Controversies and Trends in the Evidence

A related question has to do with what constitutes a proper context for understanding the meaning of a sexual belief or behavior. Some theorists assume that any attitude or behavior having to do with sex has a unique meaning for the culture in which it is exhibited. According to this view, it is impossible to view what looks like the same belief or behavior across two or more cultures as in fact equivalent. Thus, for example, if members of two cultures view virginity as valuable in a single girl, this may in fact mean one thing in one society and another thing in another society. The reasoning is that members of any given society attach unique meanings to their customs and practices despite the appearance of superficial similarities. This point of view characterizes the thinking of cultural determinists.

The opposing two positions assume that we can make meaningful cross-cultural comparisons. Thus the cross-cultural anthropologist may argue that, if two cultures believe virginity is valuable in unmarried girls, this is because both cultures have similar causal conditions. And the evolutionary psychologist will then argue that strategies aimed at avoiding single motherhood make sense because a woman is often at a disadvantage if she has to raise a child on her own.

All three positions assume that there will be some unique features in every society. Cross-cultural and evolutionary psychologists also assume that we will see patterned variation in how sex is managed across societies. These patterns are borne out in a number of investigations of sex and culture, as indicated in this article. The discovery that sexual attitudes and practices are patterned similarly across cultures, and that the same custom or belief is predictably associated with the same ecological, social structural, economic, or political variables supports the idea that the same sexual attitude or custom has a similar meaning across societies. Further, sexual attitudes and practices across cultures are often patterned in ways that look like good strategies for promoting successful reproduction.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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