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7  
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1       
2 Series Editors
Regna Darnell
5 Stephen O. Murray
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7 Irregular Connections
11 A History of
13 Anthropology and Sexuality [-3], (3)
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33 University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London
1 ©  by the Board of
2 Regents of the University
of Nebraska
3 All rights reserved
4 Manufactured in the
5 United States of America
6 䡬

7 Library of Congress
8 Cataloging-in-Publication
Lyons, Andrew P.
10 (Andrew Paul)
11 Irregular connections: a
12 history of anthropology
and sexuality / Andrew P. [-4], (4)
13 Lyons and Harriet D.
14 Lyons. p. cm. –
15 (Critical studies in the
history of anthropology) Lines: 41
16 Includes bibliographical
17 references and index.
18  --- (cl.: * 122.68
alk. paper) – ———
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20 alk. paper)
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21 . Sex customs – History.
22 . Primitive societies.
. Anthropology –
23 History. [-4], (4)
24 . Anthropologists –
25 Attitudes.
I. Lyons, Harriett.
26 II. Title.
27 III. Series.
28 .. 
7 In Memory of
8 Robert Earl Kennedy and
Arnold Remington Pilling
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7 Irregular connexions between the sexes have on the whole established a
8 tendency to increase along with the progress of civilization.
Edward Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage
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7 Contents
12 List of Illustrations x
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Acknowledgments xi
Series Editors’ Introduction xiii
16 Introduction  Lines: 115 to
17 . Three Images of Primitive Sexuality and the Definition of Species  ———
18 . Sex and the Refuge for Destitute Truth 
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19 . Matriarchy, Marriage by Capture, and Other Fantasies  Normal Pag
. The Reconstruction of “Primitive Sexuality” at the Fin de Siècle  * PgEnds: Pag
22 . “Old Africa Hands” 
23 . Malinowski as “Reluctant Sexologist”  [-9], (9)
24 . Margaret Mead, the Future of Language, and Lost Opportunities 
. The “Silence” 
27 . Sex in Contemporary Anthropology 
28 Conclusions and Unfinished Business 
29 Notes 
References Cited 
32 Index 
1 
3 Australian Aboriginal Marriage Ceremony 
4 The Queen of the Cannibals 
Chelik of Toinar with his ghotul wife 
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7 Acknowledgments
11 [First Page]

12 ecause this book is the culmination of research projects we under-
13 took over many summers and two sabbaticals over a -year period, [-11], (1)
14 we owe thanks to many individuals and institutions.
15 We would like to acknowledge the help of three research assistants who
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16 helped us in the early stages of the project: Dr. Mary Fair Deschene, Dr.
17 Fabian Dapila, and our former colleague, the late Dr. Judith Abwunza. In ———
18 the latter stages of the project, Mr. Stephan Dobson acted as an editorial 0.0pt PgV
19 assistant.
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20 Our research was supported by a Short Term Research Grant from Wilfrid
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21 Laurier University and a Research Grant (no. --) from the Social
22 Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (–). Harriet
23 Lyons also received a Grace Anderson Research Fellowship from Wilfrid [-11], (1)
24 Laurier University.
25 We would like to thank librarians at the following institutions: Wilfrid
26 Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario; the University of Waterloo; McMas-
27 ter University (Bertrand Russell Archive); the Sterling Library at Yale Uni-
28 versity (Bronislaw Malinowski Papers and Havelock Ellis Papers); the Lon-
29 don School of Economics and Political Science and Dr. Angela Raspin,
30 archivist (Bronislaw Malinowski Correspondence); the Library of the Well-
31 come Institute for the History of Medicine; the old British Library, in-
32 cluding the Western Manuscripts Room (Marie C. Stopes–Havelock El-
33 lis Correspondence); the Huntington Library, San Marino, California (Sir
34 Richard Burton Archive); the Library of Congress (Margaret Mead Papers);
35 the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, including the Bodleian Library of
36 Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House; the Institute of So-
37 cial and Cultural Anthropology, Oxford University; and the Robarts Library
38 of the University of Toronto.
39 The late Edwards Huntington Metcalf gave us access to some of his per-
1 sonal collection of Richard Burton’s books and papers, which are stored at
2 the Huntington Library.
3 There are a number of scholars and friends with whom we have shared
4 ideas during the time we have worked on this project. They include Dorothy
5 and David Counts, Ann Chowning, Bill and Marla Powers, the late Arnold
6 Pilling, the late Ashley Montagu, the late Bob Kennedy, and Robert Gordon.
7 We would like to thank the editors of this series, Regna Darnell and
8 Stephen Murray, for a stimulating exchange of ideas that helped us greatly in
9 the preparation of our final manuscript. Naturally, any errors of scholarship
10 and interpretation that remain are our own.
11 Finally, for those who are curious, we should mention that this is a totally
12 cooperative endeavor. The order in which our names are listed is strictly
13 alphabetical. [-12], (2)
15 Some portions of chapters  and , which discuss Malinowski, Ellis, and
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16 Russell, first appeared in the Canadian Journal of Anthropology. We would
17 like once again to thank Ms. Helena Wayne (Malinowska) for permission to ———
18 quote materials from the Malinowski collections at Yale and at the London * 192.45
19 School of Economics.
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20 Permission to quote from the diary of Mrs. E. M. Falk (. Afr. S. )
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21 has been granted by the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African
22 Studies at Rhodes House. Permission to publish an illustration from The
23 Muria and Their Ghotul by Verrier Elwin has been granted by Oxford Uni- [-12], (2)
24 versity Press, New Delhi, India.

xii 
7 Series Editors’ Introduction

lthough the variety of human sexuality has been a rich topic in
13 Anglo-American public culture, it has received surprisingly little [-13], (3)
14 anthropological attention. This lacuna may be attributable to the
15 aura of the exotic or scandalous that clings to the topic within a discipline Lines: 34 to
16 that has long aspired to the status of “science.” Andrew Lyons and Harriet
17 ———
Lyons attempt to redress the omissions, emphasizing the ethnocentrism of
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cross-cultural sexuality studies. ———
19 Where we might expect alternative approaches to sexuality to engender Normal Pag
20 a critique of post-Enlightenment cultural biases, we find instead a “con- * PgEnds: Ejec
scription” or co-optation of ethnographically attested alternatives to preex-
isting agendas arising from a cultural context beyond the discipline of an-
23 [-13], (3)
thropology. Race and culture have been inextricably joined, with oversexed
Africans, undersexed Native Americans, and promiscuous Polynesians feed-
ing the mainstream’s view of itself.
Americanists will be fascinated by a narrative that moves comfortably
28 back and forth across the Atlantic. Although there are certainly distinc-
29 tive features of the British and American national traditions, in matters of
30 sexuality studies crossovers are legion (with the collaboration of Margaret
31 Mead and Gregory Bateson as a paramount example). At each chronological
32 juncture, American and British voices intersect, for example, Lewis Henry
33 Morgan and the High Victorian evolutionism of John McLennan, Sir John
34 Lubbock, and Johann Jakob Bachofen, a legacy interjected into American
35 anthropology by the cosmopolitan European theoretical scope of Franz
36 Boas and his early students. Margaret Mead tested the claims of psychol-
37 ogist G. Stanley Hall about the universality of adolescence, while Bronislaw
38 Malinowski applied Freudian metanarratives to the cultural assumptions
39 of Trobriand Islanders. National traditions are mediated by what Richard
1 Fardon called “localizing strategies,” the ways of thinking anthropologically
2 that emerge in particular areas of the globe.
3 Commonalities of Pacific sexualities abound in contrast to Native North
4 American practices. Ethnography in turn invites reflexivity. Much is re-
5 ported that strikes unhappy resonances to modern ears. The Lyonses frame
6 their narrative as an exercise in disciplinary reflexivity.
7 Both the introduction and conclusion invite anthropologists and other
8 students of sexuality in cross-cultural contexts to observe themselves ob-
9 serving through often unrecognized biases. Despite an uncompromising
10 exposure of previous limitations of standpoint, Lyons and Lyons do not
11 apologize for the past sins of anthropologists or despair of the grounds on
12 which they and their readers now stand. To have raised the questions at all
13 is the challenge accepted by the anthropology of sexuality. The historicism [-14], (4)
14 and longue durée of the irregular connections they catalog invite continuing
15 revisionism as ethnographic studies of sexuality become better integrated
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16 with feminist, gay–lesbian, queer, and other theories and documentations
17 of sexual practices in our own society. This volume strikes a balance be- ———
18 tween power–knowledge in its approach to the particulars of a topic–theme * 237.95
19 through a critical disciplinary history.
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23 [-14], (4)

xiv   

7  
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7 Introduction
11 [First Page]
12 If conjectures and opinions formed at a distance, have not sufficient authority in
13 [1], (1)
the history of mankind, the domestic antiquities of every nation must, for this very
reason, be received with caution. They are, for most part, the mere conjectures
or the fictions of subsequent ages; and even where at first they contained some Lines: 0 to 2
17 resemblance of truth, they still vary with the imagination of those by whom they ———
18 are transmitted, and in every generation receive a different form. They are made to
19 bear the stamp of the times through which they have passed in the form of tradition, Normal Pag
not of the ages to which their pretended descriptions relate. The information they PgEnds: TEX
22 bring, is not like the light reflected from a mirror, which delineates the object from
23 which it originally came; but, like rays that come broken and dispersed from an [1], (1)
24 opaque or unpolished surface, only give the colours and features of the body from
which they were last reflected.
27 Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society
Jenny sat down in a folding chair by the window and pretended to read a copy of
30 the National Geographic for July  that someone had left about. It had native
31 girls with bare busts. (Why did native busts not count?)
32 Kingsley Amis, Take a Girl Like You

35 any people still believe that anthropology is largely about sex.
36 There is a persistent image of the anthropologist as a voyeur.
37 Moreover, information about “primitives” is often used to justify
38 or deplore Western sexual desire and practice. This is a recurring theme in
39 writings of various kinds. It can be found, to name but a few famous sources,
1 in the work of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Havelock Ellis, Margaret
2 Mead, Bronislaw Malinowski, and Bertrand Russell. The sexual liberation
3 movements of the s, s, and s continued to use the sexuality of
4 others as model or contrast.
5 It is a curious fact that sexuality has rarely been a dominant theme in
6 ethnographic research, despite strong interest in the topic on the part of
7 some of anthropology’s founding practitioners and a few of their descen-
8 dants. There are obvious and not-so-obvious reasons for this reticence. One
9 of them is the quite obvious fact that many people and peoples are discreet
10 about the subject, that the information they may provide may be unreli-
11 able, unrepresentative, or unverifiable. In recent articles, Donald Tuzin and
12 Ernestine Friedl have drawn our attention to the important but surprisingly
13 seldom-noted fact that with occasional ceremonial exceptions sexual acts [2], (2)
14 are almost universally performed in private (Tuzin :–, :,
15 ; Friedl ), a point Mead (:–) had noted some time earlier.
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16 Furthermore, there are both ethical and practical constraints on the activ-
17 ities of anthropological fieldworkers. Despite this reserve the mass media ———
18 retain their hunger for anthropological statements about the sexuality of 0.0pt P
19 non-Western peoples.
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20 During the mid-s the New York Times (e.g., January , ) and
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21 other leading media devoted much attention to claims that Margaret Mead’s
22 fieldwork in Samoa was sloppy and that her famous book was based on
23 unreliable data. Specifically, there was much interest in Derek Freeman’s [2], (2)
24 allegations (, ) that Mead had been misled by her adolescent infor-
25 mants and had falsely portrayed Samoa as a society free of sexual repression
26 and its social and psychological accompaniments.
27 Debate over female genital mutilation continues to surface in the media,
28 inside and outside of the countries where it is practiced. The first work (by
29 Harriet Lyons in ) that either of the authors of this book undertook
30 with regard to anthropologists’ treatment of sexuality was concerned with
31 discourses surrounding clitoridectomy and male circumcision. Controversy
32 about female circumcision pits concern about women’s health against cul-
33 tural relativism. The presumption that the traditional practices of all cul-
34 tures deserve respect is a moral stance that has spread beyond anthropology
35 to influence a broad spectrum of contemporary opinion. On issues like
36 clitoridectomy anthropological knowledge may have direct implications for
37 public policy.
38 The early spread of ⁄ among Africans and homosexuals has un-
39 fortunately served as a vehicle for stigmatization and stereotyping. We shall

 
1 examine some roots of these stereotypes in our account of anthropological
2 writings in the th and th centuries.
3 A decade or so ago, the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton received con-
4 siderable public attention, including television appearances in Canada and
5 the United States, for his assertions about an alleged inverse relationship
6 between intelligence and penis size in men and breast size in women (see
7 Rushton and Bogaert ; Rushton , , , ). Rushton ad-
8 heres to the belief that the size of the male genitals is an index of fertility
9 and the size of the cranium is an index of intelligence. On Rushton’s scale,
10 blacks are scored lowest in head size and intelligence and highest in genital
11 size, production of spermatozoa, ovulatory rate, frequency of twinning, and
12 susceptibility to ⁄ (see, e.g., :–, –, , ). Rushton
13 places whites in the middle and rates Asians most intelligent but least gen- [3], (3)
14 itally endowed. The social implications of these alleged correlations, along
15 with the links Rushton finds between large genitals, low intelligence, and
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16 antisocial behavior (:–), have caused him to be taken seriously by
17 a number of authors and politicians during a conservative era, although his ———
18 ideas have had a hostile reception among anthropologists (see, e.g., Lieber- 0.0pt PgV
19 man ). Knowledge of anthropological history would reveal just how
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20 old and how inappropriate many of the sources of such ideas about sex and
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21 intelligence are and how easily negative judgments about the sexuality of re-
22 sented populations can be accepted as “science.” Accordingly, the following
23 paragraphs introduce some of the historical themes with which we will be [3], (3)
24 concerned.
25 Most anthropologists and many nonanthropologists have heard of the
26 speculations of th-century evolutionist thinkers concerning primitive sex-
27 ual communism, mother right, and marriage by capture. Nineteenth-cen-
28 tury interest in primitive sexuality was not merely sociological in nature.
29 A literature of primitive exotica, which occupied the borderline between
30 anthropology and pornography, as these genres were then perceived, was
31 produced by Sir Richard Burton and some of his friends. Some publications
32 of this type abandoned all but a ritual pretense at science. It was, rather
33 surprisingly, one of these writings (Untrodden Fields of Anthropology [],
34 attributed to “Jacobus X” or a “French army surgeon”) that Rushton used
35 in his more controversial publications (, , :, ). In more
36 reputable areas of scholarship, published speculation about the adaptive
37 significance of the incest taboo and supposed archaic forms of the family
38 was an important part of the discourse of biological and social evolution.
39 Several other types of th-century writing included sections on primitive

 
1 sexual customs; medical writers, journalists, missionaries, and urban evan-
2 gelists are among those who made use of such data.
3 A large popular audience in the late s and s was introduced to
4 anthropological texts by the writings of Margaret Mead. Some of these
5 readers perceived sexual behavior to be the main concern of those texts and
6 others like them. After achieving fame, Mead took pains to set the record
7 straight, pointing out that the topic sex appeared on only  pages of Coming
8 of Age in Samoa (). However, this was at least  more pages on the
9 topic than might be found in most other anthropological works of the th
10 century, and Mead’s work did comprise the most well known example of
11 the use of ethnology by th-century advocates of sexual reform. Some of
12 Malinowski’s writings between  and , particularly Sex and Repres-
13 sion in Savage Society () and The Sexual Life of Savages in Northwestern [4], (4)
14 Melanesia (), though their audience was more restricted, were written
15 with contemporary debates about sexual mores very much in mind.
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16 In the s and s it was usual for anthropology students to be warned
17 about the dangers of romantic ethnographies that described “love among ———
18 the palm trees.” The theoretical direction of anthropology in Britain had 0.0pt P
19 for some time ruled out any consideration of individual motivation and
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20 bodily processes, including not only sex but even hunger. American an-
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21 thropology was more open to such considerations, though it is notable that
22 even the neo-Freudian culture and personality movement produced few
23 ethnographic descriptions of adult sexual behavior. [4], (4)
24 The s saw a renewal of interest in the anthropology of sex. The
25 publication of a number of books dealing with homoerotic practices in
26 New Guinea Highlands society and elsewhere, for example, Gilbert Herdt’s
27 Guardians of the Flutes (), the emergence of feminist anthropology, and
28 the controversies surrounding Mead’s portrayal of adolescent promiscuity
29 in Samoa brought sexuality back into the mainstream of anthropological
30 debate. Michel Foucault’s ideas on the relationship between sex and power
31 (:) have been a continuing influence throughout this period.
32 It is a truism of contemporary intellectual colloquy that the discourses of
33 race, sex, class, and gender are closely interconnected. We shall discuss just
34 a few of the many ways in which they figure in the history of anthropology.
35 Between  and  both academic anthropology and sociology as well
36 as multiple forms of social work, counseling, and public administration
37 underwent a gradual process of professionalization, somewhat intensified
38 during and after the two world wars. The boundaries between anthropol-
39 ogy and other emerging ventures were not impenetrable. Observations and

 
1 speculations concerning the sexuality of primitives were sometimes used as
2 implicit or explicit justifications for Victorian and Edwardian sexual mores,
3 gender hierarchies, and colonial ventures. Conversely, such ventures and
4 hierarchies undoubtedly helped to condition the kinds of questions anthro-
5 pologists asked and the conclusions to which they were drawn. “Backward
6 races,” women, children, and members of the lower orders of Victorian soci-
7 ety were all assumed to have certain characteristics in common that could be
8 represented in art or studied by science. Such shared characteristics served
9 to demarcate either fundamental innocence or inherent corruption, with
10 corresponding requirements for control or protection.
11 The era in which anthropology has flourished as a discipline, roughly
12 the last  years, has seen many watersheds in the history of sexuality in
13 Western culture. The high Victorian era and its sexual double standard were [5], (5)
14 followed by a fin de siècle reaction in which the status quo was challenged
15 both by those who argued for greater sexual permissiveness and by those
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16 who favored stricter controls. The rejection of Victorian prudery by some
17 segments of society during the flapper era of the s was followed by the ———
18 constraints of the Great Depression and the stresses (and, for some, greater 0.0pt PgV
19 sexual freedom) of World War II. The “mini-Victorian” era of the s
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20 was followed by the sexual revolution, the conservative reaction to it, and
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21 the ⁄ epidemic of the current period. During each of these periods
22 there were writers who turned to “primitive” societies for evidence of what
23 Westerners should or should not be doing in their sexual lives. The primitive [5], (5)
24 has served ideologies of sexual restraint and of sexual freedom. Primitive
25 sexuality has been cited in connection with the celebration of variance and
26 with the insistence upon normative heterosexuality. Male dominance, fe-
27 male dominance, and gender equality have all been seen to have primitive
28 reflections. There is little if any justification in cultural “facts” themselves for
29 such sweeping pronouncements. Sometimes discourse was loud; sometimes
30 it was relatively muted. Even “silences,” however, must be interpreted in
31 terms of social contexts.
32 This book is an endeavor to interrogate the employment of these extraor-
33 dinary data in order to explore the motivation behind their persistent ap-
34 pearance. The main part of this book concerns the period between  and
35  in British and American anthropology. These two national traditions
36 have always been closely interconnected, at times more than their propo-
37 nents would like to acknowledge. This book explores the embeddedness of
38 an important aspect of anthropological writings in the cultural and sexual
39 politics of their locales. We are predominantly concerned with individuals

