Premarital Sex Norms of Premarital

Cultural rules regarding the sexual behavior of unmarried individuals range from extreme permissiveness to extreme intolerance. A slight majority of cultures tend to disapprove of premarital sex for girls. In a worldwide sample of 141 cultures, 45% at least tolerate premarital sexual activity on the part of unmarried females, while the remaining 55% disapprove of premarital sex for most, if not all, girls. Rules regarding premarital sex are somewhat more tolerant for boys. Thus, in a sample of 57 cultures, 63% approve of sexual activity for unmarried boys, while only 33% disapprove of premarital sex (Broude & Greene, 1976).

Among the Truk of Oceania, adults take it for granted that adolescents will be sexually active and there is a widespread belief that girls will not menstruate unless they have engaged in sexual intercourse, a reflection of how common premarital sex must be among young Trukese females (Gladwin & Sarason, 1953). The Garo of India would prefer unmarried girls and boys to remain virgins but acknowledge that "after all, they are young so what can you do?" (Burling, 1963).

Premarital sex is mildly disapproved of for girls in 17% of the sample of 141 cultures and for boys in 14% of the sample of 57 cultures (Broude & Greene, 1976). Among the Kutenai of North America, virginity is valued, but not required, and an unmarried girl is warned that if she engages in sexual relations, she will turn into a frog when she dies and go to live with her ancestors. But no punishment is meted out to the young person who does, in fact, have sexual intercourse before marriage (Turney-High, 1941).

Thirty-four percent of the sample of 141 societies strongly disapprove of premarital sex for girls and 23% strongly condemn premarital sex for boys (Broude & Greene, 1976). In these cultures, the repercussions for engaging in sexual relations before marriage are always substantial and sometimes extreme. A Javanese boy and girl are married on the spot if caught engaging in sexual activity (Geertz, 1961). Among the Chiricahua of southwest North America, chastity is required of females until marriage, and a girl who engages in sexual activity before marriage will be whipped, perhaps in public. Boys are not as severely restricted, but they are warned about acquiring a bad reputation. Fathers warn their sons not to have sexual relations with a woman because "they have teeth in there. They bite off your penis and have some diseases." If a pregnancy occurs before marriage, the boy and girl are forced to wed if possible (Opler, 1941).

Where premarital sex is strongly condemned, death is the most common punishment for engaging in sexual activity before marriage. The Kenuzi Nubians in Egypt will have a girl who has engaged in premarital sex killed by her closest male relatives (Frayzer, 1985). A Rwala girl who is caught having sexual relations will be killed by her father or brother. Her corpse will then be cut into pieces (Raswan, 1947).

In 4% of the sample of 141 cultures, a boy and girl are allowed to engage in sexual relations if they are betrothed. In some cases, adults are permissive with an engaged couple when they view premarital sexual relations as test of fertility. In some cultures, a pregnancy then means that the couple must be married (Broude & Greene, 1976).

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