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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Updated, With More Countries by Robert T. Francoeur (Continuum) Four volumes in One: Volumes 1-3 of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality received the "Citation of Excellence for an Outstanding Reference Work of Sexology" awarded by the American Foundation for Gender and Genital Medicine and Science at the Thirteenth World Congress of Sexology

Now in a thoroughly updated one-volume edition, The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality is the only work of its kind in any language on sexual behavior throughout the world.

Written by an international team of 270 authorities, The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality includes virtually the entire text of volumes 1-4 of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (volumes 1-3 were published in 1997, volume 4 was published in 2001), thoroughly updated or rewritten, plus 15 countries and places not previously includ­ed: Antarctica, Botswana, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus (Turkish), Denmark, Estonia, France, Hong Kong, Nepal, Norway, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Tanzania.

Altogether, the present one-volume encyclopedia includes more than 60 countries and places covering every continent as well as outer space.

Each lengthy entry explores such areas as heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual relationships of children, adolescents, and adults; gender diversity and transgender issues; unconventional sexual patterns; con­traception; sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS; and sexual dysfunctions and therapies. It also features a discussion of sexual issues for older persons and physi­cally and mentally challenged individuals, as well as sex education and religious and eth­nic influences on sexuality.

Many works of undeniable importance are intended to speak about human sexuality. But in this encyclopedia we hear the voices of a multitude of nations and cultures. With coverage of more than a quarter of the countries of the world, it is hoped this one-volume encyclopedia will be the standard for years to come.

What can a modern reader make of a book calling it-self Continuum Complete International Encyclo­pedia of Sexuality? In the past, it could have been a Baede­ker's—a Guide Michelin—to the sexual hotspots of the world, or a swinger's and sophisticate's tourguide to the super-sexy clubs of the international sex scene. It might well have contained addresses and ratings of brothels in far-flung places. Or perhaps it was a seriocomic autobiographi­cal tale of a young person turned loose on the world of sex.

There was also a time that an International Encyclopedia of Sexuality would have recounted "the curious erotic cus­toms" of people native to Borneo, Upper Nepal, and the tribu­taries of the Amazon, with a chapter (once obligatory in such works) about footbinding among the Chinese, crammed be­tween strange stories about marriage rites among Polish vil­lagers, African pastoralists, or Paraguayan landholders. And the illustrations—old-style black-and-white photographs—would have shown a peasant wedding in the Tyrol, a bride in Hindustan, the groom's party in Southern Russia, or any-where else older times believed dwelt "primitive" or "sim­ple" people.

Each of these has been a genre in sexual writing, as are dry-as-dust treatises of solemn university professors awash in jargon, incomprehensible tables of statistics, and deadly dull theorizing. Any and all could fill a book called Contin­uum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality.

One value of the book you now hold is to reveal how much Western sexological writing has changed over two or so centuries. The essays here were each written by a person or persons native to the land and culture described or familiar with it through years of life and study there. Each of the au­thors is trained in one or another academic discipline, from cultural anthropology to medical sexology. The language is international scientific English, stylistically straightforward and uncomplicated. And thanks to the Editors' foresight, the chapters all follow a common outline, covering similar top­ics in similar orders—which ought to facilitate comparisons among cultures. After a brief introduction, each chapter deals with a single society, discussing religious and ethnic sexual values, gender roles and the sociology of men and women, relationships between sexuality and love, sex educa­tion formal and informal, autoeroticism, heterosexuality and marriage and the family, homoeroticism, gender conflicts, and "unconventional" sexual behavior—including rape, prostitution, pornography, and erotica—followed by mate­rial on contraception, abortion, and population planning, and ending with a discussion of sexually transmitted diseases and sex counseling/therapy. It is quite a palate of topics.

And you will notice that it is a serious list of topics. Per­haps nothing else so well illustrates how Western and Westernized writing on sexuality has refocused over two centu­ries. Today, we "moderns"—which means only that we Westernized intellectuals proudly call ourselves modern and, by implication, think others primitive–disdain older modes of sexological writing and publication. For many years, a primary form of "sexological" writing was the illus­trated book—please, to be sold only to medical profession­als!—with titles like Femina Libido Sexualis, and contain­ing a mish-mash (to our modern eyes) of "medico-scien­tific" material on female anatomy, circumcision practices, phallic worship, all ostensibly published for "the advance­ment of knowledge," but actually printed as erotica and hid-den from the censor's vigil by their Latinisms and their faux-science. But the mainstay of such works—definitions, dis­cussions, and depictions of "female sexual beauty"—is ab­sent in modern sexological writing, and is equally absent from this International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Gone are the black-and-white photographs of nude women, steel en­gravings of Arab weddings, and suggestively titled but oh-so-innocent tales of life in the Turkish seraglio.

