The Indian Myth of Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love

Many modern Western symbols of love date back to the early Greeks and Romans. Eros was the Greek god of love, while Cupid was the Roman god of love and desire.

The image of a chubby Cupid aiming love arrows at unwary people’s hearts appears to be a typical Western symbol of love. Americans and Western Europeans can widely see him on greeting cards and chocolate boxes on Valentine’s Day.

What about Eastern cultures, such as Hinduism? Does Cupid trick them too? Or do they have their own “Cupid”? People from all over the world, especially Indo-European cultures, have sacred stories that are a lot like Hindu stories about gods.

Who Is Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love?

In Indic traditions, Kamadeva represents the Hindu equivalent of Cupid and Eros. Kamadeva is known as the Indian or Vedic Cupid. He is the Hindu god of love, desire, and infatuation.

Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, USA, explored the old Indian scriptures about Kamadeva.

Kamadeva is the god of desire and love. The word Kama comes from Sanskrit, meaning “sensual desire.“ He is accompanied by his wife, Rati, a goddess of love and sexual passion.

Different from Cupid, however, Kamadeva is depicted not as a plumpy cherub but rather as a handsome young man who rides on a majestic green parrot named Suka. He is riding a parrot’s back with a sugarcane bow, a honeybee bowstring, and flower arrow points. Kamadeva, the Hindu Cupid, also shoots his love darts into people’s hearts.

This is how the Rigveda, the most ancient of Hindu scriptures dating back at least 3,000 years, describes Kamadeva.

Each of these elements of his description represents the inherent sweetness of love. Additionally, they elicit the spirit of the spring season, when new life arises in the world. Suka, the parrot of Kamadeva, symbolizes both the spring season and the notion of love, as parrots frequently live in pairs.

The Tensions of Hindu Love

The stories of love in Hindu culture illustrate the tension between the most deeply held Hindu values. Love is a highly valued belief, especially in the context of families.

The highest ideal of life, however, is liberation from the cycle of rebirth. To reach this goal, spiritual people must give up worldly attachments, including love relationships. They should seek meditative solitude instead.

Shiva, a highly esteemed Hindu deity, embodies this tension by combining the qualities of a devoted yogi with a loving husband and father.

What Happens When Kamadeva Intervenes Life with His Love Arrows?

One time, during a period of intense meditation, Kamadeva was going to pierce his heart with an arrow. Then Shiva, angered by the interruption of his meditation, blasted the unfortunate god of love with a powerful beam of energy emanating from his renowned third eye.

Actually, Kamadeva’s intention was good. It was not meant to whimsically pierce Lord Shiva’s heart. According to the Indian story, a dangerous demon, known as Taraka, endangered the world. None of the gods could defeat this terrifying demon.

Only Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, and his wife, the Mother Goddess Parvati, could defeat this demon, according to a prophecy. However, Kartikeya had not yet been conceived. Shiva was the patron deity and embodiment of yoga, so he unlikely could do this anytime soon given his dedication to meditation. So, the Hindu gods sent Kamadeva to do just that: to make Shiva fall in love with Parvati and wake him up from his meditation so he could have the child who would save the world.

Shiva demonstrates mercy despite his proneness to anger. Heartbroken over the death of her beloved, Rati begged Shiva to bring Kamadeva back to life, which he did. Following this, Shiva and Parvati had a son named Kartikeya, who later killed the demon.

What Was the Message of This Story?

It says that erotic love is important in all religions, even ones that value asceticism and meditation as ways to reach the ultimate goal of freeing people from the cycle of rebirth and its pain. Not only is Kamadeva a fun thing to look at, but it also does good things in the world.

Love and Loving in Middle-Class Pakistan

The article by Ammara Maqsood, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at University College London, tells us the modern story of love in Pakistan and how modern urban women manage their desire for love in Pakistan.

Traditional marriages in Pakistan are arranged marriages. However, I previously talked about how love coexists with modern arranged marriages in Pakistan. I also explained the controversies surrounding love marriage in Pakistan.

