No act of sexual intercourse different cross-culturally, but

No matter the culture, sexual intercourse is used for some reason or another. “Penial sexual intercourse is commonly considered a standard sexual behavior for married hetero couples. Because it is necessary for procreation as well as for pleasure it is considered appropriate for even the most conservative couple” (Michael et al,. 1995)  The difference, however, is the way they view it. Some cultures see anal, oral, phone or cybersex to be under the umbrella in the way they define the act. While others see those categories as offensive and vulgar and define the act more modestly. The generic definition is a physical union of male and female genitalia accompanied by rhythmic movements (Webster Dictionary). The question is why is the act of sexual intercourse different cross-culturally, but has essentially the same definition? The countries Costa Rica and the United States portray two differing cultural values. The differences can be analyzed through their definition of sex, their cultural beliefs, and dispositions of the act.

The constitution in the Central American country, Costa Rica, reads that Roman Catholicism is the official religion of the state.  (Rodríguez-Arauz, G., Mealy, M., Smith, V., & Diplacido, J. 2013) Therefore, their perceptions of sexual intercourse are that of the Bible’s influence. They define sexual intercourse as not only penetrative sex—penile-vaginal and anal—but also non-penetrative sex—oral sex and foreplay. Their culture heritage plays a significant role in the way they view premarital sex correlating to their sexual dispositions as a society.

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In order to explain Costa Rica’s perceptions of sexual intercourse the emphasis on their Catholic backbone is essential. Their culture believes that one who commits the act of sex outside of marriage would be living in sin. Marriage remains the only proper setting for sexuality to develop. (Budowski & Rosero-Bixby, 2003).  This culture emphasizes harmony, modesty, bonding, and interpersonal connections. Keeping this in mind, it can explain why their dispositions of sexual intercourse relate to their behaviors towards their partners.

Costa Rica is a collectivistic culture. This means they are a society that values the interests of the group over just themselves. (Hofstede, 1991). They stress affiliation when partaking in sexual behaviors. Being a culture with a high uncertainty avoidance—referring to the degree to which people within a given culture feel threatened by unfamiliar situations and ambiguity—Costa Ricans desire predictability. (Hofstede, 1998).  Thus, this disposition is often more commonly found in a committed relationship making fewer sexual behaviors appropriate pre-marriage. For this culture, penetrative sex and non-penetrative sex, such as oral sex and foreplay, during marriage constitute to reducing feelings of anxiety and sin. (Rodríguez-Arauz, 2013)

A collectivistic culture is not the only disposition Costa Ricans portray. They also portray femininity. These two natures go hand and hand with one another. A culture that is entrenched in femininity focuses on the nurturance of interpersonal relationships and a sense of belonging to others. (Hofstede, 1998).  This goes back to the idea of reducing the feeling of anxiety in one’s partner and strengthening the act of sexual intercourse as an interpersonal connection. Knowing the perceptions that Costa Ricans have on sexual intercourse, a contradicting analysis can be done on the United States.

In the United States of America, sexual intercourse and all other contributing parts are polar opposites of Costa Rica’s. In America, sex is more unambiguous. This culture defines it as penetrative acts including anal, as well as penile-vaginal penetration. Culturally the idea of sexual intercourse has evolved throughout years.

The concept that is most closely related to the current generation when analyzing the United States and this act is “technical virginity” (Sanders & Reinisch, 1999). The idea that no sexual behavior other than penile-vaginal intercourse can be considered sex. Alluding to the all-encompassing definition, a study shows that 60% of U.S. Americans do not consider oral sex to be “having sex” (Jayson, 2005b). A similar study also backs up the unambiguity of this culture’s definition by showing evidence that about 86% of American students do not include phone or cybersex in their definition. “Hooking up” or the non-confirmative sex culture of the United States is a direct rebuttal of the Costa Rican culture. The unambiguous culture can be explained through their more flexible dispositions and an emphasis on personal pleasure.

The irony that the United States is an individualistic culture seems quite comical while thinking about the current political environment, but that is beside the fact. The American culture is one that is individualistic. Meaning the culture characterizes each other by personal traits, activities, and possessions. The personal needs are asserted over those of the group and the people are encouraged to peruse their own interest. (Hofstede, 1991) This culture worries less about avoiding ambiguity. Thinking about the stereotypical narcissistic behaviors of Americans, they can be considered a low uncertainty avoidance culture. Unlike Costa Ricans, who have the social norm of abstinence until marriage, the United States are more accepting of sexual behaviors at an early stage of a relationship. It is important to note that low uncertainty avoidance cultures do not value emotional expressiveness. The individualistic dimension can allude to the fact that there is a greater disconnect between sexual behavior and emotional intimacy.

The individualistic dimension that the American culture asserts can correlate to the degree to which a society emphasizes ambition, performance, assertiveness and material success. These attributes can be put under the umbrella of a Masculine culture. (Rodríguez-Arauz, 2013) The combination of a Masculine culture and low uncertainty avoidance results in Americans perceiving sex as a goal. Once this goal is accomplished it is said that some would consider the act a “home run”. (CBS Broadcasting Inc., 2009). This proves that this culture puts a high value on victory in regards to completion of sexual intercourse. The United States individualism and masculinity shown throughout their culture emphasizes personal pleasure not group pleasure as that of Costa Ricans.

While analyzing cross-cultural perceptions of sexual intercourse it can be concluded that their definition of sex, their cultural beliefs, and dispositions of the act differ. The two cultures are rooted from different religious stigmas essentially attributing to their cultural dispositions, as well as cultural perceptions of sexual behaviors. There is no right or wrong in the way each culture views sexual intercourse. Most importantly this is not an absolute of the culture, instead, it is an average analysis. 

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