Among the many aspects of human life, sexuality is one of the most important. It pertains to marriage, economic and kinship ties, identity, and satisfaction. Most people acquire some level of sexual experience at some point during their lives; and, while the physical satisfaction is immediate, and the emotional satisfaction continues, there are certain concepts of human sexuality that are less understood. These concepts include sexuality in relation to marriage, incest, and homosexual unions.
Sexuality is a major concern in all societies and how it is viewed can be understood by various marriage practices. Marriage is a way to create exclusivity among partners. Whether heterosexual, homosexual, or other, marriage binds the individuals together, not just in terms of economic and social practicality, but sexuality as well. By engaging in marriage practices, a society can somewhat control its population by establishing certain laws and guidelines regarding sexuality. Since marriage is taken seriously, so is sexual practice. In societies where sexual practice is very liberal, it tends to be the case only until monogamous or polygamous marriage is declared, as exemplified by the people of the Trobriand Islands. Trobrianders are very carefree about their sexual relationships and with whom, but once marriage is established, sexual activities are exclusive to the relationship. In Western society, however, marriage has less of a hold on sexual restraint. While various religions, such as Christianity, do not advocate what is termed adultery, marriage is still becoming less effective at controlling sexual relations. Rather, most people will simply get a divorce if they feel they cannot be faithful to their partner. In a society flooded by flaunting sexuality in the media, it is becoming more difficult for individuals to monitor their sexual practices; and, they are less concerned with important economic, social, and kinship aspects of marriage and sexuality.
Along with marriage, another concept that pertains to sexuality is incest. The incest taboo is one of the oldest of taboos. While there are certainly genetic reasons that sibling-to-sibling or sibling-to-parent sexual relations should be avoided for likelihood of birth defects, genetic research didn’t come into the picture until recently. It is more likely that people believed direct family members are too close to an individual’s likeness. While many societies emphasize creation of new economic and social ties, engaging in incest would prevent the fulfillment of such needs. However, some societies allow sexual and marital relations with cousins, even first cousins (which has not been proven to be a genetic risk) in order to keep inheritance and close-knit ties within the established family. Also, anthropologists have created a chart that describes the biological connection among family members from the point of view of a single individual. As Claude Levi-Strauss indicates, contrastive pairs (such as light and dark, male and female) are necessary components of understanding. Incest goes against the natural understanding of self and others.
A third concept of human sexuality is in regard to same-sex relationships. The difficulty pertaining to homosexuality and homosexual unions nearly always stem from religious background. It has been observed that societies with strong Roman Catholic backing severely shun those who do not adhere to the heterosexual ways as governed by the Bible. Using the concept of contrastive pairs, homosexuality would also go against this; however, we can see from numerous studies of various cultures and many other species that homosexual activity is not at all uncommon. Still, the fear of going to hell if one engages in such homosexual behaviors has been strong enough to divert individuals from the activity. While the current attitude in the United States and other areas is still not in majority favor of homosexuality, civil partnerships are on the rise, as people realize the decision is a personal one and ultimately up to them.