Sex and Shame in Mexico
Updated: Oct 23
Somewhere along the way, as you decode the meaning of 'ahorita' to signify enduring patience and discover that "no pica" can pack a spicy punch for your taste buds, another realisation dawns upon you. Attitudes and practices around sex may not be what they first seemed to be. Over time, the complexities beneath the surface start to unfold.
Mexico presents a duality of being both conservative about sex and being sexually mischievous (that’s not a clinical term…) In Mexico clothing typically covers a lot of skin. Talking about sex is considered ‘off the table’ not just with family, but often even in therapy! At the same time, Mexico is the top producer of some types of pornography. And many who live here would baulk at the idea of it being anything other than a place full of sex and eroticism. The paradox is everywhere.
This blog provides an overview of some essential facts, primarily focusing on the heteronormative population, which has received more extensive research attention than the LGBTQ community. In the future, we'll explore the implications for cross-cultural relationships as well as various other populations. The statistics we're about to delve into come from a range of research studies spanning 21 Hispanic countries.
So let’s take a look at what’s happening between the sheets in Mexico.
Attitudes toward sex in Mexico are significantly shaped by religion and culture, especially Catholicism and traditional gender roles. These roles include "Machismo," which expects men to be sexually active and pleasure-seeking, and "Marianismo," which expects women to be passive, committed, and virginal. This leads to a double standard where different expectations apply to men and women.
For instance, in certain regions like Veracruz, approximately 33% of women expressed opposition to and reported anxiety regarding their sexuality, as documented by Cibrián-Llanderal et al. in 2016. In Oaxaca, women tended to associate sex with feelings of shame and passivity, according to research conducted by Karver et al. in 2016.
However this is shifting. The Mexican education system, according to Karla Urriola, a member of the Mexican Federation of Education and Sexology (FEMESS) is insufficient due to sexual taboo. So young people are finding information elsewhere and absorbing it into their views. Overall college students tended to have a more permissive and egalitarian view of sex when compared to older generations (González, et. al., 2016).
Mexican men were found to associate casual sex with “pleasure”. Mexican women associated it with “irresponsibility” (Cibrián-Llanderal, et. al., 2016).
Masturbation and Dirty Talk
Masturbation seems to be less common in Mexico, with rates of solo or mutual masturbation reported at 52% and 45% respectively. Women in Mexico reported lower rates than men. When we compare these figures to Puerto Rico, where it's as high as 96%, or Spain with rates ranging from 68% to 90%, the contrast is quite significant (Gil-Llario et al., 2017).
Additionally, Mexico showed lower participation in online "sex chats" compared to Spain, with rates at 28.5% in Mexico compared to a whopping 84% in Spain. This difference also extended to the practice of masturbation while on the internet.
Six countries were surveyed for anal sex. Mexico had the lowest number of people reporting anal sex at 18%. The highest was 39% in Puerto Rico (Gil-Llario, et. al., 2017).
Mexico showed relatively low levels of sexual satisfaction when compared to other latin countries. In Mexico they sat around 40% for women and 43% for men. In Chile, rates are 64% and 84% ( Sierra, et. al, 2017).
While both genders report low sexual satisfaction this is worse for women. Low rates amongst women were associated with higher religiosity, less access to sexual education and higher sexual shame.
What Does it all Mean?
Overall, Mexico shows more inhibition, shame and lower sexual satisfaction when compared to its hispanic counterparts. The two takeaways are:
1. Religion has a high impact on sexuality, including sexual shame for anything outside of the heteronormative, production-focused sex.
2. This is applied differently for men and women. Women are more impacted by religiosity than men.
What is the Impact of Sexual Shame?
We now know a lot about shame and its psychological impacts. Shame that is ongoing and is related to our core selves is destructive. Sexual shame has been found to contribute to self-hostility, sexual dysfunction, aggression, hypersexuality and sexual addiction (Volk, et. al., 2016). In other words, the impact of sexual shame is not straightforward. It doesn’t just lead to less sex. It can manifest in counterintuitive ways, like infidelity or sexual addiction, fueling the sex-shame cycle.
People are sexual beings. And when someone feels like wanting sex is wrong, or that engaging in it is wrong, that will be carried into all future sexual interaction.
Finally, this is not an exhaustive review, and these facts are at a population level and can’t be applied to individuals. There is a lot of diversity in attitudes and practices around sex in Mexico across geographic locations and generations.
If you have a topic related to sex and sexuality in Mexico that you’d like to learn more about - please let us know! Our therapists work closely with many cross-cultural relationships on everything from their sex lives, communication and child-rearing norms. We’d love to hear more about what you want to know!
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(Leal, et. al, 2018; Menkes-Bancet, et. al., 2019)