregnant because they were ignorant about the fact that the act they involved was an intercourse that would lead to pregnancy and that only girls have to face the wrath of the society.

  3. Hymen: Presence of hymen in a virgin woman is given undue premium. Since time immemorial the newly married groom has shown pride in seeing bleeding from ruptured hymen on first wedding night. Absence of bleeding may be concluded as adultry and may lead to marital conflict or divorce. Presence of hymen is ambiguous and is not the sure sign of virginity. In fact, there is no definite sign of virginity either in the male or in the female. Virginity is in the mind and not down there between two thighs.

  4. Gender Discrimination: The birth of a female child is not so welcome as that of a male. The female child receives a second grade treatment throughout her life in matters such as education, nutrition, job opportunities, pay and health care facilities. She is conditioned to be submisseve, non-decisive and dependent.

  5. Amniocentesis and female foeticide: Examination of amniotic fluid from pregnant mother to detect the sex of the foetus (Amniocentesis) and aborting the same if female, is a criminal act.

  6. Horoscope matching for marriage: There is no scientific evidence proving the credibility of horoscope-matching for marriage. Such marriages may or may not be happy. Though there are no perfect methods for selection of a partner, the horoscope-matching should not be entirely relied upon.

  7. HIV/AIDS: The highest price man has to pay for his sexual lust is death through HIV/AIDS. There is no cure for this disease. Education and prevention are the only ways out.

  8. Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse mostly of women and children are ghastly, cruel and inhuman acts. All individuals are equal and everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. The culprits of sexual abuse should be strictly dealt with.

  9. Pornography: Pornography and blue films depict perversive sexual behaviour and may bias the minds of adolescents leading to false beliefs and wrong attitudes in them.

  10. Quackery: Sex tonics are myths. Quacks take advantage of the ignorance of the people and exploit them.

  11. Child Marriage: In some some parts of India the child marriages are still in vogue. Teenage parenthood is harmful for the parents as well as to the child.

  12. Dowry: Many young women fall victims to the social evil of dowry. They are tortured, deserted or killed.

  13. Devdasees: In some cultures the female child is “married” to God or given to Godess to fulfill the vow by the parents. The female when grown up finds no way out other than prostitution.


  1. Many of the problems are due to cultural traditions.

  2. Many of them are based on ignorance, myths and misconceptions regarding sexuality.

  3. Most of them indicate exploitation of and atrocities against women.

  4. Cultivation of values like gender equality, freedom, respect for others, legal restrictions and education (including sexuality education) could be the solution to minimise the problems.
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