Situational sexual behavior

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Situational sexual behavior differs from that which the person normally exhibits, due to a social environment that in some way permits, encourages, or compels the behavior in question. This can include situations where a person's preferred sexual behavior may not be possible, so rather than refraining from sexual activity completely, they may engage in substitute sexual behaviors.


One example of situation-specific sexual behavior would be a person who self-identifies as heterosexual, but will sexually interact with a member of the same sex when lacking other opportunities, such as among soldiers, among prison inmates, among college students, or in similar single-sex communities and institutions.[1]: 48  Likewise, a person who self-identifies as gay or lesbian (either at the time, or later) may sexually interact with a member of the opposite sex if a same-sex relationship seems unfeasible.[2]

Some people change their sexual behavior depending on the situation or at different points in their life.[2] For example, some men and women in a university may engage in bisexual activities, but only in that environment. Experimentation of this sort is more common among adolescents and young adults, both male and female. Some colloquialisms for this trend include "heteroflexible",[3] "BUG" (Bisexual Until Graduation), or "LUG" (Lesbian Until Graduation).[4]

In prison, heterosexual-identified men who have sex with men view their homosexual acts as being "situation specific" and may not consider themselves bisexual. These men often describe how they imagine being with a woman while taking part in sexual activity with a male inmate. During masturbation, they picture past sexual experiences with women.[5] They take part in homosexual activity due to having no “heterosexual outlets”.[6]

In some cultures, sexual relationships with women were unobtainable for many men, because women were sequestered and strictly forbidden from engaging in extramarital sex. This may have resulted in higher numbers of men, especially unmarried men, engaging in homosexual behavior. Examples of this include pederasty in ancient Greece and bacha bazi in Afghanistan.[7]

Recent Western surveys have found that about 87% of women and 93% of men identify themselves as "completely heterosexual".[1]: 55  An analysis of 67 studies found that the lifetime prevalence of sex between men (regardless of orientation) was 3-5% for East Asia, 6-12% for South and South East Asia, 6-15% for Eastern Europe, and 6-20% for Latin America.[8] The World Health Organization estimates a worldwide prevalence of men who have sex with men between 3 and 16%.[9]


Ancient Greece

Plato was a prominent advocator for pederasty in Ancient Greece.

Situational sexual behavior in Ancient Greece refers to the diverse range of sexual practices and norms that characterized this historical period, roughly spanning from the 9th century BCE to the 4th century CE. In Ancient Greece, the prevailing view of sexuality was markedly different from contemporary perspectives. The Greeks did not categorize sexual orientation in the way it is understood today. Instead, they focused on the distinction between active and passive roles in sexual relationships. It was considered acceptable for adult males to engage in sexual relationships with younger, often adolescent, males, as part of an educational and mentorship system known as pederasty. This practice was a cultural institution rather than a universally accepted norm, with variations in acceptance and prevalence among different city-states.[10]

While pederasty was one aspect of situational sexual behavior, it did not define the entirety of Greek sexual practices. Heterosexual relationships, marriage, and procreation were fundamental societal expectations, and the institution of marriage held significant importance. However, extramarital affairs and relationships outside the bounds of conventional marriage were not uncommon, and various forms of non-normative sexual behaviors were evident in different contexts.

The portrayal of sexuality in Ancient Greek literature, drama, and art also provides insights into the complexities of sexual behavior during this period. Works such as the dialogues of Plato, the poetry of Sappho, and the comedies of Aristophanes offer glimpses into the diverse expressions of love and desire. Additionally, the erotic imagery on pottery and in sculpture reveals a nuanced understanding of sexuality, where depictions of intimate relationships were often integrated into daily life and public spaces.

Ancient China

Concubinage in Ancient China called pínfēi was a complex and deeply ingrained social institution that played a significant role in shaping the dynamics of sexual behavior within the confines of the imperial court and aristocratic households. Unlike monogamous marriages, where a man had only one formal wife, the practice of maintaining concubines allowed men to have additional female companions with varying degrees of recognition and status.

In the context of situational sexual behavior, the concubine system provided a framework within which sexual relationships could exist outside the bounds of a primary marital union. While the primary wife held the highest social status and was typically the legal spouse, concubines were women who entered into less formalized unions with men, often possessing fewer legal rights and social privileges. The acceptance and prevalence of concubinage varied across different dynasties and regions in Ancient China.

