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Last-Minute Developments

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*A Note for Researchers:   The numbers included in the section titles in the Contents above refer to the page numbers in the print edition of the CCIES. For the convenience of researchers, an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file of this chapter is available for download above (click the PDF icon), which reflect the actual pagination of the book. This will allow scholarly writers to cite actual page numbers in the printed book for quoted material, as well as its availability on the Web and the URL if desired. See also How to Use This Encyclopedia.

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6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors

Gay Unions


[Update 2003: July 26, 2003: Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, is the first city in Latin America to recognize civil unions for same-sex individuals. The new law applies only to city employees, and provides only a few basic rights. Despite these limits, observers see the action as a major legal breakthrough to the nationwide recognition of civil unions of same-sex couples. Medical and social rights of a city employee are extended to the employee’s partner. Employees can ask for a leave to take care of a sick partner. They can jointly apply for loans and have the right to continue receiving state pensions in case of a partner’s death. However, the rights to inherit at a partner’s death and to adopt children have not been recognized.

The law was passed by the state legislature in December 2002, and in May, the city issued its normative regulations. Soon afterward, special public registries were opening where couples could inscribe their union, independently of their sex. This means that heterosexual partners who decide not to marry can register to benefit from the same limited rights given to homosexual couples. Partners, who have reached the age of majority, can register by presenting at least two witnesses to certify that the two have been living together in the city of Buenos Aires for at least one year, and that they are single or divorced. Civil unions terminate by either death or marriage of a partner. A partner can also annul the union by making a presentation to the Public Registry and certifying that he has given notice of his decision to the other party.

As expected, the Catholic and Evangelical Churches were enraged by the recognition of same-sex civil unions, noting that the New Testament says that homosexuality is “one of the most horrendous perversions.” Despite the religious opposition, in mid-2003, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile appeared ready to join Argentina in ratification of similar laws recognizing same-sex civil unions.

[Return to main entry: Argentina: Section 6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors]

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10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS

Lesbian Sexual Health Risks


[Update 2003: Research findings from Sydney, Australia, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections indicate that lesbians are just as likely to get sexually transmitted diseases as their heterosexual counterparts, in contrast to previous assumptions that they are at low risk for these diseases. In addition, they are far more likely to be drug users and to have had sex with homosexual men, making them almost eight times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C. Based on a study of 2,800 women at the Sydney Sexual Health Centre, doctors found that bacterial vaginosis was more prevalent in “women who had sex with other women,” while herpes and genital warts were common in both groups, with gonorrhea and chlamydia rates low and similar. BBC News (2000) quoted the researchers as saying, “a woman’s sexual identity is not an accurate predictor of behaviour, with a high proportion of ‘lesbian’ women reporting sex with (often high risk) men.” In fact, they reported that women who had sex with women were more than three times more likely to report having had sex with a homosexual or bisexual man, with almost one in ten of these women having had more than 50 male sex partners.

While it remains true that women who have sex with only women are at low risk for STDs, this research suggests that medical personnel should adopt the same approach often used in taking sex histories from men who have sex with men, i.e., eschewing labels and asking self-identified lesbian women whether they also have sex with men, in order to get a more-accurate assessment of risk.

BBC News (2003) also reported on a recent study from the United States that lesbians have a higher risk of heart disease and are generally more overweight than other women, further suggesting that health education messages targeted specifically to lesbian women need to be developed. The report noted that lesbians are more likely to be unconcerned about their weight, perhaps, quoting researchers, because “weight control is often perceived as a conventionally feminine behaviour,” which might necessitate “a strategy that de-emphasises traditional feminine values.”


BBC News. 2000 (October 23). Health: Lesbians have ‘same risk of sex diseases.’ Available: http://news.

BBC News. 2003 (September 13). Health: Lesbians ‘have higher heart disease risk.’ Available: http://news.

[Return to main entry: Australia: Section 10A. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS]

[Return to main entry: Australia: Section 6B. Sexual Outlets and Relationship Patterns, Lesbian Women]

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6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors

Gay Marriage Legislation


[Update 2003: In June 2003, the Ontario Province Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a same-sex couples’ right to marry. The judgment was not conditional and the judge gave approval to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Ontario with the release of the decision. At the national level, the federal government said that it would not appeal the ruling—the federal government mandates marriage laws while the provinces enact them. This means that legislation will now be brought forward to recognize same-sex marriage. The intent appears to be to do so in a way that will not compromise the rights of religious groups who choose not to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds. Nine provinces said at the time that they would support legislation that recognized same-sex unions. Alberta said that it would use the “notwithstanding” clause of the Constitution to block the legislation.

Earlier, in May of 2003, the British Columbia Court of Appeals had amended common law in a way that recognized same-sex unions, i.e., marriage was defined as the union of “two persons to the exclusion of all others.” Implementation of the decision had been suspended until July 2004, but the subsequent ruling in Ontario led the B.C. Court of Appeals to lift that suspension in July 2003 on the basis that the provinces would otherwise be unequal in their handling of the issue.

In the wake of these provincial court decisions, the federal government is now faced with determining how the Canadian Constitution can be interpreted in terms of the rights of religious institutions to refuse to marry same-sex couples and in terms of federal and provincial responsibilities with respect to marriage (Krauss 2003abc).


Krauss, C. 2003a (June 18). Canadian leaders decide to propose a same-sex marriage law. The New York Times, A1, A8.

Krauss, C. 2003b (June 19). Gay marriage plan: Sign of sweeping social change in Canada. The New York Times, A8.

Krauss, C. 2003c (July 5). In blessing gay unions, bishop courts a schism. The New York Times, A4.

[Return to main entry: Canada: Section 6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors]

8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors

Sexual Abuse and the Churches


[Update 2003: March 2003: Sexual abuse in Canada has also received attention in the past decade when accusations of abuse, alleged and proven, have increasingly been leveled at religious institutions and at members of those institutions. Catholic, Anglican, and United Churches, to name a few, have been associated with sexual abuse scandals, the financial and legal ramifications of which have threatened their livelihood and brought them into legal arguments with the Canadian Government.

A great many of these lawsuits pertain to abuse that happened at church-run schools. In many cases, although not all, these were schools for Native Canadian children. According to Sebok (2002), the Canadian Government took over the education of Native Canadian children in 1883 and relied heavily on Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches. The Canadian experience with boarding schools for native children came to an end in mid-1980 and is now considered a political and cultural tragedy. It was not until the late 1990s that the victims began to sue individually for sexual abuse suffered while attending these schools.

