ISSN 2409-2274

Dynamics of attitudes in the sphere of intimate relationships in Russia

Larisa Kosova 1

  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

2017, no4, pp. 127–149


The processes of modernization are the central research topic of the social sciences. As R. Nisbet noted, the main interest of modern sociology lies in the study of the processes of transition from a closed, hierarchical society to an open, achievement-oriented one. The most important aspect of modernization is the shift in the principles of social regulation from prohibitions imposed externally towards personal freedom and responsibility. One of the behavioral spheres where such shifts are most noticeable is that of sexual relations. In modern societies, sexual pleasure and satisfaction are recognized as important elements of private life that have the right to exist as such, and not only as a necessary condition for procreation.

Modernization is a global process, but the phase differences in different countries are significant. The article analyzes the dynamics of attitudes towards sexual behavior, and shows the place of Russia among other countries. Calculations are based on sociological survey data, primarily the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), which makes it possible both to track the dynamics of attitudes in time and to conduct cross-country comparisons. All data are obtained from the Joint Economic and Sociological Data Archive of the Higher School of Economics:

A totalitarian state strives to control all domains of private life. Eliminating erotic culture, denigrating sex as dirty and reprehensible, is an important element of the system of totalitarian control. Reducing state control increases permissiveness in the sphere of intimacy: the liberalization of attitudes towards the sexual behavior of Russians was recorded as far back as the 1960s, and only intensified with perestroika and democratization. Russians today have a more than liberal attitude to extramarital sex, and are fairly permissive regarding premarital sex. Attitudes to homosexual relations, however, are more complex.  A certain liberalization of views seen in the 1990s has been replaced by an increased rigidity in the wake of the state’s more recent conservative policy.  But though the strengthening of these conservative trends in state policy has affected the dynamics of attitudes towards sexual behavior, it cannot reverse the main trends towards a diversity of sexual practices and individual responsibility for one’s choices.

Keywords: modernization; dynamics of attitudes in the sphere of sexual relations; comparative analysis; impact of state policy on attitudes; impact of social resources on attitudes