Anthropology

Cultural anthropologists have long understood rape and incest from the perspective of the rules surrounding them, and the roles that rules play in structuring social life and making culture possible. More attention has been paid to how incest taboos promote "networks of social relations and economic exchange that are constitutive of the social world" than to the potential for incest taboos to protect the young against incestuous abuse (Meigs & Barlow, 2002, p. 39). The rape of an enemy's women is more often seen as a means by which leaders encourage bonds among groups of young males than as acts of physically and emotionally devastating aggression against females. Biosocial explanations are mixed, with some arguing that inbreeding avoidance is evolutionarily old and others that the learning of taboos and genetic transmission are not mutually exclusive alternatives. The latter view dovetails with the biosocial perspective that sexual aggression and male dominance are natural male traits. Social inequality between the sexes is more often offered as a primary reason for more aggression being committed against females than against males and for sociocultural variation. Arguing that a sexist mentality cannot be explained in terms of universal unconscious process in men and that, in many societies, demeaning women and negating the feminine in boys are not evident in the larger social ideology nor are they strategies for male bonding, Sanday (1990a, p. 183) points to the matrifocal Minangkabau of West Sumatra (Indonesia), among whom the most salient social bonds are with mothers and between brothers and sisters. Unlike the Mundurucu of South America, who use gang rape to dominate women (Murphy & Murphy, 1974), Minangkabau men do not display masculine invulnerability by oppression or sexually abusing women. Early cross-cultural studies of the relationship between fraternal interest groups and the frequency of rape support Sanday's argument, showing the frequency of rape to be higher in societies where power groups of related males use aggression to defend members' interests (Otterbein, 1979). The frequency of rape was highest in societies where there is no punishment for rape; something university administrators might take into consideration in efforts to curb fraternity rapes. In a pioneering article, Ortner (1974) explored the question of why women and their work are devalued in many cultures. Her answer was that all people value objects that are under human control (culture) more than unregulated and frightening events such as childbearing that are closer to nature than culture.

Anthropologists were quick to challenge the universality of the notion that female is to male as nature is to culture, and the idea that "nature" and "female" are less under cultural control than the things that men do and believe. The articles in Nature, Culture and Gender (MacCormack & Strathern, 1980) disprove women's universal lower status and association with nature. That culture won in this debate is reflected in the rapid growth of the anthropology of gender and a focus on male and female ideologies as key elements in explanations of sexual inequality and aggression. A more reflexive anthropology reveals that many early studies of societies in which males allegedly dominate females were biased by male anthropologists with little access to or interest in what women did or had to say for themselves (Goodale, 1971; Weiner, 1976).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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