The number of cases is too numerous to report; however, some of the more important legal issues will be highlighted. One legal focus has been the relative responsibility of the Government versus the churches. For example, in FSM v. Clarke, 11 W.W.R. 301 (B.S.S.C. 1999), a pupil at a residential school between 1969 and 1976 alleged that a dormitory supervisor sexually assaulted him and other pupils. He sued the Anglican Church and the Government of Canada. In this case, the court found the Anglican Church 60% responsible, and the Canadian government 40% responsible (Sebok 2002). Subsequent to this, other cases followed pertaining to incidences of sexual abuse happening as much as 50 years prior. In M. M. v. Roman Catholic Church of Canada, 180 D.L.R. (4") 737 (Man. Q.B. 1999), for example, a 70-year-old woman who had attended a school between 1930 and 1942 alleged not only sexual abuse, but also that the Church “strove to deprive the plaintiff of her culture and way of life.”

While the survivors of the abuse deal with the psychological trauma, the churches deal with the negative publicity, as well as the potentially crippling financial burden associated with litigation. As of 2002, there were approximately 9,000 outstanding residential school lawsuits. The Anglican Church estimates that the combined liability for the government and the churches might reach $1 billion (Canadian). One western Anglican diocese has ceased to operate under the weight of individual lawsuits.

[Return to main entry: Canada: Section 8A. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Coercive Sex]

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5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

“Assisted” Arranged Marriages


[Update 2003: Although traditional arranged marriages are still the norm in India, the practice is evolving in response to the spread of romantic love among the middle class in the larger cities of India. A second stimulus for change is occurring within the clannish, tight-knit Indian expatriate communities in Britain, as second- and third-generation children adapt the nature of the arrangement to life in the U.K. (Francoeur 1982, 66; Alvarez 2003).

In traditional Indian arranged marriages, selecting the best spouse for a son or daughter has been the exclusive responsibility of parents and grandparents, and particularly the “Aunt Bijis,” as Muslims call their matchmakers. Parents and Aunt Bijis rely on recommendations from other family members and friends, and on “matrimonials” placed in the appropriate Indian newspaper, in India, the U.K., the U.S.A., or any other place with a large immigrant Indian population.

Typical matrimonials, like the two below, describe the age, physical appearance, education, and caste of the son or daughter:

Parents invite correspondence from a tall, handsome, professional, or educated businessman for their 27-year-old, 5’ 5”, very handsome, fair complexion, homely [domestic-skilled] daughter with green card and M.B.B.S from a prestigious institution in India.

Physician father Brahmin invites correspondence from presentable, charming, and homely Gujarati girls for his U.S. citizen son, 29, 5’ 8”, 145, vegetarian, M.S. (computer eng). Send biodata with recent photographs (returnable). (Francoeur 1991, 37)

Twenty years ago, in Bombay, India’s most cosmopolitan city, the revolutionary idea of romantic love that swept the U.S. a hundred years earlier was adopted by some middle-class youths from what they saw at the cinema. But in Bombay, as well as elsewhere in India, it is not easy for young people to meet without the supervision of some family member. A young woman talking with a man in the museum coffee shop or dancing in one of the discotheques runs the risk of ruining her reputation and chances for a decent marriage. An Indian woman at an American college will be very careful not to compromise her prospects back home by letting her parents know she has dated a foreigner. In 1990, only 5% of college students in India met without the introduction being arranged by their parents.

Modifications in the traditional arranged marriage began to appear as early as the 1960s, when a couple brought together by their parents would have an initial meeting before their extended families and then met alone several times, either with family members in another room or at a restaurant, before delivering a verdict. In the 21st century, couples meet in public venues without the family encounter first.

But the problem has been how to make that first connection. In Bombay and other large cities in the 1980s, the owners of large halls solved this problem by sponsoring a Saturday evening for young people. Young women are admitted free while the young men pay a small admission fee for the privilege of going on stage to describe themselves and the kind of woman they are looking for in more detail than a “matrimonial” permits. After presenting himself, the young man wanders through the hall, hoping some young woman will slip him her name and address or phone number, so they can explore their mutual interests. If they connect, then the parents can be brought into the picture to take over the formal arrangements (Francoeur 1982, 66).

In the 21st century, young Indian natives and expatriates are pushing the cultural boundaries.

There is a boom in Asian marriage websites, chat rooms, Internet personal advertisements and even South Asian versions of speed dating, the latest phenomenon to hit the Indian community in London, with men and women meeting each other for just three minutes at restaurants and bars before moving on to the next potential mate.

One young professional Indian woman in London turned to Asian speed dating—with her mother’s blessing—after 10 unsuccessful introductions. She described these formal introductions as awkward, drawn-out affairs in which the young man, his mother, and several other relatives came over to meet her family. She wore her best Indian outfit, a sari or elegant Indian pants and top, and sat quietly, despite her normal chattiness. When called upon, she poured tea, and then talked briefly to her potential mate in a side room.

In an “assisted arranged marriage,” the abiding principles behind an arranged marriage still remain strong on the assumption that lust and romantic love do not make a lasting marriage, and when it comes to weigh similar backgrounds and compatibility, family knows best. But parents and elders, eager to avoid alienating their children, making them miserable, or seeing them go unmarried, have shown considerable flexibility. The arrangement is becoming more fluid, a bit more open, a nice compromise (Alvarez 2003).


Alvarez, L. 2003 (June 22). Arranged marriages get a little rearranging. The New York Times, International Section, A3.

Francoeur, R. T. 1982. Becoming a sexual person (1st ed.). New York: John Wiley & Son.

Francoeur, R. T. 1991. Becoming a sexual person (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing.

[Return to main entry: India: Section 5C. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, Adults]

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7. Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues

New Roles for Transvestites


[Update 2003: Public records of transvestites taking prominent roles in Indonesian culture date from a 14th-century ruler, Hayam Wuruk, who is described in court annals as dressing as a woman in front of his ministers and using a woman’s name. Later, after the arrival of Islam, men often played the role of women in the village dance dramas of East Java, and they still do. The first president of independent Indonesia, Sukarno, writes proudly in his memoirs of playing female roles when he was a young man, putting powder on his face and rouge on his lips, and stuffing “two sweet breads” in his blouse. “With this addition to my shapely figure, everybody said I looked absolutely beautiful,” he reported. “After the show I pulled the breads out of my blouse and ate them.”

Under the autocratic rule of Sukarno’s successor, General Suharto, transvestites have won some rights. Known as waria—a combination of wanita (woman) and pria (man), transvestites are still sometimes rounded up and detained by the police if they are suspected of working as prostitutes. However, this varies, because in some cities they court business openly in what amounts to a late-night transvestite parade down the main thoroughfares looking for clients. In major cities, particularly on the Java, local governments provide training programs for transvestites who want to run beauty salons, become hairstylists, or run a wedding business providing brides with gowns, décor, and makeup, all in one package.

