The CCIES and Sexualities Across the World
The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality is an effort by The Kinsey Institute library to provide online resources to researchers, students, and the general public about sex and sexuality in a wide range of human societies. Generously offered by editors Robert Francoeur and Ray Noonan, who began compiling the CCIES in 1991, the online edition is the product of 11 years of work by 270 authorities in 49 countries on six continents.
Today, the encyclopedia offers readers an opportunity to explore valuable sexological knowledge by examining how personal values influence scientific work on sexuality, underscoring the importance of cultural commonalities, and debating between insider and outsider approaches to cross-cultural work.
The value of the CCIES is only sweetened by its friendly usability. Each chapter is edited to follow a common outline. By covering similar topics in a structured order, the CCIES facilitates easy cross-cultural comparison. Each chapter describes a single society. Beginning with a short introduction, the chapters go on to discuss a rich assortment of topics such as religious and ethnic sexual values, gender roles and conflicts, unconventional sexual behaviors, pornography, contraception, and many more. Below you’ll find just a small offering of what is available in the CCIES.
The CCIES’s exploration of significant unconventional sexual behaviors in Japan describes fanciful, bordello districts known as “Soaplands.” These areas are the setting for an old-style, leisurely commercial sex experience that focuses on tradition and performance.
A Soapland visit begins with a ceremonial undressing, followed by a sponge bath, gentle massage, rinse lather dance (awa-ordori), or body-on-body massage in which the Sopu-reedi (Soap Lady) massages her client’s entire body using her entire body on a large inflatable rubber mattress. This series is followed by another rinse and a shakuhachi, a process in which the Soap Lady displays her body, engages in an artistic performance of sexual arousal, and finally engages in intercourse with the client.
Hijra are an example of India’s gender variance. The term Hijra—Urdu for eunuchs—describes India’s third sex caste that is comprised of males born with deformed genitals, hermaphrodites, self-castrated eunuchs, and gay cross-dressers. Occupying both religious and social roles, Hijra exist on the fringes of Indian society.
A changing political climate is seeking to relocate Hijra’s place in Indian culture from the margins to mainstream society. A 1993 constitutional amendment reserved a quota of seats in city and village councils for oppressed castes, and in 2000, a dozen hijra were elected to political offices.
Thai phii cults
In Thailand, women belonging in the cults of the ancestral spirits (phii) demonstrate a cross-gendered phenomenon. Phii cult members believe that ancestral guardian spirits are passed on matrilineally to young women, and these spirits maintain health, harmony, and well-being in these young women’s families. Women who are possessed by the phii are called maa khii, and they engage in an annual ritual including displays of rude behaviors such as drinking, smoking Thai cigars, and shouting insults and expletives and masculine behaviors such as wearing men’s clothing and flirting and dancing with women. Contrasting with the patriarchal structure of Thai society and the male-centeredness of Buddhism, maa khii are revered and held in high esteem, and they hold positions of social power.
As you can see, the CCIES contains a breadth of inquiry into sexuality across human cultures. Take some time to delve deeper into these topics and many more on the Kinsey website.
Karolina Gontarczuk is a social work major minoring in gender studies and human sexuality at Indiana University.