Today, sexuality has become the focus of intense con­cern, often outright anxiety. Topics that we today consider "sexologically appropriate" border more and more closely on psychological, medical, and social pathology. We are concerned with the criminality of sexual acts, their moral­ity, their capacity to index—if not to stir up—social de­struction and vehement conflict. Furious debates over por­nography and deep concern about child sexual abuse illus­trate how much, for us, sexuality no longer focuses on sexual beauty, be it male or female, but on sexual ugliness, disease, and crime.

To a large extent—though it varies by author—this fo­cus on sexological pathology and problems is shared by all the chapters in the International Encyclopedia. No wonder, either we live in a world of sexual change and rearrange­ment, where politics, more than nudity, seems the proper companion of the goddess of love, Aphrodite herself. For us, sexuality represents the body in flux: not a Heraclitean flow of all things growing and waning, but embodied future shock and upheaval. Books celebrating "sexual beauty" or regaling the reader with "odd and curious marriage cus­toms" of foreign people could be written only in days that themselves had firm and clear sexual guidelines—a sexual culture—to shape readers' behavior and assure them that they were culturally normal by the standards of their own Western societies. But—rota fortuna—things change.

There is a story told—apocryphally, I am afraid—of an Indian tourguide at the temples of Khajuraho, famed for what Westerners perceive as highly erotic sculptures. A woman ethnologist, primarily interested in these sculpted images of the most variegated forms of copulation imagin­able, continued to ask to be shown those portions of the tem­ple grounds. The guide steadfastly refused, saying only, "But they aren't interesting, miss."

The point is not the tourguide's recalcitrance. Instead, let us wonder where he obtained the phrase he used to de-fend his efforts at censorship: "They aren't interesting." Partly, to be sure, he expressed a personal emotion, but we can readily imagine British tourists in the days of the Indian Raj expressing dismay and anxiety by saying precisely the same—"These statues are not interesting." In those days—that is, for many years indeed—sexuality was not interest­ing to the normal Westerner outside the bedroom and those all-male soirees with which folklore bedecks the 1890s and similar eras of "sexual excess."

So Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality reveals a fascinating aspect of how our own—Western or Westernized—visions of sexuality have shifted. Today, we find sexuality much more openly important, even if public and media attention often focuses on its less-pleasant sides, e.g., exploitation of women in pornography. Unlike our recent ancestors, we find sexuality interesting to extents that would have deeply shocked and troubled both the British visitors to Khajuraho and its Indian tourguide.

Over the intervening century, sexuality has slipped loose from its originally tight moorings in Western and Westernized societies. Today, it touches all aspects of life: certainly, it seems to touch everything in the media! One can plausibly argue that these are not deep social or psychological changes, but merely that previously dominating masks and disguises have fallen away to reveal what probably was al-ways there—widespread interest in sexuality among many people indeed.

In this newly unmasked interest, we all need good, solid information—not rumor, hearsay, travelers' tales, and secret books celebrating female pulchritude across the globe—but good data, compiled with serious intent and presented with serious purpose. Such intentions and purposes Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality achieves. I do not perceive its seriousness of outline or topic as antisexual so much as I see it as antifrivolous. We do not trivialize sexuality nowadays and we live in an era of "seri­ous works about sex."

We cannot escape the solemnification of sexuality, not because solemnity is foisted upon us by prudes, but because we understand that sexuality is dangerous as well as plea­surable. Yet we also carry within ourselves a desire to worry about sexuality—an echo from older days when sexuality was taboo for polite discussion and a matter only of whis­pered gossip, something to worry about. In our modem world, sexuality is legitimated partly by surrounding it by a veil of worried concern, e.g., about pornography, child sex­ual abuse, sexual Satanism, and the like. Knowledge has been bought at the price of thinking that sexuality ought to be studied and worked at. Whatever instincts exist (modem sexological scholarship denies them), they do not operate easily or comfortably today. If sexuality no longer wears the obscuring masks of the past—the opaque black garb that once clothed the body—then instead it wears translucent gauze, not erotic so much as disinfectant. In modem sexolo­gy, sexuality inhabits the forums of research, and Contin­uum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality is quite modern.