 
1 who described themselves or were described as being anthropologists, but
2 we shall occasionally stray beyond disciplinary bounds, particularly dur-
3 ing our discussion of the formative phase of anthropological knowledge
4 between  and .
5 Necessarily, our prologue begins before the Victorian era itself and there-
6 fore before the emergence of professional anthropology. Herodotus, who
7 traveled widely, wrote about the many peoples he encountered and related
8 stories, some true and others fantastic, about populations who lived beyond
9 the fringes of the classical world. Medieval encyclopedists wrote about mon-
10 sters and mythical beings. Sixteenth-century theologians argued about the
11 humanity of American Indians. Political philosophers speculated about the
12 origins of society. There could, therefore, be a case for beginning our narra-
13 tive half a millennium or two millennia ago. However, the late th century, [6], (6)
14 the latter part of the Enlightenment, is a good place to begin because it
15 marks the advent of modern scientific and political discourse.
Lines: 53
16 Traditionally, or at the very least since Saint Augustine, Christendom has
17 held sex in low esteem. Those who existed outside Christendom’s umbrella ———
18 were generally regarded as tainted with sin. The Enlightenment’s stress on 0.0pt P
19 reason and science pitted itself against both religious antipathy to sex and
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20 aristocratic decadence. A “natural” indulgence was permissible to those who
PgEnds: T
21 accepted Enlightenment ideas, but many areas were problematic (mastur-
22 bation, homosexuality, female adultery), and the advocates of chastity were
23 never silent. (See Porter and Hall :– for an excellent summary of [6], (6)
24 the th-century sexual environment.) Much of the sexually “permissive”
25 art and literature of the Enlightenment employed various techniques for
26 separating sex from the serious business of life – irony, parody, and an
27 exaggeration that bordered on the grotesque. Distancing oneself from dis-
28 quieting tendencies is a familiar psychological strategy for maintaining self-
29 esteem.
30 The Victorian era in many ways began more than three decades before
31 the queen’s accession. The period of bowdlerism preceded her by a few
32 years. The th century began and ended with significant manifestations
33 of public prudery, the so-called social purity movements. The third quarter
34 of the century is usually thought of as the high-water mark of sexual Vic-
35 torianism, marked by the apogee of the double standard of sexual morality
36 and sentimentalized images of domesticity. This period was also marked by
37 various attempts to document, regulate, and otherwise combat prostitution,
38 which loomed as a threat to Christian marriage. Orthodoxy was challenged
39 from viewpoints that were diverse and in some cases radically opposed.

 
1 Male libertarians opposed excessive restraints on their freedom. Evangelical
2 Christians and some feminists bemoaned the failure of legislation to protect
3 women from sexual exploitation. On the other side, alliances between sex-
4 ual radicals and “scientific” defenders of racial hierarchies were sometimes
5 rooted in a common anticlericalism. This was because opposition to slavery
6 and the worst colonial abuses, advocacy of purity, and suspicion of the rising
7 natural sciences had tended to be linked positions. In the last years of the
8 century these divisions and alliances were intensified. Feminism became
9 more visible as a social and political movement and influenced some legisla-
10 tive changes. Homosexuality was labeled as a social issue, and homosexuals
11 talked about “the love that dare not speak its name.” Some became martyrs
12 in doing so. These were the years of jingoism in both Britain and America,
13 an imperialistic frenzy that served barely to conceal worries about economic [7], (7)
14 and moral decline. These anxieties were reflected in a growing body of post-
15 Darwinian literature on degeneration and decline. Such was the turbulent
Lines: 59 to
16 social context in which the intellectual foundations of the new discipline of
17 anthropology were established. ———
18 Like Claude Lévi-Strauss’s bricoleurs, Victorian theorists assembled and 0.0pt PgV
19 manipulated images and symbols from a plethora of sources devised for a
Normal Pag
20 multitude of uses. These images and symbols are encountered in a variety
PgEnds: TEX
21 of discourses, encompassing the debates between the Darwinians and their
22 opponents, speculations about primitive promiscuity and the origins of
23 marriage, examination of erotic elements in Oriental religions, racial theo- [7], (7)
24 rizing, as well as texts where anthropology provided an excuse for the frankly
25 pornographic. The creators of anthropology and their reading public also
26 had access to several other textual traditions: the travelogues of explorers,
27 the reports of missionaries, apologies for slavery and attacks on it, pre-
28 Darwinian science, and natural theology.
29 In both the late th and the th centuries, discourses that were otherwise
30 at odds, like science and theology or conservatism and social reform, often
31 intertwined in their encounter with unfamiliar sexualities. Primitives were
32 usually portrayed as lacking in emotional control and rationality and were
33 seen to be sexually more excitable (and more physical generally) than Euro-
34 peans. Males were seen as sexually aggressive and promiscuous. Africans in
35 particular were seen as sexually rapacious and domineering. Their genital
36 endowments were exaggerated, their cranial capacity was underestimated.
37 The women in such societies were more ambiguously portrayed. They were
38 depicted either as rapacious Amazons or as brutalized and exploited by their
39 menfolk. Africa is central to racialized discourses about sex and sexualized

 
1 discourses about race, and one subject we shall consider in this book is how
2 such images were created and have endured.
3 In a few cases the portrayal of the American Indian differs from that
4 described for Africans and other allegedly oversexed populations. The prud-
5 ery of some North American societies with respect to heterosexual rela-
6 tions, the toleration of institutionalized homosexuality (the institution of
7 the berdache), the males’ relative lack of body hair and beard, and a decline
8 in population suggested an alternative model: the undersexed rather than
9 the oversexed savage. Although some authors attributed to other groups of
10 primitive males a greater interest in the employment of women for drudgery
11 than for venery, this characterization was particularly common in the case
12 of some North American groups.
13 It has become almost a cliché of the postmodern movement in anthro- [8], (8)
14 pology to state that primitive Others represent a projection of the anxieties
15 and aspirations of those who have written about them. We need to go be-
Lines: 63
16 yond such sweeping characterizations, however, and examine the specific
17 preoccupations, both political and “psychological,” that have shaped each ———
18 generation’s reading of particular bodies of data. With regard to sex, such 0.0pt P
19 an examination reveals an interesting paradox caused by the juxtaposition
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20 of ambivalence about sex and ambivalence about primitives. It has been
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21 extremely rare for anthropologists to maintain relativism concerning both
22 at the same time. Sometimes both primitives and sex are looked upon with
23 disdain or at least nervousness; on other occasions appreciation for one is [8], (8)
24 accompanied by disdain for the other. A full-bodied primitivism has consti-
25 tuted a third position, in which primitives have been represented as enjoying
26 a level of sexual health and happiness that eludes humans spoiled by moder-
27 nity. Inevitably, as the evolutionary paradigm declined and better empirical
28 data became available, a realization grew that not all primitive societies were
29 alike, that, in fact, they greatly differed in their attitudes toward sex. How-
30 ever, evolutionism’s decline and the birth of fieldwork based on participant
31 observation did not fully prevent the promulgation of statements about “the
32 sexuality” of “the primitive.” The construction of the ethnographic account
33 is always to some degree preformed by received wisdom, and there is always
34 a tendency to generalize from those “Others” with whom the ethnographer
35 is most familiar. Malinowski is notorious for so doing, but he is not the only
36 sinner.
37 At the end of the th century official disdain for sexual expression was
38 challenged by a revised definition of sexual “health.” Foucault and others
39 have written about the construction of “healthy” sexuality during this pe-

 
1 riod in the writings of sexologists, psychiatrists, and reformers. Anxieties
2 about excessive sexuality did not disappear, but there were now insistent
3 voices worrying about sexual insufficiency. As this atmosphere set in, a
4 new stereotype of primitive sexuality fought for space with the old ones,
5 although its antecedents might be seen in some of the early views of Native
6 North Americans. Primitive sexuality was now seen to be fraught with anxi-
7 eties, repressions, and taboos born of physical or mental underdevelopment
8 and nurtured by religions based in superstition and ignorance. Primitive
9 sexuality as a signifier shifted from denotations of superfluity to implica-
10 tions of lack. The signified, the essence of the Other, was, in one crucial
11 way, unchanged: the primitive was still viewed as animal-like in behavior.
12 The image of animality, albeit sometimes healthy and natural animality,
13 was reinforced by statements that primitives, like animals, go into heat. [9], (9)
14 It is no coincidence that this period saw the efflorescence of theories of
15 the incest taboo, a supposed cultural universal at once reassuringly primal,
Lines: 69 to
16 arguably adaptive, and overtly restrictive. At the time that these views were
17 pronounced, most particularly by Ernest Crawley and Havelock Ellis, some ———
18 weaker versions of the older view persisted in the writings of W. H. R. Rivers, 0.0pt PgV
19 James G. Frazer, and, a generation later, Robert Briffault.
Normal Pag
20 It is not, we argue, a coincidence that Havelock Ellis was involved in a
PgEnds: TEX
21 movement for sexual liberation. His particular focus was, of course, on the
22 liberation of male sexuality, but he also supported the sexual emancipation
23 of women, albeit not in terms all feminists of his period and ours would [9], (9)
24 accept. Ellis endorsed various forms of premarital sex and trial marriage.
25 Both he and Edward Westermarck believed that homosexuality should be
26 tolerated, although they did not engage in political advocacy on this issue.
27 Unlike their predecessors, who wrote before the era of systematic an-
28 thropological fieldwork, Mead and Malinowski were aware that the sexual
29 mores of “primitive” societies were quite variable, a fact that Westermarck
30 had stressed and fieldwork had elucidated. Mead’s study of Manus demon-
31 strated that free love was not ubiquitous in the South Seas. In Mead’s Samoa
32 and Malinowski’s Trobriands, however, there was much sexual experimen-
33 tation before marriage, whereas married life was stable but relatively dull.
34 Curiously, the experimentation led to few pregnancies. The discovery of
35 such “social facts” may not be unconnected with Malinowski’s advocacy of
36 a moderate form of “trial” and “companionate” marriage and his interest
37 both in birth control and in those who advocated it.
38 It is generally understood (see Suggs and Marshall a:–; Vance
39 ; Herdt :) that during the Great Depression and the two decades

 
1 following World War II there was a relative silence among anthropologists
2 concerning sex. Like all such generalizations, this requires much qualifica-
3 tion. Books and articles describing sexual mores continued to be written
4 by anthropologists, but in a number of ways the topic was decentralized.
5 This silencing involved the professional marginalization of certain anthro-
6 pologists who studied sex and the redefinition of some traditional sub-
7 jects in nonsexual terms. Perhaps the most important way in which this
8 occurred was by reconceptualizing discussions of sex (and gender) under
9 the more disembodied terms marriage, family, and social structure. Sir E. E.
10 Evans-Pritchard collected material on Zande homosexual and heterosexual
11 eroticism in the s but did not publish it in venues normally read by
12 anthropologists until the s. In his late monograph Man and Woman
13 among the Azande, Evans-Pritchard suggested that his generation of an- [10], (10
14 thropologists may have “lost the flesh and blood” in their writings about
15 African societies (:). In  Malinowski had apologized for writing so
Lines: 76
16 many books with “sex” in the title (b:x). Mead was criticized by some
17 of her contemporaries for her interest in the topic (see Lutkehaus ). ———
18 Social structure rather than sex was stressed when talking about traditional 0.0pt P
19 problems such as cross-dressing and ritual operations on the sexual organs.
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20 In the postwar years the influence of Lévi-Strauss and ensuing theoretical
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21 developments in Britain and the United States focused attention on rit-
22 ual and cosmology, including sexual symbolism. One of the key tenets of
23 structuralism, however, one that its practitioners specifically cited as dif- [10], (10
24 ferentiating it from psychoanalytic theory, was that symbols of sex and the
25 body were not primary but equal links on chains of symbols that might
26 include referents to plants, colors, geographical features, jural groups, and
27 other culturally defined categories.
28 Although public interest in the right way to “do” sex did not disappear
29 during this period, it had to compete with pressing matters such as the
30 Great Depression, World War II, and the cold war. Many anthropologists
31 who discussed sex in this period (e.g., Sir Raymond Firth on the Tikopia,
32 Isaac Schapera on the Kgatla, George Devereux on the Mohave) did not link
33 their anthropology to overt political agendas. Those very few anthropolo-
34 gists who were unafraid to advocate radical sexual politics such as Verrier
35 Elwin were academically and geographically peripheral. Anxiety concerning
36 gender roles in a period of economic and political uncertainty resulted in a
37 flurry of writing about supposed maternal neglect and neurotic sexuality in
38 other cultures (Cora Du Bois, Ralph Linton, Abram Kardiner). Some infor-
39 mation about sexuality was submerged in strategic reports and monographs

 
1 on the “modal personality” of allies and enemies by writers such as Mead
2 (Britain), Ruth Benedict (Japan), and Geoffrey Gorer (Japan and Russia)
3 who engaged in “the study of culture at a distance.” Racial inequality in
4 the United States came under increasing attack during these decades, and
5 anthropologists were more closely involved with this project than with sex-
6 ual reform. British anthropologists, though they rarely opposed the colonial
7 project directly, were concerned with improving colonial governance. The
8 elevation of public opinion concerning the people anthropologists studied
9 may have come at the price of discretion about certain aspects of other
10 cultures.
11 This was also a period during which anthropology was concerned to
12 establish itself as a legitimate discipline and a genuine science. Gentlemen
13 (and lady) anthropologists with private incomes all but disappeared. One [11], (11)
14 price of legitimation was greater concern with the politics of universities,
15 themselves expanding to provide an avenue to middle-class status to a wider
Lines: 78 to
16 sector of the population. It was vital that anthropology appear “serious.”
17 For many anthropologists it may also have been important to avoid be- ———
18 coming targets of the periodic episodes of political panic, during which 0.0pt PgV
19 there was intense scrutiny of traces of deviant sexuality, strongly believed
Normal Pag
20 to be connected to unorthodox opinion and suspicious affiliations. In all
PgEnds: TEX
21 these matters anthropology was as sensitive to its social context as it had
22 been during earlier periods. Some consequences of that sensitivity will be
23 explored in the latter part of this book when we discuss the anthropological [11], (11)
24 response to the Kinsey Report as well as the subsequent McCarthyite efforts
25 to deny funding to Alfred C. Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research.
26 Recently, anthropology has purportedly, in Carole Vance’s words, “redis-
27 covered sex” (). The anthropology that accompanied the sexual and
28 political “thaw” of the decades after the s has been more introspective
29 than any that preceded it. In many ways it has been engaged in producing its
30 own history. While we certainly will examine current developments in the
31 anthropology of sexuality alluded to earlier, our discussion will be relatively
32 brief, given the huge volume of material that has been published. We are
33 inclined to refer the reader to its many practitioners, most of them alive
34 and active and busy writing their own stories. However, we do highlight and
35 comment upon key trends such as the new anthropology of homosexuali-
36 ties and gender identity and the related problem of constructionism versus
37 essentialism.
38 Having provided a synopsis of the subject matter of our book, we need
39 to acquaint the reader with the theoretical perspectives that have guided us.

 
1    
The field we are to explore is mined with contestations and obscured by
queries. Lest the reader be misled as to our purpose, we must examine what
we mean by sexuality and what we designate as anthropological discourse,
and we must describe the trajectory of our historical inquiry.
Sexuality is not merely a loaded term, it is preeminently ambiguous. It
might be said, like the word game, to be a Wittgensteinian odd-job word, a
signifier with numerous, sometimes contradictory referents. It can be used
to mean a biological given, whether a propensity or a drive; it may refer to
individuals or groups; it may refer to “unconscious” or conscious impulses;
12 it may describe behavior, whether indulged in, observed, desired, or related
13 in narrative; it may be a concept in discourse that refers to some or all of the [12], (12
14 preceding.
15 The broadness of such a discursive concept may reflect the view that
there is no verifiable reality beyond talk – that sexuality is best viewed as Lines: 90
17 a social construct. “Sex” itself is similarly ambiguous. It can be seen as the ———
18 biological “counterpoint” to socially constructed “gender,” in which event 6.5pt P
either category could be and has been viewed as dependent on the other. ———
Our viewpoint is clearly constructionist, and our focus is on sexuality as a Normal P
discursive category. By this we do not mean to deny the obvious biological PgEnds: T
22 component in sexuality, as some extreme constructionists may appear to do,
23 but to state that our focus is on the “constructs” or “fictions” that anthropol- [12], (12
24 ogists and other writers have created about people in their own and other
25 societies. Such “fictions” have necessarily informed, illuminated, reflected,
26 refracted, and distorted studies of human sexual behavior. We suggest that
27 the study of variations in human sexual behavior is a very legitimate part
28 of anthropology, but we note that few scholars have succeeded in asking or
29 answering apparently simple questions such as “What do the X people do
30 in bed?” and “Is homosexual behavior present in all human groups?” with-
31 out revealing a social and political agenda. When anthropologists analyze
32 sexual behavior, they are usually examining what is said about such actions
33 rather than eyewitness accounts. So one examines (perhaps) acts, the rules
34 to which acts do or do not conform, the ways in which rules are enforced, the
35 rules prescribing and proscribing talk about sex among the group studied,
36 and the rules of academic discourse that prescribe guidelines or rules for
37 the inquiring anthropologist.
38 We accordingly accept Foucault’s insight that sexuality is a peculiarly
39 dense transfer point for relations of power. It is one of the major means by

