Male sexuality, diversity and culture: implications for HIV prevention and care.
Human culture can be viewed as a biologically evolved capacity to develop a set of learning-based processes that define the relationship among people and between people and the environment. In that sense, it is a universal process but, given the great diversity of landscapes and conditions in which humans attempt to live, the specific products vary greatly. Culture is the primary process by which the human being meets biological needs. Culture is systematic, in that linkages across domains are common, though not tightly concordant. Culture makes extensive use of symbolic systems, of which language is the most significant. Finally, cultures change, but have a peculiar way of holding some core elements constant over long periods of time. In this essay, we are concerned with the domain of sexuality, particularly male sexuality, across many cultures. From a cultural point of view, this includes those constellations of ideas, practices, artifacts, and their meanings and contexts in which men participate, either as a lifelong involvement or at various times of their lives, that are adapted to meet felt erotic desires. The erotic components are linked to the body through gender or role presentations, expectations and actions, including reproduction, larger kinship and social roles and structures, demographic dynamics, economic environments, beliefs and attitudes, political forces and, as we are becoming increasingly aware, disease and its meaning. Above all, the erotic components of culture are linked to the body through the rewarding experience of pleasure, although these components may sometimes be at odds with each other. (excerpt)