The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality brings together unique and invaluable information about patterns and trends in sexual attitudes and behavior in thirty-two countries around the world. Each chapter is written by a scholar or team of scholars very familiar with a particular country and its culture. Even when a chapter is written by a single author, that author has consulted with other specialists for advice and information to make sure the material in their chapter is accurate, up-to-date, balanced, and as objective as possible. In this International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, the reader can compare religious and ethnic factors affecting sexual behavior, gender roles, concepts of love and sexuality, sex education, masturbation, adolescent sex, courtship, marriage patterns, homosexuality and bisexuality, gender-conflicted persons, rape and incest, sexual abuse and harassment, prostitution and pornography, contraception and abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, sexual dysfunctions and therapies, sexological research, and advanced education, as well as significant ethnic minorities in thirty-some countries around the world.
This encyclopedia began four years ago as an idea I could not resist. It seemed simple: I would recruit two dozen colleagues and friends in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) and the World Association of Sexology (WAS) to write twenty-five-page chapters summarizing sexual attitudes and behaviors in their own countries. Twenty-five countries, twenty-five teams, twenty-five chapters, each about twenty-five pages in length. In a single volume, the reader could compare and contrast heterosexual or homosexual behavior and attitudes, sex education, contraceptive practices, or teenage sex in China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ireland, the United States, or other countries.
I did not anticipate the serious interest, high enthusiasm, and dedicated scholarship my invitation would provoke. The first few chapters to come in were about the expected length, because little information was available on those countries. Then China and Russia ran over fifty pages, Polynesia over sixty. When the chapter on the Netherlands arrived with over a hundred pages, I knew I had a much more massive project than originally planned. Subsequently, Finland ran one hundred ten pages, while Israel and Canada approached two hundred pages of tightly packed, fascinating information available nowhere else.
My original publisher had insisted on a single volume, but the material was obviously so unique and valuable I refused to edit and condense it. Fortunately, Jack Heidenry, a long-time friend, colleague, and editor for Continuum Publishing Company, recognized the extraordinary importance of the material. Nothing like this kind of cross-cultural comparison had ever been attempted.
The sheer volume of information contributors packed into their chapters could have turned into a chaotic mess. Fortunately, all the contributors were serious about fitting their information into my standard contents outline, which organizes their material into fourteen areas of concern. That standard outline allows the reader to draw comparisons and contrasts between specific attitudes and behaviors in whatever countries they are interested.
The common problems, concerns, and objectives experienced by all the contributors to this encyclopedia were nicely described by Drs. Ronny Shtarkshall and Judith Abrahami-Einat in an early draft of their chapter on Israel:
The aim of this chapter is to give more than a detailed sketch of the sexual mores, attitudes, and behavior in Israeli society and a description of related issues of gender, marriage and family, fertility, and family planning. We aim to give our readers some insights as to the hows and whys of sexual issues in this society, which has many unique characteristics, and an understanding of the sexual issues within the wider context of Israeli society. Our ability to elucidate these issues may be limited by the multiplicity of influences and the formative stage of modern Israeli culture.
Such an attempt may also be wrought with pitfalls, mainly because we are insiders to the society and therefore involved and possibly partially blind to some phenomena. On the other hand, we can bring to the discussion the inner understanding and the recognition of nuances that can come only from experiencing life within such an intense, sometimes baffling scene, to an outsider. Balancing the dangers of involvement is the fact that both authors are academics who also spent several years living outside Israel in Europe and the United States; one of us is also strongly involved in intercultural research and development projects. Such an experience will allow us, we hope, to avoid some of the difficulties or to overcome them.
Other possible sources of biases include the fact that both of us are married (not to each other) and parents of children within traditional monogamous marriages. This may bias us toward a typical Israeli familial and heterosexual (hopefully not heterosexist) point of view, but this in itself is a central part of the Israeli scene. We are also an integral part of the establishment: both of us hold academic positions, Dr. Shtarkshall is the current chairperson of the Israeli Family Planning Association (IFPA) and a long-time member of its board of directors, a consultant to the ministry of education on sexuality and sex education, and a member of the National AIDS Committee. Dr. Abrahami-Einat is the former Executive Director of the IFPA, a founding member of a rape crisis center, and a board member of the Israel Womens Network.
