Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 3, October 23, 2000


Book Review

The Penguin Atlas Of Human Sexual Behavior
Sexuality And Sexual Practices Around The World

By Judith Mackay

Published by the Penguin Group, 2000
ISBN: 0-14-051479-1, 128 Pages
US$ 18.95, CAN$ 26.99

Click on the cover to buy this book

Review by Annette Fuglsang Owens, M.D., Ph.D.

  The Author
Dr. Judith Mackay MBE is a medical doctor and senior policy advisor to the World Health Organization and health advisor to many national governments. She lives in Hong Kong where she is well known for her popular and groundbreaking radio programs on various aspects of sex and sexuality, as well as for her general work on preventive health throughout Asia.

In 1989 she received the US Surgeon General's Medallion from Dr. C. Everett Koop. In 1997, she was presented with the World Health Award in New Orleans. Judith Mackay is a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, and of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh and of London. She is the author of The State of Health Atlas.

 Did You Know?
Did you know that:
         Flowers are sent by 94% of dating couples in Hungary.
         20% of Italian men visit a prostitute every week.
         80% of marriages in China are arranged and worldwide 60% of marriages are arranged.

In Hong Kong condoms are most likely carried in shoes, and sexual intercourse between sexually active 16- to 45-year-olds occurs less than 50 times per year and lasts an average of 13 minutes, while in the Unites States the average frequency is over 160 times per year and the average time spent during sexual intercourse is 28 minutes?

The Penguin Atlas Of Human Sexual Behavior compiles fascinating, at times exotic information, here unusually condensed into one rich source. Whether the reader is a sexual health professional or a layperson, the atlas is an outstanding supplement to anyone's knowledge regarding sexuality and sexual behavior.

Clear tables, illustrations, maps and figures present facts with consistent and often humorous symbols. Some illustrations manage to capture much information in a simple format, as for example a colorful listing of sexual practices that are either accepted or condemned by major religions.

The atlas consists of maps and tables organized into nine different areas:
        Sexuality (Puberty, First Encounters, Sexual Practices, Homosexuality, and Transgender)
        Mating (Sex Appeal, Dating, Choosing Your Partner, Marriage, Adultery, Divorce)
        Reproduction (Contraception, Pregnancy, Infertility, Cloning)
        Sexual Health (Sex Education, Safer Sex, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Counseling)
        The Business Of Sex (The Economics Of Sex, Pornography, Prostitution, Sex Tourism)
        Sexual Rites (Religion, Female Genital Excision, Circumcision)
        Sex Crimes (Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence)
        Evolutions (The Future Of Sex)
        Tables (Chronology Of Human Sexual Behavior, Aphrodisiacs, World Table with sexual health related information about countries from A(fghanistan) to Z(imbabwe).

The book concludes with a glossary, commentaries on each map, and references.

In only a few incidences did I find the data inadequate. The map on circumcision lacks data from European countries other than the UK, resulting in an imbalanced view with a focus on geographical areas where the majority of men are circumcised. In general, however, data is available from many different regions of the world.

Any reader who enjoys maps and visual presentations of information will likely find this atlas of sexual behavior exceptional. I am personally eager to share it with my own colleagues, family and friends. Some of my Christmas shopping is already done.