Sexual modesty refers to the social norm that it is forbidden to display sexual behavior, including sexual signals in the public. There is some cultural variance in the strictness of sexual modesty norms, but nearly all human cultures have such norms, and female sexual behavior is generally regulated more strictly, especially by other females.
Cultural variation[edit | edit source]
Historically, sexual modesty norms have varied between fairly relaxed (e.g. in Austronesian and African tribes) where women were commonly bear-breasted, to extremely strict such as Islamic, Roman, Greece, Spartan cultures where women were veiled in the public sphere for the most part. But in the most culturally advanced e.g. Austronesian cultures, where women were admitted to be bare-breasted, sex still occurred in private and women were not allowed to display their thighs, Western bathing suits have even been esteemed as inappropriate.
Causes of sexual modesty norms[edit | edit source]
A large variety of causes of sexual modesty norms can be considered. First and foremost, such norms may exist for protecting women from rape, especially in ethnic groups where the male sex drive is relatively high, thus the extreme instantiation of rapist behavior may incur a greater cost on communities raising the offspring without providing father.
Sexual immodesty may cause social tensions due to causing sexual envy, especially in men as they generally have a higher sex drive than women. Enforcing sexual modesty may occur within the context of mate guarding, to avoid the partner drawing sexual attention from other potential sexual partners.
For both sexes, sexual modesty may have the purpose of reducing the incidence and spread of sexually transmissible disease, more so in case of women, however, as they are more prone to such diseases.
Sexual behavior may also simply be a subset of overall social behavior which is tightly regulated in humans in many regards, potentially even rooted in adaptations for a behavioral immune system.
As sexual immodesty tends to be associated with bad things (disease, infidelity, free-riders) it also becomes a matter of personal and family honor, and eventually solidifies in religious norms.
References[edit | edit source]
- BELO, J. (1935). THE BALINESE TEMPER *. Journal of Personality, 4(2), 120–146. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1935.tb02115.x