Sexual Attitudes and Behavior in India and United States

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Sexual attitudes and behaviors differ among various cultures. The concepts of monogamy and homosexuality are two areas where cultures often disagree.

While attitudes about sex have relaxed a bit in India, monogamy is still highly prized. This monogamy is mainly expressed through the institution of adult marriage between a man and a woman, serving as the main rule governing Indian culture. The family is very important in India, making it possible to pass down traditions through the generations. The family is an accepted place to procreate and keep the tradition of marriage alive. A husband and a wife are expected to maintain the concept of family through the performance of traditional roles. Women are expected to take care of the household, while men are expected to provide income for their families (Chakraborty & Thakurata, 2013).

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While it is an unwritten rule that women are expected to be virgins upon marriage and completely faithful to their husbands, men are not subjected to the same harsh rules, at least under the surface. It is common knowledge that married Indian men, sometimes sleep with other women while married. While this may not be traditionally accepted, it does happen, somewhat encouraged by Indian rules. For some married Hindu men, the frequency of monogamous sex with his wife is still dictated by her menstrual cycle, intercourse only allowed for approximately ten days, sex mainly used for reproduction. Monogamy for women is also suggested in the dress of Indian women, some Muslim women still expected to cover their face in public in the presence of other males (Chakraborty & Thakurata, 2013).
While the attitude of monogamy is still respected in the United States, many men and women choosing to get married, monogamy is not the only accepted lifestyle. In the United States, open marriage is also acceptable, as well as casually dating and having multiple sexual partners. However, safety from sexually transmitted diseases is also strongly encouraged, the use of condoms promoted in many school education programs through in-services and coursework. However, The United States has also recognized how a more relaxed attitude about sex has increased the country’s responsibility to fund disease prevention programs and also get back to basics. For the past seventeen years in the United States, more than $1.5 billion dollars has been spent on abstinence-only sexual education programs (Herbenick, et al., 2012). However, Indian culture is not as apt to discuss safe sex so freely within society, this type of discussion somewhat going against India’s traditional values of monogamy, preferable within the concept of heterosexual Indian marriage.

While some tradition gender roles still exist, especially in more southern states that seem to have more conservative values, gender roles have also changed quite a bit. In contemporary United States society, more women are in the workforce, now able to financially provide for themselves and not depend on a husband, opening up a woman’s options beyond the concept of monogamy.

On the contrary, not as many Indian women are in the workforce and women who do have more independence because of India becoming more urbanized in the last few years, are often subjected to street level harassment by threaten men who feel emasculated. These men often express their displeasure through lewd and sexually inappropriate gestures and comments (Dalmia, 2013). However, the United States is not as tolerant of these sexual behaviors in males, sexual harassment frowned upon, especially in the workplace. The highly televised case of Justice Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment of employee Anita Hill in the 1990s propelled the enactment of United States federal legislation prohibiting sexual harassment between both genders in the workplace.

Homosexuality is another area where cultures can differ greatly, especially between India and the United States. In India, being gay is illegal. A law was enacted in 2013 by India’s Supreme Court that has now outlawed homosexuality. Any citizen who is engages in same-sex behavior is subject to a ten year prison sentence (Sharma, 2013).

In contrast, the United States has a more liberal policy towards homosexuality. Since the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, in 2013, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, including Minnesota, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, and Maine (17 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 33 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans, 2014).

Unlike India, numerous organizations in the United States have been founded that support gay rights. One only has to perform a quick online search to find a plethora of LGBT agencies, including the Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Having political backing from the top also makes a difference. Unlike India political leaders and courts, the United States’ president Barack Obama has made several televised public statement expressing his support for gay couples to marry and have children. President Obama has also helped initiate several LGBT conferences and events at the White House, awarding medals to famous gay individuals, such as assassinated gay rights advocate and Harvey Milk and gay tennis star Billie Jean King.

While the United States has some right wing political groups, such as The National Organization for Marriage, that worked hard to deny gay individuals the rights to marry and raise children, the majority of individuals accept gay marriage. A study by Ahrold and Meston (2007) suggested that one’s attitudes and behaviors concerning homosexuality is sometimes influenced by one’s level of religiosity and spirituality, people holding a more conservative viewpoint, not as open to homosexuality behavior.

Monogamy and homosexuality are concepts that have sparked much controversy. Depending on the laws, viewpoints, and the traditions of one’s culture, sexual behaviors and attitudes can vary greatly, as is the case with India and the Unites States. However, some common overlap does exist with both countries having adopted traditional gender roles at some point in both countries’ development. While India is currently more sexually traditional, the United States has adopted more liberal sexual attitudes and behaviors. However, sexual attitudes and behaviors among different cultures should not be viewed as right or wrong, but as different perspectives that can educate society.

  • 17 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 33 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans. (2014, April 17). Retrieved from Pro Con.org: http://gaymarriage.procon.org
  • Ahrold, T., & Meston, C. (2007). Ethinc differences in sexual attitudes of U.S college students: gender, acculuturation, and religiosity factors. Archives of Sexaul Behavior.
  • Chakraborty, K., & Thakurata, G. (2013). Indian concepts on sexuality. Indian Journal on Psychiatry, 250-255.
  • Dalmia, S. (2013, May 5). Retrieved from Reason.com: http://reason.com/
  • Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, D. (2012). Sexual behavior in the United States: resultd from aa national proabability sample of men and women ages 14-94. J Sex Med, 255-265.
  • Sharma, S. (2013, December 12). Politics . Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/12/12/a-shameful-ruling-in-india-homosexuality-becomes-a-crime/

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