Sexuality (Explaining Human Culture)

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Overview
Exercise ID: 1.30
Class size: Any
Level(s): I II III
Source: Produced by HRAF


Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Sexuality, homosexuality, premarital sex relations, extramarital sex relations, sexual taboos
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable: Various
Samples:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? Yes
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No
 

Carol R. Ember, Noah Rossen, Abbe McCarter, Human Relations Area Files

These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the module Sexuality in Explaining Human Culture. This module gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about sexuality, including homosexuality, premarital sex, marital sex, extramarital sex, restrictions and sex taboos, and sexual double standards.  At the end, the module briefly discusses what we do not yet know.

The first set of exercises is Assumptions and Predictions. Prior to reading the module Sexuality, students should reflect on these Assumptions and Predictions questions individually, in groups, or as a class; be sure to write down ideas and questions.

The second set of exercises is Level I. Students should read the Sexuality module before completing the Level I exercises.

The third set of exercises is Level II. Students should read the cultural summaries for information on these cultures before reading each identified excerpt. The Level II exercises may be best done as group exercises by assigning each student a few cultures each and then tabulating the results. After completing the Level II exercises, revisit your initial reflections from the first set and examine your predictions, assumptions, and expectations.

The fourth set of exercises is Level III. While there is no right or wrong order to the module exercises, students should try to have completed at least one or two of the previous exercises before moving to this final exercise. This last task is meant to give students the opportunity to explore making cross-cultural comparisons on their own with the help of the entire eHRAF database.

Assumptions and Predictions

The purpose of these questions is to get you to examine your own ideas about what you expect in overall cross-cultural patterns (for example, do most societies try to restrict premarital sexual relationships?) and then speculate about how you expect different types of societies to vary.

  1. Picking a few of the topics mentioned above, how similar or different do you expect sexual attitudes and practices to be in industrial societies compared with nonindustrial societies?
  2. What factors might influence cross-cultural variation and similarities regarding these topics?
  3. Reflect on or discuss how your own culture or subculture could be similar to or different from the experiences of those in other societies.

Level I

At this point, read the Sexuality Module. Note: The major topics that you are about to explore are extramarital sex, premarital sex, homosexuality, and sex taboos.

Gender Double-Standards

  1. Typical patterns of sexuality are identified in the Sexuality module, but not all cultures will conform to these patterns. Identify the cross-cultural research findings discussed in the module regarding sexuality. In particular, focus on findings regarding double standards for men and women.

1.1 Read the following excerpts, which provide examples of four nonindustrial societies with varying levels of double standards.

Note: Excerpts can be found by clicking on the linked document below, or in eHRAF Browse Documents, searching for the author’s last name, then clicking on the publication and selecting the appropriate page number in the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.

Greeks (EH01): Loizos, Peter. “Gender, sexuality, and the person in Greek culture,” pp. 222-223

Nivkh (RX02): Black, Lydia. “The Nivkh (Gilyak) of Sakhalin and the Lower Amur,” p. 63 second to last paragraph

Montenegrins (EF05): Boehm, Christopher. “Blood revenge: the anthropology of feuding in Montenegro and other tribal societies,” p. 71

Palestinians (M013): Lutfiyya, Abdulla M. “Baytīin a Jordanian village: a study of social institutions and social change in a folk community,” p. 148

Ila (FQ06): Smith, Edwin William. “The Ila-speaking peoples of Northern Rhodesia: vol. 2,” p. 36 and p. 37 final paragraph

1.2 Summarize information about the double-standard in each culture. Do they have a double standard? For premarital sex? Extramarital sex? General attitudes towards sexuality?  What other aspects of culture, if any, do you think these double standards would effect?

Level II

Sex Taboos

  1. As discussed in the Sexuality module, some sex taboo patterns vary by type of social organization. For example, descent patterns may play a role in the delineation of when sex is allowed. For this exercise, look to see if any trends emerge regarding sex taboos, the culture’s staple crop, and type of marriage.

2.1 Read the following passages about the appropriateness/inappropriateness of sex surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Examine the cultural summaries for each society before reading the excerpt, and consider the type of marriage (whether polygynous or monogamous), and the staple crop in each society.

Note: Excerpts can be found by clicking on the linked document below, or in eHRAF Browse Documents, searching for the author’s last name, then clicking on the publication and selecting the appropriate page number in the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.

Note: Cultural summaries can be found by clicking on the linked society name below, or on eHRAF by using the Browse Cultures menu tab, and clicking the Culture Summary drop down option directly below the society name.

Hausa (MS12): Baba of Karo, “Baba of Karo, a woman of the Muslim Hausa,” p. 138 final paragraph, and p. 148 middle paragraph

Semang (AN07): Endicott, Kirk Michael. “Batek Negrito religion: the world-view and rituals of a hunting and gathering people of Peninsular Malaysia,” p. 100 final paragraph

Alorese (OF05): Du Bois, Cora Alice. “The people of Alor: a social-psychological study of an East Indian Island,” p. 28 final paragraph, and p. 36 first two paragraphs

Azande (FO07): Evans-Pritchard, E. E. “Heredity and gestation, as the Azande see them,” p. 408 and 413a

2.2 What were some of the findings about pregnancy and sex taboos (or the lack thereof)? To what extent do the Hausa, Semang, Alorese, and Azande confirm or contrast the findings on pregnancy, marriage type, and protein consumption? If they contrast, why might this be?

Premarital Sexual Expression

  1. Tolerance of premarital sexual expressivity, both amongst adults and children, has much variation across cultures. Attitudes range from encouragement of such sex, tolerating it, or condemning it and severely punishing violators. Read the following excerpts for descriptions of variation in attitudes and approaches towards premarital sexual expression among four different cultures.

