Social sexual norms vary greatly between different cultures; what may be accepted in one culture could be considered a crime worth death in another. This variation seems to correlate with what is considered morally correct for that culture. Flanagan and Cardwell state: “If we define abnormality in terms of deviation from social norms, we open the door to definitions that rely on prevailing social morals and attitudes” (2005). Here, the definition of abnormality is parallel to social sexual norms in the respect that they share a common cause: accepted morals and attitudes of a society.
Religion is a large factor in which morals are considered valid and which are considered invalid. One example of this is in Uganda: “Christianity is the majority religion, practiced by about 66% of the population, with about 90% of all Christians being Roman Catholics or Anglicans. Muslims account for about 16%; most are of the Sunni sect”(Rank 1990:1). Uganda, a predominantly Christian and Muslim country has been recently publicized in the news for its passing of a legislative bill which encourages and legalizes the right to slaughter any one suspected of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is considered immoral in almost all sects of both national religions, therefore religion does have an incredible impact as to what is considered a social sexual norm and what is otherwise an abnormality.
There are factors that cause the fluctuation of sexual social norms: time and progressive thought cause this transgression of norms. Cardwell and Flanagan define: “The main difficulty with concept of deviations from social norms is that it varies as times change…For example, today homosexuality is acceptable, but in the past it was included under sexual and gender identity disorders” (2005).
Fifty years ago, homosexuality was a psychological disorder that was treated with obscure and inhumane methods such as shock therapy, but that is now abolished due to the outcomes of progressive thought. Enough people with the same idea have the capacity to alter what is generally considered moral. Familiarization affects these social sexual norms as well. In the U.S it is considered taboo to post nudity or intimate scenes on billboards for advertisement, whereas in Europe it is completely normal; It is not frowned upon nor noticed as abstract. America is a country that was primarily established by people of a religion that focused heavily on modesty and purity, but parallel to this nation is the continent of Europe, which has been established far longer with more time to familiarize the idea of nudity. This is a perfect example of how time affects morals and attitudes that alter with the course of time. Gender stratification and gender stereotypes play a role in what is accepted as a social sexual norm. Kottak defines gender stratification: “an unequal distribution of rewards (socially valued resources, power, prestige, human rights, and personal freedom) between men and women, reflecting their different positions in a social hierarchy”(2011). This description explains how social sexual norms may vary from males to females. Men may have the right to marry multiple times, whereas women may not be allowed more than one husband, or vise versa.
In conclusion, it is apparent that social sexual norms are just as flexible as the morals that drive them, and the rate at which these norms alter or diversify is dependent on time and progressive thought.