Modern transformations in the notions of love, romantic love, intimacy, and conjugal relationships occur in Pakistan as well as in South Asia overall. The author challenges the traditional depiction of the transitional processes of love transformation in Pakistani culture as a straight lineal transition from the cultural values of ‘traditional’ (collective) obligations to the values of individual desires in modern individualistic societies.

Taking these ideas as a starting point, the author of this article examines how different types of intimacy coexist in a middle-class urban setting in Pakistan. The author does this by concentrating on the emotional experiences and modern relationships of young mobile women of the middle class in Lahore and Karachi, the two major cities in Pakistan.

“Within these families, like elsewhere in Pakistan in other South Asian contexts, arranged marriages are the norm, both in prevalence and in social approval. However, love unions, in the form of love-cum-arranged marriages – where partners engage in a pre-marital romance but then seek parental approval and follow typical marriage proceedings – and elopements that are on the rise.”

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 3).

How Different Ideas of Love in Pakistan Coexist

The article highlights the ways in which different ideals of love and intimacy coexist, the ways in which they are entangled in everyday practices, and the places, situations, and spaces in which they separate.

Young women, who live mostly in joint-family arrangements, need to negotiate between two values in their lives. On the one hand, they value their private desires for a life within a nuclear family and the associated forms of consumption. On the other hand, they respect the economic pressures and emotional obligations that necessitate their collective living in the nuclear family.

They live in a persistent presence of liminality, the psychological process of transitioning across the boundaries and borders of these two groups of values. In these conditions and contexts of their lives, the women make it possible for these competing desires to be experienced and managed in a certain way.

Love in Liminality

In this cultural context, their understanding of liminality opens their doors to experimentation and potentiality and provides a space in which they experience novel desires and behaviors.

However, at the same time, their “emotion work” to manage these situations and controversies bends and brings these new emotional paths into line with the moral codes that are culturally common in Pakistani society.

One young woman, who had married against her family’s wishes, commented on the hurt that she experienced when

“none of the women in the family did come to her wedding. Her husband’s family organised a small event, to mark the marriage, and invited her family members, in a bid to normalise relations. In response, her two brothers came but left without eating. She said, ‘more than anything, I felt bad .. still feel sad … that my younger sister in law did not come. My mother, I can understand, she was forbidden but she loves me, but my sister in law, she could have convinced my brother [her husband]’

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 7).

Professor Ammara Maqsood also tells in her article other dramatic stories of love and marriage in modern Pakistani urban cultures.

As the author concludes, these individual experiences are not gradual transformations from collective to individualistic ties and persona values. These young women do not disrupt pre-existing ethical codes. These emotional practices are rather the management of differing demands and desires that constitute ‘feeling’ middle-class.

“Friends with Benefits”: Single Men and Women in Relationships

Throughout the last couple of centuries, traditional ideals of romantic love have suggested people find their soul mate, marry the loved one, have children, and live happily ever after. The cultural beliefs in love marriages have long shaped people’s dreams of a happy married life and kids.

However, many modern single men and women can also experience joy and be apparently happy in their lives. It turns out that for many, being single doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Marriage may appear to be desirable, but it is not always a necessary condition of well-being and happiness. 

Kim Mills, in her recent interview with Geoff MacDonald, a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, asked:

Now when you’re studying people who are single, does that mean that they can’t have relationships, that they can’t have intimacy with other people?”

Speaking of Psychology: Living a happy single life,” Episode 215

In his answer to the question, Geoff MacDonald explained that single men and women have lots of opportunity for relationships and intimacies with their friends and family relationships.

Being single, they still have romantic and sexual connections. Culturally, over the last few decades, social norms of relationships have shifted toward more variety and flexibility. Currently, social norms allow more opportunities for casual relationships and sexual encounters. The line between dating and not dating is blurry. For instance, people can be some kind of “friends with benefits.”

What Is a “Friend with Benefits” Relationship?

What kind of relationship does a “friend with benefits” have?

As Geoff MacDonald comments,

“We know that there are a number of single people who tell us that they’re sexually active. And what we do know is that single people who are higher in sexual satisfaction tend to be happier with singlehood.”

