In Iran, despite Islam being one of the more repressive cultures, sexually speaking, young couples can have a trial marriage in which they live as man and wife for a set period of time. If it takes, great, they get an official wedding underway, if not, no problem, back to their normal lives with no infringement of religious laws or invoking censure from imams or parents.
In the Himalayas, there are some tribes in which brothers all share a wife. The practise is known as polyandry and is ideal in the unproductive land which cannot produce enough to support large families with unlimited numbers of children.
In years gone by, when young people were courting, they were permitted to indulge in ‘bundling’. This means that they were allowed to sleep in the same bed, so as to get to know each other, but intimacy was strictly forbidden. To enforce this, the couple were kept separate by means of having one or both bundled into a large sleeping bag, or having a board placed between them on the bed. It seems highly likely that an enterprising young couple would quite easily make a plan to score some action in this scenario!
In Ghana, it is the custom (in one particular tribe, anyway) for a widow to ‘cleanse’ herself by having sex with a stranger.
In prehistoric times, sexual acts were considered divine. For example, ancient Egyptian priests would ceremonially masturbate into the Nile to ensure the ongoing fertility of the river, which brought water, and thus life, to the country. The pharaoh, too, was compelled to masturbate into the Nile to ensure prosperity for the country. Babylonians are believed to have used ritual sex as a way of speaking to God, and many prehistoric drawing depict enormous phalluses: great manliness has long been appreciated by people all over the world.
Women dedicated to fertility gods and goddesses often made themselves available to priests and the devout. This, some scholars believe, was the beginning of prostitution, which later became secularised.
And finally, the ancient Greeks saw nothing wrong with a bit of man on man action. It was a common practise for an older man to take a younger man as his lover, teaching him and looking after him, in exchange for sexual favours. The Greeks did not define sexuality in the same way we do today, there was no ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ – rather, quite sweetly, there was just people you loved and people you did not, and sex with the former, of any gender was permissible. Masturbation was very common too, with public masturbation raising barely an eyebrow.
No matter which country you study, or even which time period you look at, you are sure to find all sorts of fascinating facts about sexual practises. Which just goes to show that as a species, we need a bit of stimulation in our lives!