In the larger cities, the government hires older waria to help young waria learn a trade so they can become independent and not need to earn a living in prostitution. On Indonesian television, transvestites are regular hosts on comedy shows and appear as characters in a popular puppet show. In 1977, when sex-change operations were still relatively unusual in the West, government television showed a movie called I Am Vivian. Based on a true story, it showed how an Indonesian boy who felt more like a girl was finally accepted by his family as a transvestite. In one of the more striking scenes, a doctor advises Vivian to have a sex-change operation. The movie ends with her in a white wedding gown, complete with veil, being carried by the groom to the bridal suite. In modern Indonesia, sex-change operations are out of vogue. Some transvestites dress as a modest Muslim woman with a jilbab, the traditional head covering, but change to male garb when they go to the mosque to pray.

But Merlyn Sopjan, a 30-year old waria interviewed by Jane Perlez (2003) for a New York Times International report, is typical of the “new” Indonesian waria:

For two years, Merlyn Sopjan lived with her boyfriend. Using his name, she became Mrs. Nanang. She was known in the neighborhood as his wife, and tucked his photo into her wallet. She was admired for her feminine looks: with liquid eyes and pancake makeup, she has the allure of a model. . . . The women on the block knew, she said, that under her demure clothes and despite her “wiggling” walk, she was physically a man. “I lived in his house and I was part of the community,” she said, showing off a snapshot of herself with Mr. Nanang as they posed as a couple in casual clothes, her arm on his shoulder.
            Now Merlyn and others like her are trying to create roles for themselves beyond their long tolerated positions as television stars, entertainers and beauticians, moving even into the political arena. Last month Merlyn tried to register as a candidate for mayor in Malang, the town in East Java near here where she is now finishing her civil engineering thesis at the university. Her application was denied by city officials on the ground that she missed the filing deadline by five minutes. It was not an explicit rejection on the basis of gender, though Merlyn suspects that had something to do with it. The rejection received sympathetic press coverage, with reporters asking why a “waria” should not have the same rights as anyone else. “I want waria to have a role in government,” Merlyn said. “That’s my mission.”

(See the comments on hijra and their recent attempts to run for government office in India in Section 7, Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues, in the chapter on India.)


Perlez, J. 2003 (July 24). For these transvestites, still more role changes. The New York Times, A4.

[Return to main entry: Indonesia: Section 7. Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues]

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5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

New Dating Behavior


[Update 2003: In the decades between the end of World War II and 1990, Japan moved from defeat to become a major industrialized nation. Social historians have only begun to identify, examine, and analyze the various political, economic, and cultural interactions that opened the Japanese people to outside influences in those years. During the years of prosperity, new generations of Japanese boys and girls grew up in a world of high expectations they would make it through the competition of higher education, find a reliable, lifelong job, marry a suitable partner in a marriage arranged by their parents, and begin their own family. In this world, the traditional rituals of courtship were still functional and supportive of the transition from child to young adult.

Prosperity allowed many of Japan’s youth to vacation abroad during school breaks where they encountered Canadian, American, Australian, and other Western youth with very different courtship patterns. Although this undoubtedly meant some changes in gender roles, courtship, dating, and family, before the “economic bubble” collapsed in the 1990s, most university and high school graduates got jobs in a highly structured world that set their path through courtship and dating to marriage. In the 1990s, jobs for youth dried up and what remained were temporary jobs on the fringes of a depressed economy. In the process, with more free time and decreasing parental supervision, the younger generation began forming their own social groups, which, like their jobs, became part-time, low-stress, and temporary. Traditional expectations of financial security, independence, and marriage remain, but they are on hold. In the process, dating behavior has changed significantly.

Or so two surveys suggest (Webb 2002).

The first study, conducted by social scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, and Hiroshima University Medical School, surveyed 602 teens, ages 15 to 19, in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. A similar survey involved 16-year-olds in two rural prefectures. These surveys suggest that the traditional family-chaperoned courtship has given way to youth-controlled, part-time, low-stress, no-commitment, temporary relationships. “To many young Japanese people, everything about sex is casual,” Masako Ono-Kihara, a public-health expert at Hiroshima University School of Medicine, observed. “Girls now share their boyfriends like they’d share chips. Everyone’s hand is in the bag.”

In a pattern reminiscent of American sexual relations after the advent of the contraceptive pill and before AIDS, 43% of the boys and girls in the Tokyo survey said they keep five or more sekusutomo or “sex friends” at a time. In the rural survey, 20% of boys and 18% of girls said they have at least five “sex friends” in a “circle of friends” who keep in touch by mobile phone. It is not unusual, according to the survey findings, to be a member of several social circles of friends, and to engage in sex with two or more in each circle. (See the update on “buddy sex” in Section 5B, Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, Adolescent Sexuality, in the United States chapter).

Although the young Japanese assume their sekusutomo relations are very low risk because Japan has a very low rate of HIV infection and they are not having sex with prostitutes or foreigners, new studies show a significant rise in the incidence of STD infections among young Japanese. According to the Ministry of Health, STDs rose by 21% among Japanese men under 24, and by 14% for women in same age group between 1998 and 2000 (the latest figures available). Condoms are seldom used by “sex friends”—condom sales have dropped 25% in the past decade. The abortion rate nearly doubled between 1999 and 2002 to 13 per 1,000. But that hardly compares with the American rate of 51 per 1,000.

To cope with these new health issues, the Ministry of Education has outlined a broad sex-education curriculum for high schools. However, since the program is optional and many school administrators are afraid of offending parents when answering questions about why this new program is needed, efforts to deal with the new dating patterns so far have not been effective.


Webb, A. I. 2002 (September 16). Dangerous liaisons: Japan’s casual ‘friends’ risk more than broken hearts. Newsweek MSNBC Web archives. Newsweek International 2002 (September 9).

[Return to main entry: Japan: Section 5B. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, Adolescents]

[Return to main entry: Japan: Section 9C. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning, Abortion]

[Return to main entry: Japan: Section 10A. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS]

1. Basic Sexological Premises

Gender Inequality in the Workplace


[Update 2003: Japan has been struggling since 1990 to pull itself out of a very painful and persistent economic slump that has had a negative impact on society in many ways, including courtship and premarital sex (see entry on New Dating Behavior, above). Many experts have concluded that expanding the role and status of women in the professional workforce could provide a far bigger stimulus to recovery than any scheme tried so far, including huge public-works projects to bailouts of failing companies.

In 2003, the World Economic Forum ranked Japan 69th among the 75 member nations in empowering its women. While 40% of Japanese women work outside the home, they hold only about 9% of managerial positions, compared with about 45% in the United States (see Table 1). At the same time, women’s wages are about 65% of those of their male counterparts, one of the largest gaps in the industrial world. According to many labor economists, Japan is effectively fighting with one hand tied behind its back when it shunts women off the corporate ladder. “Japan has gone as far as it can go with a social model that consists of men filling all of the economic, management and political roles,” Eiko Shinotsuka, the first woman to serve on the board of the Bank of Japan, told The New York Times, “We’ve never had such a long economic crisis as this one, though, and people are beginning to recognize that the place of women in our society is an important factor.”