 
1 which experts, the possessors of knowledge, exercise control over patients
2 and clients; it is deployed in securing a regime of bodily control, categorizing
3 and disciplining behavior and identity. Foucault’s attention was devoted
4 to the alienists, psychiatrists, social reformers, legal authorities, sexologists,
5 and educators who extended the power of civil authority and interviewed,
6 surveyed, regulated, and named their chosen subjects. The latter were pris-
7 oners, students, patients, and sexual “deviants.” The “state” that controlled
8 their lives was understood to be more extensive than the political and legal
9 authorities as conventionally defined. The surveillance to which they were
10 subjected took place in the interview room or on the alienist’s couch, our
11 modern “confessionals.” The “gaze” to which they were subjected was of-
12 ten quite literal, the observation tower or panopticon in the prison and,
13 doubtless, the statistical research instrument as well as the video camera. [13], (13)
14 The ultimate realization of power is the self-regulated and self-scrutinizing
15 subject. It should be stressed that in Foucault’s formulation the watchers do
Lines: 96 to
16 not create sexual behaviors or insane ideation. They label them, diagnose
17 them, and give them social reality. ———
18 There are omissions, whole or partial, deliberate or involuntary, in Fou- 0.0pt PgV
19 cault’s accounts in volume  of The History of Sexuality. Inasmuch as he
Normal Pag
20 wished to refute what he called “the repressive hypothesis,” arguing that
PgEnds: TEX
21 restrictive regulation could constitute an incitement to discourse, and be-
22 cause he asserted that each “liberation” (e.g., permission for heterosexual
23 pleasure within companionate marriage) inevitably meant the creation of [13], (13)
24 new categories for social surveillance (e.g., “homosexuals”), he chose not to
25 discuss the very real limits that social rules and actions placed on individual
26 behavior and quotidian talk. The prosecutions of Bradlaugh in the s
27 (disseminating a book about contraceptive practices), Oscar Wilde, George
28 Bedborough (distributing Havelock Ellis’s book Sexual Inversion in ),
29 Malinowski’s fear of being labeled a “sexologist,” the legal action concerning
30 Eustace Chesser’s Love and Fear in , the -year struggle to publish
31 the unexpurgated version of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and
32 countless other laws, rules, limitations, and cautions reveal that discourse
33 was often angry and that “freedoms” were hard to win. 1 (See Porter and
34 Hall  for a similar argument.)
35 Furthermore, there was also misrecognition of the salience of social class
36 in modern society, although it was a central concern of Foucault’s analysis
37 of sexual penetration in ancient Greece and Rome. Foucault depicts the four
38 main subjects of sexual discourse in the late th century (the Malthusian
39 couple, the hysterical female, the masturbating child, the sexual pervert) as

 
1 quasi-racial categories, but he has little to say in the main body of his works
2 about “race,” a hierarchical social category that so often intersects and inter-
3 twines with class, sex, and gender. Stoler () has written about Foucault’s
4 lectures on race in the mid-s. It must be noted that Foucault’s attention
5 was primarily confined to racial categorization in France at the turn of
6 the th century and its background in European history. He had little to
7 say about race outside the metropolis and the central places. He was not
8 concerned with the peripheral theaters of action, where slavery had flour-
9 ished and was succeeded by imperialism and, more recently, by neocolo-
10 nialism (see Stoler :–). In these theaters there were many players:
11 the slave owners and their opponents, colonial administrators, explorers,
12 traders, missionaries, settlers, wives and mistresses, raciologists, armchair
13 anthropologists, and fieldworkers. The voices of colonialism spoke through [14], (14
14 relatively few channels, and there were many, of course, about whom we hear
15 only through the narratives of those who controlled the discourses of the
Lines: 100
16 colonial encounter. We could, if we liked, distinguish between activity in the
17 colonies and discourses at the center of power. What we wish to stress is that ———
18 much of th-, th-, and th-century physical and social anthropology 0.0pt P
19 may be viewed as a product of social relations not merely in the metropolis
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20 but also in the colonial periphery.
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21 Anthropology has always been concerned with the affirmation or nega-
22 tion of categories such as race, sexuality, gender, and class as well as with
23 their complex intersections and interweavings. It has affirmed or challenged [14], (14
24 their place or placing in Nature and discussed their role in Culture. Ar-
25 guably, it has never attained the power and influence of Foucault’s preferred
26 metropolitan fields of discourse – criminology, psychiatry, and educational
27 psychology. There is no precise equivalent to the panopticon, but that may
28 not be for any lack of trying.
29 Another matter that must be addressed in considering the history of
30 anthropologists’ depictions of sexuality is that European culture, at home
31 and in its colonial manifestation, is not the only locale in which sex has
32 been a transfer point for power. Sex also serves such purposes in societies
33 that anthropologists have studied. This may partially explain the perceived
34 plethora of sex in anthropological writings.
35 Insofar as the plethora of ethnographic prurience is illusory, the appar-
36 ent prominence of sex in ethnological texts may be an artifact of the in-
37 visibility of the Foucauldian panopticon when it is working smoothly in
38 familiar surroundings. To understand alien sexuality we need to make it
39 explicit and, therefore, memorable. On the other hand, a well-scrubbed

 
1 family celebrating Mother’s Day at a suburban restaurant is one of many
2 domestic scenarios in which neither the sexual nor the political overtones
3 would have been particularly visible to a North American observer before
4 certain radical feminists foregrounded them by giving them the name “com-
5 pulsory heterosexuality.” Anthropologists wrote about “sex.” A sociologist
6 of the s, describing the Mother’s Day lunch, would have been writing
7 about the importance of the nuclear family in the American social struc-
8 ture.
9 Of course, when anthropologists did write about the sexuality of others,
10 they were not always alert for indigenous displays and transfers of power.
11 More often, exotic sexuality was, as we have indicated, employed as a foil
12 in arguments about sexuality at home. If it was not, the dictates of rela-
13 tivism were likely to preclude an investigation of the “winners” and “losers” [15], (15)
14 created by foreign sexual systems. Some anthropologists, particularly those
15 currently writing under the influence of Foucault, feminism, or “queer the-
Lines: 106 to
16 ory,” have tried to examine the connections between sex and power in the
17 cultures they describe, but they are often conscious of writing against the ———
18 grain. Anthropologists’ reactions to others’ sexual politics is a theme that 0.0pt PgV
19 we will explore further in this book.
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20 If the definition of “sex” is not obvious, neither is the demarcation of
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21 “anthropology” or “history.” Anthropology is conventionally understood to
22 involve the comparison of different peoples in different spaces and “times”
23 with a view to comprehending both their similarities and their differences. [15], (15)
24 In practice, many anthropologists have concentrated their attention on
25 a few societies at most. While it is possible to date the beginnings of an-
26 thropology to Herodotus or, arguably, to Ibn Khaldun or Ibn Battuta, the
27 discipline is normally considered to have its real roots in the Enlightenment
28 (e.g., see Harris ). It is hardly a coincidence that modern and secular
29 rather than religious conceptions of the body, “sex,” and “race” date to this
30 period, the late th century. Anthropology was a response to two con-
31 cerns of Enlightenment thinkers, namely, political controversies concerning
32 emancipation and individualism and the scientific developments that were
33 to lead to Darwin and Mendel. These projects were, as we shall see, closely
34 intertwined, though science could be used to challenge as well as support
35 egalitarianism and was itself not immune to external attack and internal
36 controversy.
37 Supposed biological difference was used as a reason for excluding blacks
38 and women from political and economic emancipation and was also em-
39 ployed by some such as the diplomat, historian, and raciologist Arthur,

 
1 comte de Gobineau in the mid–th century as the rationale for questioning
2 the entire Enlightenment movement from hierarchy to equality. 2
3 Early anthropology was not clearly demarcated from neighboring dis-
4 ciplines such as biology and sociology. (Indeed, the latter term was not
5 invented by Auguste Comte until the second quarter of the th century.)
6 There was as yet no clear separation between race and culture; rather, it
7 was assumed that there was a connection between physical type and cul-
8 tural achievement. The one was an index of the other. In a brilliant recent
9 book, Robert Young () has clearly demonstrated how intertwined “race”
10 and “culture” were not only in the writings of raciologists such as Robert
11 Knox and Josiah Clark Nott but also in the work of Ernest Renan and
12 Matthew Arnold. The period between  and  witnessed a revolu-
13 tion in both geology and history that profoundly altered our conception [16], (16
14 of human origins and biological and social evolution. By  biological
15 anthropology and the new evolutionary social anthropology had begun to
Lines: 114
16 diverge, although their ultimate separation and divorce was a long, slow
17 process. Since the time of Émile Durkheim and Franz Boas (–), ———
18 social anthropologists have been decreasingly inclined to employ race as an 0.0pt P
19 explanation of difference between cultures. It has taken a little longer for
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20 them to question the “naturalness” of gender differentiation as a principle
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21 of social order, however much it might vary across cultures in its specific
22 manifestations.
23 Early anthropologists did not do fieldwork but, rather, engaged in what [16], (16
24 we call “armchair anthropology,” assessing data collected by explorers, trad-
25 ers, missionaries, and administrators. Some of the missionaries, explor-
26 ers, and armchair anthropologists, however, such as Sir Richard Burton
27 and Lewis Henry Morgan, did experience firsthand contact with indige-
28 nous, supposedly “primitive” peoples. Obviously, observations of sexuality
29 in other cultures that are based on limited and usually secondhand data are
30 by their very nature superficial and questionable.
31 The institutionalization of anthropology and the placement of anthro-
32 pologists within universities was a slow process. The period between 
33 and  witnessed the foundation of anthropological societies in London,
34 Paris, and Washington . The Bureau of American Ethnology was founded
35 in . The development of anthropology as a university discipline was a
36 tardier process. The reign of the amateur anthropologist did not end until
37 after World War I (see Kuklick ; Darnell ).
38 We are justified in beginning our narrative with the era of the Enlighten-
39 ment for the very simple reason that modern social anthropology is still

 
1 intimately related to Enlightenment ideas, some of which it affirms and
2 others it most assuredly denies. The very fervor with which some of us
3 proclaim Culture’s independence of Nature (“Omnis cultura ex cultura”[All
4 culture springs from culture], as Alfred Kroeber once put it) is a reaction to
5 our proximity to other, secular notions that affirmed that racial and gender
6 hierarchies were determined by physical type.
7 This book examines an important aspect of anthropology’s history, but
8 it differs radically from many writings by historians of anthropology. In
9 After Tylor George Stocking remarks:“Although such issues are only touched
10 on here and there in the present volume, the history of British social an-
11 thropology might be written in terms of its relationship to changing views
12 of sexual prudery and pornography. (For hints or gestures toward such a
13 general interpretation, see Leach :, ; Lyons and Lyons ; Tuzin [17], (17)
14 .)” (Stocking :). Although there is an element of exaggeration in
15 Stocking’s remark (we don’t think that the history of anthropology is only
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16 the history of sexuality), the point is taken. Its implications are critical. Most
17 historical writing on the development of anthropology tends to explain the- ———
18 oretical and institutional developments purely in terms of their significance 0.0pt PgV
19 within anthropology itself. An example might be an examination of the re-
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20 lationship between the functionalism of Malinowski and the structuralism
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21 of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown that considered differences in theoretical model-
22 ing, personal interactions, and institutional histories, with perhaps the odd
23 references to metropolitan and colonial funding agencies. Our approach to [17], (17)
24 anthropologists’ attitudes toward the sexuality of other peoples, which sees
25 such attitudes as very much the product of conflicts, dialogues, and social
26 movements in Britain, the United States, and their dependencies, thus marks
27 a departure from customary procedure. We believe such connections are
28 worth pursuing, though they may be difficult to prove.
29 Some of the individuals we discuss (e.g., Ernest Crawley) were reticent
30 about their opinions on political, social, and sexual issues; others such as
31 Bronislaw Malinowski were extremely forthright. Our role is to raise very
32 important questions, even if we cannot always answer them with an em-
33 phatic “quod erat demonstrandum.” Better that than to leave unexplained
34 why so many anthropologists felt it necessary to express such firm opinions
35 on an area of human conduct about which so remarkably little was known.
36 We shall devote particular attention to a number of books and mono-
37 graphs that had an influence not only among anthropologists but also
38 among the intelligentsia in general and, more recently, among that larger
39 class of the population that is exposed to anthropology in the classroom

 
1 or through the mass media. These “publics” have included politicians and
2 policy makers as well as the implementers of policy in institutions such as
3 schools, hospitals, and social service agencies. Thus, their sources of anthro-
4 pological information are a significant interface between anthropology and
5 history. We should note that anthropologists differ from sociologists and
6 psychologists in the importance they assign to book-length field reports,
7 although we do not privilege these exclusively.
8 We give the name “conscription” to the concept that has informed most of
9 our writing in this book. By conscription we mean the deployment of data
10 about sexual discourses and practices among “Others” within discourses of
11 power, morality, pleasure, and therapy in the metropolitan cultures where
12 anthropological texts have predominantly been read and produced. Con-
13 scription may imply the reaffirmation of existing social hierarchies, or it [18], (18
14 may involve what Marcus and Fischer () call “cultural critique.” The
15 two positions, of course, need not be mutually exclusive – critiques of some
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16 social practices may reinforce others. Conscription is a live metaphor. It im-
17 plies force and inequality and, more often than not, the absence of true di- ———
18 alogue. Conscription may be “positive,” inasmuch as the heterosexual prac- 0.0pt P
19 tices of “primitives” are viewed as a “natural,” uncorrupted form of behavior
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20 from which “we” have wrongfully departed and toward which we should
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21 now return. Another mode of conscription consists in the demonstration
22 that erotic actions and sentiments that we prohibit or discourage are per-
23 mitted or even in some cases prescribed elsewhere for certain individuals [18], (18
24 (e.g., “homosexual” berdaches or “two-spirit people” among North Amer-
25 ican First Nations) or at certain stages in the life cycle (e.g., homoerotic
26 features of male initiation in Melanesia). It may be “negative” inasmuch
27 as primitive sexual behavior shows us how biologically different “they” are
28 from “us,” how lucky or righteous we are that we have evolved morally and
29 they haven’t, or, indeed, how their “degeneracy” is clear evidence of what will
30 happen if we allow our own social misfits to survive or take control of our
31 destinies. Negative conscription is particularly associated with the racialism
32 of the th century, but we shall see that it is also more subtly present in
33 th-century accounts of dystopia in Alor (Indonesia) and the Marquesas
34 (Polynesia). Our discussion of the portrayal of Samoa by Mead and the
35 Trobriand Islands by Malinowski will show that conscription can indeed be
36 ambiguous. Both authors respected the freedom supposedly present in pre-
37 marital sexuality, which showed that there was an alternative to the alleged
38 miseries of Western adolescence, but also regretted the absence of passion
39 in heterosexual courtship and marriage. We must note that the relationship

 
1 between conscription and ethnographic “fact” is tangential inasmuch as the
2 same selective data may support both a negative and a positive conscription.
3 We prefer the word “conscription” to more common notions in con-
4 temporary anthropology such as “co-option” and “appropriation.” All three
5 words imply an inequality in anthropological (or artistic and literary) en-
6 counters with “Others.” However, co-option and appropriation have be-
7 come synonymous with modes of conscription in which the author enlists
8 the ideas or experience of others into some present argument (what we call
9 positive conscription). We don’t wish nihilistically to imply that the contin-
10 uance of a scintilla (at the very least) of conscription in contemporary an-
11 thropology condemns our discipline to moral danger or scientific obloquy. [Last Page]
12 We believe that a century of ethnographic writing has produced a record
13 of uniformities and variance in human sexual morality that is, admittedly, [19], (19)
14 spotty but does have much value. We are also aware that fieldworkers today
15 are more inclined than ever before to consider ethical questions concerning
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16 subject consent and that university ethics committees reinforce such deter-
17 mination. These concerns are reflected, for the most part, in the recent an- ———
18 thropology of sexuality. Because anthropologists bring their ethical values 36.45901
19 and their particular sexual morality to the field with them, because they are
Normal Pag
20 political animals, and because, however “dialogic” and participatory their
PgEnds: TEX
21 fieldwork methods may be, ethnographic authority still rests in their hands,
22 conscription is inevitably an ethnographic and theoretical strategy. Self-
23 awareness and self-knowledge may enable us to review absences as well as [19], (19)
24 presences in our fieldwork notes so that we do not wholly fictionalize others
25 in our own interests. Inasmuch as most ethnographic subjects today are all
26 too aware of the possible repercussions of sensitive records, contemporary
27 anthropologists have to balance the varied interests of “their” people and
28 the urgency of anthropological knowledge. In other words, there is nothing
29 wrong with using the astonishing record of human variability as well as
30 human uniformity to critique our own institutions, provided we do not
31 harm the peoples we study and provided that our awareness of who we are
32 and what we are doing stops us from misrepresenting what we see and hear.
33 This is a difficult task, but it is by no means impossible. The story we are
34 about to tell has a simple point. If as anthropologists we do not become
35 aware of the moral snares and scientific pitfalls that repeatedly mark the
36 social history of our discipline, we can still make some very bad mistakes.

