Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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For more than 4,000 years, poets and storytellers have sung of the delights and sufferings of love and lust. This chapter reviews what scholars from various disciplines have discovered about the nature of passionate love and sexual desire. Anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists have assumed that passionate love is a cultural universal. Cultural researchers, historians, and social psychologists have emphasized the stunning diversity in the way passionate love and sexual desire have been viewed and experienced. Culture, ethnicity and the rules passed down by political and religious authorities have a profound impact on the way people think about and act out love and sex. Marriage for love and sex for pleasure have always been deeply threatening to political and religious leaders who have feared the individualistic implications of permissive approaches to romance and passion. Individualism and personal choice are seen as the enemies of order and authority; such freedom are deemed heretical, sinful, dangerous, and an invitation to chaos, selfishness, and anarchy. The fight over the rules governing love, marriage, divorce, and sex stands as one of history’s central and most powerful themes. Today, however, in the era of widespread travel, global capitalism, and the World Wide Web, many of these traditional cross-cultural differences seem to be disappearing. Authority is giving way nearly everywhere to increased freedom, particularly in the personal realm, in the world of passion. Is the erosion of traditional authority and strict personal rules really happening—and if so what does that portend for personal and societal futures?

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