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Lecture 6

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Tristan Long

WEEK 6 Cultural Anthropology: Chapter 7: Sex and Marriage SUMMARY HOW IS HUMAN SEXUALITY VIEWED AND CONTROLLED? o Anthropologists have encountered difficulties in the study of human sexuality b/c of its sensitive nature and because it had remained as professional taboo till recently o New studies of human sexuality show remarkable diversity in sexual identity, meaning, practices and acceptance o Control of sexual behaviour varies significantly WHAT IS MARRIAGE? o Marriage: recognizes intimate relations between spouses, and they create culturally recognized and legally enforceable relations regarding children and in-law kin o Most marriages involve one spouse, but many vary from individual to multiple spouses o New forms such as: common-law, same-sex o Marriage is a cultural construct, backed by social, legal, and economic forces WHY IS MARRIAGE UNIVERSAL? o A complex issue universal to all human groups is the need to controls sexual relations so that competition over sexual access does not disrupt society o Specific form of marriages is related to who had offspring rights and how property is divided WHAT CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE LINKED TO AND AFFECTED BY MARRIAGE? o In most cultures, structure of marriage related to other social areas: kinship, economy, ritual and religion o Specific form marriage takes is related to who had rights to offspring and how property is divided TROBRIAND ISLANDERS o Yam exchanges and Kula voyages o Children 7-8 play erotic games with one another and imitate sexual attitudes o w/in 4-5 years, they begin pursuing sexual partners, change partners often, and experience sexually with many o in mid-teens, meetings b/w lovers take up most of the nights and affairs last several months and eventually lovers meet the same partner again and again, rejecting others o When the couple is ready, they appear together one morning outside young man’s families to announce their intention of getting married o For young trobrianders, attracting sexual partners is important business and they spend a lot of time making themselves look attractive: using paints, dyes, costumes, and hairstyles o Youthful convos loaded with sexual innuendos, and magical spells as well as small gifts used to entice prospective sex partner to the beach at night or to the house o Girls and boys sleep apart from their parents so they have freedom to arrange their love affairs o Boys and girls play this game as equals Anthropologist Annette Weiner: for Trobriand's, attracting lovers isn’t just a past time - Is the first step towards entering adult world - Sexual liaisons give adolescents time and occasion to experiment with all possibilities and problems adults face in creating relationships with non-relatives - Individuals may clash; achievement of one’s desire takes patient, hard work, determination - This also has its danger o Trobriand attitude towards adolescent sexuality much different than contemporary N. American society o As a consequence, many north Americans have unresolved issues regarding their sexuality HUMAN SEXUALITY o Bronislaw Malinowski, Margaret Mead: two of earliest anthropologists to study humans as sexual beings o No anthropology of sexuality before late 1970s; taboo subject and touched on only by accident or while dealing with another subject o Difficult because people are very private people when talking about sexual lives o Especially true if their sexuality is outside “norms” of a culture ex: lesbian/gay o Anthropologist also have issues with approaching this subject due to their own discomfort, or because of gender barriers (females refusing to discuss sexuality with male anthropologist) o Fortunately, both “virtual” (internet) research and cross cultural studies of human sexually is more common since 1980s o Anthropologists find great variation in ways sexuality is viewed, practiced and controlled Jeffrey Weeks: contends that diversification of sexual practices, subcultures, and identities is characteristic of our history - To define human sexuality would require many definitions as experiences - Woman in lesbian relationship view sexuality differently than woman from heterosexual relationship - Man in small scale society Africa view differently than one in industrial society o Human sexuality rooted in our biological nature and also a cultural construct o Sexuality has been formed at least partly by cultural environment and it will differ from that of someone in another culture o MUKKUVAR people of southern India see female sexuality as social prosperity inseparable from fertility, whereas many societies in Christianity place high value on chastity o JU’HONSI: also like Trobriand islanders view sexuality among adolescents (homosexual and heterosexual) as natural, although they also have rules that govern this behaviour HOMOSEXUALITY o Homosexuality: common worldwide yet anthropologists continue to grapple with a cross- cultural understanding of the many meanings attached to it o Only recently has it been accepted not