REVIEW: Customs, Culture, and Tradition—What Role Do They Play in a Woman’s Sexuality?


Jean L. Fourcroy, MD, PhD, MPH, Department of Surgery, USUHS/Walter Reed Army Hospital, Bethesda, MD 208177, USA. E-mail:


Introduction.  Sexual health is an assumed right for every individual, but we know little regarding customs, culture, or tradition and the role they play on the sexual experiences for a woman. A woman’s sexuality must be considered in the context of the environment in which she and her partner live. Culture, social customs of the community, and religion often determine the acceptance and achievement of sexual health for both men and women.

Aim.  This is a review of the available literature on the impact of culture on a woman’s sexual satisfaction, with emphasis placed on information from cultures practicing female genital circumcision (FGC).

Results.  FGC provides a spectrum of surgical excisions and outcomes. The spectrum of FGC surgical excisions can alter well-being, obstetrical outcomes, and sexual responses. The psychologic aspects of a painful procedure in a young child may also impact her future sexual responsiveness.

Conclusion.  There is a paucity of information on which to base conclusions and the effect of culture on a woman’s sexual satisfaction. Preliminary data suggest the need for further research using markers specific to the culture and her satisfaction. Fourcroy JL. Customs, culture, and tradition—What role do they play in a woman’s sexuality? J Sex Med 2006;3:954–959.