Table 1                  

A Comparison of Japanese, European, and American Professional Women

All Workers   

Managerial Workers
Civil Service Workers National Parliament
& Congress
General       Managerial
Japan 41.0% 8.9% 20.2% 1.4% 7.3%
U.S.A. 46.6% 46.0% 49.3% 23.1% 14.3%
Sweden 48.0% 30.5% 43.0% 51.0% 45.3%
Britain 44.9% 30.0% 49.1% 17.2% 17.9%
Germany   44.0% 26.9% 39.0% 9.5% 32.2%
Source: Cabinet Office of Japan; International Labor Organization; Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Japanese corporations follow a strict protocol that hires men almost exclusively for career positions open to advancement, while short-term work, clerical jobs, and serving tea are reserved for the “Office Ladies,” O.L.s. In July of 2003, the Ministry of Economy pointed out that the profit margin in companies where women make up 40% to 50% of the staff were double the profit margin of companies where women account for 10% or less.

There is growing concern in some circles about the persistent failure of employers to provide flex time for working mothers, daycare centers, and pregnancy leaves, and provide women employees with the opportunity to advance their professional careers. Japan has practically no facilities for nursery schools and daycare. The Ministry of Education, for example, provides one public nursery school with a capacity of 20 children for the 38,000 government employees who work in Kasumigaseki, central Tokyo’s administrative district. One good point is that this nursery school stays open until 10 p.m. Along with the persistent economic slump, experts are worried by the projections of a population decline that could produce huge labor shortages in the next half-century and possibly even economic collapse.

Still, the government resists putting any pressure of corporations to expand women’s place in the economy. A government advisory panel has recommended that the public and private sectors aim to have at least 30% of managerial positions filled by women by 2020. There is even talk of the government adopting an affirmative action policy. At the same time, supporters of women’s rights have been told by a former Prime Minister that the main reason for Japan’s falling birthrate is the over-education of its women. Meanwhile, a top aide for the Prime Minister was recently quoted as saying that often women who are raped deserve it, while a legislator from the governing party said, approvingly, that the men who carried out such acts are virile and “good specimens.”

Summing up the problem, one successful woman manager told The New York Times, “Men are really intimidated by professional women in Japan. But this is still a society where even when it looks like a woman has some authority, the men usually manage to stay on top.”


French, H. W. 2003 (July 25). Japan’s neglected resource: Female workers. The New York Times, A3.

[Return to main entry: Japan: Section 1B. Basic Sexological Premises, Sociolegal Status of Males and Females]

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1. Basic Sexological Premises

Character of Gender Roles


[Update 2003: In the gender-segregated culture of Morocco and the Magribi (North African), reproduction is still a very important aspect of sex, more important than eroticism. In the Magribi value system, women’s main social capital is their bodies. A woman’s virginity is all-important—a deflowered woman is a used, secondhand object. This apartheid, the social segregation of males and females by the veil, by exclusion from public life, and seclusion in the harim, according to De Martino (1992, 25, 28), makes woman

a mysterious, almost unattainable, often idealized object. Simultaneously she is desired and feared precisely because she is unknown. Even where the separation is less rigorous (at work, on the beach) rarely is heterosexual “love made.” If at all, petting, masturbation, and sodomy are practiced. The vagina is excluded as a holy, forbidden part of the female body. Woman is the prime target of the desire (and fantasies) of the Moroccan. The diverting to the ass, just to release tensions, is something different from “homosexuality” as understood in the West. . . . The cardinal point of Islamic sexuality is not the general practice of sodomy, but the despising of women (De Martino 1992, 28).

On the other side, today everywhere in Morocco, personal prestige and power are revered. Men seem to be entrapped by an excessive adoration of virility, identification with the father, hero worship, a cult of force and domination, contempt of everything weak, and distain and fear of women (De Martino 1992, 25).

[Return to main entry: Morocco: Section 1. Basic Sexological Premises, Character of Gender Roles]

3. Knowledge and Education about Sexuality

Sexuality Education


[Update 2003: In the home, any mention of sexuality or intimate matters is taboo, haram, holy, forbidden, protected. It would embarrass both parties. Because parents would not discuss sexual matters with a son or daughter, they are left to get their sex education from their peers. Sexuality then is seen as something not belonging to the family, something “outside,” and therefore suspect, shameful, and bad (Eppink 1992, 33).

[Return to main entry: Morocco: Section 3. Knowledge and Education about Sexuality, Informal Sources of Sexual Knowledge]

4. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns



[Update 2003: According to Eppink,

Masturbation as a possibility for sexual fulfillment is strongly repudiated and least valued, because it lacks an object [to be penetrated]. This has to do with the value attached to intromission and ejaculation.
           In the Western middle-class frame of reference, sexuality is highly related to eroticism and love. This is by no means the case in all cultures and in all times. Vanggaard describes types of aggressive sexuality in cultures of pre-Christian Europe: The sexual act of the active man is intended to make the object passive, to submit him [sic]. This seems to be true for North Africa as well. Masturbating—not submitting some other person—is not manly; therefore “kaffat/ masturbator” is a term of abuse.
           Nevertheless (fitting the pattern of group security) boys often masturbate together, outside or in a room, or at the movies where it is quite common. This is done touching each other, but it is not normal to look at each other’s penis and to talk about it.
           Masturbation is one of the most delicate topics to talk about. Often it is claimed that it is not necessary, “because there are so many other possibilities.” (Eppink 1992, 35)

[Return to main entry: Morocco: Section 4. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns]

5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

Adolescent Sexual Behavior


[Update 2003: Boys under age 9 develop a protective all-male peer group with whom they hang out. They walk hand-in-hand, share jokes, complement each other on their manly looks, and exchange “friendship letters,” which some view as a kind of homoerotic same-sex love letters. Between ages 9 and 17, a boy becomes a zamel, the recipient of anal sex with cousins, teachers, and neighbors, either out of necessity because he is forced into it, by intimidation, by seduction, or by the offer of presents or money. At age 15 or 16, a zamel loses his admirers or he starts refusing their advances. He becomes a “man,” meaning that now he becomes the active partner in anal sex with younger boys and actively courts girls. Youths, who continue as recipients of anal intercourse, are ridiculed as hassas. Some hassases become “swishing faggots,” “drag queens” who create their own little subculture, appearing as women:

an image of an image, the imitation of the image the Magribi has of a woman, distant, separated, idealized, and despised all at the same time. Finally, in their mature years, there is the great mass of men who like to fuck—girls, hassases, married women, boys, tourists, and prostitutes alike. (De Martino 1992)

As they mature sexually, Moroccan boys can masturbate, accept passive anal contact with another male, or try to have active anal contact with another male, a female, or an animal, or have heterosexual vaginal intercourse. In these options, the highest value is attached to the last possibility and the lowest to the first possibility. But regardless of the sexual expression, the emphasis in sexual contacts is not on friendship or romantic love, but on penetration and ejaculation. Penetration is a manifestation of male power, so sex is essentially penetration and quick ejaculation. This does not mean that affection is never felt; but romantic love does not predominate in a sexual relationship, nor in marriage. Kissing and oral-genital contact are not customary. Foreplay and petting—like masturbation—are viewed as inferior, and such behavior is often labeled as “weak” or “strange” (De Martino 1992, 28; Eppink 1992, 36-37).


