Sex can be a bonding or loving experience, a formality, fun and exciting, or even immoral or illegal. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no doubt that sex makes the world go ’round. Every culture is different, with different morals and lifestyles, and that is a great word to describe these ten particular practices: Different.
Westerners might consider themselves somewhat sexually liberated, or at least headed in that direction, and while that may be the case, there are some societies out there that make us look like painfully repressed prudes. Some of these cultures no longer exist, but there will always be people to take their place.
With so many tribes and small groups out there, it is impossible to list all of the strange sexual customs and adulthood rites that each group might practice. Many societies likely keep their ways of life close to the proverbial chest, away from the judgmental eyes of outsiders. Here is a list of ten bizarre and shocking sexual lifestyles that we came across.
Warning: Graphic content.
10) Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was a very sexualized culture, with very few social stigmas for most free men and women. The ebb and flow of the Nile was even thought to be caused by their god of creation’s ejaculation. This idea caused the pharaohs – with their god-given potency – to ritually masturbate into the Nile to ensure a wealth of water for crops. During the Egyptian festival of the god Min, who represented the pharaoh’s sexual power, men regularly masturbated in public.
In Indonesia, there is a celebration called Pon. The event is held seven times a year, during which participants travel to a sacred mountain on the island of Java to perform a ceremony of good luck and fortune through sex. Participants have to spend the night and have intercourse with someone other than their wife or husband. It is said that their wishes of good luck will only come true if they have sex with the same person at all seven celebrations throughout the year.
8) Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece was one of the most sexually prolific and accepting societies in history. Homosexuality was a regular social convention, publicly embraced, but Ancient Greece’s tolerance alone isn’t what makes their sexual culture bizarre. Sexual desire was not distinguished by the gender of two people, bur rather by an active/passive role that each participant played. The “active” person was the penetrator, mirroring their role in society with high status, adulthood, and masculinity. The “passive” person was the penetrated, mirroring their submissive role as someone with lower standing, and a more youthful countenance associated with femininity.
The most common form of same-sex relationships in Greece were between an older male and an adolescent boy. Pederasty was socially accepted without stigmas because the older man was supposed to act as a role model – teaching, protecting, and loving – to the boy. This practice was called “paiderastia,” or, simply, “boy love.” Until the boy was able to grow a full beard, he was not considered a man.
The Deer Horn Muria are a forest-dwelling tribe who live deep in Central India’s Chhattisgarh region. They practice something called Ghotul, which is a festive mingling of teenage men and women to teach them songs, lore, tribal dance… and sex. At night, they engage in ceremonial orgies and sexual romps. Girls drink a natural liquor as an herbal contraceptive to avoid pregnancy and then choose different sexual partners every night (talk about every juvenile boy’s dream). If the herbal drink doesn’t work and the girl becomes pregnant, the entire village will adopt the baby since no one knows for sure who the father is. And here we thought the West was sexually liberated.
Saut-d’Eau is a municipality in Haiti, and its waterfalls are an annual site of religious importance. Every summer in July, voodoo practitioners and religious enthusiasts make a pilgrimage to the holy site to take part in a Eucharistic rite, worshiping the goddess of love. The penultimate devotional activity involves everyone bathing naked under the waterfalls, asking for heavenly favors. Then, some extreme participants take part in a sexual dance, still naked, writhing around in a mixture of mud and the blood of sacrificed animals.
The “people of the taboo,” or Wodaabe, are a tribe in Niger known for their beauty and rich cultural ceremonies. Traditionally, a person’s first marriage is arranged by their parents while they’re infants, and they must be married to cousins of the same lineage. At the annual Gerewol festival, Wodaabe men dress in elaborate costumes and makeup and then stand in a line in front of women to show off their beautiful teeth, faces, and features. Women pick new husbands from the men they are most impressed by, and if the new couple leaves without their current husband knowing, they become socially recognized. As opposed to the formal first marriage, this form of union is called a “love marriage.”
4) The Himalayas
In the populated Himalayas, there is not much land available for farming and grazing, so families with more than one son would have to divide their land when each son starts his own family, providing even less agriculture per family. The solution to this is in finding a single wife for all of the sons of a family so that they can keep the plot and land intact. In some Nepalese communities, many brothers might share a single wife. Anthropologists call this form of polyandrous societal practice “fraternal polyandry”, where a group of brothers share one wife. Apparently, the wife must be adept at scheduling time with each brother to keep jealous flares from rising.
3) Papau New Guinea
Papau New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet with 848 different languages and as many traditional societies. The Trobriand tribe practices magic spells and passes them down through generations, often directing their spells to induce erotic feelings in their lover or to make a person beautiful. The beauty spells are chanted into coconut oil and then rubbed onto a person’s skin. Also, the tribe is known for becoming sexually active at a young age. Girls often start having sex by the age of 6 to 8, while boys start at 10 to 12, with no social stigma. Another interesting tidbit, while pre-marital sex is fine, pre-marital meal-sharing is not. Couples are not supposed to go out for dinner together until they are married.
2) Papau New Guinea Again
The Sambian tribe’s sexual practices are more extreme than their Trobriand neighbors. Boys from Sambian society are removed from the presence of females at the age of seven, living in a community of only males for 10 years. Their skin is pierced to remove “contamination” brought upon by interaction with women, and they consume large amounts of sugarcane to incur nose-bleeding and vomiting. They drink the semen of their elders to retain growth, strength, and sexual potency, and when they are reintroduced to society, they continue their nose-bleeding habit to mirror their wives’ menstrual cycle.
For the faint of heart, turn away now. The Mardudjara Aborigines of Australia have one of the most shocking boyhood-to-manhood transformations out there. At the age of 10 or 12, a boy has his front tooth knocked out and his septum pierced. He is considered symbolically dead at this point, and then he is taken into the wilderness by other men, circumcised, and then expected to ingest his foreskin without chewing. He is mute throughout the entire process. Then his penis is cut lengthwise on the underside, the blood is dripped over a fire to purify it, and from then on the male urinates from the underside of his penis. Then all of the men go hunting, return to camp with food and covered in blood, and the boy is considered reborn as an adult male.
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