Its importance—considerable, I think—exhibits an-other change in sexological discourse, to use a revealing and portentous word made popular by academic sexolo­gists. In older days, only one officially sanctioned form of discourse existed about sex: the language and meanings of moralists, churchmen typically, that upheld certain visions of how we should write about sex. Though he had prede­cessors, Kinsey changed all that permanently, in effect substituting technicalisms for a dying moralism in sexual language. A curious consequence is that sexology no lon­ger speaks to the masses about matters they understand and know. As modern life fractalizes, sexology has sprouted many officially sanctioned discourses, such as postmodernist criticism, feminism, conservative rhetoric, biomedicalese, all antipopulist, all above the heads of the man and woman in the street (or bedroom). Indeed, it sometimes takes an expert to understand that the topic is sex. Nonetheless, adherents of these different discourses spend much time examining each other's prose with the of­ficiousness of churchmen hunting out sinful thoughts. Sex remains a charged, powerful topic, and its significance will not diminish soon. Its powers radiate outwards from an embodied center to touch arenas of disagreement, like politics, that nonetheless remain more comfortable than open sexuality, at least for many people.

And so this International Encyclopedia raises a curious question: Will there come a time when sexuality can display itself nude? Or is nude sexuality still "not interesting"? Judging from public worry over Madonna's Sex, with her deliberate evocation of nudity, we still share a great deal with the Indian tourguide. However, the authors of the chap­ters in this book are closer kin to the woman ethnologist who wished to examine those statues. For her and her modern scholarly descendants, sexuality is interesting, even if still garmented in sociological, psychological, and biomedical gauze. Whereas we Westernized intellects still feel that Aphrodite must be partly covered, nonetheless many layers of wrapping and disguise have been removed. To the prude, it is all to the bad (even if "not interesting"). To the scholar, it is an important step towards understanding sexuality itself. To the modem reader, Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality will be more interesting than a Baedeker to the world's sex clubs or an autobiography of a reprobate or even a lusciously colored edition of the once banned Thousand and One Nights: It provides a thoroughly scholarly examination of what is still not fully exposed even in an enlightened modern world—or, judging from the temples at Khajuraho itself, the partly enlightened and partly interested modem world.

Someone said, "Never tackle anything that is not a challenge." In 1991, a publisher invited me to edit a 350-page single-volume International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (IES). The plan was to invite 20 sexologists in 20 countries to prepare 20-page chapters on sex and love, marriage and family in their countries. It seemed like an easy project to tackle after editing the 766-page Complete Dictionary of Sexology. Having attended national and international meetings of sexologists for 30 years, I could easily recruit 20 colleagues to write 20 chapters on their countries. The problem came when my recruits fell so in love with describing sex and love, marriage and family-and much more-in their coun­tries, that they completely ignored my "15,000- to 18,000-word limit." As the word spread, other sexologists offered to write about sex in their countries. After five years work, we published three volumes covering 32 countries. With even more countries already in the works, we published a fourth volume, with 17 additional countries, in 2001.

At that point, despite very enthusiastic and glowing re-views, despite international acclaim and the endorsement of Library Journal, Choice, and the World Association for Sexology, we decided not to publish a fifth volume of IES with even more countries. Libraries cannot afford the shelf space or the cost of a five-volume IES. Instead, we thought it best to update all 49 countries in the original four volumes and add a dozen new countries, all in a single, large-format volume.

Now, after 11 years of work by 270 authorities on six continents, we have a truly unique up-to-date Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (CCIES) with in-depth studies of sexual attitudes and behavior in five-dozen countries. It is a far richer resource and refer­ence work than we could have imagined when we started this project 11 years ago.

Looking back on this adventure, I would like to share some thoughts and ruminations with the reader. Creating this Encyclopedia has been a long and complex process. If it is a monument of sexual knowledge, its importance and usefulness are solely because of the magnificent contribu­tions of 230 experts from five-dozen nations around the world. Their work, far more than mine, makes this Com­plete Encyclopedia an unequaled repository of scientific and scholarly information about human sexuality.