De Martino, G. 1992. An Italian in Morocco. In: A. Schmitt & J. Sofer, eds., Sexuality and eroticism among males in Moslem societies. New York: Harrington Park Press (Haworth Press).

Eppink, A. 1992. Moroccan boys and sex. In: A. Schmitt & J. Sofer, eds., Sexuality and eroticism among males in Moslem societies. New York: Harrington Park Press (Haworth Press).

[Return to main entry: Morocco: Section 5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, Adolescents]

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5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

New Courtship Rituals


[Update 2003: Until recently, young Nepalese in a small village 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Katmandu were guided as they entered the adult world by centuries-old social customs and traditions. But that world has been changing, according to anthropologist Laura M. Ahearn, who has spent 15 years in a village she calls Junigau. It is still three-hours walk from Junigau to Tansen, the district center, but electricity reached into Junigau in 1996 and that means television and CD players will soon arrive. The traditional ways of Junigau, like those of every other rural village today, are vulnerable to the influences of the world outside.

In recent years, every aspect of Junigau’s social fabric has been changed, even the deepest-rooted customs, from kinships and their role in every aspect of village life to the basic definitions of love, courtship, and marriage. Modern music and the popular Hindi romance films shown at the Tansen theater send a message about the importance of education, literacy, and modern lifestyles and values. Many young Junigau women attend college in Tansen. For young men, a career as a Gurkha soldier with the British or Indian armies is much more attractive than the hard labor of a subsistence farmer, the traditional economic base of Junigau. As a Gurkha soldier, a young man trades long tours of duty away from home for financial independence from his elders.

For centuries, Nepalese have viewed marriage as a joining of two families, with the selection of who married whom decided by the elders largely on the basis of complicated kinship and caste relationships. Marriages between certain types of cousins, for example, are highly desirable, while marriage to “the wrong type of cousin,” is definitely taboo and frowned upon. Becoming espoused to someone from a caste below the Magars, who make up bulk of Junigau’s residents, is out of the question.

In traditional Junigau arranged marriages, husband and wife sometimes speak for the first time on their wedding day. It is not uncommon, in Ahearn’s observations, for a bride to wail plaintively throughout the marriage ceremony, and for the stunned groom to perform his part of the rituals, including the symbolic ritual deflowering, with grim resignation.

After the marriage, the bride moves in with her husband’s family and her status as the newest daughter-in-law in the kinship hits rock bottom. The heaviest labor, the hardest chores are her lot, along with the custom of washing her husband’s feet every morning and then drinking the wash water. (Some women, influenced by the world outside the valley, no longer wash their husband’s feet.)

Between 1963 and 1983, 73% of all first marriages in Junigau were arranged, with elopements accounting for only 15%. Ten years later, in 1993, 35% of all first marriages were elopements and arranged marriages dropped to 54%. Since 1993, 9 out of 10 marriages have been elopements. According to Ahearn, elopements are showing a similar increase in other Nepalese villages.

Since dating is still taboo and meetings between young men and women are frowned on, the young people manage their selection and courtship with florid, exuberant, extremely romantic love letters. But before the couple makes any contact, both are likely to check one another out, with furtive inquiries among acquaintances, or tentative feeler letters.

Nepal being a very patriarchal culture, it is the young man who begins the correspondence. But first he must recruit a responsible messenger—often a younger sibling or young relative who is sworn to secrecy, to deliver his declarations of undying love to the woman he has chosen.

The love letters, in English or Hindi, often refer to well-known figures, designed to impress the recipient. “Love is the sort of thing that anyone can feel—even a great man of the world like Hitler loved Eva, they say.” Or, “And Napoleon, who with bravery conquered the ‘world,’ united it, and took it forward, was astounded when he saw one particular widow.” These letters employ a very Nepalese, non-Western notion of romance and love. As Ahearn explains, in the Nepalese culture, love is very serious from the start and inextricably entwined with economic development, progress, and appearing educated and modern. Love equals “life success.”

For a young woman, the path of romance is considerably more tricky than for her suitor. Answering a suitor’s letter all but commits her to marrying him, even though she may only slightly know him or doesn’t know him at all. If the courtship letters become public knowledge and she does not marry her correspondent, she will be disgraced, her courtship life over.

Both men and women put great effort into the crafting of these letters. “It’s a distinctive genre,” said Ahearn, “very different from spoken Nepali and from written Nepali.” How-to books are available in Tansen and Katmandu, but more often, the correspondents share tips on what to say and not say with friends.

If the correspondence goes well, a wedding plan is agreed upon. The couple elopes, and when they return, a Brahman priest performs a brief ceremony at the house of the groom’s family if his parents agree. If the marriage goes against caste or kinship taboos, the bride’s parents may refuse to accept the couple. More often, the bride’s parents come to accept the union, inviting her back to their house for a feast, and allowing her to “visit when she wishes.”

Few older villagers are happy with their children choosing a spouse out of love. Like Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof bemoaning his daughter’s choice of a young revolutionary she loves over the wealthy butcher in his 60s that Tevye chose for her, many Junigau parents yearn for the old days when they had more control of their children. The freedom to choose one’s own mate upsets the centuries-old stable hierarchies that once determined who repaired the roof and who comes to family celebrations. Change who controls the choice of mate, change how males and females relate, and everything in the society is affected.


Ahearn, L. M. 2001. Invitations to love: Literacy, love letters and social change in Nepal. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan.

Goode, E. 1999 (February 9). Arranged marriage gives way to courtship by mail. The New York Times, A3.