The data, on the other hand, suggests that

“Singles who are happier with their sex lives are also more likely to end up in relationships down the road.”

As Geoff MacDonald further explains, it is possible that

“…being with people in sexual and romantic relationships, it’s not shopping for a product where if you don’t like it you take it back. The human heart works such that relationships are kind of sticky. And even when you are in casual sexual relationships, for example, next thing you know you’re leaving a toothbrush, and next thing you’re leaving a set of pajamas, and next thing you know it’s easier to just move in because you’re already spending three nights a week there.”

So, it is likely that

“even though sexual satisfaction is definitely something that’s associated with happiness in singlehood, that might also indicate somebody who’s on the road to being in a committed romantic relationship.”

Geoff MacDonald,Speaking of Psychology: Living a happy single life,” Episode 215

How “Progression Bias” Works

“Progression bias” is the tendency of people to make decisions that sustain relationships rather than dissolve them. For example, Samantha Joel and Geoff MacDonald (2021), in their recent study, showed emerging evidence of a progression bias in romantic relationships.

People are biased to make pro-relationship decisions over the course of relationship progression, according to the authors. In other words, they feel predisposed to making choices that favor the initiation, advancement, and maintenance of their romantic relationships.

Progression bias takes place in the contexts of relationship initiation, investment, and breakup decisions.

“getting into a relationship is often easier than getting out of one, and why being in a less desirable relationship is often preferred over being in no relationship at all.”

(Joel & MacDonald, 2021, p. 317).

“Progression bias” occurs in a situation:  

“when you get into a casual sexual relationship, and then it’s all of a sudden you find yourself more and more committed.”

Geoff MacDonald provides a couple of reasons why this “progression bias” can occur in the course of relationships. One of these is the evolutionary explanation.

In the cases of such relationship development, the mere exposure effect can be another psychological mechanism at work, supporting the progression bias.

Is It Okay to Be Single?

Since the middle of the 20th century, marriage and family have changed dramatically and surprisingly. The “golden age of marriage” and “sexual revolution” of the 1950s and 1960s promised that men and women should be happier in their love marriages. Being able to marry their romantic lovers and live with the partners they love should make them happy.

All these cultural ideals should make them presumably happy together for life: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish always.”

Nonetheless, in the late 20th century, unpredictable shifts in marital and family relationships flipped the cultural script on those ideals of love and commitment. Marriage and family as love unions have lost their value in the minds of many men and women in Western modernized societies, while singlehood has grown in value.

Nowadays, approximately half of all Americans are single—more than ever before. In addition, nearly three-quarters are not in a committed relationship. About half of those singles are not interested in dating or looking for a relationship. Many feel happy to continue living that way (Pew Research Center, 2019).

So, is it okay to be single?

The Romantic Myth of Being Happy Together

For a very long time, cultural ideologies of love have inspired men and women to love, marry, and be happy together with their beloveds. Surprisingly, in the following decades since it became possible in the “golden age of marriage,” marriage started to lose its allure.

The increasing number of single people appears to be the modern trend in the United States, Canada, and worldwide. Numerous studies conducted over the years have shown that, on average, married people are happier and healthier than single people.

However, it turned out that many men and women can also be happy being single. Being single is not necessarily a bad thing. Single women and men can be no less happy than married ones.

So, it is possible that our modern cultural beliefs are still rooted in the tenets of the old myth that only marriage can make people happy. Maybe this belief is just an old stereotype that is not really valid anymore. Perhaps we need to overcome the societal stigma and stereotype of singles being lonely and unhappy. Maybe we should better understand that being happily single is not less valuable than being in a happy relationship.

“What makes some people happy with singlehood while others are not?”

Geoff MacDonald, a Professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, has investigated this issue. As an expert in this field, he recently talked about this topic with Kim Mills, who interviewed him on behalf of the American Psychological Association at the recent podcast of “Speaking of Psychology: Living a happy single life,” Episode 215

Is It True that Single People Are Less Happy than People in Relationships?

