Courtship and Marriage

Each sex is expected to give thought to marriage and begin, with their parents, planning a conjugal life. For boys this consists of finding a wife to move to his village. For girls it involves a move to the village of her husband, and entails careful consideration of the relatives among whom she will live. Girls are expected to be hardworking and, indeed, the attribute of hardworking is a principal criterion in considering a spouse. A girl who is strong and hardworking is considered a desirable and attractive spouse. Many marriages are arranged by parents whose families have exchanged daughters in marriage over generations.

Acquiring a wife can be problematic. Incest regulation forbids marriage with anyone in one's own language group and, conversely, requires that one marry into a different language or kin group. Furthermore, marriage practice is governed by two strongly felt preferences: marriage with a patrilateral cross-cousin, and sister exchange. Hence, a proper marriage requires that a man have a marriageable sister to exchange, and that his father (or father's brothers) have sisters with daughters of marriageable age.

The difficulty of finding such a mate is expressed in the lament of a bachelor who cannot find a marriageable tanyo—a female cross-cousin:

Isn't it strange?

I have no cousins;

I am alone and I haven't any cousin.

Fortunately for me,

I have Fathers of my Fathers;

But I have no cousin.

A Tukanoan male need not marry to find sexual partners. However, like rules of exogamy, Tukanoan incest prohibitions are restrictive, forbidding sexual relations with members of one's own language group. Occasional breaches of the far-reaching incest regulations might evoke intense criticism.

Thus, if the rule of patrilocality is strictly followed, as it most often is, all of one's age-mates in a village will be classificatory siblings and intercourse with them is forbidden. The only women not prohibited by the incest regulations are the in-marrying wives. These women are few in number, relative to the total population of the village, and highly sought after by their husband's sibmates. If we may speak of sexuality in terms of supply and demand, competition is acute for these few available women. Access to these married females is further obstructed by the threat of reprisals by jealous husbands or sorcery aimed at punishing paramours (Chernela, 2002).

A wife with lovers is expected to be discreet. However, women can and do commit indiscretions to humiliate and manipulate husbands. A dispute between a chief and his wife that occurred during my stay exemplified this practice. Females are given full responsibility for illegitimate relations; these confirm the belief that women are sexually ravenous.

The broad extension of incest rules creates a scarcity of nonincestuous sexual partners. As a result, the few sexual partners permissible to a man are the same ones as those permissible to his brother. And, the only noninces-tous partners locally available to a bachelor are his brothers' wives. The bachelor in search of sex is faced with two problematic alternatives: adulterous nonincestuous relations, or nonadulterous incestuous relations. He is caught between two evils: incest, which is strongly prohibited, and adultery, which threatens solidarity among sib brothers.

To portray males as pursuers, then, would acknowledge competition among males. For the dominant ideology to proclaim this social reality would rupture male solidarity and in this way threaten social stability.

In this case, culture does indeed create an "artificial and untrue shortage of female sexuality." If we accept that women's value and related power derive from scarcity, we must conclude that the limited availability of female sexual partners, created by wide-ranging incest taboos, should place these women at a premium. The male view of woman as sexual pursuer denies scarcity by declaring female sexuality to be abundant. Whatever value would be expected to accrue to women from scarcity is effectively denied.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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