[Return to main entry: Nepal: Section 5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors]

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8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors

Update on Sexual Rights and Sharia Death Penalties


[Update 2003: Addendum to Section 8D, Female Genital Mutilation and Other Harmful Practices: On August 27, 2003, an Associated Press release described the tearful appearance of 32-year-old Amina Lawal in a northern Nigerian Islamic appeals court to plead for her life. Divorced in 1999, Ms. Lawal was convicted in March 2002 of having sex outside marriage, two years after her divorce. The Sharia judges ordered that Ms. Lawal be buried up to her neck in sand and stoned. However, execution was delayed during her appeals and to allow her daughter, to be weaned. One of Ms. Lawal’s lawyer contended that, under some interpretations of Sharia, babies can remain in gestation in their mother’s womb for up to five years, making it possible under Islam that her former husband could have fathered the child. The judges said they would announce their ruling on her appeal September 25, 2003.


Associated Press. 2003 (August 28). Nigerian woman facing death sentence seeks leniency. The New York Times, A13.

[Return to main entry: Nigeria: Section 8D. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Sexual Rights and Sharia Death Penalties]

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1. Basic Sexological Premises

Gender Equality Affirmative Action


[Update 2003: In mid 2003, despite strong vocal opposition from the nation’s business community and organizations, Norway’s Parliament is expected to pass legislation soon that will force an estimated 600 of the nation’s largest businesses to increase the number of women on their corporate boards from the current 8.4% to 40% by July 2005, with penalties applied in 2007. Most corporate boards average six members who are among the nation’s recently wealthy, and frequently hold a seat on a dozen or more corporate boards. Norway passed an Equal Status Act in 1979 requiring that 40% of the boards of local and state governments be women. In 1981, Norway had its first woman prime minister. By 1986, women held 44% of the Cabinet posts, a presence that has remained steady for 17 years.

Sweden is preparing to follow Norway’s example with the threat of legal action if the boards of publicly listed companies do not increase the number of women on their boards from the present 8% to 25% by 2004. By contrast, in 2001, women held 12.4% of all board seats in Fortune 1,000 companies.


Alvarez, L. 2003 (July 14). Norway is set to compel boardrooms to let more women in. The New York Times, A3.

[Return to main entry: Norway: Section 1. Basic Sexological Premises]

[Return to main entry: Norway: Section 2. Religious, Ethnic, and Gender Factors Affecting Sexuality]

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10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS

An HIV/AIDS Paradox


[Update 2003: Prevailing public-health wisdom says that very low condom use should result in a high incidence of HIV infections and AIDS. In a paradox no one has yet explained, the Philippines has both a very low rate of condom use and, simultaneously, a very low rate of HIV infection. On the other hand, worldwide, encouraging regular condom use is an important element in HIV/AIDS-prevention efforts.

The reality is that, in 2003, only about 10,000 Filipinos were believed to be HIV-positive in a total population of 84.5 million. No one suggests underreporting as an explanation for this paradox.

Factors that one would expect to produce high rates of HIV and AIDS:

  • More than half all Filipinos are of reproductive age and sexually active.
  • The culture places a strong emphasis on large families.
  • Only 23% of sexually active young men say they have ever used a condom.
  • Only 4% say they use condoms regularly.
  • Very porous borders allow uncontrolled immigration.
  • A very conservative and politically powerful Catholic Church makes recommending or even mentioning condoms highly ill-advised.
  • Only two out of five sex workers say they use condoms regularly. Most cannot afford condoms, or the antiviral drugs when they are infected.
  • Eight-and-a-half million Filipinos who work overseas are potential carriers of disease whenever they visit home.
  • The government has no AIDS-awareness program.
  • The government restricts the campaigns of independent family-planning groups and NGOs, limiting their promotion of condom use.

The factors might offset the above high-risk factors, but experts are skeptical that the risk-reducing factors below, alone or in combination, might explain the low rate of HIV and AIDS. Which leads many experts to suggest that the low rate of HIV/AIDS is just a lucky-chance combination of the factors below, and that a real epidemic explosion might occur any time.

  • A low ratio of customers to sex workers. The average Filipina commercial sex worker averages about four customers per week, significantly fewer clients than their counterparts in other countries, according to a 2003 government survey.
  • Other studies suggest that a relatively low proportion of men frequent sex workers.
  • The small number of intravenous drug users.
  • Low rates of ulcerated sexually transmitted diseases, syphilis and herpes in particular. Breaks in the skin surface facilitate HIV infection.
  • Most men here are circumcised—some speculate this could be a factor in preventing or reducing infection that would then reduce the risk of HIV.
  • Anal sex appears to be less common than in other countries.

In January of 2003, government figures showed that just 1,810 people had tested positive for HIV. The United Nations office on AIDS estimates that the actual number may be closer to 9,400, still an extraordinarily low rate of about 0.01%. In Vietnam, which has a population the same size as the Philippines, and where the HIV epidemic is still thought to be in its early stages, 130,000 people are already HIV-infected, compared with 9,400 Filipinos with HIV/AIDS. Costa Rica has about the same number of people with HIV and AIDS as does the Philippines, but Costa Rica has only 3.8 million people, not 84.5 million people (Mydans 2003).


Mydans, S. 2003 (April 2). Low rate of AIDS virus in Philippines is a puzzle. The New York Times, A12.

[Return to main entry: Philippines: Section 10B. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS]

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9. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning

New Abortion Laws


[Update 2003: On August 11, 2003, Russia increased its restrictions on abortion for the first time since 1936 when the Soviet Union lifted a ban on abortion imposed by Stalin. Abortion is still legal and with no limits in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; but the new restrictions appear to reflect the first stirrings of a wider debate over the morality of abortion, the effect repeated abortions are having on women’s health, and on the demographic future of Russia.

With contraceptives of any kind unaffordable and more frequently simply unavailable under the Communists, abortion was the common and widely accepted means of birth control, giving Russia one of the highest abortion rates in the world. With the collapse of the Soviet Union came increased availability of contraceptives and a substantial decline in abortions, from a high of 4.6 million in 1988 to 1.7 million in 2002. Apparently, conservative lawmakers are hoping to reduce the number of abortions further with government-imposed restrictions on what has effectively been free and virtually unlimited access to abortion. (See Igor Kohn’s comments on the alliance of Communist politicians and hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church and their crusade against sexual education and pornography, in Section 3A, Knowledge and Education about Sexuality, and Section 8C, Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Pornography and Erotica, in the chapter on Russia.)

Before the new restrictions, effective August 11, women could receive an abortion between the 12th and 22nd weeks of their pregnancies by citing one of 13 special circumstances, called “social indicators,” including divorce, poverty, unemployment, or poor housing. The government’s decision has reduced the number to four: rape, imprisonment, the death or severe disability of the husband, or a court ruling stripping a woman of her parental rights. Being a single mother or a refugee is no longer reason enough to abort a pregnancy after the 12th week.