The reasons for taking concubines were diverse and could include factors such as the desire for additional heirs, political alliances, or social standing. While the primary wife was responsible for managing the household and ensuring the continuation of the family line, concubines might bear children who, depending on the circumstances, could inherit the family name and resources. The hierarchical nature of the concubine system meant that the primary wife held a superior position, and the ranking of concubines was often determined by the order in which they entered the household or the favor bestowed upon them by the man. This structure had implications for the dynamics of situational sexual behavior, as relationships with concubines could be marked by power imbalances and competition among women for the favor of the man.

Societal attitudes toward concubinage were complex and evolved over time. While the system was widely accepted and institutionalized, it was not without criticism. Some Confucian scholars expressed reservations about the moral implications of maintaining multiple sexual partners, advocating for the primacy of monogamous unions.[11]



Ancient Hindu texts, such as the Vedas, Upanishads, and the two major epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, provide glimpses into the complex attitudes towards sexuality. Hinduism traditionally recognizes four main goals in life, known as Purusharthas, one of which is Kama, representing desire, including sexual desire. The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text attributed to Vatsyayana, is a well-known treatise on the art of love and sexual behavior, emphasizing not only the physical aspects but also the psychological and emotional dimensions of intimate relationships.

The concept of dharma, or righteous living, is central to Hindu ethics, and it guides individuals in their moral and social responsibilities. While Hindu scriptures often advocate for sexual restraint and fidelity within the institution of marriage, they also acknowledge the legitimacy of desire and the importance of fulfilling one's marital duties. The Mahabharata, for example, contains stories that explore the complexities of relationships, including instances of polyandry and extramarital affairs, reflecting the diversity of human experiences.

The diversity of Hindu traditions and sects contributes to varying perspectives on situational sexual behavior. Some sects, like the Nath and Tantric traditions, incorporate rituals and practices that explore the integration of spirituality and sexuality. Tantra, in particular, emphasizes the harmonization of opposites, including the union of masculine and feminine energies.

In contemporary Hinduism, attitudes towards sexuality can vary widely. Urbanization, globalization, and changing social norms have influenced how individuals practice their faith and navigate issues related to sexuality. Many Hindus today seek a balance between traditional values and modern perspectives, leading to diverse approaches to situational sexual behavior.[12]


Christianity, as a global religion with numerous denominations, lacks a uniform stance on issues related to sexuality, and beliefs and practices can vary widely among adherents. The foundational texts of Christianity, including the Bible, address various aspects of human relationships and sexuality. The New Testament, for instance, contains teachings attributed to Jesus Christ and letters from apostles that touch upon ethical considerations and moral conduct. Traditional Christian teachings emphasize the sacredness of marriage, fidelity, and the importance of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage.

The Catholic Church, one of the largest Christian denominations, has historically held a conservative stance on sexual ethics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the significance of marital fidelity and condemns premarital and extramarital sex. The use of contraception is also generally discouraged within this tradition.

Protestant Christianity encompasses a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices, ranging from conservative to liberal interpretations. While some Protestant denominations align closely with traditional teachings on sexual ethics, others may adopt more permissive views, recognizing the importance of responsible and consensual sexual conduct within the context of committed relationships.

Contemporary Christian discussions on situational sexual behavior often involve debates on issues such as premarital sex, contraception, homosexuality, and divorce. In more liberal Christian circles, there is an increasing acknowledgment of the diverse expressions of human sexuality and a move towards inclusivity. Some progressive Christian communities affirm LGBTQ+ relationships and challenge traditional norms around gender and sexuality.

Within the broader Christian landscape, there are also denominations and communities that integrate more contemplative or mystical perspectives, exploring the spiritual dimensions of sexuality. Additionally, some Christian thinkers draw inspiration from the concept of agape, or selfless love, as a guiding principle in discussions about sexual ethics.[13]


Situational sexual behavior in Islam is shaped by the teachings of the Quran, the Hadith (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad), and diverse cultural interpretations within the global Muslim community. The Quran, considered by Muslims as the literal word of God as revealed to Prophet Muhammad, contains principles and guidelines relevant to sexual conduct. The Quran emphasizes the sanctity of marriage and promotes the idea that sexual relations are permissible within the confines of a lawful marital relationship. The family, as the fundamental unit of society, is accorded great importance, and marital relations are encouraged as a means of companionship, procreation, and mutual support.

Islamic teachings generally prohibit premarital and extramarital sex, considering them violations of the moral and legal boundaries established by Islam. The Quran explicitly states the importance of chastity and modesty, encouraging both men and women to lower their gaze. Adultery is condemned, and punishments for such offenses are outlined, although enforcement practices vary among Muslim-majority countries.

