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It seems appropriate to initiate our study of sexuality by considering current sexual values, beliefs, customs, and practices as the end result of a long series of historical influences. Thus, the better we understand these historical factors, the better we may understand our own sexuality.
Although it is impossible to reconstruct completely the sexual expressions of ancient cultures, numerous records are still available which enable us to make some reasonable interpretations of those earlier sexual customs. For our purposes, we will identify four separate lines of influence in tracing the history of sexuality:

  1. The pre-Biblical period
  2. Pagan-polytheistic cultures
  3. Ancient Oriental cultures
  4. Judeo-Christian influences

Of these four, certainly it is the Judeo-Christian tradition which has had the most profound and enduring impact on contemporary sexuality in Western societies. Let us consider the first three lines of influence before turning our attention to the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the discussion that follows, it must be recognized that sexual values and practices did not remain static within a given culture but changed over time. Any description of Egyptian sexuality, for example, must recognize that the ancient Egyptian empire endured for over 3000 years. Just as our modern sexual values and customs have changed from generation to generation, it is reasonable to assume that changes occurred among the Egyptians over a period of time. What we have described, therefore, are the most salient and durable characteristics for each of the various cultures, to the degree that history enables us to describe these phenomena.