Pre-Marital Sex - Different Cultures Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

This is because as a culture, female virginity is considered an important indicator of one's purity and innocence and although sexual intercourse before marriage is acceptable to men; the same case does not apply to women as premarital sex is strongly discouraged for women (Kayir cited in ibid).

Premarital Sex: East Asian Cultural Views

Sexual Revolution in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan

Results of a 2005 survey in China showed that in urban China, the average age for first sexual experience among boys and girls is 17.4 years old. Chinese sociologist Professor Zhou Xiaozheng was not surprised by this results as he believes that, "The opening-up of Chinese society and early arrival of puberty have contributed to this change in sexual behavior." (Xinhua, 2005, pars. 1-4). Further, "Sex used to be taboo in traditional Chinese society. But today, sex products are available to almost everyone in the cities, from Internet or on DVDs. [This is the result of government deferring] the marriage age and promotes safe sex, teenagers have been growing up without guilt about their sexuality" (ibid, par. 3-4). When asked of their views about premarital sex, 1 of every 5 Chinese adolescent respondents said that they approve of it and that there is nothing wrong with it (ibid).

The changing values and beliefs on premarital sex that we have witnessed in the Chinese society are also salient in Korean society as premarital sex is also on the rise in a society who used to hold conservative family values (Furstenberg in Ki, n.d.). Results of the study by Sohn & Chun (2009) said that Korean men are engaged in premarital sex earlier than women and had more multiple partners. Moreover, both men and women reported to have inconsistent condom use.

In Vietnam, calls for the introduction of sex education in secondary school have been rampant because premarital sex has been on the rise in this country as well. Like in China, Vietnamese social scientists also maintain that the permeation of foreign culture and modern lifestyle in their country, as well as urbanization and development -- all these have contributed in the rising numbers of premarital sexual intercourse levels (Lich, 2009). Another empirical evidence on the other hand, showed that although premarital sex has been becoming common in Vietnam, these trends are not widespread. The increase in numbers has been widespread in North Vietnam but has remained modest all throughout the South. The analysis of the data indicated that such change in premarital sexual activity of Vietnamese people (particularly among the settlers in the North) is a result of important socioeconomic, cultural, and attitudinal changes which probably is an offshoot of economic liberalization that the country underwent (Ghuman et al., 2006).

Traditional family arrangements in Japan have also experienced major changes because global media has expanded the people's awareness to different lifestyles and family set-ups. There has been a de-linking between marriage and sex which resulted to premarital sex being the present norm in Japanese society (Nakanishi cited in Hashimoto and Traphagan, 2008).

Dating culture, on the other hand, is an important component of the rise of premarital sex in Taiwanese society as "the dramatic increase in sexual intimacy before marriage in Taiwan coincides with the movement from arranged marriages toward romantic marriages and a newly emergent dating culture. These trends toward dating and romantic marriage appear to be part of the wide changing environment rapid socio-economic transformation and cultural change which has occurred over the past four decades in Taiwan" (Chang, 1996, pp.13-14).

At this point, we have already presented the different views on premarital sex by both Western and Eastern cultures. This was made possible via the examination of empirical evidences and trends in these societies. After presenting the basic information, we shall now proceed to our analysis wherein we shall answer the research questions that we have posted at the early part of our discussion.

IV. Analysis

On Similarities and Differences

Much of what has been documented about Western culture is its liberal idea towards premarital sex. This started during the 1960s, which can be termed as the period of sexual revolution (Harding & Jencks, 2003). However, we see a gap in research literature as to what U.S. society was like prior to 1930s. Was it modest? Was it extremely conservative? Or has it always been open and liberal? These are interesting points of discussion which could be address by future studies on this subject matter. But going back to the main point I am trying to drive at, perhaps one of the similarities that we can see among these two cultures is that sexual revolution or the dramatic increase in premarital sex as product of the times. It has been consistent that upon arriving at that period in a society's social history where such society has become liberal, a move towards becoming more and more liberal can be anticipated. No such literature or empirical study that we have reviewed and presented showed that from high levels of premarital sex, a society turns back to its conservative roots.

Moreover, we believe that it is safe to assume that sexual revolution, or such increase in the incidence rate of premarital sex, is a product of many socio-cultural changes happening in a nation. For example, in the United States, religious decline (see Petersen & Donnenwerth, 1997) and lower media portrayal of negative outcomes of premarital sex (see Eyal and Kunkel, 2008), or the penetration of Western culture and lifestyle to East Asian nations (see Xinhua, 2005; Hashimoto and Traphagan, 2008; Lich, 2009) contributed to the rise of premarital sex.

Another point of similarity is that of difference. What we can conclude from what we have seen so far is that Western culture and East Asian culture are both two vast and broad conceptualizations such that to generalize them can often be problematic. For example, Turkey is a Western nation with Western influences but it still strongly discourages premarital sex among women (see Ugurlu & Glick, 2003) while women of Swedish cultures and American cultures do not experience such stigma. In East Asian culture, the rise in premarital sex has been of considerably different reasons for Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Taiwan had something to do with dating culture and more relaxed wedding arrangements which paved way for more freedom in choosing one's partner (Chang, 1996). This can also be manifested in the case of Vietnam where premarital sex levels vary between North and South regions (Ghuman et al., 2006). Such observations tell us that culture is very diverse. This work made several universalistic assumptions to allow for a comparative analysis in order to answer our research questions. But also, it tells us that particularistic observations and analysis also have important bearing. Hence, the dichotomy of universalism and particularism continues to ensue in the realm so social scientific analysis.

Perhaps, all that we have been trying to get at is the fact that such social change (i.e. increase in premarital sex) is a product of many socio-cultural forces.

In terms of differences, we believe that lies strongly on the fact that sexual revolution occurred at different phases of the broader context of social history, i.e. liberal ideas on premarital sex occurred way earlier in Western societies than in East Asian societies, which is why a causal relationship between the two societies have been consistently pointed out by East Asian social scientists as you may have noticed a while ago. If the Western society has already adopted open views on premarital sex in as early as 1930s in which they have managed to strengthen these views in 1960s, most East Asian countries have stated to adopt such liberal views only fairly recently (see Xinhua, 2005; Lich, 2009).

Macro and Micro Sociological View on Premarital Sex

Early on, we asked ourselves, what is the implication of upholding such value mean to the larger culture? In Western societies, views on premarital sex are liberal and more open. Then we can go as far as saying that the Western society is a liberal society allowing people to freely express their sexualities. The value of virginity, in effect, is not as highly regarded by the culture. On the other hand, an anti-Western discourse can be interpreted in East Asian alarming calls regarding the high rates of premarital sex in their nations. Have you not felt the blame game undertones? A number of East Asian social scientists have blamed the permeation of Western culture, ways, and lifestyle to their previously conservative nations (see Xinhua, 2005; Hashimoto and Traphagan, 2008; Lich, 2009).

On the other hand, how does this kind of cultural values affect its people? If your society is open to premarital sex then in effect it reinforces its people's engagement to such kind of behavior. If an action is not frowned upon, then there is a greater chance of one's involvement to such kind of behavior. On the other…

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