In Islam, the concept of "zina" refers to illicit sexual relations and includes premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality. Islamic jurisprudence provides guidelines for legal and moral consequences for those found guilty of engaging in zina, but interpretations of these consequences can differ among various sects and cultural contexts. Issues related to contraception, family planning, and reproductive health are also discussed within the context of Islam. While some scholars advocate for responsible family planning within the bounds of Islamic ethics, others may emphasize the importance of procreation and the family as a cornerstone of Islamic society.[14]


Judaism places a strong emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and family life. The Torah upholds the institution of marriage as a sacred covenant, encouraging sexual relations within the bounds of a lawful marital relationship. Premarital and extramarital sexual conduct are generally discouraged, and adultery is considered a serious transgression.

The concept of "taharat hamishpacha," or family purity, is an integral aspect of Jewish marital relations. This set of laws outlines guidelines for sexual conduct within the context of a woman's menstrual cycle, emphasizing periods of abstinence and intimacy during specific times. Jewish ethics emphasize the importance of consent, communication, and mutual respect within marital relationships. While the tradition encourages procreation and views children as a blessing, it also recognizes the broader purposes of marriage, including companionship and emotional support.

Within the diverse Jewish tradition, there are differences in interpretation and practice among various denominations and cultural contexts. Orthodox Judaism tends to adhere more strictly to traditional teachings, while Reform and Conservative Judaism may allow for greater flexibility in certain aspects of sexual behavior.[15]

Modern Examples[edit]


Prisons, as confined environments with restricted personal freedoms, present unique challenges in managing and regulating sexual behavior among inmates.

Incarceration often leads to heightened levels of stress, isolation, and power imbalances, creating an environment where situational sexual behavior can manifest. The dynamics may involve consensual relationships, coercion, or non-consensual encounters. In some instances, the power dynamics among inmates may contribute to sexual exploitation and abuse.

Prison administrations worldwide implement varying policies to address and regulate sexual behavior among inmates. Many jurisdictions strictly prohibit any form of sexual activity, considering it a violation of prison rules. Authorities aim to maintain a secure and orderly environment while also addressing the potential for abuse and exploitation. Advocates argue for policies that prioritize the prevention of sexual violence, protection of vulnerable inmates, and access to education and rehabilitation programs to address the underlying factors contributing to such behavior.[16]


Situationally induced sexual behavior in the military refers to instances where individuals within the armed forces engage in sexual activities influenced by specific circumstances or environments unique to military settings. Such behaviors can encompass a range of actions, from consensual relationships to instances of sexual harassment or assault.

The military environment, characterized by close living quarters, hierarchical structures, and high-stress situations, may contribute to the emergence of situational sexual behavior. Factors such as deployment, isolation, and the power dynamics inherent in military relationships can play a role in shaping these behaviors.

Addressing situational sexual behavior in the military is a multifaceted challenge, requiring a combination of preventive measures, education, and robust policies. Military organizations globally strive to create a culture that promotes respect, consent, and professionalism while addressing issues of sexual misconduct through training programs, reporting mechanisms, and support services for affected individuals.


Situational sexual behavior in college refers to instances where individuals engage in sexual activities influenced by specific circumstances or environments within an academic setting. College life, marked by increased independence, social interactions, and exploration of personal relationships, can give rise to a variety of situational sexual behaviors.

Factors contributing to situational sexual behavior in college may include newfound freedom, peer influences, and the dynamic social environment. Parties, dormitory living, and academic stress can create situations where individuals may engage in consensual sexual activities or form relationships.

While many instances of situational sexual behavior in college are consensual and reflective of personal choices, it is crucial to address potential challenges, such as communication, consent, and the impact of alcohol or substance use. Educational institutions often implement programs and policies to promote healthy relationships, consent education, and resources for addressing issues of sexual misconduct.[17]

Bacha Bazi

Bacha Bazi, translated as "boy play" in Dari, is a controversial and exploitative form of situational sexual behavior with deep cultural roots in parts of Afghanistan. In this practice, young boys, often from vulnerable backgrounds, are coerced or forced into sexual relationships with older men, who may act as patrons or mentors. This culturally complex phenomenon blends elements of traditional entertainment, power dynamics, and exploitation.

