There are more than 7 billion people on earth, and aside from enjoying a good sleep in and hating mosquito bites, sex is one of the very few things we can reasonably say we all have in common.
Sex, however, can mean entirely different things from one place to the next and from person to person (just look at our own community!). But we ask that while you read the article, you keep in mind that what seems weird to us in Australia might be so because we don't have an indepth understanding of the culture. So please keep an open mind and be respectful in your comments.
While the shrines that immediately spring to mind are Buddhist temples commonly called "wat" there are some more unusual shrines tucked away. Lingam shrines are clusters of carved wood or stone phallus, a symbol for fertility in many ancient cultures, usually brightly painted or tied with colourful scarves. The most well known can be found in Bangkok and in the lingam cave at Railay Beach.
In Indonesia there is a celebration called Pon where participants travel to a sacred mountain in Java to perform a ceremony of good luck. Participants have to spend the night with someone other than their husband or wife and it's believed that their good luck will come true if they have sex with the same person at all seven celebrations throughout the year.
Mangaia, South Pacific
The people of Mangaia are wonderfully open and accepting of their sexuality and young men and women are encouraged to have multiple sexual encounters before they find their future spouse. Around age 13 the boys undergo a cutting of their foreskin and begin their sex education which includes sex with an older woman who will teach him how to pleasure his partners. Orgasms are attained almost universally on the island for both men and women.
One way ticket please!
In the Wodaabe tribe of Niger marriages are arranged by parents whilst the children are still infants. However, at the annual Gerewol Festival, the Wodaabe men wear elaborate makeup and costumes in an effort impress the ladies and entice them to leave their partners. If the new couple is able to "steal" away undetected the union becomes socially recognised within the tribe as a "love" marriage.
Springtime in Japan is known for some unusual festivals which are grounded in Shinto, have been celebrated for at least 1,500 years and represent prayers for good harvests and fertility.
At the Hime-no-miya grand vagina festival, yep you read it correctly, up to 40 grown men strain under the weight of a massive vagina as they carry it to the shrine. And not to be left out they also celebrate Honen Matsuri - the Penis festival - where massive phalluses weighing over 250k are paraded through the streets. It should be noted that it's not actually the phalluses or vulvas which are worshipped, it's that they represent the power of nature providing fertility and regeneration.
In Kawasaki they celebrate Kanamara Matsuri, the "Festival of the Steel Phallus" where gigantic phallic-shaped mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) are paraded down the streets as revellers suck on penis lollipops and pose with sculptures in the shape of - you guessed it - penises. This festival is believed to go back to the 17th century, when prostitutes prayed to protect their sexual health at the shrine. Today, the festival raises awareness about safe sex practices and fundraises for HIV prevention.
Young men of the mountain dwelling Sambian Tribe are separated from the females of the tribe whilst they affirm their manhood. The tribe believes that the semen of a man possesses the “masculine spirit,” which the boys will be able to attain through their ingestion of the semen of the older warriors.
No thanks, we'll pass on this one!
Sexuality in ancient Egypt was untainted by guilt, their religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest and homosexuality and unmarried women were free to indulge their sexual yearnings to the fullest. Ancient Egypt was obsessed with masturbation! They believed the ebb and flow of The Nile was controlled by the gods ejaculating, so the pharaohs would ritually masturbate into the river to ensure a wealth of water. And during the Egyptian festival of the god Min, who represented the pharaoh’s sexual power, men regularly masturbated in public.
Voodoo practitioners make the journey each summer to the waterfalls of Saut d'Eau to worship the goddess of love. Just imagine a bunch of buck-naked people twisting and wriggling around in mud mixed with the blood of sacrificed animals, with cow and goat heads thrown into the mix.
For some Nepalese tribes in the Himalayas, when a woman marries a man, she also marries all of his brothers. Depending on which source you believe, they either do it so that the man’s family can pass on their farm without dividing up the land, or in order to keep the population under control as there isn’t a lot of land available. The practice is known as polyandry.
We’ll take the Hemsworth brothers, thanks.
Before missionaries arrived in Hawaii, the island’s inhabitants had some interesting rituals for their genitals. Not only did they exhibit great pride in their genitals, they named them, and had specific chants about them, too. This ceremony was a nod to the power of genitals to create future generations of Hawaiians, as it was believed all genitals held mana. It's sort of like an ancient version of the Vagina Monologues.
It’s easy to think that sex varies from vanilla to extreme kinks and fetishes, but there’s really so much more to it than that. Sexual rituals tell us so much about ourselves and other cultures, and also prove that there are no right or wrong ways to enjoy sex!