Under the new law, pregnancies can still be aborted after 12 weeks on medical grounds, including severe disabilities of the fetus or a threat to the mother’s life. Although the public’s reaction to the new limitations was “strikingly subdued,” some lawmakers and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church welcomed the change and vowed to continue fighting for greater restrictions through new legislation. That threat is causing growing concern among some doctors and in the Russia Family Planning Association that a woman’s right to an abortion could soon be curtailed.

Aleksandr C. Chuyev, a member of the lower house of Parliament, who introduced legislation earlier in 2003 to ban all abortions after the 12th week and then took part in negotiations with the Ministry of Health to draft the new restrictions, announced that the new law was “a first step.” Churyev welcomed the restrictions, characterizing them as a compromise. He announced plans to sponsor a new bill later in 2003 that would give a human fetus the same rights as a child.

The nascent antiabortion debate is influenced by the resurgence of religion and the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church after 70 years of official atheism under Soviet rule. Russia’s demographic crisis is also a factor, as politicians look for ways to reverse the declining population trend. Russia has a total fertility rate of 1.3 children per fertile woman, and a negative 0.33% population growth rate. Although the abortion rate has declined significantly in the past 15 years, there are still nearly 13 abortions for every 10 live births in Russia. Few appear ready to call for an outright ban on abortions, even within the church, but the voices against abortion are growing.

Anatoly A. Korsunsky, the Health Ministry’s chief of maternity and childhood health, said in an interview that the new restrictions had been carefully weighed, taking into account the risks repeated abortions carry for a woman’s health. Abortions in the later stages of pregnancy and repeated abortions, which are common in Russia, pose the greatest risks to fertility and health generally. In 2002, 40,000 of Russia’s 1.7 million abortions were carried out under one of the 13 indicators allowing mid- and late-term abortions. Korsunsky claimed that limiting the circumstances under which these late abortions would be allowed was not intended to force women to continue with unwanted pregnancies, but rather to encourage them to avoid abortions in the first place through traditional family planning and birth control.

The list of 13 social indicators had been in place since they were adopted in 1987. Opponents of reducing the indicators from 13 to 4 opposed the new limits as unnecessary to reduce the number of abortions, given the steady decline that has already occurred.


Myers, S. L. 2003 (August 24). After decades, Russia narrows grounds for abortions. The New York Times, A-3.

[Return to main entry: Russia: Section 9C. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning, Abortion]

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8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors



[Update 2003: Prior to January 1, 1999, prostitution was tolerated in Sweden. Prevalent in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo, pimping was illegal, but seldom reported, and very seldom was anyone sentenced to prison for pimping. At the same time, the police seldom if ever took action against prostitutes or their customers.

Despite this reality, the Swedish government had long given priority to combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Increasingly, prostitution has been viewed as a form of male violence against women and children, a significant social problem, and a major obstacle to gender equality, so long as men could buy, sell, and exploit women and children by prostituting them.

Since January 1, 1999, when the Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services became effective, Sweden has defined prostitution as a gross violation of a woman’s integrity. Purchasing or attempting to purchase sexual services is officially a criminal offense punishable by fines or up to six months imprisonment. Women and children who are victims of prostitution and trafficking are considered the weaker party and the victims of exploitation by the procurers and buyers. Under a new law, they do not run any legal risk. “By adopting these measures Sweden has given notice to the world that it regards prostitution as a serious form of oppression of women, and that efforts must be made to combat it” (Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communication 2003). Under the Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services, adopted in 1998, a person who obtains casual sexual services in exchange for payment shall be sentenced—unless otherwise subject to more severe penal code punishment—to a fine and six months imprisonment, whether the services are purchased on the street, in brothels or massage parlors, from escort services, or any similar circumstance.

In the four years since enforcement of the new Act began, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of women in street prostitution, according to police and social services. The number of men who buy sexual services and recruit women into prostitution has also fallen. At the same time, public approval of this strict law has risen from 76% in 1999 to 81% in 2002. Opposition to the law dropped from 15% to 14%.

Sweden’s current Penal Code provides a maximum penalty of up to four years for anyone convicted of promoting or encouraging or improperly exploiting for commercial purposes casual sexual relations for payment.

According to the International Organization of Migration, at least half a million women are sold annually to local prostitution markets in Europe. According to the National Criminal Investigation Department, between 200 and 500 women arrive in Sweden every year as victims of trafficking. Most of them come from the Baltic, former Soviet Union, and Eastern European countries, after being recruited with bogus offers of work.

In the Campaign Against Prostitution and Trafficking of Women in Sweden, women brought into the country for casual sexual purposes are not subject to being returned to their homeland. They are provided with temporary residence permits and lodging while they testify in court proceedings against their accused procurers and exploiters. In some cases, they are granted permanent residence in Sweden under the terms of the Aliens Act on humanitarian grounds.

Sweden’s national campaign is

focused on different measures directed towards buyers and potential buyers of prostituted women and children, mostly girls in Sweden, as well as towards those men who travel to other countries for the specific purpose of buying and exploiting prostituted women and children. The campaign [has] also highlighted, with the long-term objective to ameliorate, the circumstances and conditions that those women and children who are, or who have been, victims of prostitution and trafficking live under (Ministry of Industry 2003).


Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communication. 2003 (April). Fact sheet: Prostitution and trafficking in women. Available:

[Return to main entry: Sweden: Section 8B. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Prostitution]

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6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors

Same-Sex Behavior


[Update 2003: One of the most sensitive and controversial issues in intercultural discussions arises when one discussant is part of the Western Judeo-Christian cultures and the other person is non-Western—African, Asian, and Islamic/Middle Eastern—and when the topic is the sexual activity between persons of the same sex. The question is not just one of terminology and labeling either the behavior or the person, because it does often involve quite different views of what same-sex behavior connotes when associated with self- or other-identification. Does a male having sex with another male mean that person is what Western people commonly term a “homosexual,” a person who self-identifies and is identified by others as having a “homosexual identity?” Does this equation make this male somehow essentially different from a person who identifies himself as being “a heterosexual.”

As we wrote in The Complete Dictionary of Sexology (Francoeur 1995):

Before the mid-19th century, the term “homosexual” did not exist. It was coined in 1869 by a Hungarian physician, Karoly Maria Benkert, writing under the pseudonym Kertbeny. Kertbeny’s intention was to create a value-neutral expression to replace value-laden words like “pederaster,” “sodomite,” “bugger,” “catamite,” and “ganymede.” Similar intentions underlay the use of “urning” by Ulrichs in 1862 and “inversion” popularized by Havelock Ellis in the early 20th century, although used earlier. These labels had the advantage of openly disavowing the pejorative meanings of terms like “sodomite” but none of these terms are successful in expressing the rainbow complexities of self-identity.