 
4  
7 Three Images of Primitive Sexuality
9 and the Definition of Species
11 [First Pag
hree persistent images of primitive sexuality emerged in the th

13 century. Each of them had political as well as scientific resonances. [20], (1)
14 Each of them was linked to the fact of miscegenation through pro-
15 cesses of affirmation or denial. The politics of miscegenation (and/or in-
Lines: 0 t
16 terracial copulation) appear to be linked to controversies concerning the
17 definition of the biological concept of species. ———
18 It was at this time that an image of Polynesia emerged that has endured 0.0pt P
19 and is still resonant. Tahitians were said to occupy a paradise of natural
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20 luxury and sexual liberty. This positive image was not uncontested, partic-
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21 ularly by Evangelical Christians. Nonetheless, it distinguished the Tahitians
22 from other non-Western groups. Africans of both sexes were portrayed as
23 lascivious and bestial. The Hottentot, often racially distinguished from the [20], (1)
24 Negro, was viewed as the symbol of the worst form of sexual excess. The
25 appearance and size of the genitals in sub-Saharan Africans and African
26 Americans was the visible index of moral degeneration. The sexuality of
27 South American Indians, Lapps, and Inuit was also depicted in negative
28 fashion. It too was excessive. In contrast, some North American groups
29 such as the Iroquois supposedly lacked sexual ardor. Given that this too
30 was a departure from the European norm, such continence was also seen as
31 unnatural. Underlying all three images was a notion of a natural, biological
32 sexuality. Where and among whom it existed was another matter. If savagery
33 might diminish or exaggerate it, civilization was said to repress it, for better
34 or worse. The happy mean, according to some Enlightenment thinkers, was
35 to be found in the newly discovered South Seas.
36 Roy Porter () has drawn our attention to the significance of early
37 writings about Tahiti. He discusses the eyewitness accounts of Samuel Wal-
38 lis, Phillibert Commerson, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, James Cook, Sir
39 Joseph Banks, and Georg Forster as well as Denis Diderot’s philosophical
1 commentary Le Supplément au voyage de Bougainville. Our examination of
2 Diderot’s Supplément reveals that there is continuity between some of the
3 earliest portrayals of South Seas societies and the scientific monographs of
4 th-century anthropology.
5 After Wallis’s vessel arrived there in , Tahiti was visited three more
6 times in the next five years (by Bougainville and subsequently two voyages
7 of Captain Cook). The various crews were entertained by scantily clad Tahi-
8 tian ladies who exceeded contemporary European standards of beauty. The
9 cost of this entertainment was cheap. Because there was no iron in Tahiti,
10 nails were a welcome item of exchange. Tahitian males were not loath to
11 share their daughters and even their wives with the European newcomers.
12 Bougainville observed that in Tahiti there was an abundance of natural
13 resources and that commonality in both property and sexual partners was [21], (2)
14 part of the idyll. Banks indicated that both he and other members of Cook’s
15  crew amply enjoyed the sexual opportunities they were offered (Porter
Lines: 16 to
16 ).
17 There were dissenting opinions. Cook noted that Tahitian marriages were ———
18 stable, stating that the women who presented themselves to the crew were 6.5pt PgV
19 from the lower orders of Tahitian society and were in every way compa-
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20 rable to the prostitutes who abounded in English port cities (Porter ).
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21 The equation of primitive women and prostitutes is one we shall discuss
22 later. However, Cook’s aim was to avoid exoticism by remarking that not all
23 Tahitian women were comparable to prostitutes. For the same reason, he [21], (2)
24 expressed his doubts that there could be common ownership of property
25 in any society that relied on individual labor in horticulture. The Evangel-
26 ical Forster, who was also an officer on Cook’s ship, was distressed by the
27 morality both of the Tahitians and of the European visitors who had taken
28 advantage of them.
29 Diderot’s Supplément relies on Bougainville’s account rather than Cook’s.
30 It also relies a little on Plutarch and Plato, who may be presumed not to
31 have visited Tahiti. It contains a dialogic commentary by two individuals,
32 A and B, into which are inserted two set pieces. One consists of a speech
33 supposedly made by a Tahitian elder bidding an angry adieu to the chef
34 des brigands (Bougainville) and his crew (Diderot :–), who have
35 corrupted Tahitian innocence and communalism with Western notions of
36 property and colonial territory:
38 We follow the pure instinct of Nature, and you have tried to erase its
39 mark from our souls. Here everything belongs to all, and you have

        

1 preached to us some unspeakable distinction between thine and mine.
2 Our daughters and our wives are shared in common; you have par-
3 taken in this privilege with us and have begun to kindle unknown
4 passions among them. We are free, and behold! you have buried the
5 deed of our future slavery beneath our own land. . . . Were a Tahitian
6 someday to disembark on your shores and were he to carve on one of
7 your stones or on the bark of one of your trees, “This country belongs
8 to the inhabitants of Tahiti,” what would you think? (Diderot :,
9 our translation) 1
11 The second set piece is an imagined dialogue between a Tahitian sage,
12 Orou, and the ship’s chaplain (aumônier) that concerns what we may call the
13 cultural relativity of morals (Diderot :–, –). The chaplain [22], (3)
14 is appalled by the offer of Orou’s daughters and wife, although he is quickly
15 drawn into a sexual relationship with the youngest daughter. His defense of
Lines: 25
16 Christian morals is undermined by Orou’s defense of Tahitian alternatives.
17 The incident ends with the semiconversion of the chaplain, whose sexual ———
18 encounters with the sage’s wife and remaining two daughters are punctu- 6.5pt P
19 ated with cries of “Mais ma religion! Mais mon état!” [But my religion!
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20 But my state!] (Diderot :). At one point, Orou expresses his moral
indignation at the European custom of monogamous marriage for life. The PgEnds: T
22 chaplain has portrayed it as following the law of God, but the sage views it
23 as contrary to nature to suppose that a free, thinking, sentient human could [22], (3)
24 be made the property of his or her fellow being (Diderot :). Tahitian
25 marriage is a terminable, consensual relationship:
The Chaplain: What is marriage like among you?
Orou: An agreement to live in the same hut and to lie in the same bed,
so long as we are satisfied with the arrangement.
The Chaplain: And when you’re dissatisfied?
Orou: We split. (Diderot :, our translation) 2
32 Subsequently, Orou challenges the necessity of an incest taboo, including
33 not merely parent-child but also sibling incest, a stance that would have been
34 as alien to the real Polynesians as it was to the imaginary chaplain (Diderot
35 :–).
36 Michèle Duchet () has appropriately remarked that Diderot’s Supplé-
37 ment is a critique of French institutions, particularly the marriage laws and
38 the role of the Catholic clergy, and that the Tahitians were merely a foil.
39 While Diderot may thus be absolved of any genuine ethnographic intent,

        

1 his and Bougainville’s Tahitians were surely the adumbrations of Mead’s
2 Samoans, Malinowski’s Trobrianders, the subjects of Gauguin’s portraits,
3 and countless other representations and fictions. Opposed to the paradisi-
4 acal image of Oceania is a counterimage of a verdant, subtropical Hell, the
5 world of Somerset Maugham’s Rain. The counterpart of these fictions is a
6 Polynesia that has become the haunt of sometimes exploitative European
7 males, who visit as voyagers, penetrators, or voyeurs.
8 Cornélius Jaenen () has remarked that representations of North
9 American Indian society in the th century often replicated “concepts and
10 constructs” of the pre-Columbian as well as post-Columbian era. These
11 included “the Terrestrial Paradise, the Golden Age, the Millennial Kingdom,
12 the Monstrous Satanic World, the Utopian New World, the Chain of Being,
13 etc.” (Jaenen :). In Deconstructing America () Peter Mason ob- [23], (4)
14 serves that th-century Europeans accommodated the strangeness and ap-
15 parent incommensurability of the New World by means of preexistent rep-
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16 resentations concerning internal strangers and distant aliens. Commonly,
17 these representations involved symbolic inversion, monstrosities, and lim- ———
18 inal phenomena. They included elements of the medieval image of the 0.0pt PgV
19 witch, the wild man or woman, the madman, and the fool. The teratological
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20 tradition of Hesiod, Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Solinus, and John Mandev-
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21 ille was extended to the Americas, which found a new home for depleted
22 humans with one eye, leg, or testicle or with no breasts and for phantas-
23 magoric confusions such as the Blemmyae (who had no heads but had eyes [23], (4)
24 on their shoulders), the Cynocephalae (dog-headed people), and others
25 who mixed animal and human features. Ideas of inverted behavior (can-
26 nibalism, extravagant sexuality, or sexual depletion) are the correlates of
27 bodily deformation. The existence of similar “ethnoanthropologies” among
28 Amerindian peoples (e.g., accounts of the headless Ewaipanoma given to Sir
29 Walter Raleigh by inhabitants of Guiana) added another layer to the creative
30 invention of the New World. Mason argues persuasively that accounts of
31 effeminate males, Amazons, and sexually voracious females and transgres-
32 sive sexuality (incestuous copulation in the writings of Amerigo Vespucci,
33 homosexuality in the writings of Oviedo, lesbianism in the illustrations
34 to Theodor de Bry’s America), which are common during this period, are
35 fictions that interweave renewed mythologies and ethnoanthropologies. To
36 Mason the “factuality” of these accounts is beyond, or almost beyond, the
37 point. For us, what is significant is that over  years of culture contact
38 these images may have softened but were hardly obliterated. By the th and
39 th centuries, groups who had converted to Christianity were less likely to

        

1 be viewed as devil worshipers and perverts. On the other hand, th-century
2 images of degeneration were utilized to contradict paradisiacal and Utopian
3 images. One specific image that persisted through this time was that of the
4 effeminate, sexless Amerindian male.
5 Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, the prominent French savant
6 and naturalist, was dismayed to find that his portrayal of North American
7 Indians as weak, ignoble, and sexless savages was utilized to support anti-
8 Utopian ideas of moral decline (rather than a more neutral notion of “de-
9 generation” or alteration in type). His remarks about them in his Histoire
10 naturelle (which appeared in several volumes between  and ) were
11 intended merely to demonstrate that “human nature was everywhere the
12 same but there were racial or national differences because of such factors as
13 climate, region, degrees of civility, government, or other accidental causes” [24], (5)
14 (Jaenen :). The following is Jaenen’s translation of the relevant text
15 by Buffon:
Lines: 50
For though the American savage be nearly of the same stature with ———
men in polished societies, yet this is not sufficient exception to the 0.0pt P
general contraction of animated Nature throughout the whole Con- ———
tinent. In the savage, the organs of generation are feeble. He has no Normal P
hair, no beard, no ardour for the female. Though nimbler than the PgEnds: T
European, because more accustomed to running, his strength is not
so great. His sensations are less acute: and yet he is more cowardly
23 [24], (5)
and timid. He has no vivacity, no activity of mind. . . . Destroy his
appetite for victuals and drink, and you will at once annihilate the
active principle of all his movements; he remains, in stupid repose, on
his limbs or couch for whole days. (Jaenen :)
28 The abbé Guillaume Thomas François Raynal believed that the supposed
29 sexual inadequacy of Amerindians was a sign of their immaturity, indeed,
30 of the infancy of the continent (Jaenen :). Perhaps immaturity as a
31 condition is preferable to degeneracy. William Byrd of Virginia spoke of
32 their “Constitutions untainted by Lewdness” (Jordan :). Cornelius
33 de Pauw announced that the Amerindian penis was smaller than that of
34 Europeans (Jordan :).
35 One wonders if such a belief has any other basis than superstition and
36 prejudice. One obvious explanation is the relative lack of facial hair among
37 Amerindian males, to which Buffon indeed refers. Another is the strong
38 sexual honor code that was manifest in many traditional North Ameri-
39 can cultures along with rules prescribing sexual abstinence for warriors in

        

1 time of battle or for participants in some rituals. This resulted in a signif-
2 icant cultural difference: “Indians in eastern North America did not rape
3 female captives; Europeans did” (Abler :). As William Smith noted in
4 , “No woman . . . need fear violation of her honour” (quoted in Abler
5 :). Ironically, it would appear that their failure to make sexual prey
6 out of female war captives may have led European commentators to cast
7 aspersions on the virility of Amerindian males!
8 Significantly, Winthrop Jordan remarks that, although white–Indian mis-
9 cegenation in the American South may not have been as frequent as misce-
10 genation between whites and blacks, “the entire interracial sexual complex
11 did not pertain to the Indian” (Jordan :). Indeed,“of the various laws
12 which penalized illicit miscegenation, none applied to Indians, and only
13 North Carolina’s (and Virginia’s for a very brief period) prohibited inter- [25], (6)
14 marriage. On the contrary, several colonists were willing to allow, even advo-
15 cate, intermarriage with the Indian – an unheard of proposition concerning
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16 Negroes” (Jordan :). The gist of Jordan’s argument is that there is a
17 correlation between the image of the Other’s sexuality and attitudes and ———
18 practices concerning miscegenation with that Other. Inasmuch as Tahiti 0.0pt PgV
19 was and still is a sexual Utopia for some Europeans and Tahitian standards
Normal Pag
20 of beauty appealed to them, the European attitude to miscegenation was
PgEnds: TEX
21 positive. Because Native North Americans were viewed as sexually non-
22 threatening, there was no bar to miscegenation. We shall discuss attitudes
23 toward Africans and African Americans shortly. [25], (6)
24 We move from supposed deficiencies in male, heterosexual ardor to a
25 related question, the presence (or absence) of what we might now call a
26 “third gender” or “transgender phenomenon.” Early reports of transvestism
27 and/or homosexuality among Aztecs, Incas, and Cueva (Panama) and in
28 various parts of South America are, quite simply, unreliable. Gonzalo Fer-
29 nández de Oviedo y Valdés, the early-th-century chronicler of the Span-
30 ish conquest, reported that the “lords and chieftains” of the Cueva kept
31 young men who were transvestites, household servants, and passive homo-
32 sexuals. Such individuals were the object of derision (Trexler :, ).
33 Oviedo also reported that same-sex relations between males were common
34 throughout the new Spanish territories (Trexler :, ). The existence
35 of male temple prostitutes in the Valley of Mexico was reported by Bernal
36 Díaz del Castillo (Trexler :; Keen :). In  Peter Martyr re-
37 ported that in Panama Vasco Núñez de Balboa had supposedly thrown 
38 transvestites to the dogs (Trexler :). In the middle of the th cen-
39 tury, when Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Bartolomé de Las Casas conducted

        

1 their famous debate concerning the possibility of saving Indian souls, the
2 credibility of such reports was at stake. Sepúlveda was inclined to believe
3 most of them, whereas Las Casas was skeptical about claims that deviant
4 sexuality was common and openly tolerated. No one suggested that some of
5 the reported behaviors might indeed exist and that there might be nothing
6 intrinsically wrong with them. This limitation of argument was to persist
7 for  years.
8 From the th to the th century Spanish and French observers, in-
9 cluding René Goulaine de Laudonnière, Jacques Le Moyne, and François
10 Coréal, described “hermaphrodites” and “effeminate youths” they encoun-
11 tered among the Timacuans of Florida. These “hermaphrodites” cared for
12 and fed the sick, carried provisions to the battlefield, and acted as mes-
13 sengers. They wore a distinctive headdress but otherwise tended to wear [26], (7)
14 female attire. Some of them married men and may have practiced sodomy
15 (Roscoe :–). Europeans were later to encounter similar institutions
Lines: 65
16 when they explored the western part of the continent, both in the Great
17 Plains and the southwestern pueblos. For example, the Cheyenne hemaneh ———
18 (half-man, half-woman) wore feminine attire, did not engage in battle, and 0.0pt P
19 assumed the role of master of ceremonies at certain rites of passage. The
Long Pag
20 French applied the term berdache (from a Persian word meaning“kept boy”)
PgEnds: T
21 to “passive partners in homosexual relationships between Native American
22 males” (Midnight Sun :; Angelino and Shedd :). It should be
23 emphasized that the berdache role was not, in fact, synonymous with homo- [26], (7)
24 sexuality; it also implied transvestism, ceremonial roles, and occupational
25 specialization.
26 Needless to say, such an institution did not meet with the approval of
27 most European observers. The Catholic fathers sought and received confes-
28 sions from the Timacuans. The most secular of authorities also disapproved.
29 In his Essai sur les moeurs Voltaire remarked that homosexuality, “the So-
30 cratic vice,” was not contrary to human nature, although it was contrary to
31 Nature’s purpose. Revolting customs were to be found in both savage and
32 civilized societies. Among Amerindians, the Socratic vice had the same ill
33 effect as among the ancient Greeks (Duchet :).
34 Representations of the sexuality of South American Indians and circum-
35 polar groups were sometimes very different from those attributed to many
36 Native North American groups. Voltaire’s opinion of Brazilian Indians re-
37 flects the beliefs of both his contemporaries and his predecessors. Ama-
38 zonian peoples were devoid of government, law, and religion. They were
39 slaves to their senses. The men coupled indiscriminately with their mothers,
sisters, and daughters. Worst of all, they were cannibals (Duchet :).

        

1 Buffon was not particularly fond of the circumpolar populations, all of
2 whom he regarded as degenerated Tartars. This was hardly a compliment,
3 given that the Tartars were without “decency in their manners” (Buffon
4 , vol. :). He assumed that these physical and moral changes had
5 been caused by the harsh climate and poor diet. The Samoyeds, Lapps, and
6 Eskimo were all similar in culture. The Lapps were typical in one notable
7 respect: “They offer their wives and daughters to strangers, and esteem it
8 the highest affront if the offer is rejected” (Buffon , vol. :). Such
9 unfortunate individuals bore the stigmata of their degeneration on their
10 bodies, which showed an excess of some secondary sexual characteristics
11 and a deficit of others: “Among all these people, the women are fully as ugly
12 as the men, whom they resemble so much that the distinction is not easily
13 perceived. . . . Their breasts are so long and pliable, that they can suckle [27], (8)
14 their children over their shoulders. Their nipples are as black as jet, and
15 their skin is of a very deep olive colour. Some travellers alledge that these
Lines: 75 to
16 women have no hair on their heads, and are not subject to the menstrual
17 evacuation” (Buffon , vol. :, ). ———
18 * 19.5pt Pg
We must remark that there were a few who were skeptical of all these
19 tall tales. One such person was Johann Friedrich Blumenbach of Göttingen Long Page
20 (–), who is regarded by many as the founder of physical anthro-
* PgEnds: Ejec
21 pology. He is, unfortunately, remembered as the inventor of the term Cau-
22 casian, by which he designated a population he believed to be particularly
23 beautiful, although he was a believer in the potential equality of all races. In [27], (8)
24 the third edition of De Generis Humani Varietate Nativa, which appeared in
25 , Blumenbach commented on stories about the beardlessness of Ameri-
26 can Indians. He granted that the quantity of facial hair varied from one pop-
27 ulation to another and that American Indian beards were “thin and scanty.”
28 However, a scanty beard did not mean no beard at all. Some Amerindian
29 groups, in fact, encouraged the men to grow beards; among others the beard
30 was systematically plucked out. He regretted that he had taken such “unnec-
31 essary trouble” to obtain a “heap of testimony” about this matter (Blumen-
32 bach :). Furthermore, he had investigated another story and found
33 it too wanting in evidence:
36 The fabulous report that the American Indian women have no men-
37 struation, seems to have its origin in this, that the Europeans when
38 they discovered the new world, although they saw numbers of the
39 female inhabitants entirely naked, never seem to have observed in
them the stains of that excretion. For this it seems likely that there

        

1 were two reasons; first, that amongst those nations of America, the
2 women during menstruation are, by a fortunate prejudice, considered
3 as poisonous, and are prohibited from social intercourse, and for so
4 long enjoy a beneficial repose in the more secluded huts far from
5 the view of men; secondly, because, as has been noticed, they are so
6 commendably clean in their bodies, and the commissure of their legs
7 so conduces to modesty, that no vestiges of the catamenia ever strike
8 the eye. (Blumenbach :–)
10 Images of African sexuality exhibit another kind of pathology that is in-
11 timately connected with the pathology exhibited by European colonialism
12 since its inception. Africans of both sexes were regarded as supple, agile,
13 dexterous, and possessed of “an extreme disposition toward sensations and [28], (9)
14 excitations” (Virey , vol. : –; see also –). Julien Virey, the au-
15 thor of Histoire naturelle du genre humain, also remarked that black females
had large sexual organs and that black males had“very voluminous”genitals, Lines: 81
17 all of which were the counterpart of their superstition, low intelligence, and ———
18 poor linguistic facility (, vol. :, –). Virey’s accomplishment was 6.5pt P
19 to lend the support of the fledgling science of physical anthropology to a
Normal P
20 folk tradition that was already  years old.
Jordan remarks that the idea that blacks had huge penises was current PgEnds: T
22 before the discovery of the Americas and possibly before the Portuguese
23 exploration of the West African coast: “Several fifteenth century cartogra- [28], (9)
24 phers decorated parts of Africa with little naked figures which gave the idea
25 graphic expression, and in due course, in the seventeenth century, English
26 accounts of West Africa [Jordan mentions Richard Jobson and John Ogilby]
27 were carefully noting the ‘extraordinary greatness’ of the Negroes’ ‘mem-
28 bers’ ” (:).
29 Jordan cites, as shall we, evidence that such beliefs were common in sci-
30 entific circles. It is surely more difficult to surmise popular attitudes, but
31 he suggests that they were probably similar. Recently, it was rumored that
32 one racial scientist was attempting to prove this hypothesis by obtaining a
33 statistical sample of verifiable measurements. Whether or not there is a small
34 difference in the average size of the penis between different populations is
35 unclear; what is palpably clear is that the extensive attention to the matter
36 by certain people at certain times is, as Jordan suggests (:), an index
37 of European sexual insecurity. In the late th century, before the dismal
38 science of statistics was born, a sample size of one was considered signif-
39 icant! Otherwise, one might refer to observations of “several” individuals.

