When I was training to become a social psychologist, I learned that many emotions and facial expressions seem to be universal across cultures. Recently, however, researchers have begun to debate this idea, suggesting that facial expressions of emotion are not necessarily the same from one culture to the next. A new study adds an interesting development to this debate by showing cross-cultural variation in the facial expressions people associate with having an orgasm. Yep, you read that right.Read More
This week in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on cross-cultural differences in sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, we're reviewing some statistics that highlight how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands relative to the U.S. Check out the infographic below for a quick overview, which shows that teen girls in the Netherlands have much lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.Read More
Greetings from Amsterdam! For the second year in a row, I’m teaching a study abroad course on Sexuality and Culture in the Netherlands. Today is the first full day of my two-week course, and I couldn't be more excited. Amsterdam is, of course, an awesome city—but it’s also a fascinating place to teach students about cross-cultural differences in sexuality for a couple of weeks.Read More
Many sexuality researchers and educators have claimed that kissing is a universal or near universal sexual and romantic behavior. For example, several sexuality textbooks explicitly say that kissing isn't just popular in the U.S. and other Western countries, but “it is also very common in most other societies” . These claims make sense in light of research suggesting that kissing has evolutionary significance. For instance, some researchers have suggested that kissing could be adaptive to the extent that it promotes an exchange of healthy bacteria. At the same time, others have claimed that kissing might play an important role when it comes to mate choice.
However, if we truly want to make claims about the universality of kissing, we really need a large cross-cultural study to explore whether kissing actually occurs in different cultures and societies. A recent study published in the American Anthropologist does precisely this, and the results suggest that kissing may not be the universal behavior it has been previously assumed to be .Read More
While erections are sometimes referred to as “boners,” the truth of the matter is that there aren't actually any bones in the human penis. Some animals do have penile bones, though. For instance, male walruses can have penis bones up to two feet in length! In fact, they are so big that they were supposedly once used as war clubs by Native Alaskans--but I digress. Returning to the human penis, you may be surprised to learn that, despite the absence of bones, it's still very much possible to “fracture” an erection. Here's what we know about "broken" penises.Read More
This past summer, I taught a study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands. We covered a lot of ground in this class, including an in-depth look at what a legalized prostitution system looks like and the implications of it for the mental and physical health of Dutch sex workers. In addition, we spent a lot of time talking about differences in sex education in the Netherlands compared to the United States. It turns out that these countries have radically different approaches to sex ed, and there’s a lot we can learn from the Dutch.Read More
What is “normal” or “typical” when it comes to sex isn’t the same from one culture to the next. In fact, there’s incredible variation in sexual attitudes and practices throughout the world, and there’s a lot we can learn by adopting a cross-cultural lens.
Today, let’s take a look at sex in South Korea, a culture where sex is heavily stigmatized. Sex education is poor, open discussion about sexual matters is discouraged, and sex outside of marriage is highly frowned upon (despite the fact that the average age of first marriage is now 31 and most people live with their parents until they get married). So what does this mean for the sex lives of young adults?Read More
The next unit in my Amsterdam study abroad course focuses on sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, I shared some statistics with my students highlighting just how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands compared to the United States. So that you can get some sense of this, too, I’ve put together the infographic below, which reveals that teen girls in the Netherlands have far lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.Read More
Hello from Amsterdam! Today is the first day of a class I’m teaching on Sexuality and Culture in the Netherlands. I’m confident I could not have picked a better place to teach my very first study abroad course. Amsterdam is, well, just an awesome city—but it’s also a fascinating place to go learn about cross-cultural differences in sexuality for a couple of weeks. Here's why.Read More
The United States has made great strides toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans over the past 15 years. For example, same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide, more states have adopted anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT persons, and the federal hate crimes statute has been expanded to cover sexual and gender minorities. But what are things like for LGBT persons in other parts of the world?Read More
People and governments across the globe have been working to legalize same-sex marriage for the last 15 years. At first, the rate of legalization was best described as a slow trickle; however, the movement has picked up steam recently. The infographic below offers a look at where things currently stand and highlights some of the important milestones along the way.Read More
Kissing is frequently claimed to be a universal or nearly universal romantic behavior. For instance, many sexuality textbooks argue something to the effect that while kissing is common in the U.S. and other Western countries, “it is also very common in most other societies” . On the surface, such claims might seem reasonable in light of research suggesting that kissing may have evolutionary significance. For instance, some scientists have argued that kissing may be adaptive because it allows for an exchange of healthy bacteria, whereas others have claimed that kissing might play an important role in mate choice. In order to make claims regarding the universality of kissing, though, what we really need is a large cross-cultural study looking at whether kissing actually occurs among different groups of people. Fortunately, such a study has just been published in the American Anthropologist, and the results suggest that kissing isn’t quite the universal behavior that has been previously assumed .Read More
Compared to the United States, European nations tend to have more relaxed attitudes toward public nudity. Certainly, there’s a lot of variability across individual countries in terms of the type and amount of nudity that is acceptable, but it is pretty clear that Europeans generally don’t have as many hangups about seeing the human body a naturel. For example, just consider that sunbathing in the nude is permitted in many public parks and beaches across Europe (something that is very rare to find in the U.S.). I don't think anyone is particularly surprised to hear this; however, if you're anything like me, you were probably shocked to see all of the recent news reports claiming that Sweden has taken things to a whole other level by declaring that public masturbation is also acceptable. But is this really true?Read More