Bacha Bazi is characterized by the grooming and dressing of boys in feminine attire, with performances involving singing and dancing at social gatherings. Despite being officially condemned by Afghan authorities, the practice persists in some regions due to a combination of poverty, societal norms, and the influence of powerful individuals.

The ethical implications and human rights concerns associated with Bacha Bazi have led to increased international attention and efforts to address this form of situational sexual behavior. Human rights organizations, governmental bodies, and activists work to raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, and provide support to those affected, striving to eliminate the exploitation of vulnerable individuals in this context. The complex interplay of cultural, social, and economic factors makes the eradication of Bacha Bazi a challenging and ongoing endeavor.[18]

Psychological Perspective[edit]

Sexual Fluidity

Sexual fluidity, the concept that an individual's sexual orientation can be flexible and may change over time, can have implications for situational sexual behavior. Sexual fluidity suggests that an individual's attractions and desires may not be fixed and can be influenced by various factors, including situational contexts.

In the realm of situational sexual behavior, sexual fluidity implies that an individual's response to specific circumstances or environments may lead to shifts in their sexual behavior or preferences. For example, someone who identifies as primarily heterosexual or homosexual may find themselves engaging in situational sexual behaviors that deviate from their usual patterns due to unique situations, such as the dynamics of a particular social setting or the influence of personal relationships like engaging in homosexual acts during a threesome.

Understanding sexual fluidity in the context of situational sexual behavior emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the diversity and variability of human sexuality. It highlights that sexual behavior is not always rigidly tied to fixed orientations and can be influenced by a range of situational factors.[19]

Social Identity

Social identities can significantly influence situational sexual behaviors, as individuals navigate complex interactions shaped by cultural, societal, and personal factors. Social identities, such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, play a crucial role in shaping one's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in various situations.

The impact of social identities on situational sexual behaviors is evident in cultural norms, societal expectations, and interpersonal dynamics. For example, individuals may engage in certain sexual behaviors or adhere to specific relationship norms based on societal expectations associated with their social identity. Power dynamics related to gender, for instance, can influence how individuals navigate consent and communication in sexual situations as seen in military and prison settings. Furthermore, social identities contribute to the formation of communities and subcultures, influencing the norms and practices within those groups. These norms can, in turn, shape situational sexual behaviors within specific social contexts.[20]

Ethical Considerations[edit]

Informed Consent

Informed consent is a voluntary, clear, and explicit agreement between all parties involved, ensuring that individuals have a comprehensive understanding of the nature and implications of the sexual activity. This includes awareness of potential risks, the ability to freely express boundaries, and the assurance that consent can be withdrawn at any point. The ethical foundation of situational sexual behavior rests on the principle of informed consent, emphasizing respect for autonomy, communication, and a shared understanding of the dynamics at play. Practicing informed consent is not only a legal requirement in many jurisdictions but also a fundamental aspect of fostering healthy, respectful, and consensual interactions.[21]