We teamed together to write this paper because it was important for us to look at the sexual scene from both masculine and feminine points of view, synthesizing the foci where possible, or balancing them, but also pointing to differences or disagreements where they were irreconcilable.
Soon after work on the Israel chapter began, Dr. Abrahami-Einat accepted a new position, dropped out of the project, and was replaced by Minah Zemach, who brought her own expertise to the chapter. With other chapters, contributors were added or dropped out due to a variety of reasons. The author of a chapter on Egypt called to inform me that he could not deliver his chapter because religious fundamentalists had warned him not to publish it. Fortunately, I subsequently recruited a knowledgeable and courageous Egyptian Moslem woman doing graduate work at New York University in gender roles, who will produce a chapter on Egypt in the future with the unacknowledged help of friends and relatives in that country. Practical and political realities also emerged in the chapter on Bahrain, where the twenty Bahraini professionals and eight expatriates who helped an American expatriate to produce this detailed and carefully nuanced chapter could not be in any way identified. The American author sent the chapter the day she returned to the United States. Similarly, we are not free to name others who contributed to half a dozen other chapters where writing on sexuality is risky: American Iranians who provided comments on that countys chapter asked not to be named, as did persons who helped with other chapters on African, Middle Eastern, and Asian chapters.
Eusebio Rubio finished his chapter on Mexico, only to have his computer and all disk copies of his chapter taken by armed robbers as he tried to move them to a new office. He was fortunate to save a hardcopy which could be scanned. After three weeks with New York University graduate students studying cross-cultural aspects of sexuality in Copenhagen in 1992, I was particularly eager to have a chapter on Denmark. However, a priority call to work with the victims of the Bosnian crisis has kept its author, Dr. Soren Buss Jensen, preoccupied - Denmark remains for a future work. There were other surprises. There were delays due to unexpected surgery, serious automobile accidents, temporary blindness of one author, and the deaths of family members.
After a years silence during which several inquiries to Dr. Jayaji Nath and Vishwarath Nayar went astray in the mail to Bombay, Federal Express unexpectedly delivered their chapter on India. As news of this project spread, Ted McIlvenna, founder of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, put me in touch with Dr. Lionel Nicholas and Priscilla Daniels, at the University of the Western Cape, who were able to draw on their extensive work with black South Africans to complete the picture of South Africa provided by Dr. Mervyn Hurwitz from a white perspective. At the same professional meeting where I met Nicholas, I also recruited Drs. Tamara Gorovun and Boris Vornik who, despite the difficulties in the former Soviet Union, managed to provide a summary of sexuality in the Ukraine that complements Igor Kons fascinating chapter on sexuality in Russia.
At times, as editor, I had to make sensitive decisions and difficult compromises. Shtarkshall and Zemach informed me that it would be premature at this time to go into any detail about Russian and Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Igor Kons comments on the effects of a devastated infrastructure and lack of hygienic facilities on Russian sexuality are very important to understanding the situation in that country, but also are very sensitive. As a cultural anthropologist, Dr. Paula Drew reports her own observations of many years of familial customs including a strong voyeurism in Iranian families to which several male Iranian scholars took strong exception when they reviewed this chapter. The chapter on Kenya was written by an American Catholic missionary priest, Norbert Brockman, a political scientist and member of SSSS, with help from native Kenyans who could not have their names associated with the chapter because of the political situation and censorship in Kenya.
