Sexual Norms and Practices

In contemporary Western contexts, the term sexual norms refers to the sexual practices that a society or group endorses as “natural” or as socially, morally, and personally “good.” In modern cultures, the sexual norms that we live by and the sexual practices we engage in are also thought to reveal our “true” identities as individuals, groups, and societies. From the 19th century onward, a range of experts have studied sexual desires and practices. In doing so, they constructed heterosexual coital sex as the norm against which other sexual practices—and the people who engaged in them—were judged as perverse. Modern scientific understandings of sex were initially guided by the notion that the primary function of sex was the reproduction of the human species but also by ...

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