Other Cross Sex Relationships

In the traditional Yapese estate, the oldest sibling, male or female, was the recognized authority figure. However, such authority was not permanent. If the oldest sibling were female, she would hold authority over a younger brother until he reached puberty, at which time he assumes leadership over all siblings. Girls in this situation were told by their parents that someday they would marry and leave the estate, but their brother would marry and stay within the estate. The prescribed relationships between a prepubescent and postpubescent brother and sister were as different as night and day. Young brothers and sisters were constant companions, playing and eating together in the company of their mother or friends. An adolescent Yapese male had little or no social restrictions pertaining to his relationship with his prepubescent sister. However, once a Yapese girl had her first menstruation, her daily interaction with both her younger and older male siblings was changed forever. When a sister returned to her estate following her first visit to the menstrual house, she would find that her father had built a separate sleeping place within the family compound. In addition, she would have a separate cooking place. During the months she spent in the menstrual house, she would receive instruction regarding behaviors and interaction with her brothers. No longer would she have a playful relationship with her brothers; new rules of strict avoidance accompanied any interaction she would have with them.

Following the first menstruation, a sister could no longer face her brother when conversing. Yapese refer to the period that this avoidance began as the time when a sister had the bun dowangin ea piin, "smell of a woman." With this change, a brother and sister had to sit side by side or back to back when talking. If a brother and sister should meet on a village path, the sister stepped off of the path and turned her back as her brother passed. A man never referred to his sister in any public forum. Many of the taboos that fell upon brother-sister relations were extended to include a man's sister's children, especially her daughters. Frequently, a married Yapese woman would pof, "adopt," one of her brother's children. By so doing, a woman would raise a child who was from her natal estate as her own.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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