Power Dynamics

Power imbalances, often present in hierarchical structures or relationships, can impact the ability of individuals to freely express their desires, set boundaries, or give genuine consent. Ethical considerations in situational sexual behavior necessitate an awareness of power differentials and a commitment to ensuring equitable and consensual interactions. Addressing and mitigating power imbalances is essential for promoting a safe and respectful environment, free from coercion or exploitation, and fostering relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bailey, J. Michael; Vasey, Paul; Diamond, Lisa; Breedlove, S. Marc; Vilain, Eric; Epprecht, Marc (2016). "Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science". Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 17 (2): 45–101. doi:10.1177/1529100616637616. PMID 27113562.
  2. ^ a b Rosario, M., Schrimshaw, E., Hunter, J., & Braun, L. (2006, February). Sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time. Journal of Sex Research, 43(1), 46–58. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  3. ^ Thompson, E.M.; Morgan, E.M. (2008). ""Mostly straight" young women: Variations in sexual behavior and identity development". Developmental Psychology. 44 (1): 15–21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.15. PMID 18194001.
  4. ^ See for instance "Campus Lesbians Step Into Unfamiliar Light" New York Times, June 5, 1993
  5. ^ Money, John; Boomer, Carol (1980). "Prison Sexology: Two Personal Accounts of Masturbation, Homosexuality, and Rape". The Journal of Sex Research. 16 (3): 258–266. doi:10.1080/00224498009551082.
  6. ^ Hensley, Christopher; Tewksbury, Richard (2002). "Inmate-to-Inmate Prison Sexuality : A Review of Empirical Studies". Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 3 (3): 226–243. doi:10.1177/15248380020033005. S2CID 144144111.
  7. ^ LeVay, Simon (2017). Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation. Oxford University Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9780199752966.
  8. ^ Caceres, C.; Konda, K.; Pecheny, M.; Chatterjee, A.; Lyerla, R. (2006). "Estimating the number of men who have sex with men in low and middle income countries". Sexually Transmitted Infections. 82 (Suppl. III): iii3–iii9. doi:10.1136/sti.2005.019489. PMC 2576725. PMID 16735290.
  9. ^ Between Men: HIV/STI Prevention For Men Who Have Sex With Men, International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
  10. ^ Holmen, Nicole (2010). "Examining Greek Pederastic Relationships". Inquiries Journal. 2 (02).
  11. ^ "Concubinage in Asia". Retrieved 2023-11-27.
  12. ^ Chakraborty, Kaustav; Thakurata, Rajarshi Guha (January 2013). "Indian concepts on sexuality". Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 55 (Suppl 2): S250–S255. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.105546. ISSN 0019-5545. PMC 3705691. PMID 23858263.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unflagged free DOI (link)
  13. ^ Rigo, Caroline; Saroglou, Vassilis (December 2018). "Religiosity and Sexual Behavior: Tense Relationships and Underlying Affects and Cognitions in Samples of Christian and Muslim Traditions". Archive for the Psychology of Religion. 40 (2–3): 176–201. doi:10.1163/15736121-12341359. ISSN 0084-6724.
  14. ^ Dialmy, Abdessamad (June 2010). "Sexuality and Islam". The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care: The Official Journal of the European Society of Contraception. 15 (3): 160–168. doi:10.3109/13625181003793339. ISSN 1473-0782. PMID 20441406.
  15. ^ Adler, Rachel; Podolsky, Robin (2015). "Sexuality, Autonomy, and Community in the Writings of Eugene Borowitz". Journal of Jewish Ethics. 1 (1): 114–136. doi:10.5325/jjewiethi.1.1.0114. ISSN 2334-1777.
  16. ^ Terry, April N. (2016). "Sexual Behavior in Prison Populations Understood Through the Framework of Rational Choice and Exchange Theory". Inquiries Journal. 8 (01).
  17. ^ Gurung, Sitaji; Ventuneac, Ana; Rendina, H. Jonathon; Savarese, Elizabeth; Grov, Christian; Parsons, Jeffrey T. (March 2018). "Prevalence of Military Sexual Trauma and Sexual Orientation Discrimination Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Military Personnel: a Descriptive Study". Sexuality research & social policy : journal of NSRC : SR & SP. 15 (1): 74–82. ISSN 1868-9884. PMC 5983034. PMID 29868145.
  18. ^ Andelkovic, Jovana (2022-09-13). "Bacha Bazi - severe child abuse disguised as an Afghani custom". Humanium. Retrieved 2023-11-27.
  19. ^ "APA PsycNet". Retrieved 2023-11-27.
  20. ^ Potki, Robabeh; Ziaei, Tayebe; Faramarzi, Mahbobeh; Moosazadeh, Mahmood; Shahhosseini, Zohreh (2017-09-25). "Bio-psycho-social factors affecting sexual self-concept: A systematic review". Electronic Physician. 9 (9): 5172–5178. doi:10.19082/5172. ISSN 2008-5842. PMC 5633209. PMID 29038693.
  21. ^ Brady, Sonya S.; Saliares, Ellen; Kodet, Amy J.; Rothberg, Vienna; Hicks, Meredith Schonfeld; Hager-Garman, Emily; Porta, Carolyn M. (2022). "Communication about Sexual Consent and Refusal: A Learning Tool and Qualitative Study of Adolescents' Comments on a Sexual Health Website". American journal of sexuality education. 17 (1): 19–56. doi:10.1080/15546128.2021.1953658. ISSN 1554-6128. PMID 37206540.
  22. ^ "Exploring The Dynamics Of Sexual Power | Allo Health". 2023-07-25. Retrieved 2023-11-27.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bridget, Jan. "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Young People and Teenage Pregnancy" (rtf). Lesbian Information Service.
  • Goodmark, Leigh; Flores, Juanita; Goldscheid, Julie; Ritchie, Andrea; SpearIt (July 9, 2015). "Plenary 2 – Redefining Gender Violence Transcripts". University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review. Converge! Reimagining the Movement to End Gender Violence. 5: 289. SSRN 2628984.