Finally, as General Editor, I would be remiss if I did not mention two major obstacles that arose just as we thought the material for the three volumes was near completion. After much consultation with colleagues to gather material, the unexpected consequences of a very serious automobile accident to David Weis, one of the co-editors of the United States chapter, nearly brought this chapter to a standstill. The co-editors, however, stuck with the project, and together we recruited two dozen friends and colleagues, members of SSSS, who recognized the importance of having a solid chapter on sexuality in the United States included in this Encyclopedia. Dividing up the topics we needed covered, these scholars worked diligently to prepare outstanding summaries of the different areas. In six months, we had in hand much more than a chapter on the United States. Our twenty-five contributors and thirteen consultants presented us with a manuscript of 120,000 words. This is, in many respects, a definitive study. As General Editor, I am happy to join Drs. Patricia Barthalow Koch and David Weis in thanking our friends and colleagues in SSSS for producing a truly informative and unique chapter on American sexuality. The unexpected problems we encountered with this entry resulted in a unique work.
The other problem we encountered was the decision to include an entry on the United Kingdom. For three years, I had been trying with no success to find experts to write on France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. I spent two desperate days calling colleagues, seeking leads. My search led me to two graduates of the New York University human sexuality program, Maria Bakaroudis and James Shortridge. These former students of mine are now working as health educators in the international divisions of Planned Parenthood and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). James and Maria quickly came to my rescue, using E-mail, fax, and the World Wide Web to find Dr. Kevan R. Wylie, a psychiatrist and specialist in sexual medicine in Sheffield, England. Dr. Wylie quickly accepted our invitation, recruited two dozen experts, and delivered to us an outstanding chapter on sexuality in the United Kingdom, all in three months time. Only an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated sexologist could have accomplished this task, and the readers of the Encyclopedia will benefit greatly from the chapter Dr. Wylie and his team created on such short notice.
Although slightly over half of our contributors are male, we have a good gender balance. Admittedly, we would have preferred to have more anthropologists and sociologists contributing; psychologists and physicians are more likely to specialize in sexology, so they are more frequently found among our contributors. As editor, I strongly encouraged male contributors to obtain input on their material from knowledgeable female colleagues whenever possible. This they were often able to do. Unfortunately, it was not always possible. In the Canadian entry, Michael Barrett and his colleagues note that serious governmental efforts to obtain information from ethnic minorities that would be helpful in designing AIDS prevention programs encountered a strong reluctance, even resistance to researchers speaking about sexual issues with women in certain minorities. My own efforts to obtain comments and feedback from knowledgeable Hindu and Moslem women acquaintances for the chapters on Iran, India, and Indonesia invariably produced only embarrassed retreat and avoidance. In some cultures, women, even college graduates, do not speak about sexual issues with men, especially outsiders.
Throughout the chapters, the reader will find that attempts to describe a sexual custom or behavior in great detail leads inevitably to a loss of its context. But if one describes the context in detail, one frequently loses the character of the behavior or custom. The authors tried to keep a balance between detail and context, which we trust readers will be aware of and sensitive to as they draw comparisons and contrasts.
I must admit that I have enjoyed no other writing project as much as I have my work as editor of this International Encyclopedia. I must thank each and every contributor for their diligent and dedicated work, which is only rewarded by the knowledge that they have made possible a unique and herculean reference work we know will be of great use to sexologists and other professionals interested in the state of sexual attitudes, customs, and behaviors in the rich diversity of cultures around the world.
In late 1993, after it was obvious that we would end up with more than one volume, my editor Jack Heidenry and I spoke of the possibility that this project might grow beyond three volumes. In late 1996, as the manuscript neared completion, authors from additional countries had begun to inquire about contributing to an additional volume. By early 1997, entries on Nigeria, the Philippines, and Portugal were well underway, and other entries on Austria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Turkey, and Venezuela had been initiated. Two alumni of the New York University graduate program in human sexuality have joined me as Consulting Editors for this continued effort. Their regular international travels and contacts will be invaluable in recruiting new contributors, particularly in Africa, Asia, and South America. I have already acknowledged the invaluable contribution Maria Bakaroudis and James Shortridge made in coordinating the entry on the United Kingdom. Their combined expertise, energy, regular international travel, and many personal contacts with experts in human sexuality around the world will be crucial in any expansion of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality.