The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study

By B. Malinowski | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV
SEXUAL ASPECT OF MARRIAGE

THE next point in our investigation is the sexual aspect of the Australian marriage. Unfortunately it will not be much easier to draw a decisive inference from the evidence in this case than it was in the foregoing one. There is perhaps less patent contradiction between the statements; and we are able here to reduce many of the incongruities to geographical differences. But the whole question is very complicated by the fact that the sexual features of marital life in Australia have caused much discussion in connection with the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity and group marriage. They have been very often interpreted according to this hypothesis. Different customs have been pointed out as unmistakable survivals of previous states of marital communism or group marriage. Group marriage has even been said to be in actual existence amongst some tribes.

In accordance with our opening statement, polemics will 'be strictly avoided here, particularly in reference to questions of prehistory; and, therefore, we need not concern ourselves with the problem whether certain facts point to the previous existence of group marriage or promiscuity; nor with the problem whether certain features are survivals of a similar state of things.1 Highly

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1
The solution of this problem would, in the first place, require a revision of the concept of survival, in order to avoid arbitrariness when classifying one custom as a survival, another as an innovation. I venture to say such classifications have been made too carelessly. I think it will be clear from the whole of this book, that the individual family should not be considered as a mere innovation, and that, accordingly, there is hardly any justi

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