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The O-Face: Cultural comparisons of sex

Michael Karp. Photo credit: Kasey Judge

Sexuality is different in every culture. Its role in people’s lives has varied throughout human history and continues to change as time goes on.


Different cultures do it differently.


Japan has love hotels. The Netherlands begins sex education in kindergarten. A society near Ireland has sex with their clothes on because they are repulsed by nudity.


I have researched sex in a couple cultures that I believe can broaden one’s sexual worldview.




Mallanaga Vatsyayana wrote the Kama Sutra, the famous sex handbook.

Based on all the hype, I looked into this book and was not impressed. I couldn’t find a worthwhile version to read.


But an article in Psychology Today describes a relatively recent translation of this ancient Hindu text and its relation to modern society.


This manual goes much deeper than the numerous sex positions that made it famous.


It’s broken up into seven parts, each describing a new leg in a man’s sexual journey. Throughout this journey, the Kama Sutra teaches the reader about mastering sexual techniques, seducing virgins and getting married.


The journey continues as the man begins a quest of infidelity advocated by Vatsyayana. The man continues to strive for sex, when finally in old age, his body doesn’t function like it used to, and the author recommends herbal remedies.


Certain notions, such as women are sexual beings with a right to pleasure and orgasms, only began in our culture during the ’60s and ’70s, but are written explicitly in the text.


This book, written around 300 A.D., also contains common instructions involving the art of cunnilingus and fellatio.


While it may be terribly sexist and parts of it quite repulsive, I believe there are many things you can learn about sexuality and how it has evolved in our modern era.




Whereas the pursuit of sex, love and intimacy in the United States seems to be steady, an article in The Guardian provides an eye-opening look into current Japanese culture.


The article begins with staggering statistics of how people younger than 40 don’t date, have sex or get married.


This decline has been attributed to an overall cultural change, steering young people away from the desire for romantic relationships and sexual intimacy.


A persistent double standard in the workplace has made it very difficult for women to acquire independence and wealth of their own.


Entrepreneurial Japanese women see dating and relationships as a hassle and keep them casual if they date at all. According to the article, sex has become a wall between them and success because sexist views are still very apparent in the country.

I believe this is an issue of workplace environment, rules about maternity leave and a persistent male-dominated culture.

When a woman gets married, it’s assumed that she will get pregnant and need to leave work. These married women get shunned, deterring other women from wanting the same fate.

I think that since the government is not taking action and companies are reluctant to change, women are taking it upon themselves to succeed in any way they can, even if that means giving up a part of life as important as romantic relationships and sexuality.


Marriages and birthrates are declining, and the country’s government has expressed major concerns for the future of Japan’s population if these trends continue.

While I think these concerns may be exaggerated, a country’s future is decided by its younger generation.


Having researched cultures and found such extravagant differences between theirs and our own, I have realized that the meaning of sex expands much further, and that there is still much more that I’d like to learn.


Michael Karp can be reached at [email protected] or @_MichaelKarp on Twitter.

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