Sexuality

Sexuality, as distinguished from gossip about affairs, was not a proper topic for discussion among Blackfoot, except for joking with sisters' husbands/wives' sisters—potential spouses in polygyny. Parents' instructions to their children were minimal. On the other hand, living in tents in camps and caring for, hunting, and butchering animals exposed children to inadvertent observation of adults' and animals' sexuality. Men and women were expected to form marital relationships, for complementary household tasks as well as for sexual intimacy. Presumably some persons engaged in homosexual activities, but these are not discussed with outsiders. There does not seem to have been any explicit postpartum intercourse rule, but women felt "afraid of husband" for a month or 6 weeks after delivery, fearing another pregnancy too soon. Ten days after birth, a post-menopausal woman would dress the mother in new clothes and take away her old clothes and bedding; this ritual was supposed to prevent immediate pregnancy. For contraception, women seem to have been advised to use symbolic means such as not lending anyone else her shawl, not picking up young puppies, or wearing a copper bracelet with a hole in it around her neck, tied by a buckskin thong through the hole. Becoming pregnant while still nursing a child was considered a problem, because it was believed that the mother's milk would no longer be abundant enough to nourish the child.

Girls' parents discouraged premarital sexual intimacy, and an arranged marriage in the mid-teens, soon after menarche, was ideal. Youths were encouraged to sneak under a tipi cover into the bedding of a young woman, on a parallel with sneaking into an enemy's camp and stealing their horses. If the young woman did not wish the relationship, she could awaken her family sleeping around her. Rape was strongly disapproved, with gang-rape a possible punishment for an adulterous wife. Women captured in war raids, or traded as slaves, could be prostituted (leading some European travelers, failing to distinguish between these alien women and their hosts' families, to consider Indian women promiscuous).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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