Sexy time in some cultures is a whole lot different than in North America
Looking to have sex with your wife's sister or engage in public masturbation? Here's where that kind of fun is done
From reproduction to recreation and beyond, sex has a place in every culture around the world. Without it, there would be no cultures around the world. But the way people view it from culture to culture varies greatly, as do sexual morality and norms.
In some cultures, it’s perfectly alright to have sex with your wife’s sister if your wife is pregnant, but in others, not so much. Most cultures embrace monogamy, the practice of having only one mate at a time, whereas some cultures recognize polygamy, the practice of taking on multiple mates at once (a la Big Love and Sister Wives) – and sometimes in very creative ways.
This list of crazy sex practices around the world, from ancient times to the present day, has stops in Africa, Australia, India, Egypt, and the Himalayas.
1. Polygyny (Africa)
(Image: Flickr/Generation Bass)
In the Wodaabe tribe of Niger in West Africa, men are known to steal each other’s wives. The Wodaabe’s first marriage is arranged by their parents in infancy and must be between cousins of the same lineage. But at the yearly Gerewol festival, Wodaabe men wear elaborate makeup and costumes and dance to impress the women – and hopefully steal a new wife.
According to The Wodaabe and Tuareg Nomads: Stealing Beauty, "The polygynous Wodaabe believe that they—at least their men—have an innate and irresistible attractive power, called togu. By performing and projecting his togu at a woman, a Wodaabe man can make even a married woman fall for him; then, once she is smitten, she may arrange to run away with him at night.”
If the new couple is able to steal away undetected (especially from the current husband who may not want to part with his wife) they become socially recognized. These subsequent marriages are called love marriages.
2. Prostitution (Czech Republic, Netherlands, Australia)
(Image: Flickr/Terence S. Jones)
Although frowned upon, and even illegal in some countries across the world, prostitution has a lengthy history and is still openly practiced in many places today—some more than others. The Czech Republic boasts "the longest brothel in the world," dubbed the "Highway of Cheap Love," and at any point there can be as many as 300 women offering sex for money along the seven-mile stretch.
According to AmsterdamInfo.com, there are over 25,000 prostitutes in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam’s Red Light Disctrict is an international tourist destination. For some sex workers in Australia, the trade is a lucrative business. According to National Geographic’s Taboo, women working at the Stiletto brothel in Sydney can earn up to $170,000 per year.
3. Polyandry (Himalayas)
According to an article in Psychology Today, “Almost all of the few polyandrous societies practice what anthropologists call fraternal polyandry, where a group of brothers share a wife." This is the case in the Himalayas, where there is little land available for farming and agriculture, and families with more than one son would be faced with dividing up their land were each son to start their own family.
The solution? Find one wife for all of their sons, so that they can live together as one family and keep their family plot intact. And, as told in the National Geographic documentary Multiple Husbands, this arrangement works best when the wife is adept at "scheduling" time with each brother.
4. Kama Sutra (India)
(Image: Flickr/Abhishek Singh)
Made popular in the west by Cosmopolitan magazine, the Kama Sutra was actually created over 500 years ago by the Indian sage Vatsyayana Maharshi. The Kama Sutra is more than a guide to sexual positions, it "deals with all aspects of sexual life, including the principles and techniques of sexual pleasure and how to best achieve ecstatic expression of life's beauty."
And it appears that the text was inspired by the Khajuraho Temples in Central India, built about a thousand years ago.
Monty Python alum Terry Jones hosts the Discovery TV mini-series Ancient Inventions: The Kama Sutra and visits the temples, or “sex manual carved in stone” as he calls it. Jones says the temples were partly built as a form of instruction: “Since sexual pleasure leads you to a higher spiritual plane, religious leaders had to teach their followers how to perform this sacred duty.”
5. Masturbation (Egypt)
(Image: Flickr/Son of Groucho)
In ancient Egypt masturbation by a god was considered an act of creation and, "Atum [the god of creation] was believed to have created the universe by masturbating to ejaculation."
According to Sex and Society, "even the ebb and flow of the Nile was thought to be caused by Atum’s ejaculation. This concept spurred the Egyptian pharaohs to ritually masturbate into the Nile to ensure an abundance of water."
In the Discovery Channel documentary The Surprising History of Sex and Love, host Terry Jones says that the ancient Egyptians were so inspired by the act of self-stimulation that "at the festival of the god Min, who represented Pharaoh’s sexual potency, men masturbated in public."
Whether represented in historical relics or standing on the local street corner, sex exists in every culture, but what’s considered normal and legal make it a vastly different story between global sheets.