Ten years ago, I was seduced by a fascinating, irresistible, and seemingly simple idea for a unique and much-needed human sexuality reference book, an International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, describing sexual attitudes and behavior in 20 countries around the world. I created an outline covering basic premises of sex, love, and gender roles, ethnic and religious influences, sex education, heterosexual relations, homosexuality and bisexuality, contraception and abortion, teen pregnancy and population control, coercive sexual behavior, pornography, prostitution, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and the like. As I spoke with a dozen or more leading sexologists outside the United States and colleagues in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, I found a small group of colleagues who were experts on sexuality in their own cultures or who had done extensive research in another culture. These I invited to write a chapter of 20 to 25 pages describing sexual attitudes and behaviors in their chosen culture. My volunteers came from a variety of disciplines. Beyond their interest in sexology, each had professional training in an orthodox discipline, such as psychology, sociology, medicine, biology, history, anthropology, or health education. Together we planned a unique reference and resource volume that would let scholars, public health professionals, counselors, and educators compare contraception attitudes and behavior, marital patterns, or any other sexual issue or topic in 20 different countries.
My volunteers were prominent and respected scholars, and very busy. Fortunately, they quickly recognized the need for this kind of in-depth cross-cultural reference. They were eager to write, even without any financial compensation for their labor beyond the customary complimentary copy. As e-mail replaced much slower and far-less-reliable postal mail, my life as editor became far less difficult and frustrating, and much more interesting and demanding than I could ever have expected.
What was supposed to be a single-volume, 400-page encyclopedia mushroomed. By 1996, the passion, zeal, and expertise of my international team of experts had resulted in three volumes instead of one volume, 32 countries instead of 20 countries, and 1,737 pages instead of 400 pages. Instead of 25 or 30 colleagues, I ended up with 40 team leaders and 130 co-authors and contributors. All that was too much for the original publisher, who still wanted 20 countries in a single 400-page volume. I refused to amputate the incredible chapters and fortunately found Continuum International willing to publish the whole three volumes.
When the first three volumes of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (IES) were presented in 1997 at the World Congress of Sexology in Valencia, Spain, the response was more than enthusiastic. The World Association of Sexology, an international society of leading scholars and eighty professional organizations devoted to the study of human sexual behavior, endorsed the Encyclopedia “as an important and unique contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the rich variety of human sexual attitudes, values, and behavior in cultures around the world.” The Encyclopedia also received the “1997 Citation of Excellence for an outstanding reference work in the field of sexology” from the American Foundation for Gender and Genital Medicine and Science.
Library Journal described IES as “an extraordinary, highly valuable synthesis of information not available elsewhere ..., one of the most ambitious cross-cultural sex surveys ever undertaken.” Choice picked the three volumes as the “Best Reference Work of 1997.” Contemporary Psychology said IES is “an invaluable, unique scholarly work that no library should be without.” The British journal Sexual and Marital Therapy said that IES “enables us to make transcultural comparisons of sexual attitudes and behaviours in a way no other modern book does.” Lengthy favorable notices appeared in Austria’s Focus, das moderne Nachrichtenmagazin and Spain’s Camb16.
Very soon after this, with the first three volumes moving toward a fourth printing, my editor at Continuum suggested that we move ahead with a fourth volume. The chapters in this volume were written by 60 sexologists, who fill in gaps in our earlier coverage of Europe, with chapters on Italy, Iceland, Portugal, Croatia, Cyprus, Norway, and Turkey. To our African coverage, we add very interesting contrasts in Islamic Arab Egypt and Morocco, and a finely nuanced emic view of sexuality in Nigeria. Colombia is added to our South American picture. In the Far East and Southeast Asia, volume 4 offers Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam, with important discussions of the indigenous tribal cultures in several of these societies. Because this fourth volume appears early in the twenty-first century, we have included an entry on “Outer Space” by Raymond J. Noonan, associate editor for this volume. This chapter highlights many of the special issues and concerns that are coming to light in the realm of sexology and space psychology as multinational crews begin to inhabit the new International Space Station.
