Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village

By H. Ian Hogbin | Go to book overview

6
Awakening of the Sexual Impulses

OUR growing native has now reached puberty, an event that takes place later than among ourselves, about fourteen or fifteen in the case of girls and a year or two after for boys.

The villagers have always condemned sexual relations outside marriage. When discussing the matter in the abstract, without reference to particular individuals, they lay as much blame on the boy as on the girl and insist that scandal impairs the future marriage chances of both. The teachings of the missionaries reinforced the traditional code, and today the native pastors and other Church leaders denounce the sin of pre-marital intercourse on every possible occasion. So obsessed with the subject are they that they see immorality in all forms of dancing. Recently they have even undertaken to stamp out the universal island practice of adorning the hair with flowers. 'Blossoms above are the sign of evil desires below,' they say.

In other Melanesian societies with a puritanical attitude to sex the females are expected to efface themselves; but in Busama the girls always exchange cheerful badinage with any youths whom they meet along the bush pathways. 'Where are you off to? Are you looking for husbands?' the boys call out. 'No, no, we are good daughters and await the wishes of our parents,' comes the answer. 'As for you, you must be keeping appointments with our sisters.'

Parents feel concern about the reputation of their daughter from the time she first menstruates. Formerly they would have sponsored several feasts as a celebration, but these have been abandoned on account of missionary disapproval. The mother simply summons some experienced old woman to give the girl sexual instruction. The men are ignorant of what exactly takes place and refused to make enquiries on my behalf--it was 'something for the women', they said, and must be left to them--but I gathered that in the course of a practical demonstration the teacher ruptures the girl's hymen.

From now on the mother speaks a great deal about the disgrace that would follow an intrigue. In illustration she quotes some of the better- known incidents from the past--Gwammla'wi, who took a casual lover to her bed and then discovered that the only man willing to marry her was a cripple with a withered leg; Ginggala'wi, who had to accept an elderly widower with a fully-grown family; and so on. She gives special warnings

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Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents viii
  • I - The Setting 1
  • 2 - Kin and Community 13
  • 3 - Kinship Terms 38
  • 4 - Birth and Early Childhood 53
  • 5 - Later Childhood and Adolescence 72
  • 6 - Awakening of the Sexual Impulses 94
  • 7 - Marriage 103
  • 8 - Husband and Wife 124
  • 9 - Supporting a Family 138
  • I0 - Fulfilling Obligations 154
  • II - The Last Years 164
  • References 171
  • Index 174
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