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Cultural norms dictate views on sex, sexuality

As the world continues to globalize, unique social and cultural teachings remain common throughout different countries. The varying religious and ideological make-up of international societies create an especially prominent cultural divide on the topics of sex and sexuality.

Photography by Sophia Eaton

Senior Nikola Bednarek (Poland)

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“It seems to me that in America people are more open to this type of conversation than in Poland, but clothes on this subject are appearing more and more often in stores. People, despite skepticism, are beginning to talk about their sexuality on a daily basis.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“Unfortunately in my school [in Poland] the level of sex education is small because the classes are optional. Many people do not attend them, and the teachers do nothing to encourage those type of classes.”

Would you describe your culture as open or conservative toward the topic of sexuality (sexual identity)?

“It is very difficult to answer this question. There are many people who are very conservative, and all kinds of sexuality sometimes are perceived by them [as] hostile; however, in my environment, I know many people who have no problem with these types of topics.”

Junior Constanza Astete Díaz (Chile)

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“Chile is [an] old country but now teenagers are making the change because they [have] broken the stereotype about the sexuality, and they are free to express their own beliefs. The old people, 40 plus, they are conservative about that topic, [but] not in all cases.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“For [a] long time the sexual education was parents’ work, but now, many places like clubs or social organizations offer sexual education, and they want [to] start teaching sexual education in schools.”

Would you describe your culture as open or conservative toward the topic of sexuality (sex and sexual identity)?

“Well, as I said, younger people are open minded [towards the topic of sexuality], but older people [are] not As a younger person, me and my friends definitely talk about it regularly or when it’s a part of our likes. Older people seem to stay away from discussing it as if it’s shameful or evil.”

Senior Greta Flores (Mexico)

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“In Mexico I would say that the sexualization of women in particular is shown throughout the media, music and advertising as a way to appeal to men, but sex itself is a topic rarely addressed in a formal manner. Sex is a taboo mainly in traditional families, but it is topic that is slowly progressing into something normal to openly talk about. As it also may be in the U.S., girls are constantly taught to be conservative towards sex and get shamed if it is known that they practice it. On the other hand, men get rewarded for having sex. Different types of sexuality [such as] gay, lesbian [and] bisexual are even more of a taboo topic.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“In my community, teens my age were never properly taught sex education. We were taught about the anatomy of our bodies and relationships. Because of my community’s Catholic background, we were just taught abstinence. All the information I know and my friends know is from our own investigation.”

Would you describe your culture as open or conservative towards the topic of sexuality (sex and sexual identity)?

“[My community is] more conservative since traditional family values and religious aspects are very present.”

Senior Vincent Leloux (Germany)

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“I definitely will say in the European culture, they’re more open. I don’t say Americans are closed or like fixed minded, but [in Europe] it’s maybe more okay [to talk about sex]. Children may be learning early how to be responsible or how to deal with sexual or controversial topics. If you compare movies and movie ratings, American movies with nudity, sex, drugs and all that stuff are mostly directly rated R. In Europe, probably that would be for younger people.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“In elementary school you learn primary sex education, and they tell you, ‘It’s kind of like a puzzle which fits together.’ From fourth grade on you always get more information, and you can probably get even more if you’re in a biology class. You can also talk with your teachers about it pretty freely because your teachers talk about it freely.”

Would you describe your culture as more open or conservative towards the topic of sexuality (sex and sexual identity)?

“I would say [in Germany] you are maybe a little more open; it’s not a real hardcore taboo. It’s, of course, somewhat [uncomfortable]. I think around your peers and friend group you’re definitely maybe more open to [discussing sex]. [In high school] it’s less [taboo], probably because you get [to] this age where maybe it’s more normal.”

Senior Otone Sasaki (Japan)

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“In Japan I think it’s becoming pretty common to express how people are by clothes, but people don’t have open minds as many Americans do. So I think we need to have an open mind to be who exactly we are to each other.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“I feel like we already have prejudices over sex. Like women have to be housekeepers, take care of kids [and] do chores instead of working. Men just work and don’t do chores or some stuff about the house. Since we all are the same, I think we should not have prejudices about sex so that we can get what we need for life.”

Would you describe your culture as open or conservative toward the topic of sexuality (sex and sexual identity)?

“I think Japan is still conservative. I know it’s [a] cultural thing and hard to change, but it’s not how it should be in this modern world. What we need is [an] open mind to accept things. So I think Japan should be more open about sexuality and sex to let people [be] who they are.”

Senior Mohammed Al Hammadi (United Arab Emirates) 

How do you think your culture’s views on sex and sexuality compare to that of American culture?

“Sex and sexuality are a very taboo subject in the Emarati community. The culture is based off of Islamic teachings, and Islam tells us that matters such as sex should be kept to [ourselves] and [our] family. Even then your sexual life would not be talked about in your family. Just like Islam, you’d have sex after marriage, so the idea of sex isn’t discussed at all until the individual is engaged or something. In fact, when kissing scenes or such come up in movies, the parents would cover their children’s eyes.”

How is sexual education taught in your community?

“There is barely any sexual education as again the subject is very taboo and shameful to be openly talked about. Most people learn from outside sources such as friends or the internet; however, eventually they are taught by their parents at the age of 16 [or older].”

Would you describe your culture as open or conservative towards the topic of sexuality (sexual identity)?

“[My community is] definitely conservative. In the Emarati culture, sexuality is unspoken of. The idea of anything beyond heterosexual isn’t really a thing that exists in the community. I hadn’t even met a gay person until I visited the U.S. I think it makes people who identify like that feel wrong or evil because everyone believes their identity in morally and religiously wrong. I was really suprised by how openly you talk about sexuality and sex in general in the U.S. because here it’s almost never talked about.”

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