Sex-Negative Societies & Non-Orgasmic Women

sex-negativeSex-positive societies create easily orgasmic, and multiply orgasmic women.

So it’s no surprise that sex-negative societies do the opposite.

In some places women’s pleasure is deliberately cut by damaging or removing the clitoris. In other places something more akin to a psychological clitoridectomy is performed. Let’s take a look at how that can happen.

Inis Beag is a small island off the coast of Ireland. In the middle of the last century it was one of the most sexually repressed places in the world. Here is a description from a UCSB website:

In the 1960s the population counted only 350 people, who lacked electricity, running water and cars.

Nudity was so taboo that adults and children only washed the parts of their bodies that extend beyond their clothing. Clothes were changed in secrecy, often beneath bedcovers.

Even pet nudity created anxiety, if the pets were in heat. And dogs who licked their privates could expect a whipping.

Even married couples kept their underwear on during sex.

When babies were conceived, anyway, infant nudity was scorned and their bodies kept covered around siblings and outsiders.

Breast-feeding was avoided because it just seemed too sexual. Once infants grew into children verbal affection replaced physical touch.

Sex was never discussed and any form of sexual expression was brutally punished. Some couples never had children because they didn’t know how.

About one-third of the population remained unmarried and celibate.

Women who did marry were told that sex was a duty to be endured, and that refusal was a mortal sin.

Premarital sex was virtually unknown.

And so was the female orgasm.

Any surprise?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 4, 2016, in psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. I never thought of our society as sex-negative before taking your class and reading this post. I suppose now that I think about it I always noticed people being uncomfortable with the idea of sex or being sexual, but I never connected it for some reason to a sex-negative culture. It is interesting that there is a connection between a sex-negative culture and the ability for women to orgasm. I have been sexually active in one way or another since my freshman year of high school and I am now almost 20 I have never had an orgasm and for the longest time I never thought about it because I didn’t know I was supposed to feel good or orgasm. My current boyfriend is all about making the other person feel good and for the longest time I felt bad that I couldn’t do my part and orgasm but I also just got frustrated that I can’t because that’s not fair why can’t I? I might have been born into a world that is very sex-negative but my parents raised me with the ideas that sex was natural and that if I ever had questions I shouldn’t be afraid to ask. To know that even with that open mindedness from my parents my society could have affected me that much is partially very interesting and intriguing but also sad and I hope to be able to change that. I had never heard of a society like the one you mentioned in your post that was so sex-negative that people did not even wash their genitals and women are not able to breastfeed due to it being too sexualized. I also commented on your post about sexualizing breast a few weeks ago and it is astonishing to me that people and women especially can be repressed in such a way that doing something so natural like feeding your child is seen as too sexual so it should not be done.

  2. Samantha Newell

    I find it interesting how vital teaching sex education and healthy sexual behaviors is to any society (of course, the “vitality” of sexual health is subjective from country to country and time to time), especially with regards to its influence on patriarchy and dominance. On one side of the spectrum, you have the people of Inis Beag, a society historically known to be sex-negative, and on the other, you have the Mangaian people, whom not only teach their children about safe sex, but how to have pleasurable sex ( Quite opposite of the impoverished Mangaians, you have the well-developed society of Japan, in which sex education is greatly lacking. As summed up by the author of the article titled, “Married or single, Japan is a desolate country,”:
    “Sex education the 1990s…was a panicked response to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Suddenly fifth-graders were handed textbooks showing mature human bodies making babies. It was too much too fast. Sex was made to look ugly, dirty, clinical. The reaction that set in seems the epitome of good intentions gone wrong.”(
    There is a common belief linking perceived exotic sexual tastes (both healthy and unhealthy) of Japanese people to the country’s lack of modern sex education. What are your thoughts on this stereotype?

  3. If adults and children only washed the parts of their bodies that extended beyond their clothing, they must have had terrible body odour.

    The lack of proper personal hygiene must have caused a few infections as well.

  4. kellie@writingmoment

    Hi, just catching up a bit as I haven’t been on WP for a while. Happy New Year! Very interesting post, you have taught me something as I had no idea places like this ever existed.

  5. That is absolutely disgusting that they do not wash their genitals. I can only imagine the stench that is released under the covers where they change *vomit*. No wonder women can’t have an orgasm, it would be repulsive to even touch their unwashed genitals. I feel like this can relate to what we were talking about in class, about how when children are little each sex thinks the other has the same genitalia as the other. In the society Inis Beag, this seems like something like that would be never addressed, and we can imagine how confusing sex must be to these people. It doesn’t surprise me that they do not know how to partake in it. What I found mildly hilarious but also very saddening was the pet nudity bit, I mean seriously who in their right mind feels threatened or uncomfortable by their “naked” dog. What I wonder is how does a society even reach this point of ignorance?

    • Yeah, it is. And when people are constantly taught that sex is bad and disgusting, women in particular can get to a point where they actually lose any sexual desire (women’s sexuality seems to be more flexible than men’s, and more affected by their culture). All the stench would make it that much worse I’m sure.

  6. It’s a wonder that such a place could exist! “Breast-feeding was avoided because it just seemed too sexual”- What The Friday is this!!! 😮

    Anyway, on a second thought, I think in some way or another, such things do exist in our society, especially I’m talking of female orgasm. If a woman expresses it, she is either a slut or a nympho. If she doesn’t she is frigid! And, all of us perhaps know of fake aahs and uuhs…! A powerful article…thanks for sharing…

    • I’m wondering what the kids ate. There was baby formula at the time, but this Island was so backward, that I’m wondering if they had access to it. Or was it one of the few modern conveniences that they found useful? Or did they just stop breast-feeding as soon as possible and give the kids mashed peas? Unfortunately, the University of California, Santa Barbara site doesn’t say.