One problem is that homosexual can be an adjective or a noun. As an adjective in the sentence “Mutual penile masturbation by two men is a homosexual act,” the word homosexual indicates the basic concept of sexual activity between people of the same sex. But it leaves unclear what acts are and are not to be called homosexual. If a man kisses another man when greeting him in a gay bar, is that a “homosexual kiss”? The usage here varies immensely and many would say “Yes” or “No” depending on whether or not the men self-identified themselves as “gay.”

Use of the word “homosexual” as a noun referring to a person who engages in a certain act or experiences a certain emotional state of sexual attraction or limerence (qv) with a person of the same gender. Few concepts are as difficult to define, or to defend once defined, as the assertion that someone “is” a homosexual. If, at age 15, a woman engaged in erotic caresses with another woman, “is” she a homosexual? A question such as this poses three crucial problems in defining homosexuality and, by extension, heterosexuality as well. (1) Labelling someone “a homosexual” in his or her entirety because of a possibly small portion of their overall life and existence is using a part to define the whole. (2) It is an arbitrary term that is not subject to defensible definition: how many homosexual acts constitute a person “a homosexual.” (3) It also represents a dangerous philosophical essentialism to speak of a person as “being” a homosexual or heterosexual because in so doing we impute to that person’s essential nature a certain quality or characteristic when it is still questionable what human nature really is. (Francoeur 1995, 281)

All of which is an essential prelude to our discussion of some participant-observer comments about sexual behavior offered by three Western males who identify as homosexual or gay with personal experiences with same-sex behavior in Turkey. The comments that follow are from brief chapters by Janssen, Necef, and Sofer in Sexuality and Eroticism among Males in Moslem Societies, edited by Arno Schmitt and Jehoeda Sofer (1992). This discussion is particularly relevant in light of similar observations of same-sex behaviors in Section 6, Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors, in the chapter on Iran and Herb Samuels’ brief report on “Down Low African-Americans” in Section 6B, Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors, Adults, Health Issues, in the United States chapter. In the simplest terms, African-American men on the “Down Low” who sleep with men are “heterosexual.”

In the rural areas of Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and other cultures where patriarchal tribal societies prevail, there is little room for the development of personal individuality. Almost everything is predetermined in the rural society. In rural cultures, one thinks of one’s self and others think of that person in relation to other people and groups, not in terms of a person’s sexual behavior. He is the son of a father and a mother. In Turkey, he addresses his father and mother as baba and anne (or ana) all his life. It would be inconceivable for a Turk to call his (or her) parents by their given names. Turks are also expected to add the words abi or abla to the names of their older brothers and sisters to show respect. Parents seldom leave room for initiative. A parent asking a child which ice cream it wants is very exceptional. To put it bluntly: A Turkish boy grows up under the wings of his elder family members, marries the woman recommended by them, works industriously for his family, fights fanatically for his cause, and dies bravely for his country and flag (Janssen 1992; Necef 1992; Sofer).

But, in the bustling metropolitan urban life of Istanbul’s 8.5 million people, surrounded by the 7 million inhabitants of Cairo or Tehran, or even the 3 million people in Casablanca or Ankara, a “city man” can develop a concept of self-identity or self-identified ego similar to that found in gay communities in Europe and North America. In big cities, one can find a homosexual subculture with discotheques, bars, beaches, and so on. Compared with the West, or even with Greece, homosexual self-identity is still underdeveloped. In spite of all this, the role and self-identity of “homosexual” does exist in the big cities at least. For individuals to develop the role and identity of “a homosexual” and for society to recognize this self-identification—to accept it in whatever manner—requires a certain social climate. The big cities with less rigid control by family and neighbors—a certain anonymity—less personal dependence, more reliance on impersonal society (social security instead of family or patron), and more privacy offer this climate.

One typical aspect of the Turkish scene is the importance of role-playing: some men acting or dressing up like women and others underlining their masculinity. It is still ibne and kulampara rather than “gays” and “straights.” Transvestism plays a much larger social role in Turkey and southern Europe than in the north or the U.S.A. This seems to be the result of relations between the sexes. Turkish men and women almost live in two different worlds. The homosexuals are just aping a different side of the “normal” world.

The word homosexual entered the Turkish vocabulary by translations from European languages, first as homoseksüel. During the Turkification of the language after the foundation of the republic in 1923, the word elcinşel (equal-sexual) was coined, but this did not fit the roles and identities in Turkey, and confusion arose.

The existing roles for sexual relations between men were ibne and kulampara. An ibne is an effeminate man who plays the passive or recipient role in anal intercourse. He does not marry, because he is thought to be impotent. An ibne can be a transvestite, earning his living by dancing, singing, or prostituting himself. To be an ibne is the worst thing a Turkish man can be, for two reasons. First, because he accepts anal intercourse “like a woman” and second because he moves and speaks in an unmanly manner.

Given these views, it may come as a surprise that the most popular (male) singers in Turkey are transvestites (ibneler). Turks explain their admiration for these artists by pointing to their artistic talent and to the fact that nearly all artists are crazy and strange. All these singers interpret heterosexual love songs (though in some cases the sex of the loved one is unclear). They also even act in films playing the role of a straight lover.

The other role is played by the kulampara (“having to do with boys”). A kulampara is over age 16 and nearly always married. Like all Turkish men, he is expected to marry after military service at the latest. But because of the brideprice still required in rural Turkey, some poor peasants marry later.

In contrast to ibne, the kulampara does not constitute a special type of man, a “homosexual” or “gay man” in the Western sense. Any married man “too full of lust” or separated too long from his wife looks for prostitutes, mistresses, animals (dogs and donkeys), or an ibne. Nobody would consider himself as “abnormal,” “perverse, ”sinful," let alone “homosexual” for having anal sex with an ibne. Behavior does not dictate self-identity. To have anal intercourse with an ibne is an enjoyment open to all men. Any man could be seduced by an ibne.

Conversations with Turkish men show that sexual play with other men plays a rather important role in young men’s sex life, especially in rural areas. While still young, playing the passive (recipient) role in anal sex apparently does not disturb them unduly. After marriage, most men are exclusively heterosexual.


Francoeur, R. T., ed. 1995. The complete dictionary of sexology (New expanded ed.). New York: Continuum International.

Janssen, T. 1992. Transvestites and transsexuals in Turkey. In: A. Schmitt & J. Sofer, eds., Sexuality and eroticism among males in Moslem societies. New York: Harrington Park Press (Haworth Press).

Necef, M. U. 1992. Turkey on the brink of modernity. In: A. Schmitt & J. Sofer, eds., Sexuality and eroticism among males in Moslem societies. New York: Harrington Park Press (Haworth Press).

Sofer, J. 1992. The dawn of a gay movement in Turkey. In: A. Schmitt & J. Sofer, eds., Sexuality and eroticism among males in Moslem societies. New York: Harrington Park Press (Haworth Press).

[Return to main entry: Turkey: Section 6B. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors, Adults]