        

1 Our sources are the English anatomist and racial determinist Charles White
2 and the normally cautious Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: “It is generally
3 said that the penis in the Negro is very large. And this assertion is so far
4 borne out by the remarkable genital apparatus of an Aethiopian which I
5 have in my anatomical collection. Whether this prerogative be constant and
6 peculiar to the nation I do not know. It is said that women when eager for
7 venery prefer the embraces of Negroes to those of other men” (Blumenbach
8 :).
9 Apparently, there were some who said that “this prerogative” was shared
10 by the Scottish highlanders, “who do not wear trowsers.” However, with a
11 possibly feigned gravity, Blumenbach remarks, “I have shown however on
12 the weightiest testimony that this assertion is incorrect” (:). 3 There
13 is no irony in any of Charles White’s statements about penis size: [29], (10)
That the penis of an African is larger than that of an European, has,
I believe, been shown in every anatomical school in London. Prepa- Lines: 92 to
rations of them are preserved in most anatomical museums; and I ———
have one in mine. I have examined several living negroes, and found it 0.0pt PgV
invariably to be the case. A surgeon of reputation informs me that . . . ———
he assisted at the dissection of a negro whose  was  - Normal Pag
   [ inches long]. . . . Haller, in his PgEnds: TEX
 , speaking of the Africans, says, “  
     ” [among humans, moreover,
23 [29], (10)
the penis is longer and much looser]; but I say,   
 [firmer by far and harder]. In  the penis is still longer
in proportion to the size of their bodies. (:)
27 Although the two anatomists agreed about the alleged peculiarity of black
28 males, White’s last remark indicates their substantial difference in philoso-
29 phy. Blumenbach was convinced that a considerable gap separated humans
30 from apes and monkeys and that bipedal locomotion, the use of the hands,
31 menstruation, and the brain’s structure and power were distinguishing fea-
32 tures. White believed in a medieval notion that enjoyed renewed popu-
33 larity in the th century, the Great Chain (otherwise Scale or Ladder) of
34 Being. God, it was said, had constructed a continuous hierarchy in cre-
35 ation, ranging from stones and metallic objects at the bottom to the angels
36 on high. In between were invertebrates, reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals.
37 Monkeys and apes occupied the rung below humanity. It was believed that
38 the Chain or Ladder of Being was a perfect creation. There were no gaps,
39 no missing links or rungs. Accordingly, unlike Buffon and Blumenbach,

        

1 White believed that the “lower races” of humankind bridged the gap be-
2 tween the apes (the “orang-outang,” which he and others could not yet dis-
3 tinguish from the chimpanzee) and the higher races such as the European.
4 Sexuality was just one of the criteria of difference. Besides noting the size
5 of the Negro penis, White also stated that apes and baboons menstruated
6 less than black females, who in turn menstruated less than white females
7 (:–), thereby exhibiting that “regular gradation” that was evident in
8 so many other respects. White’s own original research had consisted in some
9 painstaking measurements of the ulna and radius among Negroes and Eu-
10 ropeans. One particularly long forearm belonged to a Negro “in the lunatic
11 asylum in Liverpool.” He had measured the forearms of many Englishmen.
12 None of them could surpass or even approximate that of the black lunatic
13 (White :–). The apes, however, had relatively larger forearms than [30], (11
14 even black humans.
15 Regular gradation was also present with respect to the skull’s size and
Lines: 101
16 capacity, the placement of the foramen magnum, the capacity of the orbital
17 cavities, and the width of the external auditory meatus. At the end of his ———
18 remarks on the skeleton, White offered his readers a comprehensive list of 0.0pt P
19 other anatomical and physiological features that were proof of the principle
Normal P
20 of hierarchical ranking:
PgEnds: T
We will now proceed to show that a similar gradation takes place
in the cartilages, muscles, tendons, skin, hair, sweat, catamenia, rank
23 [30], (11
smell, and heat of the body, duration of life, testes and scrotum, and
fraenum preputii, clitoris, nymphae and mammae, size of the brain,
reason, speech and language, sense of feeling, parturition, diseases and
manner of walking; and likewise that a gradation takes place in the
senses of hearing, seeing and smelling; in memory and the powers
of mastication: but in these last particulars the order is changed, the
European being the lowest, the African higher, and the brute creation
still higher in the scale. (:, )
32 It will be noted that White referred to a gradation in the “nymphae,” by
33 which he meant female external genitalia. By the time he wrote in ,
34 a number of reports had been received from residents of and visitors to
35 the Dutch colony in the Cape, which had been established in the late th
36 century, about the peculiarities of the indigenous Khoi (Hottentot) and San
37 (Bushman) peoples. Sometimes, the Khoi and San were identified with the
38 black or Bantu populations; on other occasions they were deemed to be
39 racially or even specifically distinct, rivaling the Australian Aborigines for a

        

1 position at the bottom of the scale of humanity. Technologically, these peo-
2 ple appeared unsophisticated: the San were hunter-gatherers, and the Khoi
3 mixed hunting and gathering with pastoralism and other pursuits. They
4 exhibited a degree of egalitarianism with respect to gender roles, a cultural
5 feature that may have caused disquiet among their patriarchal Afrikaner
6 conquerors, a disquiet that was perhaps expressed in dubious statements
7 about the sexual forwardness of Khoi women (Gordon a:–). Both
8 groups spoke languages in which a variety of “clicks” or clucking sounds
9 were used as phonemes. To some European listeners, Khoisan languages
10 sounded like the utterances of birds or other animals. Individuals of both
11 groups were quite small.
12 The supposed presence and absence of certain sexual features were felt by
13 some to be the decisive evidence of the liminal physical status of the Khoisan [31], (12)
14 peoples. Some early-th- and th-century accounts of the Khoi said that
15 the men were monorchids, but by  attention was diverted from this
Lines: 110 to
16 dubious stigmatum to female sexual characteristics (Gordon a:, ).
17 Steatopygia, the presence of large amounts of fat in the female buttocks, is ———
18 a genuinely distinctive feature of both groups. It may represent a form of 0.0pt PgV
19 adaptation to harsh climes; in other words, it is a way of storing food. Oth-
Normal Pag
20 erwise, it could exemplify a process of Darwinian sexual selection. However,
PgEnds: TEX
21 it was the structure of the external genitalia in the female that attracted the
22 most attention. 4
23 In successive editions of his Essai sur les moeurs that appeared in , [31], (12)
24 , and  Voltaire referred to the Hottentot apron as the specific char-
25 acter, the distinguishing characteristic, of these people. It was, he said, “skin
26 [epidermis, from the French surpeau] hanging from the navel, which covers
27 the organs of generation, in the form of an apron which can be raised or
28 lowered” (Duchet :, our translation). It was a sign, for him, of their
29 lowly status.
30 In the late th and early th centuries a number of reports on the subject
31 had been received such as those by Olfert Dapper, Wilhelm ten Rhyne, and
32 François Leguat. Leguat was a Huguenot refugee; his account and an accom-
33 panying picture may have been the source of the legend of the Hottentot
34 apron (Baker :, ).
35 It would appear that the “apron” was an exaggeration of a misunderstood
36 cultural phenomenon. In any event, no apron of skin hung from the navel. It
37 is, however, a fact that the labia minora in many Hottentot and San women
38 were elongated to a length of half an inch to three inches. In some groups
39 the labia were widened as well. During the th century anthropologists

        

1 reported that many South African Bantu groups see elongated labia as a sign
2 of beauty, and the labia are accordingly enlarged during female initiation
3 rites (see Turner :).
4 In  the traveler Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, in his Voy-
5 age à l’île de France, portrayed the Hottentots as honest, egalitarian pas-
6 toralists who loved their children. He denounced reports of the Hottentot
7 apron as a “fable” (Duchet :). Anders Sparrman, a Swedish member of
8 Captain Cook’s expedition, agreed with Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s opin-
9 ion (Duchet :). Cook himself investigated the so-called Sinus pudoris
10 (Linnaeus’s term for the apron) and relayed a description of Hottentot labia
11 supplied to him by a local physician (Baker :). About the same time,
12 Lord Gordon, a Scots soldier, explored the interior of South Africa. Meeting
13 with Diderot, he answered the Encyclopedist’s questions about Hottentot [32], (13
14 anatomy with some accuracy. It would appear that he had learnt some
15 Khoi. His information was included in the Additions to Buffon’s Histoire
Lines: 118
16 naturelle (Duchet :). In  the French naturalist François Le Vaillant
17 had surmised that the apron was produced by artificial means. His illus- ———
18 tration of a woman with such a tablier was based on firsthand observation. 0.0pt P
19 He had pleaded with a Hottentot woman to show her the apron, and she
Normal P
20 had, despite much shame and confusion, agreed to the request. Sadly, Le
PgEnds: T
21 Vaillant’s acknowledgment that the woman had normal human sensibilities
22 and that some sort of consent was necessary was a precedent that others did
23 not follow (Schiebinger :–). [32], (13
24 The leading naturalists and anatomists of the late th and early th
25 centuries partook in the debate about the nature and significance of Hot-
26 tentot female genitalia. Buffon, who also wrote about the “debauched” fe-
27 males of Guinea and Sierra Leone, gave a somewhat lurid description of the
28 alleged apron (Buffon :, ). On the other hand, Samuel Thomas
29 von Soemmering, a distinguished German anatomist, in the course of a
30 discussion of African racial characteristics, remarked that “the parts of gen-
31 eration, contrary to a vulgar notion, are of no uncommon size.” However,
32 he noted that “the female breasts, according to various writers, are flac-
33 cid and pendulous” and also remarked that the Negro skull was the re-
34 verse of the Grecian ideal (Soemmering : clvii, cliv, cxlv). Blumenbach
35 was also skeptical about the stories of Hottentot pudenda, suggesting that
36 Hottentot aprons were artificially elongated labia and not some racially
37 specific structure (:). Most skeptical of all were the comments of
38 John Hunter, an army physician from Edinburgh whose Disputatio Inau-
39 guralis quaedam de hominum varietatibus, et harum causis exponens ap-

        

1 peared in . Modern stories about beardless men, pendulous mammae
2 that could be thrown over the shoulders (Buffon), and Hottentot pudenda
3 were the equivalent of Pliny’s tall stories about the one-eyed Arimaspi, the
4 Androgyni, and the dog-headed Cynocephali. Men of supposedly beardless
5 races plucked out their beards. The shape of the breasts was affected by the
6 way women fed their infants. The Hottentot apron, he argued, represented
7 nothing more than a somewhat greater frequency of labial characteristics
8 that were not unknown among women in Europe (Hunter in Blumenbach
9 :).
10 Unfortunately, a living specimen, a human object, was to appear in Lon-
11 don and Paris some  to  years later (Gould ; Gilman :–,
12 :–). Saat-Jee, a young San woman, did not possess an apron, or
13 tablier, but her elongated labia and steatopygia rendered her the victim of [33], (14)
14 the ogling gaze of scientists and paying spectators. After five years of no-
15 toriety, Saat-Jee died at the age of . She is remembered as the “Hottentot
Lines: 122 to
16 Venus.” While abolitionists had protested her exhibition in London in 
17 “in a manner offensive to decency” (quoted in Gilman :), the final in- ———
18 decency still awaited her. Reports of her postmortem dissection were written 0.0pt PgV
19 by Henri de Blainville and Baron Georges Cuvier, the doyen of anatomy in
Normal Pag
20 France. They were particularly interested in her steatopygia. As for the geni-
PgEnds: TEX
21 tals, Cuvier prepared them in such a way that members of the academy could
22 clearly view her labia (Gilman :). Cuvier’s report was reprinted at
23 the beginning of his Histoire naturelle des mammifères, which he coauthored [33], (14)
24 with his distinguished colleague Geoffroy St. Hilaire. Cuvier’s dissection was
25 utilized by Virey in his work on race (Gilman :). In April  Saat-
26 Jee’s remains were finally returned to South Africa for burial.
27 Sander Gilman has remarked that “it is indeed in the physical appearance
28 of the Hottentot that the central icon for sexual difference between the Eu-
29 ropean and the black was found” (:); further, that “Sarah Bartmann’s
30 [Saat-Jee’s] sexual parts, her genitalia and her buttocks, serve as the central
31 image of the black female throughout the nineteenth century” (:);
32 and, significantly, that “the genitalia and the buttocks of the black female
33 attracted much greater interest in part because they were seen as evidence
34 of an anomalous sexuality not only in black women but in all women”
35 (:). This is an unusual synecdoche. Gilman is brilliantly right except
36 insofar as he seems to discount the importance of parallel images of Negro
37 male sexuality. The last remark we quote from him points to a problem we
38 discuss later, the transfer of a powerful imagery of primitivity from the colo-
39 nial periphery to the metropolis and the equation of the lumpen proletariat

        

1 and prostitutes in particular with those peoples who were supposedly least
2 advanced or most degraded.
3 To label the Other’s sexuality anomalous is to render him or her inap-
4 propriate as a partner, not merely because emotions of repulsion or at very
5 least indifference are evoked but also because the Other by virtue of his
6 or her genitalia is situated or, rather, moved to or beyond the boundary
7 of the category “human.” There is some relationship between scientists’
8 comments about the Hottentot apron and the degree of racial prejudice
9 exhibited toward the Hottentot and Negro as well as their opinions on the
10 biological status of the latter group.
11 Voltaire, White, and Virey were all polygenists who believed that blacks
12 and whites were members of separate biological species (see our later dis-
13 cussion). Blumenbach and Hunter, who were skeptical about the apron, [34], (15
14 were monogenists. Adherence to monogenesis did not always imply freedom
15 from prejudice. Buffon was credulous concerning the apron. He believed
Lines: 126
16 that Africans had “little genius” but did grant them some good qualities,
17 albeit in a tone that appears patronizing to our ears. They were “naturally ———
18 affectionate” and, furthermore, “were endowed with excellent hearts and 6.5pt P
19 possess the seeds of every human virtue.” The slave owners and slave traders
Normal P
20 were “hardened monsters” (Buffon :–).
PgEnds: T
21 We must conclude our remarks on the “discovery” of Hottentot sexuality
22 with a wry observation. Some of the early Dutch settlers in the Cape did not
23 find anything in Hottentot females so peculiarly repulsive that they were [34], (15
24 biologically restrained from mating with them and producing offspring.
25 Contemporary populations such as the Rehebother Bastaards are largely
26 the product of such unions. When it was deemed safe to export an adequate
27 number of Dutch women to the Cape, the barriers to interracial mating were
28 raised higher and higher. We need to examine the relationship between the
29 images of sexuality we have discussed, the realities of miscegenation, and the
30 debate concerning the definition of species and the unity and plurality of
31 the human race. We shall suggest that this relationship was quite intimate.
   
35 The debate between the monogenists, who believed in the unity of the hu-
36 man species, and their polygenist opponents occupied approximately 
37 years (–). Readers, particularly those versed in the history of an-
38 thropology, may be very familiar with its details, which can be gleaned from
39 several secondary sources (e.g., Stocking , ; Banton ; Barzun

        

1 ; Harris ; Stanton ; Young ) as well as from a doctoral
2 dissertation written by one of us (Lyons ). We hope we shall be indulged
3 as brief a recital as is necessary for our argument.
4 The modern concept of “species” may be dated to John Ray’s work The
5 Wisdom of God Manifest in the Works of Creation, which appeared in the late
6 th century. It is conceivable that Buffon may have been the first to use
7 the word “race” to describe a biological population rather than a lineage.
8 (On changes in the word’s meaning, see Guillaumin :–.) The spec-
9 ulations and theories we shall discuss need to be placed in their historical
10 context before the advent and triumph of Darwinian evolutionary theory
11 and before the posthumous triumph of Mendel. It was believed by many
12 in the th century that the world was no more than , years old and
13 that events such as the Flood really happened. These views eventually lost [35], (16)
14 credibility in the light of scientific evidence. The discovery of mammoth
15 skeletons in Siberia, mastodon skeletons in New York State, the remains of
Lines: 137 to
16 dinosaurs in various locales, as well as other extinct fauna gave birth to the
17 new science of paleontology. Geologists such as Cuvier and Charles Lyell ———
18 unearthed the proof of extensive changes in the mineral, floral, and faunal 0.0pt PgV
19 content of rock strata over a much-extended period of time. Slowly but
Normal Pag
20 surely, many came to appreciate the words of the geologist James Hutton,
PgEnds: TEX
21 who stated in  that the world’s history was infinitely long, with “no
22 vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end” (Greene :). Newly
23 discovered living animal populations presented the scientific community [35], (16)
24 with fascinating and perplexing problems. Because of the shyness of orangs
25 and gorillas and because of the limits of European exploration, it was not
26 until the end of the th century that the anatomical difference between
27 the species of great apes was fully appreciated. Not surprisingly, Linnaeus’s
28 illustrator, Hoppius (Christian Emanuel Hoppe), portrayed the apes with
29 surprisingly human features (see Greene ).
30 The birth of secular geology and biology did not occur without pain and
31 tribulation. The century of warfare between science and religion, as it has
32 sometimes been called, had ramifications in the debate over the nature of
33 species. This is an area where religion, politics, and science intermingle in a
34 complex fashion that, for reasons of space, we can only partially deconstruct.
35 The monogenists adhered, whether by religious faith, scientific convic-
36 tion, or a mixture of both, to the dogma expressed in the well-known verse
37 “And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all
38 the face of the earth” (Acts :, King James version). The so-called races of
39 man were not separate species but rather varieties of a single species. Such

        