Note: Excerpts can be found by clicking on the linked document below, or in eHRAF Browse Documents, searching for the author’s last name, then clicking on the publication and selecting the appropriate page number in the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.

Trobriands (OL06): Malinowski, Bronislaw. “Argonauts of the western Pacific: an account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea,” p. 53

Iran (MA01): Hegland, Mary Elaine. “Iranians,” p. 524

Chuuk (OR19): Goodenough, Ward Hunt. “Premarital freedom on Truk: theory and practice,” p. 615 first two paragraphs and p. 616 final paragraph

Eastern Apache (NT08): Opler, Morris Edward, “An Apache life-way: the economic, social, and religious institutions of the Chiricahua Indians,” p. 78 and p. 79 first paragraph


3.1 Compare and contrast the attitudes of acceptance or condemnation of premarital sex among these cultures. Are there any similarities or surprising differences? Be sure to incorporate the following subjects in your comparison: age of participants (if noted in the excerpts), social complexity and subsistence, and descent, residence kinship patterns. Examine the cultural summaries for information on these cultures.

Note: Cultural summaries can be found by clicking on the linked society name above, or on eHRAF by using the Browse Cultures menu tab, and clicking the Culture Summary drop down option directly below the society name.

Homosexuality

  1. Cross-culturally, homosexual practices are associated with greater “social complexity,” a characteristic that includes high levels of social stratification, larger communities, a high degree of dependence on agriculture, particularly intensive agriculture, and more centralized political systems. In this exercise, you will read excerpts regarding the practice of homosexuality in seven cultures, and then assess the social complexity of each culture.

4.1 Read the following passages from eHRAF World Cultures regarding homosexuality, and record the relevant information (e.g., presence/absence of homosexuality, attitudes towards homosexuality) in the table provided below. Read the sections in the culture summary on settlements, economy, and sociopolitical organization.

Note: Excerpts can be found by clicking on the linked document below, or in eHRAF Browse Documents, searching for the author’s last name, then clicking on the publication and selecting the appropriate page number in the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.

Note: Cultural summaries can be found by clicking on the linked society name below, or on eHRAF by using the Browse Cultures menu tab, and clicking the Culture Summary drop down option directly below the society name.

Mapuche (SG04): Hilger, M. Inez (Mary Inez), “Araucanian child life and its cultural background” p. 68 second paragraph

Mapuche (SG04):  Titiev, Mischa, “Araucanian culture in transition,” p. 95 first paragraph

Bororo (SP08): “Baldus, Herbert, 1899-1970. The social position of the woman among the Eastern Bororo,” p. 30

Manus (OM06): Mead, Margaret, “Growing up in New Guinea: a comparative study of primitive education,” p. 165

Gisu (FK13): La Fontaine, J. S. “The Gisu of Uganda,” p. 60 

Kimam (OJ82): Serpenti, L. M. “The ritual meaning of homosexuality and pedophilia among the Kimam-Papuans of South Irian Jaya,” pp. 304-305 

Malekula (OO12): Layard, J. “Stone men of Malekula,” p. 488

 

Culture Homosexuality

Frequency

Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Social Stratification Settlement

Size

Dependence on Agriculture
Mapuche  

 

 

 

 

Bororo
 Manus  

 

 

 

 

Hunter-gatherers
Gisu  

 

 

 

 

Kimam  

 

 

 

 

Egalitarian 400-999 Intensive Agriculturalists
Malekula  

 

 

 

 

 

4.2 Now that you have a complete table, do your findings conform to the cross-cultural finding that homosexuality is more common in more complex societies? Did you notice any contradictions or additional subtleties? Were there additional trends to explore further? Theorize amongst your group as to why these patterns may exist.

Level III

Now that we have some experience using eHRAF World Cultures, it’s time to examine the body of literature more broadly. Cross- culturally there is great diversity in the practices of and attitudes towards sex. Here you have the freedom to explore the database further, and focus on a particular topic that may be of more personal interest to you. The first step will be to find a new culture, one which you have not yet researched in conjunction with this module, but would be interested to learn more about. To do this, click on the Browse Cultures menu option, and sort either from A-Z, by region, by country, or using the map. Once you have the name of the culture you wish to focus on, record it in the table below, and move to the ‘ADVANCED Search’ tab in the menu bar. Enter your culture to the far left using the ‘Add Cultures’ button, and then move to the subjects column in the middle. Here you can search by Major Subjects à Sexuality and Reproduction à Sex à and highlight the specific subjects that you wish to focus on.

Note: Not all cultures will have information reported for each individual subcategory, so if your first search is not successful, try broadening the scope of the search. Additionally, make sure that the ‘or’ button is selected when investigating more than one subject, or your search may be further limited.

Once your search results have populated, click on the culture name and it will bring you to a list of documents with paragraphs that contain the subjects you filtered for. On the left will be a list of the documents themselves, and on the right will be a table of paragraph excerpts. Find the highlighted terms on the far right which interest you the most, and start your research there.

The goal of this final exercise is for you to do some investigative cross-cultural research of your own, incorporating the themes from the Sexuality module you have just explored.

Hypothetical example: While working on the earlier exercise on Sex Taboos, I was especially interested in the Azande document I read and how their thoughts on sex during the gestation period significantly differed from many other societies. I would be very interested to see if any other cultures in Central Africa share similar beliefs. In order to investigate this further I am going to complete an advanced search, add cultures by region, and filter for documents containing ‘Sexual intercourse’ and ‘General sex restrictions.’

 

 

Culture Name Findings Similarities / Differences
Culture of your choosing
Additional culture
Additional culture
Additional culture