ANTH-110 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Untraceable, Labrys, Feminist Theory

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Module 6 Review Questions
Culture, Sexuality, and the Body
NOTE: These review questions are not graded but rather are designed to help you pull out the pertinent
information in each reading and to reinforce your learning.
Review Questions: Introduction to “Culture, sexuality, and the body”
Please read the assigned reading and complete the review questions.
In Brettell, C. B., & Sargent, C. F. (Eds.). (2013). Gender in cross-cultural perspective (6th ed.).
Toronto, ON: Pearson Education.
Brettell, C. B., & Sargent, C. F. (2013). Introduction to “Culture, sexuality, and the
body.” (pp. 203–208).
§
1.
a) How long has sexuality been a focus of research in anthropology? How did earlier studies
treat the topic of sexuality?
Sexuality has been a focus of research in anthropology since 1992. Early anthropological
research on sexually contributed to our current understanding of sexuality as culturally
constructed a learned in specific historical contexts. In contrast to contemporary studies
that take sexuality as their core focus, classic anthropological monographs reported
exotic sexual practices in the course of “holistic” ethnographic description.
b) Is sexuality simply grounded in the body’s structure, physiology and functioning?
Although sexuality, like all human cultural activity, is grounded in the body, the body’s
structure, physiology, and functioning do not directly or simply determine the
configuration or meaning of sexuality. Rather, sexuality is in large part culturally
constructed.
c) Is sexuality culturally constructed?
Yes
d) At what different levels may a society manage sexuality by imposing sanctions?
Within every culture, there are measures for the management of sexuality and gender
expression and sanctions for those who break the rules. These sanctions may be
imposed at the level of the family, the lineage, the community, or the state
2.
a) What has research in hunter-gatherer societies revealed about sexual intercourse?
Research in hunting and gathering societies shows that sexual intercourse, while
personal can be a political act. In such societies, claims to women are central to men’s
efforts to achieve equal status with others. Through sexual relations with women, men
forge relationships with one another and symbolically express claims to particular
women.
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b) How do the !Kung view sex?
The !Kung believe that without sex, people can die, just as without food, one would
starve. !Kung suggests that for both men and women, engaging in sex is necessary to
maintaining good health and is an important aspect of being human.
c) Contrast the !Kung’s view of sex with the historic Anglo-American view of men, women and
sexuality.
For the past 150 years, Anglo-American culture has defined women as less sexual than
men.
d) How has the Anglo-American view changed from prior to the 17th century until the end of
the 19th century?
This represents a major shift from the widespread view prior to the seventeenth century
that women were especially sexual creatures. By the end of the nineteenth century, the
increasingly authoritative voice of male medical specialists argued that women’s bodies
were characterized by sexual anesthesia.
e) What is the Muslim view of female sexuality?
Muslim concepts of female sexuality cast the woman as aggressor and the man as victim.
Women symbolize disorder and are representative of the dangers of sexuality and its
disruptive potential.
f) How do the Kaulong of New Guinea view sex and sexual activity?
Kaulong of New Guinea illustrates the extent to which understandings of male and
female bodies and sexual desires are cultural products. Both sexes aspire to immortality
through the reproduction of identity achieved through parenting. Sexual intercourse,
which is considered animal-like, is sanctioned for married people. Animals are part of
the forest of nature, so the gardens of married couples are in the forest.
g) What is the purpose of marriage? What was considered an acceptable recourse for a
childless couple?
The only sanctioned purpose of sex and marriage is reproduction; sex without
childbearing is viewed as shameful. Suicide was formerly considered an acceptable
recourse for a childless couple.
3.
a) How do cultures such as the Kaulong and the Mae Enga in New Guinea view menstrual blood
and/or a menstruating woman?
For the Kaulong, as among numerous groups in New Guinea, men’s anxiety about
contact with the body of a woman is heightened by the understanding that menstrual
blood is dangerously polluting. A man who had sexual contact with a menstruating
women would risk serious physical and mental harm.
The Mae Enga believe that contact with menstrual blood or a menstruating woman will,
in the absence of appropriate countermagic, sicken a man and cause persistent vomiting,
turn his blood black, corrupt his vital juices so that his skin darkens and wrinkles as his
flesh wastes, permanently dull his wits, and eventually lead to a slow decline and death.
b) How did men and women among the Yoruk Indians (pre-contact) view menstruation?
While Yoruk Indian men considered women, through their menstrual blood, to be
dangerous, Yurok women viewed menstruation as a positive source of power. Rather
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than looking on the forced monthly seclusion as isolating and oppressive, women
viewed it as a source of strength and sanctuary.
4.
a) Although North American culture typically defines two genders based on physical traits,
cross-cultural evidence provides alternative gender constructs as well as physical variation.
How many phenotypic sexes has some research suggested?
Some research suggests at least three phenotypic sexes in human cultures: female, male,
and androgynous or hermaphroditic individuals.
b) How many gender categories are found among the Chuckchee and among the Mohave?
Among Native North American societies, who are Two-Spirit (at times referred to as
Berdache)?
The Chuckchee counted seven genders—three female and four male—while the Mohave
reportedly recognize four genders—a woman, a woman who assumes the roles of men, a
man, and a man who assumes the roles of women.
A two-spirit or Berdache is a male who felt an affinity for female occupation, dress, and
attributes.
c) What was an option for the Kaska Indians if they had no son?
Kaska Indians would select a daughter to be a son if they had none; after a
transformation ritual, the daughter would dress like a man and be trained for male
tasks.
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