Other Cross Sex Relationships

The system of arranged marriage has a complex set of rules specifying who may, may not, or should marry whom. These rules color cross-gender relations significantly. Those who are considered legally eligible or even preferred spouses often maintain a sexual teasing relationship with one another even if there is a difference in age of several decades between them.

Brothers and sisters have an easygoing relationship and may be quite close. In the rare case of a dispute between brothers-in-law, a woman supports her brother rather than her husband.

Another especially significant cross-sex relationship is that between grandchild and grandparent. These individuals normatively have a joking relationship that is especially pronounced in the case of a cross-sex pair. The joking is frequently insulting and/or sexual, even for young children. In fact, babies sometimes learn their first words from their cross-sex grandparent who teaches the tot lewd insults that the baby is expected to repeat. "You black testicles," "You red vagina," and other such sexual insults are not infrequently a toddler's first mangled words, aimed with good effect at the opposite-sex grandparent, to the general delight of all present.

Due to the modified "Omaha" style set of terms used to refer to family members, certain kinds of cousins are classified as grandparents or grandchildren. This is the case for the children of one's "cross-cousins" (children of one's mother's brother or one's father's sister). Given that these relatives are addressed as "grandchildren," mock teasing defines their relationship as well. By contrast, "parallel cousins" (children of two sisters or two brothers) are considered siblings and treated in much the same way.

A mother's sisters are called "little mothers" or "big mothers" (depending on birth order) and have a similar relationship with their nephews and sons. A mother's brother is very close and may discipline his sister's misbehaving children.

Sons- and daughters-in-law should never discuss anything to do with sex in front of their parents-in-law, and a man should not eat in front of his mother-in-law; if he insults his mother-in-law, he would be publicly tried and fined a sheep or chicken, plus a bar of soap to wash off the insult. If a man's mother-in-law is also his father's sister, this is a particularly difficult relationship for him, as his mother-in-law has double authority over him (see "Husband-Wife Relationship" above). A man also feels shame toward and fear of his wife's sister, as he knows she will criticize him if he argues with his wife. For her part, a woman must never insult her husband's brothers, on pain of public trial. Her respect for her father-in-law usually leads to near-total avoidance.

Males and females among the Beng, especially if separated significantly by age, may count one another as friends in the Platonic sense.

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