Despite our concentrated efforts, we were not able to solve two major frustrations in gathering the material for volume 4. In spite of persistent efforts and the helpful suggestions and negotiations of colleagues, including Marc Ganem, president of the French Sexological Association, and Evelyne S. Schreier, we were unable to obtain a chapter on France. Our other major disappointment was not being able to complete a chapter on Cuba in time to include it in this volume. Before the first three volumes were published in 1997, we started working with key persons in Cuba’s Centro Nacional de Educacion Sexual. That three-year effort failed for a variety of reasons, but what we learned about Cuban sexual attitudes and behavior, and the outstanding progress Cuba has made in sexuality education, made a chapter on Cuba very desirable. In late 1999, serendipitous connections led us to a South American health educator doing fieldwork in Cuba. Her several field trips to Cuba provided enough material for a very interesting field report, but our deadline for this fourth volume did not allow completion of a full chapter. In volume 5, we plan to include Norway and Hong Kong (updated), France and Denmark, Cuba and Peru or Chile, Tanzania or another sub-Saharan African nation, a Baltic state or a former member of the USSR, Pakinstan or Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka or New Zealand.
For this fourth volume, we asked the contributors to volumes 1 through 3 to prepare a few pages describing three or four significant developments in their country since 1996 for an updating supplement. Unexpectedly, their enthusiasm went far beyond our expectations. In the United Kingdom, Kevan Wylie and his colleagues responded enthusiastically with a 35,000-word “Supplement” - practically a whole new chapter. Jakob Pastoetter provided a similar in-depth expansion for Germany, as did Fang-fu Ruan for China, Anne Bolin for French Polynesia, and Igor Kon for Russia. The unexpected length of these and other not-so-brief Supplemental Notes made their inclusion in this volume impossible. This forced an editorial decision we had no way of anticipating. Our only alternative was to shift the 40 pages of Supplemental Notes from volume 4 to our SexQuest Web site at www.SexQuest.com/IES4/.
At the same time, the translations of two key chapters, Colombia and South Korea, produced chapters much longer than expected. Because these translations were completed only a few weeks before our final deadline, we faced another difficult decision with our publisher. This required shifting two chapters to our SexQuest Web site. We sincerely apologize to Emil M. L. Ng and Joyce L. C. Ma, our Hong Kong authors, and to Elsa Almas and Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad, our Norwegian authors, but we had no alternative. We invite our readers to consult the chapters on Hong Kong and Norway, as well as the Supplemental Notes at www.SexQuest.com/IES4/. Both chapters and the full Supplemental Notes are included in the index at the end of this fourth volume.
As editors of this fourth volume of The International Encyclopedia, we are happy to acknowledge the dedicated and passionate commitment of the 60 authors who researched and wrote the chapters in this volume. We thank each of them. We also want to thank the 21 sexologists who contributed Supplementary Notes to update the chapters in our first three volumes. The 250 sexologists on 6 continents who helped create this unique and “herculean” four-volume resource can take great pride in our labor of love. We also appreciate the support of Evander Lomke, our editor at Continuum International. The editor is also grateful to his new associate editor, Raymond J. Noonan, a long-time friend and colleague, for his invaluable work in copyediting, graphic design, and problem solving. I also thank Luciane Raibin for her patient work as my point person for communications with our Latino and Portuguese contributors.
Readers of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality are invited to submit important news items or reports of findings of new sex research being done in any of the countries covered here, or any other country in the world. We will try to keep the SexQuest Web site updated with your help. Send items in English if possible, with appropriate citations, to Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D., IBS Associate Editor, Health and Physical Education Department, Fashion Institute of Technology, 27th Street and 7th Avenue, Newark, NY10001 USA or by e-mail to rjnoonan@SexQuest.com.