1 variation was produced by environmental factors, for example, climate, diet,
2 and mode of life. This variation followed human migration to new corners
3 of the earth, which occurred either for reasons stated in the Bible (e.g.,
4 events following the Flood, the fall of the Tower of Babel, the expulsion
5 of the Lost Tribes of Israel, etc.) or for more secular purposes. A warm cli-
6 mate might create a progressive tanning of the skin, inherited and enhanced
7 each generation. This process of the creation of varieties by means of the
8 inheritance of acquired characteristics was known as degeneration, a term
9 that sometimes implied merely physical but on other occasions also implied
10 moral change. Depending on their degree of faith in received Old Testament
11 chronology, monogenists had more or less difficulty in explaining how such
12 variation could have occurred over thousands rather than millions of years.
13 Polygenists believed that human races were separate species. Some of [36], (17
14 them dismissed the Old Testament as myth, others utilized such ideas as
15 a preadamite creation to explain the existence of several species. Polygenists
Lines: 143
16 believed that the races, like other species, were fixed in form. To use a mod-
17 ern term, each human species was adapted to its ecosystem. There was no way ———
18 that racial variations in skin color, stature, head shape, and size could have 0.0pt P
19 developed over , or even (if one did not literally interpret the Bible)
Normal P
20 , or , years. Some th-century polygenists such as the Jamaican
PgEnds: T
21 planter and historian Edward Long and the anatomist Charles White be-
22 lieved in versions of the Great Chain of Being. All polygenists ranked races in
23 a rigid hierarchy. Monogenists also ranked races, but with a few exceptions [36], (17
24 they did so less rigidly. In some cases, polygenists were motivated by a strong
25 political belief in innate inequality (some endorsed slavery); in other cases
26 such as Voltaire and the mid-th-century American polygenist Josiah Clark
27 Nott, an antireligious prejudice was also influential. Most monogenists, for
28 example, Buffon, Blumenbach, and the American Samuel Stanhope Smith,
29 believed that variation caused by unfavorable environmental circumstances
30 was at least partially reversible. A few monogenists such as the proslavery
31 writer John Bachman were motivated primarily by strong religious beliefs.
32 In order to demonstrate the existence of different human types, which
33 might, depending on one’s opinion, be either varieties or species, mono-
34 genists and polygenists discussed hair color, shape, and texture; skin color;
35 skull size, shape, and capacity; the degree of prognathism of the jaw; the
36 position of the foramen magnum, which determines the carriage of the
37 skull, brain capacity, and convolutions; stature; size of limbs; sensory abil-
38 ities; size of genitals and sexuality; and intelligence. They also sometimes
39 appended such information as they had about the great apes. Some of these

        

1 phenotypical characteristics still interest modern physical anthropologists,
2 albeit they ask different questions from different premises. Finally, we must
3 note that monogenists and polygenists disagreed about the concept that was
4 at the core of their discussion, namely, species.
5 The account of creation in Genesis was viewed as scientifically and his-
6 torically accurate by some monogenists. Not only were there many who
7 denied the possibility of fresh creation or even the extinction of species in
8 the face of growing evidence of the latter, but there were some who insisted
9 that monogenesis implied the common descent of all humans from Adam
10 and Eve. Unity of species implied unity of descent. Conversely, plurality of
11 species implied descent from many ancestors.
12 Both species and varieties were conceived as ideal types. There was an
13 insistence that all members of a species conformed to type and that they [37], (18)
14 resembled each other more than they resembled members of other species.
15 Polygenists and monogenists disagreed on the degree of resemblance be-
Lines: 147 to
16 tween human races. Both camps agreed on the principle of fixity or perma-
17 nence of type, but monogenists allowed for a degree of plasticity resulting ———
18 from environmental influence and/or the effects of domestication. 0.0pt PgV
19 The most critical disagreement was over another criterion of species that
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20 is now known as reproductive isolation, a criterion that is still accepted
PgEnds: TEX
21 today. It was originally advocated by Buffon and Immanuel Kant. Members
22 of the same species interbreed with each other and produce fertile offspring.
23 They do not habitually interbreed with other populations. Matings between [37], (18)
24 members of different species very seldom result in the birth of offspring.
25 Should this happen, the offspring would normally be sterile.
26 Sexuality and sexual imagery have long been intrinsic to biological clas-
27 sification. Linnaeus’s taxonomy of plant species was based on their sexual
28 characteristics (number of and placement of stamens, pistils, etc.), and he
29 even wrote of the marriages of plants (Schiebinger :–). One promi-
30 nent British critic, William Smellie, regarded such language as indecent
31 (Schiebinger :). Schiebinger also noted Linnaeus’s significant choice
32 of the breasts as the distinguishing feature of the class Mammalia (:–
33 ). Furthermore, the readers of Linnaeus, both male and female, presum-
34 ably included literate gardeners, animal breeders, and some slave owners.
35 We stress that discussions of species in the th and th centuries and, in
36 particular, discussions of the unity or plurality of the human species may
37 simultaneously concern the scientific concept of species and both popu-
38 lar and scientific notions of sexuality. The debate about species concerns
39 the possibility, desirability, and outcomes of miscegenation. Robert Young

        

1 voices this notion succinctly:“Theories of race were thus also covert theories
2 of desire” (:).
3 Polygenists disputed the validity of the criterion of reproductive isola-
4 tion. There was a thread of consistency in their arguments, although some-
5 times the thread was lost or stretched. They maintained the following posi-
6 tions:
7 . There were reports that animals of separate species, for example, sheep
8 and goats, wolves and dogs, interbreed. It was possible that the offspring
9 of some sexual unions between different species might be interfertile if not
10 with each other then with one or both parent stocks.
11 . Domesticated varieties of dogs were, in fact, separate species. They had
12 remained fixed for thousands of years. If indeed they did interbreed, it was
13 proof that different, allied species could do so. [38], (19
14 . While there was evident proof of matings between members of certain
15 human races, matings between members of far-flung groups (e.g., Aus-
Lines: 155
16 tralian Aborigines and Eskimo) might well not have occurred, and the out-
17 come was clearly uncertain. ———
18 . It was not clear that racial hybrids were as reproductively viable as their 6.5pt P
19 parent stocks. Indeed, miscegenation might adversely affect the potential of
Normal P
20 a group to reproduce its own kind. As late as the s, the French polygenist
PgEnds: T
21 Paul Broca reported an account by Count Strzlecki that maintained that
22 Australian Aborigine women who had mated with Europeans were subse-
23 quently infertile with members of their own group (:–). [38], (19
24 . Mulattoes were higher in intelligence than their black parents but stupi-
25 der than their white parents. In the long term, mulatto stocks were not
26 viable. They tended to die out. There were no advantages inherent in hy-
27 bridity.
28 . If sheep and goats, wolves and dogs occasionally mated, no one should
29 be surprised at accounts of unions between apes and black females, although
30 these might not be voluntary on the latter’s part.
31 The presence of the last argument in polygenist discourse more than
32 anything else reveals the nature of the fantasies that underpinned that mode
33 of science. Edward Long saw Negroes and orangutans as occupying adjacent
34 rungs on the Great Chain of Being:
36 For my own part, I conceive that probability favours the opinion, that
37 human organs were not given him [“the orang,” i.e., the great ape]
38 for nothing: that this race have some language by which their mean-
39 ing is communicated; whether it resembles the gobbling of turkies

        

1 like that of the Hottentots, or the hissing of serpents, is of very little
2 consequence, so long as it is intelligible among themselves: nor, for
3 what hitherto appears, do they seem at all inferior in the intellectual
4 faculties to many of the Negro race, with some of whom they have
5 the most intimate connexion and consanguinity. The amorous inter-
6 course between them may be frequent; the Negroes themselves bear
7 testimony that such intercourses actually happen; and it is certain that
8 both races agree perfectly in lasciviousness and disposition. (, vol.
9 :)
11 The “orangs” who are granted some sort of language are beneficiaries of
12 Long’s account. The reader should note the equations made by Long be-
13 tween apes, Negroes, Hottentots, turkeys, and serpents. A new vision of [39], (20)
14 temptation in Eden without the gift of knowledge!
15 It could be argued that Long was a historian, a proslavery apologist who
Lines: 174 to
16 strayed into the realms of science. Charles White was a doctor and scientist
17 who described slavery as “pernicious” and who claimed that he only wished ———
18 “to investigate the truth” (:v). This quest led him in interesting direc- 13.0pt Pg
19 tions:
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All those who have had opportunities of making observations on PgEnds: TEX
22 the orang-outangs, agree in ascribing to them, not only a remark-
23 able docility of disposition, but also actions and affections similar to [39], (20)
24 those observable in the human kind. They make themselves huts for
25 their accommodation; they defend themselves with stones and clubs;
26 and they bury their dead by covering the body with leaves, etc. They
27 discover signs of modesty; and instances are related of the strongest
28 attachment of the male to the female. When sick, these animals have
29 been known to suffer themselves to be blooded, and even to invite the
30 operation; and to submit to other necessary treatment like rational
31 creatures. They groan like the human kind, when under circumstances
32 of anxiety or oppression: and their sagacity in avoiding danger, in
33 certain instances, is not exceeded by that of man. They have been
34 taught to play upon musical instruments, as the pipe and the harp.
35 They have been known to carry off negro boys, girls and even women,
36 with a view of making them subservient to their wants and slaves, or as
37 objects of brutal passion: and it has been asserted by some, that women
38 have had offspring from such connections. This last circumstance is not,
39 however, certain. Supposing it to be true, it would be an object of inquiry,

        

1 whether such offspring would propagate, or prove to be mules. (White
2 :–, emphasis added)
4 White’s paean of praise to the orang’s intellectual and musical abilities, not
5 to mention its moral virtues, terminates at the point where he refers to their
6 brutal passions, which bring them into connection with blacks. Finally, the
7 language becomes more sober as White expresses an element of doubt and
8 appeals to the spirit of scientific inquiry.
9 The fiction of sexual intercourse between blacks and orangs is not con-
10 fined to polygenist discourse. Gustav Jahoda has noted its occurrence in
11 some th-century travelers’ narratives and folklore (:, ). Buffon
12 was aware of it (Hays :). Thomas Jefferson, who was, inter alia, a
13 monogenist, also mentions stories involving male apes and Negresses. He [40], (21
14 also stated that blacks would be incapable of comprehending Euclid (Jeffer-
15 son :, ). To balance our account, we should note that the late-th-
century anatomist Edward Tyson believed that male apes preferred blondes Lines: 183
17 (Schiebinger :). ———
18 As Jordan has noted, females, whether black or white, are usually the 6.5pt P
19 passive partners in such irregular liaisons. Males thrust upward, rising from
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20 one rung in the Chain of Being to penetrate into the higher zones. In such
a way were fantasy and fear opposed to everyday evidence, which detailed PgEnds: T
22 liaisons between white slave owners and overseers and their female slaves.
23 If we combine representations concerning intercourse between members [40], (21
24 of different species with images of genital anomaly, we can understand
25 something of the climate that the “peculiar institution,” slavery, created.
26 Scientific polygenism, as opposed to the folk myths that sustained it, had
27 little appeal in the antebellum South until the last decade before the Civil
28 War, when it finally attained popularity. The reason was the antireligious
29 rhetoric of some of its advocates. In Europe the popularity of polygenism
30 reached its peak in the s. Even so, monogenism remained the domi-
31 nant position. It is left to us to stress that polygenism was merely one end
32 of the spectrum of intolerance, the most consistent expression of hierar-
33 chical views, which either affirmed a “natural” oligarchy or sought exclu-
34 sions from Enlightenment or post-Enlightenment “fraternity.” The reader
35 of many monogenist writers such as Buffon, Soemmering, and Samuel Stan-
36 hope Smith finds their work replete with deprecations of non-European
37 morality or intelligence. However, there were some such as Blumenbach and
38 the English physician James Cowles Prichard who believed in “the natural
39 equality of the African Negro and the European” (Prichard , vol. :–

        

1 ). Whether monogenist or polygenist, the new raciology tended to as-
2 sume that most of culture – performances as well as ideas – had a “natural,”
3 physical root that could be explained by the new secular biology.
4 It is true that the victory of Darwinism spelled the end of the debate
5 between the monogenists and polygenists, inasmuch as the common de-
6 scent of humanity from an apelike creature gained scientific and popular
7 credence. However, racialist views of the intelligence, morality, and sex-
8 uality of nonwhites flourished. Darwinian chronology allowed an ample
9 time span for substantial differentiation. This allowed ideas of radical differ-
10 ence to persist in the new evolutionary social anthropology, although social
11 evolutionists were much less obsessed with correlations between culture,
12 morality, intelligence, and physical type.
13 [41], (22)
  
Lines: 191 to
16 There is a palpable correspondence between the three images of “primitive
17 sexuality” we outlined at the beginning of this chapter and the historical ———
18 facts related to miscegenation. These images are linked to stereotypical rep- 6.5pt PgV
19 resentations that we conventionally describe as noble or ignoble savagery.
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20 In turn, all of these factors have an explanation in comparative political
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21 economy.
22 In South and Central America and Polynesia representations of noble
23 savagery predominate at times of first contact, when little attempt has been [41], (22)
24 made to integrate the newly discovered Other into the Western economic
25 system. This was true of Hispaniola, when Columbus met the Caribs, and of
26 Tahiti in the time of Cook and Bougainville. If the Tahitians were oversexed,
27 their indulgence was “natural,” their social world a Utopia for the delight of
28 European eyes and bodies. We have noted that Cook himself was less naive
29 and that Forster was positively puritanical.
30 Different Amerindian groups have represented noble or ignoble savagery
31 for different peoples at different times. Elements of both representations
32 are to be found in depictions of northeastern groups such as the Iroquois –
33 undersexed, brave, somewhat sadistic, but honorable. 5 The romantic image
34 of northeastern Amerindians (e.g., James Fenimore Cooper’s Chingach-
35 gook) was revived after any military threat disappeared. We have noted that
36 attitudes toward miscegenation were not entirely negative. Despite trading
37 contacts, wars, and military alliances, Amerindians tended to remain at
38 the periphery of the North American economic system (which does not
39 mean that some, e.g., those who traded furs, were not part of it). Perhaps

        

1 a critical development was the failure of Europeans forcefully to integrate
2 Amerindian groups in North America into a caste or class system of the type
3 found in the southern plantations. South America is a more complicated
4 case, but postcontact developments do not play a significant role in the
5 literature we are considering.
6 While it may well be true, as Jordan () suggested, that negative images
7 of Africa preceded the slave trade, the elaboration of the whole complex
8 of ideas about sexuality and miscegenation owes everything to the transat-
9 lantic traffic and the plantation economy. African culture and African peo-
10 ples were usually portrayed harshly. The Africans were deemed the most
11 ignoble of savages. 6 It was precisely the integration of Africans as slaves
12 to European households, their intimate propinquity, and the frequency of
13 sexual relations between masters and slave mistresses that made the drawing [42], (23
14 of social or sexual boundaries a necessary operation. It did not suffice to
15 place Africans at the lowest rung of the human hierarchy; rather, they were
Lines: 202
16 placed one rung beneath it so that undesired sexual contact (i.e., between
17 black males and white females) became bestiality. The viability of the“mixed ———
18 breeds” created by sexual contact was not acknowledged lest they threaten 0.0pt P
19 the hierarchical principle. Surely there were, as Genovese has observed, cases
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20 where the white male and his black mistress loved each other and cared for
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21 their family (:). This could not be acknowledged by the defenders of
22 racial separation. Surely there were countless black families who successfully
23 resisted white sexual aggression; this too would not have accorded with [42], (23
24 racialist stereotypes.
25 It is rather surprising that the reverse stereotype, the noble savage, was
26 rarely developed with respect to Africans. There was a tradition of roman-
27 tic, antislavery fiction, beginning with Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko in the mid–
28 th century, in which some Africans are portrayed as noble. Dykes ()
29 traced this tradition from Behn’s time until the end of the th century. The
30 chivalrous hero of Behn’s fiction is particularly solicitous of the needs of
31 his beloved. However, Behn contrasts his noble features (his nose, mouth,
32 and lips) with those of other Africans. As Gallagher remarks, Behn por-
33 trays Oroonoko as a wonder because “blackness and heroism are normally
34 thought to be mutually exclusive qualities” (:). Unlike the Amerindi-
35 ans of Surinam, where Oroonoko and his beloved, Imoinda, are exiled as
36 slaves, normal Africans are presumably savage but not noble. “The reader is
37 frequently invited to marvel that Oroonoko, although black, behaves like a
38 conventional European tragic hero” (Gallagher :).
39 Now that we have outlined our contrasting images of sexual alterity, we

        

1 must consider how they were employed implicitly or explicitly to demarcate
2 and rationalize gender and class images at home. Then we can see how
3 disputed terrains of gender and class in Victorian and post-Victorian society
4 may have been projected in anthropologists’ representations of the sexuality
5 of others and how such representations, in their turn, were instilled into
6 Victorian debates about sexuality, gender, and class.
7 A strong linkage between th-century ideas concerning sexuality at the
8 colonial periphery and gender relations in the metropolis has been asserted
9 by some prominent recent writers (Gilman :–; Levy ). The
10 stagnant, fetid, plague-ridden tropics were equated by hygienists such as
11 Southwood Smith with the crowded, filthy tenements of the London poor:
12 “The room of a fever patient, in a small and heated apartment of London,
13 with no perflation of fresh air, is perfectly analogous to a stagnant pool in [43], (24)
14 Ethiopia full of the bodies of dead locusts” (Southwood Smith  in Mort
15 :). According to Frank Mort, many saw a link between incest and
Lines: 208 to
16 other perversions and the tropical-like miasmas they associated with slum
17 dwellings: “ ‘Ethiopia,’ like the culture of the urban poor and especially the ———
18 Irish, signified the animalism and lack of civilization which was in danger of 0.0pt PgV
19 pulling the whole of civilized society back into the abyss” (:). Percep-
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20 tions such as these were utilized by advocates of public sanitation and state
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21 regulation in the United Kingdom. The coincidence of humoral pathology
22 as manifested in “noxious miasmas,” tropical disease, and supposedly low
23 morality provided a rationale for the work of missionaries such as Robert [43], (24)
24 Moffat, David Livingstone, and their successors who wished to regulate and
25 clothe African bodies and “save” African souls (Comaroff and Comaroff
26 :–).
27 Sexual excess had long been associated with tropical environments. This
28 was a mainstay of Enlightenment environmentalism. In terms of the dis-
29 courses we have already examined such excess might result either from
30 the action of environmental stimuli on uniform human nature or, alterna-
31 tively, from predetermined and primordial racial difference. The equation
32 between the oversexed, tropical primitive and the underclass of industrial
33 Europe was diffuse and unsystematic. It consisted of a parallelism in so-
34 cial hierarchy, the use of metaphor and allusion, implicit understandings,
35 pictorial representations; perhaps all of this is not enough to justify post-
36 modern critics’ assertions. However, Anita Levy in Other Women has drawn
37 our attention to a cross-cultural analysis of marriage and sexual customs
38 contained in volume  of Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London
39 Poor, which, she argues, transferred “a notion of female sexual deviance

        