Multiple publications have shown that on average, the people who are in a romantic relationship feel happier; they are more satisfied in life than the people who are single (see, for review, Karandashev, 2019, 2021, 2022).

Men and women are both single before and after they enter into a relationship. They can be in different contexts and be of different personality. 

However, average data does not tell the whole story. We should acknowledge that the differences revealed in many studies are relatively small. Besides, the variability within each of these two groups of individuals is high (Karandashev, 2019, 2022).

All these statistics lead us to assume that not every single person is unhappy, and not every person in a relationship is happy in their life. So, the question remains: what types of single people are happier than other types of single people who are less happy?

Overall, for social scientists and relationship researchers, it is interesting to learn who those single people are and what makes them happy. And Professor Geoff MacDonald is on the front line of this research.

How Marriage Evolved Into Singlehood

In people’s minds, love and marriage relationships have been deeply associated with wellbeing and happiness. For a long time, many women and some men thought that marriage would bring them happiness in life. Yet, something unexpected occurred by the end of the 20th century.

Cultural Evolution of Marriage in the Second Half of the 20th Century

The cultural evolution of marriage and family since the middle of the late 20th century has been surprising for many people. Many social scientists did not anticipate these changes in marital relationships that occurred in many European and North American countries. 

In these and other modern Western societies, the “golden age of marriage” of the 1950s and 1960s brought to life the cultural ideologies of “love marriage” and “sexual revolution.”

As a result of cultural progress in relationships, women and men in love marriages should presumably become happier. Yet, the unpredictable evolution of marriage in the late 20th century reversed those romantic cultural ideals.

What Happened with Marriage and Family in the Late 20th Century?

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, many dramatic changes occurred in marital and family relationships, both in positive and negative ways. Marriage became less popular among both men and women. Many significantly delayed their decisions to marry. Marriages became shorter-lived and ended in divorce.

Some simply did not wish to get married at all. Alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, have become common. Living together but not officially getting married became a frequent practice. Many men and women no longer consider marriage to be necessary in order to conceive, become pregnant, and have a child.

In the late 20th century, the cultural evolution of marriage led to a different model of parenthood. Many women postponed giving birth to a child and waited even later to get married. Unmarried women were more favorable for childbearing. Couples wanted fewer children.

Many men did not want to marry and take on marital and family responsibilities. They liked having relationships with women, but they didn’t want to be as emotionally or financially involved. They preferred to enjoy the pleasures of romantic relationships without commitments and obligations.

Thus, the cultural model of love-based marriage that triumphed as a socially normative value and practice in the 1950s and 1960s waned at the end of the 20th century. The value of marriage and family as love unions faded while the value of singlehood grew in the minds of many men and women in Western modernized societies.

Why Modern Men and Women Prefer to Be Single

According to recent data from the Pew Research Center (2019), more Americans than ever before are single. About half of all Americans are single. And nearly three out of ten adult Americans are not in a committed relationship.

They live with a partner in a committed or not-committed relationship without being married. About half of those singles said they were not looking for a relationship and not interested in dating. Many are perfectly happy to stay that way.

Meanwhile, simply looking at marriage rates reveals that the number of singles is even higher. According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately half of all American adults, or approximately 127 million people, are unmarried. Those singles are an interesting bunch. Some people have never married. Some are divorced, while others are widowed. They are either older or younger. Some of them are parents. Others do not have children. All of these factors, as well as many others, may influence how people perceive singlehood.

So, the questions arise:

  • Whether the old belief that “marriage is important for happiness” is not valid anymore.
  • And whether single men and women can be no less happy than married ones

“What makes some people happy with singlehood while others are not?”

The Golden Age of Love Marriage in Western Societies

Love marriage appears to be a valuable cultural value in many countries throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other modernized societies around the world. However, it was not always true in history. In the 20th century, industrialization, urbanization, increased social mobility, and social and cultural modernization brought the hope that love would finally conquer marriage.

When Was Love Marriage’s Golden Age? 

