Sexuality and men's health
We live, there can be no doubt, in a highly sexualized society. Images of sexual activity abound in the media and have since the earliest recorded history; sex, as everybody knows, sells (Thompson 2000). Hand in hand with the high salience of sexuality in society goes a strong differentiation of gender roles with respect to sexual behaviour and attitudes (Blackwood 2000). Indeed, the presence of clearly differentiated gender roles with respect to sexual behaviour is perhaps one of the most consistent of findings across cultures. Gender differences in sexual attitudes and sexual behaviour are widely assumed to be both biologically based and immutable. This chapter argues, however, that many gender differences in attitudes and behaviour pertaining to sex are culturally, rather than biologically, based.
While the precise nature of gender differentiation in sexual attitudes and sexual behaviour, and the extent to which it is enforced by explicit or implicit social rules, varies considerably across societies, there is an almost universal assumption that males have, and should have, more freedom than females in sexual behaviour and expression. It is important, however, to distinguish between cultural assumptions about men's greater sexual freedom and the actual behaviours and attitudes of men. The evidence on this question is more than a little mixed.
Anthropological research into cultural expectations of male and female sexual behaviour has demonstrated that many societies maintain a double standard, with males being permitted substantially higher levels of sexual freedom than females (Barry and Schlegel 1984, 1985). In a survey of 141 societies, Broude and Greene (1976) found that 65 per cent disapproved of premarital sexual behaviour among women to a greater degree than among men. Psychobiologists have attempted to explain such double standards in terms of a hypothesized 'need' to identify correctly a child's biological parents. While identifying the mother is biologically unequivocal, only in a society in which all women were always entirely monogamous could fathers