  7. An incredible sad thing for such cultures to create “sex negative societies” ~ and it seems that biology’s answer to this (sex is natural, normal and above all ~ necessary) would make the answer obvious. Beautiful post. A great way to bring in the New Year ~ and best to you with your writing in the New Year. Cheers to a great 2016.

    • And the US also has a sex-negative streak — though less so. When you compare more and less sex-negative societies, and the impact on women, there is a definite, and unfortunate, pattern.

      On a more positive note: Happy new year to you!

      • I do agree with this ~ very sad, as it can destroy women’s lives. You have made this clearer, and I do not see it abating much (in fact, in some areas it is increasing). Anyway, yes ~ let’s be positive here and charge into the New Year with the goal of making positive changes 🙂

  8. No, I am not Jewish…I am Christian (Protestant). But, that’s OK…

    “Sex positive in today’s world would see sex as beautiful and natural, and not shaming women’s sexuality – or any sexuality. But recognizing that it is a powerful gift that needs to be used responsibly.”

    That sounds great and harmless. But,… fails to address sexual behavior(s). So, does that mean porn is OK? Does, it mean prostitution is OK? What about young women becoming sugar babies? What about men who want to establish a harem?

    I realize and accept that sex is beautiful, natural, healthy, and fun! It should, in and of itself, not be seen as something that is either bad or shameful. But, where do we draw a line? I am not suggesting that sex should only take place in marriage…..or there should be no premarital sex. Since we live and free and open society, can we place any curbs on sexual behavior? If so, who will do it? Is it even practicable..?

    I know in many parts of Europe, many of the countries are sex positive. We see very high rates of abortions in those countries. Also, even in Catholic Spain prostitution is legal. Is this where you want to take America? Perhaps we are already there..I think today men and women just use one another sexually and discard one another like a soda can afterwards. Just how this helps us build a better society I am have yet to discover.

    • So let’s take a look at what I said and apply it to the examples you give. Using sex responsibly means don’t harm.

      Abortion rates in the most sex positive countries are much lower than abortion rates in sex negative cultures. In Northern Europe the rate is about eight per 1000 per year. The last time I saw a calculation of this sort the rate in the US was 21 per thousand per year. Uganda is more sex negative than us and there rate is around 50 per person per year. Latin America is one of the least sex positive societies, With its strong Catholicism. They average one abortion per woman, Lifetime.

      Sounds counterintuitive but the reason why sex positive societies have lower abortion rates it Is because they are more likely to have sex education, Providing birth control, and young women don’t feel shameful using birth control.

      Porn is okay so long as it doesn’t harm. If it is harming then that is a problem. I believe that prostitution should be decriminalized but that “Johns” and pimps should be prosecuted. Because that is the most effective way to stop sex trafficking, Which is harming. You can’t make a law against sugar babies. But women or men who feel harmed by it not do it.

  9. Hi Georgia…Thanks for sharing your posts with us…Amazing! This post remarkable! Especially like your response to ‘Huggy Bear’— “Sex positive in today’s world would see sex as beautiful and natural, and not shaming women’s sexuality – or any sexuality. But recognizing that it is a powerful gift that needs to be used responsibly. You don’t want to be bringing children into the world who you can’t or won’t support. You need to be respectful of your partner.” You write Truth! Wishing you a days of Love—Peace and Wonder…Phil

  10. First, Happy New Year to you.

    Second, I wish to pose a simple question: Is a totally sex positive society compatible with most religious beliefs?

    In other words, is the sex positive society you would create or desire to see compatible with religious based morality?


    • Happy new year to you, Huggy. Haven’t heard from you in a while (sob).

      Depends on the religion. It would be completely compatible with early Earth-based religions. It was compatible with the religions of American Indians and Pacific Islanders before European contact. But I believe you are Jewish so let’s look at that. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is pretty sex-positive in terms of men. Take a look at Songs of Solomon.

      Sex positive in today’s world would see sex as beautiful and natural, and not shaming women’s sexuality – or any sexuality. But recognizing that it is a powerful gift that needs to be used responsibly. You don’t want to be bringing children into the world who you can’t or won’t support. You need to be respectful of your partner. Things like that.

  11. Happy New Year! Just getting back from a blogger/writing break and look forward to seeing what you are up to in your work. It’s no surprise with sex repressed that there were no orgasms. The fear around women experiencing pleasure in their bodies remains a constant even if not as overtly/covertly as it was in Inis Beag. If sex is treated as a negative there will undoubtedly be contraction and resistance around it- and if as a positive openness and receptivity which are necessary ingredients for a woman being able to fully come.

    • Welcome back, and a happy new year to you, too! I’ve been taking a bit of break myself — doing reruns for couple weeks. It’s a very sad and strange thing to explore the effects of sex negativity and the motive behind it. I will be writing more in the future.

  12. Interesting, Georgia, but no surprises. Surprises, for the menfolk that is, will certainly be in the not too far away future when women assume centre stage of the scheme of things.

    • I guess it’s both surprising and not. If you know the effects of sexual repression it’s not surprising what happened here. But many People seem to find it surprising that a culture like this ever existed. But it helps to show how the effects of sexual repression affect people in repressed — even if less so — societies like the United States.

  13. Another wow here! I had no idea such a place existed….kind of reminds me of the stories of the Shakers….

  14. wow – this is such deep, complex and powerful post…

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