Courtship and Marriage

Yapese, as typical Micronesians, conducted their courtships in relative secrecy. It could happen that a young girl was betrothed prior to her reaching puberty. Such arranged marriages were generally initiated by the fathers of both the girl and boy and were called tabinaew ea ke m'aug. When an adolescent girl was not restricted by this parental arrangement, early puberty was the time for dating and sexual exploration. It was generally the duty of a boy to establish the courtship. Rendezvous took place after dark and, prior to meeting, the boy and girl would spend considerable time adorning and cleaning themselves. The girl would sneak out to meet the boy without attracting attention from her parents. Courtship consisted primarily of conversation and sexual intercourse. It is important to note that, while premarital sex was accepted and approved, promiscuity or "sleeping around" during courtship was not.

If the courting couple decided that they would like to marry, the young man would express their intentions to his father. The boy's father would then select a close male relative to visit the parents of the girl, present them with a symbolic payment of "stone money," and announce the marriage wishes of the young couple. If the girl's parents agreed, they would accept the valuable and give "shell money" in return. (In Yap, stone money was considered a primary male valuable, while shell money was considered a primary female valuable.) Following this exchange, the couple had the necessary blessings and approval to live openly together and be seen in public.

Two other ceremonial exchanges solidified Yapese marriages. One followed the wife's first pregnancy and the other was after the birth of the first male child. Each of these ceremonial exchanges solidified the rights of the couple and their offspring to the estate and patrilineage. Marriage ceremonies united not only two individuals, but also two estates. Yapese marriage has always consisted of a bias toward rank and status along with a general rise in status for both a man and woman.

Although the newly married couple usually lived in a house of their own, Yapese residence rules generally followed a virilocal pattern, with the young couple residing on a parcel of land bestowed on the man by the leader of his estate. Polygyny was accepted in Yap, but was rare, except among the highest classes of the high caste. It seems that divorce has always been rather common in Yap, but any children born to the marriage remained with the father and his estate. If a wife were beaten or constantly mistreated by her husband, she could seek refuge in her natal estate. In such instances, her father would act as the mediator. Even in these conditions, if the marriage were terminated, the children would remain with the father. In the past, the levirate was practiced in Yap; following a man's death, one of his younger brothers would mun fungiich, "jump to a visit" (marry) his brother's widow and bring her children into his estate. In Yapese kinship terminology, a man refers to his brother's wife as "my wife." When a married woman dies, her spirit remains in the estate of her husband and does not return to her natal estate.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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