To be sure, many works of undeniable importance have claimed to speak about human sexuality, but in the CCIES we hear the voices of many nations and cultures. With voices from more than a quarter of the nations of the world, I believe we can speak of this volume as a true encyclopedia of human sexuality. Ultimately, the subjects who have provided the data are not college students, as has been so commonly the case in academic studies of sexuality in, for example, the United States. Don't get me wrong. The sexual attitudes and behavior of college students are interesting, and their sexual­ity should not be ignored. But in this volume, we are hearing from a far wider and richer sample of human beings than col­lege-aged students. Our authorities come from almost every discipline and worldview imaginable.

Without in the least minimizing the other essays in our CCIES, let me single out first the contributions about sexu­ality in China and in India. Together, these two nations com­prise some 40% of humanity. When, next, we consider the contributions about other Asian nations, the Muslin nations, Africa, South America, and Europe, we begin to see a truly international picture of human sexuality. And it has been the immense patience and skill of the contributors to the Ency­clopedia that have created such a worldwide scope. It has been a collaborative, and incredibly challenging adventure. Among my inspiring experiences, I include the following:

  • One day I had a question about some data in the Bot­swana chapter. Five minutes after I emailed Dr. Ian Tay­lor, he emailed me back with the clarification I needed. A question to Alain Giame at INSERM in Paris brought a return cellular communication from Dr. Giame on some rain-forest tributary of the Amazon River.
  • In 1995, while touring France, a fellow American I had just met quizzed me about the books I write. My rather-vague mention of IES prompted Julanne McCarthy to ask if I would like a chapter on Bahrain. Without know­ing where Bahrain was, I said, "Of course," never think­ing anything would come from a casual, "Of course." Months later, a FedEx package appeared in my mailbox, sent the day Julanne and her museum-director husband returned to the U.S. "The information in this chapter was gathered and written by Julanne McCarthy and 28 Bah­raini professionals and expatriates who are not to be identified in any way."
  • While trying to recruit Radhouan Mhiri, M.D., president of the Arab Institute of Sexology and Somatotherapy, to write a chapter on Tunisia, he mentioned Abderrazak Moussaid, founder of the Moroccan Society of Sexolo­gy and a physician at the University of Casablanca. Sev­eral emails and a month later, on my first night of vaca­tion in Morocco, Dr. Moussaid whisked me out of a ho­tel lobby, assuring my wife he would bring me back safe and sound. At dinner, a vehement discussion erupted as Moussaid cajoled four colleagues—in Arabic and French, of course—to join him to write a chapter on Morocco. Very little English was spoken, but I re­ceived their chapter a few months later.

Along the way, I have learned about many different customs, and more importantly, about the social context that surrounds these customs. To name a few customs that are very foreign to my Western mind: widow inheritance, "adultery hoots" in Ghana, Hijra in India, living apart to­gether (LAT) in Germany and Sweden, transgendered kaneeths in Bahrain and kathoey in Thailand, temporary marriage (mut'a) in Iran, the Virgin Mary's influence in Ireland, very different constructs of male homosexuality in the Islamic cultures, hymen reconstruction in South Ko­rea and Greek Cyprus, fazendo tudo ("try everything") ad-vice given to both Brazilian boys and girls, taboos on sex­ual communications between males and females, even husbands and wives, in many cultures, and the subordinate role of women in many cultures, where female orgasm is either unknown or feared as a prelude to insanity.

Despite my pride in initiating and editing the four vol­umes of IES, and now the comprehensive updated CCIES, I have to admit that this Encyclopedia is only a beginning. As we read through the essays, we learn how very little we really know about human sexuality. We have only begun to touch the surface of this hugely complex and ancient phe­nomenon. Much work remains to be done. Yet, I feel that the contributors to these volumes have eased the way for future scholars. Our contributors have blazed new pathways. In the process, I have learned some lessons I would like to share:

  • Whenever we talk about any sexual attitude, value, or behavior, we are talking about a cultural snapshot. Think of a tour bus stopping at a scenic lookout. Camera-toting tourists rush off the bus, flip off their lens caps, squint through the viewfinder, scan the site, and take a snapshot or two. Unlike the casual tourist, our CCIES authors are very familiar with their own landscapes. As professional researchers and sexologists, their snapshots are more skillfully composed, more perceptive, and more alive to the cultural context and meaning of the observations than any casual observer could present.
  • The snapshots created by the 270 contributors to CCIES are as true to reality as possible. But we should never forget that each snapshot is also flavored by the gender, education, and professional training of the sexologist presenting it.
  • Likewise, we should not forget the social/economic/po­litical/religious/historical context in which each sexual pattern, value, behavior, or attitude developed and is now supported.
  • Although we can observe many commonalities in the values, attitudes, behaviors, and trends reported in this volume, idiosyncratic variations exist within each more-general variation within any culture, and between cul­tures. The richness and diverse flavors of human sexual­ities can be fascinating.
  • The English language is rich in its nuances, but often in these chapters, the reader will find descriptions of sex­ual concepts and constructs, such as homosexual iden­tity versus men having sex with men, transgendered, paraphilias, and sexual satisfaction, harassment, and dysfunction, which do not translate into Western pat-terns of thought. Does premarital virginity and sexual abstinence, for instance, simply require no vaginal inter-course? Or does it include no oral or anal sex? No kissing before marriage? No holding hands? Or all of these, plus no visual contact before marriage?

While editing, I also became aware of some worldwide problems we face:

  • How can we deal with sexual health issues—not just the obvious issue of HIV/AIDS, but also access to afford-able contraception and STD diagnosis and treatment, as well as general medical care?
  • How can we promote the reality of gender equality and equal legal rights for all, regardless of sexual identity, role, and orientation?
  • How can we provide basic comprehensive sexuality ed­ucation for all, even in countries where the traditional ta­boos, the government, or religious tenets restrict or pro­hibit comprehensive and timely education?
  • How can we promote recognition of the sexual rights and needs of all humans—children, adolescents, adults, the elderly and those disabled, whether male or female?
  • What strategies do we need to address issues of popula­tion growth and decline?
  • And finally, what steps do the nations of the world need to take to help immigrants adjust when they find them-selves living in a very different and foreign culture, with very different traditions, values, and attitudes?

2. Religious, Ethnic, and Gender Factors Affecting Sexuality

A. Source and character of religious values

B. Character of ethnic values

3. Knowledge and Education about Sexuality

A. Government policies and programs

B. Informal sources of sexual knowledge

4. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns

A. Children and adolescents

B. Adults

This encyclopedia contains virtually all of the information presented in the first four volumes of the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality published in 1997 and 2001, with fifteen additional countries and places. The orig­inal entries have been updated, typically by the original au­thors or by new authors or commentators; all have had some copyediting refinements. Some entries have been com­pletely rewritten, as noted at the beginning of those chap­ters. We have endeavored to clearly notate updated material by enclosing the section, paragraph, or sentence in square brackets, starting with Update or Comment followed by the year it was written, and ending with the appropriate author. In some cases, it serves to modify the existing material when we have kept the original information in context for historical comparison; at other times, it expands the infor­mation. In most chapters, some sections were written by specific authors (or one of the editors), whose name or names appear at the beginning of the section.

The information on each country in this encyclopedia is organized mostly according to the standard outline below. The thirteen major headings are also listed on the first page of each chapter with the appropriate page numbers for that country. The reader interested in drawing comparisons on specific issues between different countries will find page references for specific topics and refinements, beyond the major headings, in the index at the end of this volume. Checking this index under a specific topic premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, puberty rites, or sexual harassment, for example—the reader will find page references that facilitate comparisons among the five-dozen countries included in this volume.

Demographics and a Brief Historical Perspective

A. Demographics

B. A brief historical perspective

1. Basic Sexological Premises

A. Character of gender roles

B. Sociolegal status of males and females

C. General concepts of sexuality and love

5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

A. Children

B. Adolescents

C. Adults

  • Premarital relations, courtship, and dating

  • Sexual behavior and relationships of single adults Marriage and family

  • Cohabitation and monogamy

  • Divorce, remarriage, and serial monogamy Extramarital sex

  • Sexuality and the physically disabled and aged Incidence of oral and anal sex

6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors

A. Children and adolescents

B. Adults

7. Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues

8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors*

A. Coercive sex

  • Child sexual abuse, incest, and pedophilia Sexual harassment

  • Rape

B. Prostitution

C. Pornography and erotica

D. Paraphilias

9. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning

A. Contraception

B. Teenage (unmarried) pregnancies

C. Abortion

D. Population programs

10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS

11. Sexual Dysfunctions, Counseling, and Therapies

12. Sex Research and Advanced Professional Education

A. Graduate programs and sexological research

B. Sexological organizations and publications

13. Important Ethnic, Racial, and/or Religious Minorities References and Suggested Readings


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