It turns out that the decade of the 1950s, which began in 1947 in the United States and lasted until the early 1960s there and until the late 1960s in Western Europe, was a truly remarkable time for marriage. Romantic love transformed marriage in the 20th century. Love finally conquered marriage. Romantic love and sexual fulfillment became the realities of premarital and marital relationships. In the Western world, marriage entered its heyday during this time period.

In that decade, there was a surge of support for the view that a happy marriage should be one in which each spouse feels they have received their fair share of sexual satisfaction, emotional closeness, and the opportunity to realize their full potential. The majority of people believed that they would not only find the greatest happiness in marriage but also the greatest meaning in their lives. Marriage had become nearly universal by the 1960s in many western European countries and North America (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

What Was Good About the Golden Age of Marriage?

During that period, about 95% of all men and women strived to marry and married younger. During the 1950s, the norm of young marriage was so prevalent that an unmarried woman as young as twenty-one might be concerned about becoming an “old maid.” Many men and women relished the opportunity of courting and dating the partners of their own choice. They enjoyed marrying at their leisure and establishing their own households. The life span increased, married people felt happy, and divorce rates held steady. Married couples felt independent of their extended family ties. They enjoyed the freedom of their marital relationships (Coontz 2005, pp. 226–228).

By the 1960s, it looked like marriage had found the perfect balance between the personal freedom of a love match and the limitations needed for social stability.

Would the Golden Age of Marriage Spread Throughout the World?

Many social scientists thought that as industrialization spread around the world, love-based marriage and the male breadwinner family would replace the many other marriage and family systems in collectivistic societies. They predicted that love marriages would prevail over the consanguinity and arranged marriages widespread across many societies in traditional cultures.

For example, American sociologist William Goode (1917–2003), an expert on family life and divorce, conducted cross-cultural analyses of marriage and divorce across many societies. He examined family data from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, and Japan available at the time.

Based on his analysis, Goode revealed that the above-mentioned cultural evolution of conjugal family systems and the “love patterns” in mate selection were evident in all of these world regions and societies. In his pioneering and seminal book “World Revolution and Family Patterns” (1963), he presented these results and conclusions in an explicit and direct way.

People across cultures prioritized their material and psychological investments in the nuclear family as well as their emotional needs. They believed that each spouse could legitimately expect to rely on the other, prioritize their relationship, and put their loyalty to their partner ahead of their responsibilities to their parents.

The Love Marriage Ideology 

According to William Goode (1959), the ideology of love-based marriage declares the individual’s right to choose his or her own spouse. This cultural ideology also emphasized the value of the individual over inherited wealth and ethnic group. Goode provided statistics and other data to show that love marriages were gaining popularity around the world at the time.

Many social scientists agreed with Goode and supported this conclusion. They believed that in Western societies, love marriage and the nuclear family increased their popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. They thought that the cultural evolution of marriage had prevailed in Europe and North America and had reached its culmination.

Their scientific prediction was that the rest of the world’s cultures would soon follow this marriage pattern that will soon be prevalent across many societies. This way of thinking about relationships was very appealing to young and educated people, especially women (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

The Need to Belong and Love

Everyone has a “need for love” of some kind. For women and men who believe that love is bonding, the “need to belong” is basically the “need for love.” Those who have a strong desire to belong to a group tend to think that love is a form of bonding.

Just imagine being dropped on an island alone for the rest of your life, like Robinson Crusoe, the protagonist of a novel by English writer Daniel Defoe (c. 1660–1731). You have food, a place to sleep, and comfort, but there isn’t a single other person around and no way to bond with loved ones. For the majority of men and women, these would be extremely challenging living conditions. For some, it is more challenging than for others.

The Basic Social Need to Belong and Be Accepted

As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle noted, humans are social animals. Therefore, they have the need for social bonding, the need to belong, and the need to be accepted by others, like a tribe, kin, family, parent, or mating partner.

Many people are acutely aware of their lost connections to significant others when they are separated from them by being away from family or in a foreign country. Being rejected by a significant other is an especially challenging feeling.

