May 27, 2006

When society gets in the way of sexuality

Culture clashes with human nature in the strangest of ways

Koro, the anxious feeling that your penis is retracting back into your body, is often described as a “culture-bound” psychiatric disorder. Sometimes, episodes of koro come in waves, almost epidemics. Some victims believe that if the penis shrinks far enough into their bodies, they’ll die.

Dhat syndrome is another so-called culture-bound disorder. Victims of dhat syndrome come to believe that semen lost during sleep, through masturbation, or by having sex, is literally draining them of life force. They can feel lethargic or weak. Some have great sexual performance anxiety.

For example, Caucasian women were much more likely to masturbate than were African-American, Hispanic, Chinese or Japanese women. Almost half of Hispanic women engaged in oral sex once per week or more, but only 10.5 percent of Chinese women did. Just over 70 percent of African-American women had intercourse once per week or more; 41.5 percent of Japanese women did.


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