as a disease but another sexual preference o In western culture, homosexuality usually defined as desire to have relations with same sex o However, it’s a narrow definition because it treats homosexuality as a sexual attraction while ignoring it as a sexual orientation and sexual identity o NAVAJO: homosexuality based on gender and gender roles and is a social construct whereas sexual orientation refers to biological and psychological makeup of an individual o Sexual Orientation: biological and psychological makeup of an individual o Sexual Identity: identity a person takes based on his or her sexual preference o Homosexuality interest example of culture chagne in action o In mid to late 1880s, scholars and theologians conceded what had once been considered sinful is now just abnormal behaviour, but later it began a “disease” o Around that time when “homosexuality” became a term o This is when sexuality became politicized and led to sexual identity movements such as Free Love in 1960s and then lesbian and gay movements o In ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME, homosexuality was considered socially acceptable behaviour o In modern day PAPUA NEW GUINEA, young men undergo initiation that involves element of homosexuality. After initiation, they must for a number of years partake in homosexual relations before they marry and begin a heterosexual relationship o ETERO OF NEW GUINEA: prefer homosexual relations as sex between male and females weakens male and should only happen for reproductive reasons o Gilbert Herdt: investigated sexual rituals of the SAMBIA IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA in the mid-1970s. Although missionaries, colonialists and the wind of culture change storming over Melanesia have since battered these customs, the research that Herdt and others such as Knauft have conducted has significantly increased out understanding of human sexuality - Herdt asked if whether Sambia male initiation rituals were homosexual in nature - In these rituals older boys orally inseminated younger boys - Semen was believed to give boys strength and warrior prowess and help them Grow into masculine adult males - Sambia called this ritual a “secret marriage” - Herdt first labelled this practice as “ritualized homosexuality” he changed him mind for TWO reasons: first, this same sex behaviour lasted only until male married a woman and produced children, and temporary same sex relations did not fit definition of homosexuality as a lifestyle, Second, Sambia did not recognize any type of same-sex partnership for life; in their eyes, ritual was initiation rite within a secret male cult that had a purpose and meaning - Herdt refers to them today as “boy-insemination” and defines them outside Homosexuality o Some sexual identities of some biological men and women are ambiguous fitting into neither the female nor male gender o TWO SPIRIRT, or BERDACHE, of North America has recorded in at least 113 historical Aboriginal groups o Two Spirit: can be men or women and had a dream of vision that explained and legitimized their choice to become another gender, so they represented a third or fourth gender o Two Spirits: formed sexual and emotional relationships with a member of their own sex and fulfilled important social, religious and economic roles o Ex: female two-spirits may become hunter warriors, or chiefs and they enjoyed special status in their community o Male Two-Spirits didn’t have to enter battle to become warriors which evidenced great degree of tolerance o OneTHf world’s most extensively studied examples of institutionalized same sex relations is the 19 CENTURY CHINESE SISTERHOOD OF THE PROVINCE OF GUANGDONG o Chinese sisterhood movements involved thousands of women who entered into sexual relations with other women and who vowed before their goddess Guan yin never to marry a man o Sisterhood had names like Golden Orchid Association – members lived in cooperative homes o Following victory of red army in 1949, sisterhoods were banned and many women fled to other countries o Most early studies of these sisterhoods avoided their lesbian nature, preferring to examine other issues such as employment o Gloria Wekker: paid attention to sexual identity when she investigated the MATTI of Paramaribo Suriname. o These creole women engage in sexual relations with men and with women either simultaneously or consecutively o Ethnographic studies such as Wekker’s have raised interesting questions regarding homosexual behaviour and homosexual identity CONTROL OF SEXUAL RELATIONS o Humans engage in sexual relations when it suits them and when it’s deemed appropriate by the standards of their culture o Many of the controls placed on sexual activity involve adolescents o By early teens, males and females are biologically able to participate in sexual activity, but different cultures have different rules regarding when sex is permitted o TROBRIAND ISLANDERS AND HURONS: sexual discovery and experimentation among adolescents is acceptable. In These cultures, most young ppl marry soon after they reached biological maturity o MASSAI: little girls engage in sexual play with older