Evolutionary Benefits of Belonging

Love as community bonding is the key survival mechanism that brings people together and strengthens bonds between them. Living in a community gives them a better chance to survive due to the support they provide to each other. Consequently, the need to belong is intrinsic to the nature of some animals and humans.

Love as Social Bonding

Love as a form of social bonding has biological and cultural evolutionary roots. In this sense, love is helping another survive and thrive. The acts of love are feeding, protecting, supporting, and caring about others. In other words, in a practical sense, “love” is doing something good for another person (Wierzbicka, 1999).

Social bonds increased the likelihood of survival for our ancestors. This bonding encouraged parents to keep their kids close and shield them from danger (Esposito et al., 2013). Attachment as bonding kept children close to their parents. As adults, those who had close relationships were more likely to survive, reproduce, and help their children grow up to maturity. To be without kin nearby would be detrimental (see Karandashev, 2019; 2022 for a review).

Physical and Psychological Survival Due to Social Bonding

Individuals have a better chance of surviving in a physical sense, such as maintaining sustenance and security, when they are a part of a social group. People who live in tribal communities feel safer in social relationships than those who live alone. Social cooperation provides the members of a community with better access to food. And they are better able to protect themselves from predators and aggressive foreigners.

In later stages of human evolution, the needs for psychological security and emotional bonding evolved into the most fundamental human motives. Having positive social connections helped not only with physical survival but also with psychological resilience.

People in traditional collectivistic societies tend to feel a higher need to belong compared to people in modern individualistic societies. Cultural values of Eastern-Asian collectivistic societies encourage the need to belong, connections, and kin relationships.

I extensively reviewed the evolutionary origins of bonding, the need to belong, and the need for love elsewhere (Karandashev, 2022, chapter 3).

The Basic Needs to Belong and to Love

Even though some people are more social than others, this deep need to belong is a fundamental human motivation (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). An individual’s need for social bonding motivates their desire to belong to and be accepted by a group or another person. It is fundamentally the desire for other people’s love. 

As Wystan Auden, a British-American poet (1907–1973), wrote,

“We must love one another or die.” 

(W. H. Auden, “September 1, 1939”).

Sexual Love in Cultural Contexts

As I explained in another article, many scholars and laypeople equate sex, sexual love, and erotic love. However, I believe researchers should distinguish between these concepts because they mean somewhat different things (Karandashev, 2022). Sexual love is

  • intense feelings of sexual desire, interest, and attraction;
  • various sexual emotions and feelings;
  • various sexual acts between two individuals.

Sexual love is biologically rooted and, therefore, cross-culturally universal. Nevertheless, its cultural understanding can be specific. People in different societies deem sexual love in their cultural contexts.

What Does “Coitus” Mean for Sexual Love?

The roots of the word “coitus” convey the meaning of “a coming together.” So, the broader meaning of coitus extends beyond physical satisfaction. For men and women, the intimacy of intercourse is more important than the intensity of masturbation (Hite, 1976/2004, pp. 61-78; 1981/1987, pp. 485-502).

The Greek and Latin Origins of the Western Lexicon of Sexual Love

The Latin word “libido” and the Greek word “epithymia” conveyed the meaning of sexual love in Western cultures. Their meanings include yearning, longing, and the desire for sensual self-fulfillment. The sexual love in the words “epithymia” and “libido” conveys the meaning of the desire for sensual pleasure of the body and the gratifying release of sexual energy. All other feelings and emotions of love are of secondary importance in the case of sexual love (Tillich, 1954; Larson, 1983).

What Is the Greek “Epithymia”?

The term “epithymia” refers to “the longing for coitus, the hungering and thirsting for sexual closeness and union with a partner” (Karandashev, 2022). The general physical attraction to a partner is essential in this case. A lover centers his or her emotions not only on sexual desire and the partner’s body but also on the person as a whole. Coitus gives not only physical but also emotional satisfaction (Larson, 1983; Lomas, 2018; Tillich, 1954).

The Sexual Love of “Epithymia” in Other Cultures

Many other cultures of the world express the term “sexual love” in a way that is similar to the Greek word “epithymia.” For instance, Eastern cultures have their own lexical equivalents for sex and sexual love. Some of them appear surprisingly similar.