1 to the urban working classes as a whole” and, furthermore, provided “a
2 model for all anthropological procedures, which . . . universalized a class-
3 and culture-specific notion of the family on the basis of deviant sexuality”
4 (:). The picture is a little more complex than Levy suggests, because
5 Mayhew and his coauthors are somewhat kinder to the poor women of
6 London than to any primitives. Certainly, for our purposes volume  of
7 Mayhew’s work is of the utmost significance, both for what it says and what
8 it does not say.
9 Mayhew’s articles on the London poor first appeared in the Morning
10 Chronicle in  (Neuburg ). A two-volume edition of London Labour
11 and the London Poor appeared in ; the four-volume edition appeared
12 in –. The first three volumes of the book contain vivid descriptions
13 of traders, workers, children, entertainers, vagrants, cab drivers, and street [44], (25
14 cleaners. This is a panoply of social action, and the actors are given voice
15 and often credited with all the agency they are capable of. The performer
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16 of Punch and Judy, Jewish street merchants, and the costermonger’s wife
17 address the reader directly. The middle-class readers of Mayhew may have ———
18 learned for the first time how the other half lived. Volume  is entitled Those 0.0pt P
19 That Will Not Work. Its subject is “vice,” as typified by thieves, swindlers,
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20 beggars, and prostitutes. It is the last of these that receives the most attention
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21 in the concluding volume of Mayhew’s “Natural History of the London
22 Poor.” The actual section on prostitution in London was written not by
23 Mayhew but by his collaborator, Bracebridge Hemyng, who was a barrister [44], (25
24 and novelist. Hemyng and Mayhew appear to have collaborated on a -
25 page section on marriage and sexual practices in ancient Greece and Rome,
26 the“barbarous nations”of Africa, Australia, the Americas, and Polynesia, the
27 “semi-civilized” nations of Asia, and some northern European cultures. Al-
28 though the work was written before most of the great works of evolutionary
29 social anthropology appeared, the order of treatment roughly corresponds
30 to the evolutionary hierarchies of the late th century. The images of al-
31 ternative modes of sexuality and marriage are evidence of the strength of
32 cultural and racial stereotypes. There are more than  sources cited in this
33 catalog of alien practices. Most of them are accounts written by well-known
34 travelers and explorers (e.g., John Barrow, George Catlin, Herman Melville,
35 Edward Eyre).
36 In other words, Mayhew and Hemyng offer the modern reader a valu-
37 able review of British beliefs and “knowledge” concerning alien sexuality
38 in the mid–th century. Two salient facts about this discourse command
39 our attention. Hemyng and Mayhew equate virtually every variation from

        

1 mid-Victorian middle-class norms with prostitution – premarital sex and
2 adultery as well as all sexual transactions with a material component are
3 equated with the familiar “social evil.” Second, the decision to include such
4 a section is remarkable. Such use of the comparative method was not found
5 necessary in the discussions of beggars and thieves, of entertainers and street
6 traders. A certain section of the poor is uniquely associated with primitivity,
7 to wit, the prostitutes and those who profited from them.
8 Two of the three images of primitive sexuality that we previously out-
9 lined are recapitulated by Mayhew and Hemyng, namely, the oversexed
10 African (and Australian Aborigine) and the undersexed North American
11 Native. The third image, the Polynesian paradise, is transmuted into the
12 first. The antisensualist perspective typical of many mid-Victorian“progres-
13 sives” (Mason ) did not accommodate any Tahitian utopia. According to [45], (26)
14 Mayhew and Hemyng,“The hordes of Western Africa are the most gross and
15 ferocious of savages, and their women are treated as reptiles” (Mayhew –
Lines: 216 to
16 :). Matters do not necessarily improve when one ventures farther east.
17 The female monkeys of Khartoum enjoyed “a far nobler and more natural ———
18 position” than the women (Mayhew –:). While the customs of the 0.0pt PgV
19 continent were not uniform, there was said to be an alternation between
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20 extreme patriarchal control and depravity. African patriarchy indicated the
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21 lack of respect shown by African males for their females, which was con-
22 nected with their fear of the lasciviousness that might be unleashed were
23 controls to be relaxed. In other words, Mayhew and Hemyng saw a link [45], (26)
24 between female morality and men’s treatment of women, and they believed
25 that African cultures were at the bottom of the moral scale.
26 The Australian Aborigines were described as almost totally lacking in sex-
27 ual morality. Women were brutalized. Despite the free-for-all, male jealousy
28 was rampant. Indeed, the Australians were so primitive that prostitution
29 had not made its appearance as a discriminable institution: “Of prostitutes
30 as a class among the natives themselves, it is impossible to speak separately;
31 for prostitution of that kind implies some advance towards the forms of
32 regular society, and little of this appears yet to be made in that region. From
33 the sketch we have given, however, a general idea may be gained of the state
34 of women and the estimation of virtue among a race second only to the
35 lowest tribes of Africa in barbarity and degradation” (Mayhew –:).
36 The reign of debauchery also extended to Mayhew and Hemyng’s picture
37 of the South American continent, with rare exceptions such as the Abri-
38 fone of Paraguay. The indigenous people of South America were usually
39 described as naked and depraved. The men lay in hammocks while their

        

1 womenfolk suffered lives of “privation and labour.” However, the women
2 were a happier and more buoyant lot than their counterparts, “the squaws
3 of North America,” because “their spirit yields willingly to the yoke, which
4 consequently does not pain them” (Mayhew –:).
5 As we have mentioned, Mayhew and Hemyng’s assessment of the sexual
6 morality of North American Native peoples reflects the widespread idea that
7 aboriginal North America was a region uniquely lacking in lust, though they
8 are careful to draw a distinction “between the Indian of the seaport town
9 corrupted in the dram-shop and the Indian of the woods, displaying the
10 original characteristics of his race.” Of the latter type of Native male they
11 say: “He never, at any period of his history, condescended to voluptuous-
12 ness. His sense of manly pride prevented him from becoming immodest
13 or indecent. This feeling at the same time inspired him with the idea that [46], (27
14 everything except the hunt and the warpath was below the dignity of man.
15 The sentiments, therefore, which saved the female sex from becoming the
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16 mere food of lust, consigned it to an inferior position. The Indian women
17 formed the labouring class. . . . The wife is . . . her husband’s slave” (May- ———
18 hew –:). 0.0pt P
19 Although Mayhew and Hemyng state that “no race is more peculiar than
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20 the North American Indian” (–:), the above remarks would seem
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21 to ground the perceived lack of licentiousness in cultural definitions of
22 manliness rather than in racial characteristics. Because no mention is made
23 of the berdache tradition, one of the major sources of “evidence” that led [46], (27
24 some earlier writers to see North American aboriginals as physiologically
25 undersexed was absent from Mayhew and Hemyng’s recension. In general,
26 they do not discuss physical characteristics such as distribution of body
27 and facial hair. In keeping with their portrayal of the cultural shaping of
28 North American sexuality, they suggest that among most groups chastity
29 is valued not as a good in itself but rather as a “test of Spartan endurance”
30 (Mayhew –:). They attribute to the North American Native a strong
31 capacity for love but note that “with the Indian chief strong love is not
32 inconsistent with his walking in lordly indolence along the forest path while
33 she is bearing the heavy wigwam poles behind” (Mayhew –:). They
34 view at least some of the effects of European conquest of North America
35 as negative, noting that in Canada, “particularly in areas dominated by the
36 Hudson’s Bay Company, Indians have learned European vices, and venereal
37 disease and prostitution are rampant” (Mayhew –:).
38 Concerning Polynesia, where sexuality attracted so much European con-
39 templation, Mayhew and Hemyng recorded mixed assessments. The uncon-

        

1 verted Maori of New Zealand were relatively elevated in the moral scale. In
2 Mayhew’s ironic estimation they had attained an “advance in profligacy”
3 that made them the moral equals of the most backward European peasants:
Their immorality is on a plan, and recognised in that unwritten social
law which among barbarians remedies the want of a written code. It
is not the beastly lust of the savage, who appears merely obedient to
an animal instinct, against which there is no principle of morals or
sentiment of decency to contend; – it is the appetite of the sensualist,
deliberately gratified, and by means similar in many respects, to those
adopted among the lowest classes in Europe. We may, indeed, compare
the Maori village, unsubjected to missionary influence, with some of
the hamlets in our rural provinces, where moral education of every [47], (28)
kind is equally an exile. (–:)
15 An example of that “unwritten social law” was the custom known as tapu:
Lines: 228 to
16 “Tyrone Power, in his observations on the immorality prevalent in New
17 Zealand, remarks that some of the young girls, betrothed from an early age, ———
18 are tapu, and thus preserved chaste. He regrets that this superstition is not 0.0pt PgV
19 more influential, since it would check the system of almost universal and
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20 indiscriminate prostitution, which prevails among those not subject to this
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21 rite” (Mayhew –:).
22 As we have already remarked, Mayhew and Hemyng’s Tahiti was the an-
23 tithesis of Diderot’s. There were a number of reasons for this shift. Con- [47], (28)
24 ditions in Tahiti had changed in the interim. The form of the account is
25 less overtly fictional, and the Victorians award a minus grade where their
26 Enlightenment predecessor awarded a plus: “In few parts of the world could
27 be discovered a more corrupt system of manners, a more complete ab-
28 sence of morals, than in Tahiti” (Mayhew –:). The authors acknowl-
29 edged that Tahitian custom had altered as a result of missionization. On
30 balance, they felt that the missionaries had had a positive effect (Mayhew
31 –:).
32 In view of the recent controversy surrounding Derek Freeman’s book
33 on Margaret Mead and Samoa it is most interesting to read that Mayhew
34 and Hemyng approved of the morality of the Samoans. Indeed, their most
35 negative remarks refer to transactions between Samoans and Europeans:
36 “Altogether their morals are of a superior order; and their libertine disposi-
37 tion exercises itself chiefly in the performance of lascivious dances. Every-
38 where, however, in these seas, except where the power of the missionaries
39 is supreme, the whaling ships, on arriving at a port, attract numbers of

        

1 prostitutes, who offer themselves to the sailors at various prices” (Mayhew
2 –:–).
3 Among a number of cultures that Mayhew and Hemyng label “semi-
4 civilized,” India was one that figured importantly in subsequent debates
5 about sex, race, and imperium. While they expressed negative opinions
6 on the effects of Europeans on the morals of Native Americans and some
7 Polynesians, Mayhew and Hemyng were confident that British rule had had
8 a “wonderful” effect upon morality in India (Mayhew –:). 7 On the
9 whole, they believed that Hindu women had high status, lowered somewhat
10 owing to Moslem influence. Concerning Bengal they wrote: “The timid
11 effeminate Bengalee appears to be a sensual character and regards his wife
12 as little more than the instrument of his pleasure. A better state of things is
13 now beginning to prevail there, in consequence of the efforts made by the [48], (29
14 Company” (Mayhew –:).
15 One tendency of Mayhew and Hemyng’s writing that is especially evident
Lines: 238
16 in their treatment of India is that they equate “good” morals with high status
17 for women. This is a tendency that can be found in the work of many th- ———
18 century scholars. It supported women’s entitlement to better treatment and 0.0pt P
19 assured readers that women in countries like England already had much
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20 to be satisfied about in comparison with others. Mayhew and Hemyng cite
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21 the abolition of suttee as “one among the innumerable blessings achieved
22 for that region by the Company’s administration” (Mayhew –:).
23 Considerable sensational detail about suttee is provided, including accounts [48], (29
24 of young children and -year-old women being thrown into the flames.
25 “What ‘Aborigines’ Protection Society’ can regret the revolution which has
26 given India into the hands of England?” (Mayhew –:). Female in-
27 fanticide is also commented upon in some detail and its abolition credited
28 to the Raj.
29 Child marriage is said to encourage prostitution, especially temple pros-
30 titution, because men were less likely to love wives acquired in this way
31 (Mayhew –:). This connection between prostitution and a lack of
32 desire of men toward their wives is a theme that, we shall see, was very
33 much in evidence later in the th century, though little else is said about
34 it in Mayhew’s work. Mayhew and Hemyng offer a long account of temple
35 prostitution and dancer–prostitutes, and, here again, the British are credited
36 with the decline of an institution the authors find undesirable (Mayhew
37 –:).
38 An alleged connection between the instillation of a work ethic and a
39 decline in immorality in India is worthy of note, as the connection between

        

1 willingness to work and other moral issues is an important theme in Lon-
2 don Labour and the London Poor: “This decency of public manners appears
3 of recent introduction, which is indeed a reasonable supposition, for the
4 people have now aims in life, which they never enjoyed in security under
5 their former rulers. It was for the interest of the princes that their subjects
6 should be indolent and sensual. It is for the interest of the new government
7 that they should be industrious and moral. Great efforts have been made
8 with this object, and much good has resulted” (Mayhew –:).
9 The relationship between lack of thrift and a deficient work ethic as char-
10 acteristics of British prostitutes is mentioned by Hemyng in several contexts,
11 although the subordinate position of lower-class women is also treated as
12 a major factor. The general status of women, the significance of women’s
13 work, and the lure of money to be spent on ornament and amusement all [49], (30)
14 figure in Hemyng’s portrayal of prostitution as a social fact; variants of these
15 themes have all figured in his treatment of foreign sexuality.
Lines: 246 to
16 Anita Levy argues that Mayhew (actually Hemyng) dismisses all women
17 who are engaged in working-class occupations as prostitutes and, in general, ———
18 portrays London Labour and the London Poor as an example of a Victo- 0.0pt PgV
19 rian tendency, exhibited by anthropologists and social reformers alike, to
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20 see a fairly straightforward continuum, if not equivalence, between savage
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21 women, prostitutes, and working-class women in general (:–). In
22 fact, we have seen that although Mayhew and Hemyng’s treatment of other
23 cultures fell within these broad demarcations, their portrayals were some- [49], (30)
24 what more textured. The same might be said for Hemyng’s treatment of
25 domestic prostitutes. While he suggests that factory workers, entertainers,
26 and domestic servants were prone to prostitution, as were married women
27 who needed money to supplement their husbands’ wages, he does not im-
28 ply that all women in these categories were prostitutes. As with primitives,
29 however, the definitional boundaries of London “prostitution” are flexible
30 and seem to include all sex out of wedlock where any form of compensation,
31 including food, drink, or entertainment, is received.
32 The causes of prostitution listed by Hemyng reflect both sympathy for
33 women who “fall” and criticism of their temperaments. Cultural and eco-
34 nomic considerations mingle in descriptions of the context of female degra-
35 dation. Prostitutes are said to be created by () low wages inadequate to the
36 women’s subsistence; () natural levity and the example around them; ()
37 love of dress and display, coupled with the desire for a sweetheart; () seden-
38 tary employment and want of proper exercise; () low and cheap literature
39 of an immoral tendency; and () absence of parental care and the incul-

        

1 cation of proper precepts (Mayhew –:). These elements might be
2 said to constitute the main parameters of Victorian debates on prostitution.
3 Insofar as Victorian representations of prostitutes, like those encountered in
4 London Labour and the London Poor, displayed aspects of underdeveloped
5 morality entwined with suggestions of environmental deprivation, they re-
6 flected much of the growing discussion about savages in which condemna-
7 tion, sympathy, and hopes for improvement could all be found, though not
8 necessarily in the same places.
9 Hemyng was not insensitive to the effects of the double standard in de-
10 scribing the context of prostitution and not unsympathetic to women. Of
11 maidservants, for example, he said that they “live well, have no care or anx- [Last Pag
12 iety, no character worth speaking about to lose . . . are fond of dress, and
13 under these circumstances it cannot be wondered that they are as a body [50], (31
14 immoral and unchaste” (Mayhew –:). On the other hand, Hemyng
15 is also compassionate concerning the poor treatment serving maids receive
Lines: 252
16 and blames some of their susceptibility to prostitution on their seduction
17 by “men of the family, soldiers, shopmen and policemen.” Moreover, he says ———
18 that they are badly looked after by their mistresses, who are, however, quick 26.0pt
19 to turn them out without notice for their lapses. He also speaks rather sar-
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20 castically about their “munificent” wages of eight pounds a year, including
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21 board and lodging (Mayhew –:).
22 Hemyng is particularly sensitive to the plight of women whose ruin be-
23 gins with a single lapse from chastity. One pathetic story concerns a curate’s [50], (31
24 daughter who was seduced by the debauched son of a family for whom
25 she worked as a governess. After he killed himself because of gambling
26 debts, she felt that she might still have been forgiven had she returned home
27 but was again seduced by a soldier friend of his. She ended her days as a
28 syphilitic, drunken streetwalker, plying her trade by night in a park, wearing
29 a veil to hide her facial disfigurement (Mayhew –:–). On the
30 whole, Hemyng tends to be more condemnatory of the people who live
31 off prostitutes and of middle- and upper-class male debauchery than of
32 the prostitutes themselves. Issues of class, gender, disease, and the sexual
33 secrets of “respectable” men touched several raw nerves for the Victorians,
34 giving urgency to discourses, from the scholarly book to the music hall lyric,
35 that threatened to expose them. It was in this context that the sexuality of
36 primitives became a foil for debates that had their origin much closer to
37 home.