warriors until they reach age of sexual maturity (menarche) To avoid pregnancy outside marriage, girls are circumcised and are married to much older men o Many cultures strictly control sexual behaviour, especially adolescent females o MIDDLE EAST: virginity of young girls is highly prized o So behaviour of girls is controlled to varying degrees o Control over gay and lesbian sexuality varies from culture o “permissive” cultures tend to view same-sex relationships with more tolerance than “restrictive “cultures o Usually though, when accepted, gay relationships (men and men) more accepted than lesbians o Cleland’s Ford + Frank A. Beach: 1956 study on male homosexuality in 76 cultures around world and found 64% recognized male homosexuality more normal and socially acceptable o But after greater influence by Christianity, rejection of homosexuality became common o But once again changing and more acceptable in western societies now although gays and lesbians still fight for social, economic and political recognition o In recent years, Western social scientists have noticed two major trends: more people are entering into sexual relationships outside marriage, and women gaining greater control over their sexual lives o Regardless of changes, culture often dictates, when, where, how and with whom they can have sex FIGHTING HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA: TRADITIONAL HEALERS ON THE FRONT LINE – Suzanne lecler-madlala o Dr. Leclerc-madlala is currently a senior fellow in the bureau for global health, office on HIV/Aids, US agency for international development in Washington DC. o Work involves understanding of sociocultural perspectives relevant to HIV, gender, and sexuality particularly the sub-Saharan context and working on the U.S government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic o While in Uni, she meant Zulu-speaking student from South Africa – during height of apartheid o Aid epidemic was in its infancy o She wanted to make a difference so she earned a degree on cultural construction of aids among the Zulu o HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa became her professional passion o In Africa traditional healers typically outnumbered practitioners of modern medicine by a ratio of 100 to 1 or more. o Supporting partnerships with healers makes sense o Westerners generally viewed traditional healing as mumbo jumbo due to superstition o But, the practice has survived o Of world’s estimated 40 million people currently infected by HIV, 70% live in sub-Saharan Africa, and many children orphaned due to aids o Many prevention program of aids involve help of healers o South Africa’s KWAZULU – natal province where estimated 36% of population is HIV infected revealed that traditional Zulu healers were being consulted regular for treatment of STDs o Diseases such as Std’s and HIV/Aids were attributed to taboos relating to birth, pregnancy, marriage and death o They thought that the disease was due to witchcraft o Healers had suspicions for modern medicine o Zulu Healers treatments: bitter herbs to cleanse body, strengthen blood and remove misfortune and pollution | some treatments also help rashes, itchy skin, etc. o Unwele: Indigenous plant that proven to have immune-boosting properties and available in modern pharmacies packaged in tablet form o Knowledge about HIV/AIDS has allowed many healers to change their practices o Porcupine quills once used to give indigenous injection but now patients told to bring their own razors and blades because before healer would reuse same blade o And healers have given up practice of biting person to remove foreign objects o Traditional healers have transformed home into hospices o Many infected are chased away from home by families so healers homes are becoming orphanages and many children stay there because of THIRD WAVE OF AIDS DESTRUCTION – orphaned kids o Healers provide health care that’s personal, culturally appropriate and will meet needs of patient RULES OF SEXUAL ACCESS o cultures develop rules regarding acceptable sexual behaviour that serve to control sexual relations to some extent o Marriage: social institution under which a man and woman or partners of same gender live as husband and wife by legal commitments and establish a claim to sexual access to each other o Actually only about 5% of known societies prohibit all sexual involvement outside marriage even north America is less restrictive now o NAYAR: of Indian have a traditional marriage system much different from North America Was a landowning warrior castle from Southwest Indian - Estates held by corporations which consisted of kinsmen related in the female line - Kinsmen all lived together in large household called taravad, eldest male serves as manager - Three nayar transactions are of interest here 1. tail-tying ceremony: occurs after girl gets first menstrual cycle Involved a ceremony that join girl with young man in temporary union Union which may or may not have sexual relations lasted for few days only This established the girl’s eligibility for sexual activity with men her hou
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