The Arabic Origins of the Sexual Lexicon

Professor of Linguistics Zaidan Ali Jassem discovered that the “love and sexual terms” in English, French, German, Greek, and Latin could have Arabic origins (Jassem, 2013). For example,

“English, French, Greek and Latin erotic (Eros) comes from Arabic ‘arr ‘intercourse, making love’; English, French, and Latin abhor obtains from Arabic kariha/’akrah, kurh (n) ‘hate’ via /k & h/-merger; English and German love/lieben derives from Arabic labba (‘alabba) ‘to love, live/stay’, turning /b/ into /v/; English hope (hobby) and German hoffen is from Arabic 2ubb ‘love, hope’, turning /2/ into /h/ and /b/ into /f/ in the latter”.

(Jassem, 2013, p. 97).

The modern Arabic terms for sex and sexual love are الجنس والحب الجنسي (aljins walhubu aljinsiu).

The Sexual Love Lexicon from Other Cultures of the World

Here are several other examples from other cultures around the world.

In the Philippines, the word “kilig” refers to the subjective experience of butterflies in the stomach when a person thinks of or interacts with someone sexually attractive and desired.

In the indigenous language of Yagán (Chile), the term “mamihlapinatapai” refers to the way people express unspoken mutual desire through their appearance.

According to American historian and ethnologist Daniel Brinton (1837–1899), several American languages have their own special lexicon of sexual love, which is different from the words for sex and other forms of love (Brinton, 1886).

How People Experience and Express Emotions in Individualistic Cultures

Several cultural ideals, the norms of social life, personality traits, emotions, and behavior define the individualistic features of societies. The key attributes of an individualistic culture are

  • personal autonomy and relational independence,
  • the primacy of a person’s individuality and uniqueness,
  • the priority of individual aspirations and self-realization,
  • the primacy of a person’s self-interest and an individual’s rights,
  • the lower priority of the others’ interests and needs.

(Triandis, 1995; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988).

The individual characteristics of a person define her or his self-identity. It includes individual motivations, goals, attitudes, traits, emotions, and actions. Individuals are relatively independent in their interpersonal relationships (Karandashev, 2021).

Interesting Findings on How People in Individualistic Cultures Experience Their Emotions

These personal characteristics of people in individualistic cultures affect the contexts and situations in which they experience certain emotions. These individualistic characteristics also influence the way they feel certain emotions. The emotionality traits of people also determine the frequency and intensity with which people experience certain emotions. They also determine relatively pleasant and unpleasant emotions people experience in their lives.

According to research, people in individualistic societies experience a lower level of negative emotions and a higher level of positive emotions (Basabe et al., 2002).

Another study (Chentsova-Dutton & Tsai, 2010) found that,

  • European Americans, as the representatives of an individualistic culture, feel the amplified emotions when they pay attention to individual aspects of their self.
  • Asian Americans, as the representatives of a collectivistic culture, feel the amplified emotions when they pay attention attention to relational aspects of their self

Several studies (Kitayama et al., 2000; Kitayama et al., 2006; Uchida & Kitayama, 2009) show that people in individualistic cultures tend to experience pride, self-esteem, and frustration as the socially disengaging emotions more frequently than sympathy, respect, and friendliness as the socially engaging emotions.

How Happy Are the People in Individualistic Cultures?

How does individualism, as a cultural factor, affect the emotional experiences of people’s well-being and happiness in individualistic societies? A recent large study of 21 thousand people from 48 countries investigated how individualism as a cultural variable can affect their subjective well-being. Researchers conducted the study over three time periods from 1980 to 2000. Based on their theory, they thought that cultural characteristics of societies rather than people’s wealth would lead to their satisfaction with life and relationships (Steel, Taras, Uggerslev, & Bosco, 2018).

The Happiness of Individualistic Cultures at the Individual Level

Surprisingly, researchers revealed that individualism at the individual level predicted the lower subjective well-being of people. Individualism as an individual variable predicted less happiness people experienced in their lives and in family relationships. It was true even when wealth was taken into account.

