David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

I. Norms of behavior divided into:

A. Folkways (mild norms, punished by sarcasm, social rejection, etcetera)

B.Mores (severe norms, typically punished by death or exile)

C. Laws (written norms, enforced by a specific social group, may include norms from above categories)

II. Norms determined by system of values (whether sexual or not) developed from religious and philosophical beliefs. In our culture, these values are typically Judeo-Christian.

III. Development of sexual values.


1. "Be fruitful and multiply" (value similar to Hindus)

a. Man's immortality (either heavenly or secular) believed to be linked to number of sons sired.

b. If son cannot be sired via wife, man can have handmaiden or mistress to bear son.

2. "Be fruitful" leads to aversion of sexual acts not related to procreation (e.g., coitus interruptus, masturbation, oral and anal sex).

3. "Be fruitful" led to aversion of birth control methods.

4. Freud's interpretation of Adam and Eve and original sin (apple interpretations) as leading to negative interpretation of nakedness (incest warnings in Bible).

5. Premarital sex not prohibited by old testament if:

a. unpremeditated (relate to use of birth control)

b. force not used

c. money or third party not involved.

6. Seduction of a virgin and rape were offenses under the law.

7. Temple prostitution until 640 B.C.E.

8. Woman's virginity emphasized. People not aware of ovum but aware of man's seed. Virgins seen as "untilled soil". Cite relation to immorality concept.

9. Positive, natural outlook toward marital sex. Sex is "blessed by God" and given by him for man to enjoy. Women seen as man's sexual property, but equal in comradeship, homemaking and parenthood (e.g., "Fiddler on the Roof").

10. Double standard of sexual morality. Man cannot commit adultery because it is not considered as such. However, woman's adultery leads to doubts about assurance of immortality for man.


1. Dualistic philosophy: ("spirit vs. flesh") To get to heaven, must practice self-denial and relinquish earthly pleasures: wealth, comfort and sexual pleasures. Poverty given up quickly, but emphasis on chastity maintained for some time (life-long not practical). This leads to sex being seen as "necessary evil" in marriage. Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) said in his letter to Carinthians:

"But if they have not continence (i.e., they cannot exercise self-control), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn." (Hell vs. passion interpretations)

So, at best, sex is tolerated only because it is necessary for procreation.

2. Women seen as incarnation of sex, therefore incarnation of sin, which lead to lowering of their overall status.

3. Sexual repression continued through Calvinism (Puritans) (Scarlet Letter example). Related to bundling in lower classes and negative view toward physical expressions of affection in public.

4. Victorian standards emphasized hiding or covering anything that hints of sex. This lead to changes in language and negative values about talking about sex or related aspects. Contrast to previous works of Shakespeare.

C. Sexual revolution in United States did not start with the magazine, Playboy.

l. Anarchism and its relation to free love

"If society did not encroach on the sovereignty of the individual and the individual did not encroach on the welfare of others, the mutual adjustment of two people would take place without outside interference." (Examples relating to pencil and sex)

2. Feminist movement (women's rights) influenced voting, employment and sexual double standard. More emphasis on woman's independence to say "yes" or "no" along with the responsibility for this decision being on the individual, rather than being given to a deity or parents. Emphasize the need to balance rights and responsibilities.

IV. Conclusion: Sexual mores took hundreds of years to develop. Therefore any great change in these mores will be a slow one spanning generations. Note the exception of abortion laws.

V. Theories of incest taboo which is common to all known cultures, with exceptions of Hawaiian and Egyptian royalty. Universal incest taboo related to sibling, child or parent. Once outside immediate family, cultures differ as to what is taboo. At least four theories given for incest taboo being universal.

A. Recessive Genes It can be for negative or positive traits. (Example of hemophilia and European royalty)

B. Sexual Conflict example of "Just as good as Ma")

C. Role Conflict (example of "I'm my own Grandpa")

D. Mutual Assistance show as related to survival value for caveman families and later as method to solidify alliances between countries with royalty.

VI. Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS, 1989), and current Criminal Code Bench Blotter reflect these attitudes on sexual behavior. (M = misdemeanor, F = felony, with 1 being the most severe level)

Number Title and Information Penalty (lst Offense)
13-l402 Indecent Exposure $2500 and/or 6 months (M1)
13-l403 Public Sexual Indecency (sex acts) $2500 and/or 6 months (M1)
l3-l404 Sexual Abuse (without consent) l-2.5 years (F5)
13-l405 Sexual Conduct with a minor
15-18 years old
Under 15 years old
9 months to l.9 years (F6)
5-l4 years (F2)
13-l406 Sexual Assault (Rape) 5-l4 years (F2)
l3-l409 Open and Notorious Cohabitation or Adultery 3 days-4 months (M3)
13-l4l0 Child Molesting (under 15) 5.25-l5 years (F2)
l3-320l through 13-3212 Pandering (Pimping) Varying, with maximum of 9 months-1.9 years (F6)
13-3213 Pandering a minor 5-14 years (F2)
13-3214 Prostitution 6 months (M1)
13-3608 Incest (within first cousins) 2-5 years (F4)

Go back to "A Line on Life" page.