So, the findings show that the cultural values of autonomy and individualism are not beneficial for individual well-being (Steel et al., 2008).

The Happiness of Individualistic Cultures at the National Level

Surprisingly different from this finding, happy nations are typically high in individualism at the national level. Individualism as a cultural variable predicted subjective well-being at the national level. Researchers found that besides the impact of individualism-collectivism, a country’s political and economic circumstances also predicted people’s subjective well-being. Yet, the latter effect was partially independent of individualism (Steel et al., 2008).

How Do People in Individualistic Cultures Express Their Emotions?

The cultural norms of individualistic societies also favor certain ways in which people should express their emotions. Studies have revealed several interesting findings. They found that people in individualistic cultures tend to

  • exhibit higher levels of general emotional expressiveness (van Hemert et al., 2007);
  • believe they have a right to express their emotions as important personal experiences (Markus & Kitayama, 1991);
  • prefer external displays of emotions as expressions of individuality and
  • exaggerate the intensity of the emotional experience (Matsumoto, Takeuchi, Andayani, Kouznetsova, & Krupp, 1998).

All these findings are in accord with cultural values of autonomy, separateness, and uniqueness of individuals in individualistic societies (Markus & Kitayama, 1991), which I highlighted in another article.

Cultural Values in Individualistic Cultures

Individualism and collectivism are the two opposite constructs and dimensions of culture. These dimensions have been among the most popular in cultural and cross-cultural studies of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s (Hofstede, 1980/1984; Marsella et al., 1985; Triandis, 1995). Cross-cultural researchers have investigated how various social, economic, and psychological parameters vary depending on whether people live in individualistic or collectivistic societies. The variables of emotional experiences and expressions were among those (Karandashev, 2021).

The Examples of Individualistic Countries

Many of the most individualistic societies are in North America, Western and Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Among those typical instances are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark (Hofstede, 1984; 2011; Hui & Triandis, 1986; Gelfand, et al., 2000; Kashima, et al., 1995; Triandis, 1995).

Individualistic Cultures vs. Collectivistic Cultures

There are two key groups of cultural phenomena that distinguish individualistic cultures from collectivistic cultures (Hofstede & Bond, 1984, p. 419). Individualistic cultures

  • emphasize individual goals, whereas collectivistic cultures emphasize group goals over individual goals.
  • expect people to look after themselves and their immediate family, whereas collectivistic cultures expect people to belong to in-groups, such as families, that look after them in exchange for their loyalty

The Values of People in Individualistic Societies

Triandis and his colleagues considered personal independence, autonomy, initiative, self-reliance, and freedom as the values associated with individualism in a culture (Triandis, 1995; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988). These cultural values of individualistic societies are the opposite of the collectivistic values of family unity, loyalty, and integrity. Individualistic cultures promote the formation of personal and specific friendships.

Here are several key features of cultural values, norms, and practices that people follow in individualistic societies. Individualistic cultures tend to appreciate

  • personal autonomy,
  • personal independence,
  • the primacy of personality uniqueness,
  • the individual’s goals and actions,
  • individual initiative and self-realization,
  • the individual’s rights rather than duties,
  • a person’s self-interest and his immediate family,
  • less concern for the needs and interests of others.

The Personal Identity of Men and Women in Individualistic Cultures

The individuality of a person and their personal characteristics constitute their self-identity. In terms of personal motivation, people prioritize individual goals over collective goals. Interpersonal connections and relationships are loose and relatively independent.

People in Individualistic Cultures Exhibit Uniform Behavior Towards Members of the In-Group and Out-Group

The cultural norms of individualistic societies encourage men and women to follow the same norms and rules of behavior in both in-group and out-group relationships and contexts. In individualistic cultures, where interpersonal independence and autonomy are highly valued, men and women commonly follow the same kinds of behavior in contact with others from their in-groups and out-groups. It is different from collectivistic cultures in which people highly value embeddedness and interdependence. They tend to differentiate their behavior toward others from their in-group versus out-group (Smith & Bond, 1999).