        

4  
7 Sex and the Refuge for Destitute Truth
11 [First Page]
12 Our object of study being  in all his relations, physical, moral, psychical, and
13 [51], (1)
social, it is impossible to treat the subject adequately without offending in general
the mauvaise honte, the false delicacy, and the ingrained prejudices of the age.
Without some such refuge for Destitute Truth as the rooms of the Anthropological Lines: 0 to 2
17 Society, we should find it equally difficult to relate and to publish facts. ———
18 Sir Richard F. Burton, “Notes on Certain Matters Connected with the Dahoman”
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21 he strange career of Sir Richard Burton, to which we shall devote
22 some attention, must surely caution us about any easy generaliza-
23 tions concerning Victorian society. Sexuality and gender were top- [51], (1)
24 ics of debate and contestation throughout the period. However, it would
25 be unwise to deny that those debates reveal the power exercised by “Mrs.
26 Grundy” as well as the good queen herself.
27 In a recent volume Michael Mason has reminded us that the deprecatory
28 use of the term Victorian originates in the writings of H. G. Wells, Lytton
29 Strachey, and (to a degree) Edmund Gosse and that the consequent stereo-
30 type has inevitably diminished our understanding of a period that produced
31 many rebels and critics (:–). Furthermore, he has stressed that, con-
32 trary to received popular belief, some of the more progressive forces of the
33 era were on Mrs. Grundy’s side, including some secularists who otherwise
34 opposed Victorian religiosity.
35 In some measure the work of Mayhew and Hemyng that we considered in
36 the last chapter illustrates the cogency of Mason’s argument. It is obviously
37 “Victorian” in its morality. Nonetheless, the discussion of prostitution is not
38 devoid of sympathy, nor is it totally lacking in prurience. It is a work of
39 journalism and is commonly said to be a founding work of social science.
1 It is an exemplary illustration of Michel Foucault’s most compelling argu-
2 ment: rather than simply repressing sexual discourse, as the bourgeois so-
3 ciety that succeeded the great th-century revolutions is supposed to have
4 done, various agencies of th-century society required that a great deal of
5 sexual information be made public. Public disclosure was required not only
6 in order to bring the sexual behavior of women, children, patients, church
7 members, and private citizens under the control of agents of authority (hus-
8 bands, doctors, teachers, courts, etc.) but also to aid in the legitimation of
9 that authority by providing, as a major justification of the hierarchy upon
10 which it was based, evidence of a dangerous sexual depravity among the
11 lower ranks (Foucault ). Granted, there was reticence about sex in some
12 quarters, but it coexisted with noisy (Foucault would argue compulsory)
13 discourse in others. There were indeed newlywed brides who were ignorant [52], (2)
14 of basic physiology, while in both Britain and the United States there were a
15 number of publications about the dangers of masturbation and how to pre-
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16 vent it (see Barker-Benfield :–). However, the tracts that warned
17 against unsanctioned forms of sexuality by their very nature required some ———
18 discussion of the topic. 0.0pt P
19 In this chapter we discuss a variety of anthropological writings that ap-
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20 peared between the years  and . It is our contention that these
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21 writings do not fail to reflect the social debates and issues of the time. These
22 included the controversial Contagious Diseases Acts passed between 
23 and , which empowered authorities in port towns to inspect prostitutes [52], (2)
24 for venereal disease and to confine noncompliant women in lock hospitals.1
25 This body of legislation did not address the responsibilities of the prosti-
26 tutes’ clients and was seen by Victorian feminist critics such as Josephine
27 Butler as a reinforcement of the double standard. Coventry Patmore’s fa-
28 mous paean to the “angel in the house,” the sequestered, pampered, but
29 disempowered middle-class antithesis of the “madwoman in the attic” and
30 the “woman of the streets,” was written in the s. In the late s a sex
31 scandal led to the fall of Sir Charles Dilke, a prominent British politician.
32 Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant faced prosecution in  for pub-
33 lishing Charles Knowlton’s  pamphlet, The Fruits of Philosophy, which
34 advocated barrier methods of contraception – condom, sponge, pessary,
35 and so forth.
36 Despite such legal interference, contraceptive knowledge began to spread
37 to all classes. In the s a furor erupted over the white slave trade. Scandal
38 also ensued from a police raid on a homosexual bordello in Cleveland Street
39 that was frequented by a number of aristocrats, including, so rumor had

       

1 it, a member of the royal family. The “moral panic” led to the passing of
2 the Criminal Law Amendment Act in , which endeavored to tighten
3 controls over prostitution and which also contained new provisions, less
4 draconian and, for that reason, perhaps more enforceable, against homosex-
5 uality between consenting adults. It was this legislation that was to be used
6 against Oscar Wilde. A leading participant in the debate over the white slave
7 trade was W. T. Stead, the influential and self-publicizing editor of the Pall
8 Mall Gazette. Stead obtained the services of an adolescent girl by paying off
9 her mother, shipped her to France, and published a pamphlet, The Maiden
10 Tribute of Modern Babylon, to show how easy it was to export British virgins
11 to sinister foreign places. Stead was supported by some feminists and Evan-
12 gelical Christians and opposed both by those who disliked the brashness
13 and frankness of his journalism and by many who quite simply opposed [53], (3)
14 kidnapping, even if carried out in the service of higher moral interests. He
15 was prosecuted and briefly imprisoned. Subsequently, Stead condemned
Lines: 27 to
16 the abuse of human rights by King Leopold in the Congo Free State and
17 campaigned for several other causes, including marine safety. He drowned ———
18 when the Titanic went down. 0.0pt PgV
19 As the controversy over Stead raged on, Captain Burton’s privately pub-
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20 lished and unexpurgated translation of the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments
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21 (The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night) came into print. (Ten vol-
22 umes containing the , tales appeared between  and , and six
23 additional volumes of Supplemental Nights were published between  [53], (3)
24 and .) Perhaps because of the price of the volumes and the expecta-
25 tion of restricted circulation, only , copies were printed. Although the
26 volumes contained vivid accounts of imaginary sexual encounters of all
27 possible kinds, and the long section IV:D in the “Terminal Essay” in volume
28  consisted of a protracted survey of the nature and distribution of male
29 homosexual practices, Burton was never prosecuted, though he and his wife
30 feared he might be. These fears are evidenced in a series of newspaper clip-
31 pings about such prosecutions that Burton pasted in his own copies of the
32 Arabian Nights, which are now shelved in the Huntington Library. In fact,
33 he was to receive his knighthood in , the year following the publication
34 of the first volumes of the Arabian Nights. Burton’s fears were not without
35 justification. Through the efforts of the National Vigilance Association and
36 its supporters, including W. T. Stead, Henry Vizetelly was successfully pros-
37 ecuted in  for publishing a translation of Émile Zola’s La Terre, which
38 was deemed to be an “obscene libel.”
39 Underlying all these events was a fundamental question concerning the

       

1 balance of power in the Victorian family. The argument that was reflected
2 in the Contagious Diseases Acts was that the monogamous Christian family
3 was the preferable social form. Middle-class women were to be protected
4 from a wicked world and their “baser instincts,” and their future husbands
5 were not to contract “the great scourge.” However, as Mason () ob-
6 serves, the Victorian idea of marriage did not exclude sexual pleasure within
7 that union. Bachelors, moreover, unlike unmarried females, could not be
8 expected to be chaste, although the influential physician William Acton
9 advocated the avoidance of such premarital fantasies as might lead to sex.
10 Prostitution was an unavoidable fact. The law could not prevent it, but its
11 promulgators did hope to curb the threat to the health and welfare of British
12 soldiers and sailors by controlling the bodies of the prostitutes.
13 The opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, which became the social [54], (4)
14 purity movement, involved an alliance between Evangelical Christians, pro-
15 gressives, and feminists. (Butler and Stead fit all these descriptions.) This
Lines: 31
16 coalition argued that male liberties restricted women’s safety and bodily
17 integrity (see Walkowitz ; Kent ). Such critics considered Victorian ———
18 sexual and marital institutions to be hypocritical at best. One might say 0.0pt P
19 that in a sense they considered them inadequately “Victorian,” but their
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20 agenda challenged some of the emerging forms of control rather than sim-
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21 ply demanding the suppression of impolite discourse. Butler was particu-
22 larly scandalized by compulsory examinations of alleged prostitutes with a
23 new gynecological instrument, the speculum, a procedure she characterized [54], (4)
24 as an especially brutal variety of rape (Walkowitz :). She repeatedly
25 encouraged middle-class women to join forces with their working-class sis-
26 ters to resist such abuses.
27 If one set of radicals criticized Victorian sexuality because it hypocriti-
28 cally oppressed women, another influential group criticized it because it un-
29 realistically restricted the sexual activity of men and imposed limits on the
30 discussion of sexuality. Burton clearly belongs to this group; indeed, he was
31 its most articulate spokesman. In other words, there were radical “men’s”
32 and radical “women’s stories” and they frequently contradicted one another.
33 The picture is, in fact, a fairly complicated one. Opposition to Evangelical
34 Christianity sometimes united male sexual libertarians with defenders of
35 slavery and racial inferiority. There were feminist sexual libertarians such
36 as Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s daughter, who translated Zola, as well as the
37 indefatigable Besant. There were alliances between ostensibly heterosexual
38 advocates of sexual freedom such as Burton and closeted homosexuals such
39 as J. A. Symonds.

       

1 If there was indeed a plethora of discourses, there were clearly rules as
2 to where, with whom, at what time, and through what medium one could
3 conduct any one of them: “Where and when it was not possible to talk about
4 such things became more strictly defined; in which circumstances, among
5 which speakers, and within which social relationships” (Foucault :).
6 Some topics could be discussed in mixed company in the drawing room
7 and addressed to a mixed audience in the form of fiction. Other topics
8 could be addressed in serious monographs, and the “naughty bits” could be
9 rendered in Latin, of which the masses could be presumed to be ignorant.
10 The exclusively male world of the men’s club and the usually exclusive world
11 of the learned society constituted another kind of forum. And there was
12 also the world of pornography, which, as we shall see, was not always fully
13 distinct from all the other genres of expression. [55], (5)
14 The anthropological discussion of sexuality in mid-Victorian society fol-
15 lowed precisely such a set of rules. Because the discourse often excluded
Lines: 39 to
16 women (in some cases intentionally) it privileged the discussion of male
17 rather than female sexual concerns. Indeed, the conversations themselves ———
18 sometimes served as a validation of manhood. At this critical period when 0.0pt PgV
19 the roots of institutional anthropology were planted and an influential body
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20 of evolutionary theory was published, the nascent discipline was involved
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21 in not one but several discourses on sexuality. The discussions concerning
22 primitive promiscuity, matriliny or matriarchy, and marriage by capture
23 in which John F. McLennan, Lewis Henry Morgan, Sir John Lubbock, and [55], (5)
24 Johann Jakob Bachofen were involved are marked by a degree of reticence,
25 indeed prudery, over sexual matters. There is an absence of explicit reference
26 to genital sexuality; much is left to the imagination. The works of these
27 authors were intended for a general but largely male scholarly readership.
28 In the Anthropological Society of London (), whose founders left the
29 Ethnological Society in  because the latter wished to admit women,
30 members preferred that, “in the consideration of the subject, a spade is
31 called a spade, and not a rake or hoe” (Sellon –:). When the men
32 of this learned society were not discussing the virtues of the proslavery po-
33 sition in the United States or the connection of race and language, they had
34 time on their hands to discuss the significance of phallic worship. (The 
35 is discussed in Lyons :–; Stocking ; Burrow ; and below.)
36 In all such discussions the “Other” or the “primitive” is conscripted in
37 the service of pressing contemporary concerns, whether or not that con-
38 scription is expressly acknowledged. As one of us has remarked concern-
39 ing both the Victorian anthropologists and some of their successors: “One

       

1 position, however, dominates anthropological discussions of sexuality. A
2 truly instinctive sexual response, whether desired or deplored, is relatively
3 absent from the bedrooms of modern Europe. One must seek (or avoid) it
4 elsewhere. Science may be employed both to find it and to keep it at a safe
5 distance” (Lyons :).
      
9 In The Other Victorians Steven Marcus makes some interesting remarks
10 about nonfictional Victorian pornography: “By the mid-Victorian period
11 the pornographic scene had established itself in very much the same modes,
12 categories, and varieties as exist today. Alongside of works which fumbled
13 toward a scientific account of sexuality were grouped volumes describing [56], (6)
14 the ‘rites’ and ‘practices’ of certain curious sexual and religious cults, vol-
15 umes which purported to be anthropology of some kind, volumes of folklore,
Lines: 43
16 and a whole range of sex and marriage manuals of differing inflammatory
17 intensity but uniformly equal ineptitude and disingenuousness” (:, ———
18 emphasis added). 6.5pt P
19 The  had been established to discuss what purported to be “anthropol-
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20 ogy of some kind.” It was most certainly interested in curious rites and prac-
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21 tices of a religious and sexual nature. Most accounts of this rather diverse
22 body (e.g., Burrow ) have stressed its hard-line stance on racial issues.
23 Its founder, Dr. James Hunt, was a polygenist, a supporter of the defeated [56], (6)
24 American South, and a defender of Governor Edward John Eyre of Jamaica,
25 who suppressed a rebellion with much brutality. Not all members of the so-
26 ciety endorsed Hunt’s political and scientific credos, but a majority probably
27 did. Hunt firmly believed that physical type and culture were indissociable
28 and that anthropological science should be grounded in comparative racial
29 anatomy (see Lyons ).
30 Burton shared Hunt’s racial prejudices and his dislike of Christian phi-
31 lanthropists. He had another axe to grind against Mrs. Grundy and the
32 Evangelists of Exeter Hall. He wanted to be able to discuss sex with other
33 men in the absence of women. He was on leave from the diplomatic ser-
34 vice long enough to aid Hunt in establishing the , which he served as
35 vice president, but successive diplomatic postings in Fernando Póo, Brazil,
36 and Damascus prevented him from playing an active role. Dismayed by
37 the dissolution of the society after Hunt’s death at the end of the s (it
38 merged with the Ethnological Society to form the Anthropological Insti-
39 tute), Burton was briefly active in the new London Anthropological Society

       

1 in the s. This society quickly folded, presumably leaving no refuge for
2 destitute truth, no place to discuss topics such as phallic worship, which
3 occupied that uncertain boundary between some Victorian anthropology
4 and pornography.
5 Burton’s own contributions to this rather curious discourse included
6 a presentation to the Anthropological Society of London concerning clay
7 figures of the phallic deity Legba in Dahomey (Burton –, b):
8 “Among all barbarians whose primal want is progeny, we observe a greater
9 or less development of the Phallic worship.”2 A quarter of a century later he
10 contributed verse translations of Latin poems and verse inscriptions to Pri-
11 apeia. The volume was completed in the year of Burton’s death () and
12 bore only the name of Leonard Smithers, who did prose translations. Burton
13 was an unnamed coeditor and cotranslator. Isabel Burton, his widow, had [57], (7)
14 made attempts to stop publication of the volume.
15 Burton always claimed that his work was addressed to scholars. It is im-
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16 possible to know the precise motives of those who bought literature that
17 hovered around this uncertain boundary. Some small publishers and book- ———
18 stores still cater to both tastes. In  the bookseller John Camden Hotten 0.0pt PgV
19 of b Piccadilly reprinted one of the earliest works on phallic worship,
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20 Richard Payne Knight’s A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus (), to-
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21 gether with a recent work by a Thomas Wright of the British Archaeological
22 Society, On the Worship of the Generative Powers in the Middle Ages (Marcus
23 :–). Hotten also published Aphrodisiacs and Anti-Aphrodisiacs by [57], (7)
24 John Davenport, whom Marcus describes as a “semi-learned pornographic
25 hack” (:), and a collection of seven works allegedly assembled by the
26 historian Henry Buckle (Library Illustrative of Social Progress) dealing with
27 the topic of flagellation. If we peruse the pages of Ancient Symbol Worship:
28 The Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity by Hodder
29 Westropp and Charles Staniland Wake, which reproduced two papers de-
30 livered before the , we find a reference to Davenport (concerning phallic
31 worship) in the introduction by the editor, Alexander Wilder (:), a
32 reference to the well-known Payne Knight by Wake (:), and a reference
33 to the seven works on flagellation by Wilder (:). It should be noted that
34 neither Westropp nor Wake refers to Davenport or the Buckle collection,
35 though the editor does. We may presume, however, that both authors knew
36 for what readership their work was intended, even if they did not themselves
37 form part of it, and that the readership may have been more extensive than
38 Hunt’s motley crowd of “anthropologists.”
39 Phallic objects were appropriate weapons for bashing church-inspired

       

1 prudery, missionaries, and devout philanthropists. This was a time when
2 the new German biblical criticism was challenging literal interpretations of
3 the Bible. The challenge mounted by the  was surely much less subtle.
4 Capt. Edward Sellon, like Burton, was an Indian army veteran. His two
5 papers, “On the Phallic Worship of India” and “Sacti Puja, the Worship
6 of the Female Powers,” aroused much discussion. Sellon’s first paper dealt
7 with the worship of the lingam (combined “linga” and “yoni”) by various
8 Hindu sects in India. “It has been the practice of missionaries to burke the
9 question of linga puja, from a mistaken and false delicacy,” remarked the
10 author (Sellon –:). The paper contains, inter alia, an interesting
11 description of the idea of Sacti (generative force), an account of young
12 maidens rubbing themselves on the linga at village temples in order to
13 promote their own fertility, along with a description of Yonijas, Hindu sects [58], (8)
14 who chose to worship the yoni rather than the linga and lingam (see also
15 Sellon –:). Lastly, we find an amazing assertion that Old Testament
Lines: 58
16 Judaism, along with all other religions of the ancient world, was based on the
17 phallic cult: “The ark of the covenant, held so sacred by the Jews, contained ———
18 nothing more nor less than a Phallus, the ark being the type of the Angha 0.0pt P
19 or Yoni” (Sellon –:).
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20 Wake’s paper,“Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity,”
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21 contained a refutation of Richard Burton’s notion that phallic worship re-
22 flected the barbarian’s “primal want of progeny” (:). It was a more
23 sober attempt to seek out the social correlates of such phenomena within an [58], (8)
24 evolutionary context. Wake asserted that the roots of phallic worship lay in
25 awe at the mysterious and the unknown (:). Wake’s text deals at some
26 length with Indian and Egyptian religion but focuses mainly on the Old
27 Testament Hebrews. “Circumcision, at its inception, is a purely phallic rite,”
28 proclaimed Wake (:). It might be noted that G. Stanley Hall, whose
29 work on adolescence is given a brief negative mention by Margaret Mead in
30 Coming of Age in Samoa, also linked circumcision to phallic worship (,
31 vol. :–).
32 According to Wake, the myth of the Fall contained a number of phal-
33 lic and sexual symbols, including the phallic Tree of Life and the serpent.
34 The idea of original sin was a later interpolation, derived doubtless from
35 Mithraism, which opposed the spiritual and divine essence in the universe
36 to the material elements that always threatened to corrupt it. The Mithraic
37 notion of material corruption, of the tragedy of conception, is a major
38 element in Christianity, but phallic elements such as the symbols of the fish
39 and the cross and the notion of God the Father survive: “The fundamental

       

1 basis of Christianity is more purely ‘phallic’ than that of any other religion
2 now existing” (Wake :–).
3 In a later work, The Development of Marriage and Kinship (), Wake
4 had little to say about phallic worship as such but linked advanced forms of
5 monogamy to developed forms of ancestor worship. He believed that in the
6 future, the spiritual, chaste elements in Christianity, which had their roots
7 in the Aryan religions of Zoroaster and Mithras, would predominate over
8 the phallic elements and that the most advanced members of society would
9 elect a life of virginity (Wake :).
10 One suspects that the members of the  were little interested in a future
11 asexual paradise but that instead they were perhaps pleased to contemplate,
12 between pipes and glasses of port, the vision of beautiful Hindu maidens
13 prostrating themselves before a statue of an erect male organ. In fairness [59], (9)
14 to Sellon, Wake, and his collaborator, Westropp, we must observe that they
15 all noted that in its original cultural contexts, phallic worship was not ob-
Lines: 64 to
16 scene. In their own society the very talk of it would have been obscene
17 in some circles, though not, presumably, in an all-male club devoted to ———
18 “science.” 0.0pt PgV
19 The above might suggest that members of the  were incapable of de-
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20 veloping a sustained critique of Victorian institutions that would go beyond
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21 their obsessions with genitalia, the baiting of organized religion and its
22 sacred texts, and the goading of Mrs. Grundy. Captain Burton shared all
23 these preoccupations, but he did have a more extensive agenda. He believed [59], (9)
24 that the Victorian family was an unhealthy institution; however, his critique
25 of it was inseparable from a pervasive racism and misogyny.
26 It would be interesting to discover how many contemporary anthropolo-
27 gists have ever taken Burton seriously as an anthropologist, although they
28 are as likely as the rest of the population to have encountered him as a
29 larger-than-life Victorian myth. It is generally known that he visited Mecca
30 in disguise, discovered Lake Tanganyika, disputed with John Hanning Speke
31 as to who had discovered the source of the Nile (Speke was right), and
32 translated the Kama-sutra as well as the Arabian Nights. Less well known
33 are his somewhat unsuccessful forays into the realm of poetry such as Stone
34 Talk; his translation from the Portuguese of The Lusiads by Luis de Camões;
35 and his Sufi elegy, the Kasidah of Haji Abdu el-Yezdi, which he passed off as
36 a translation, although it was his own creation, a work that tried to bridge
37 the cultural divide between the world of the Victorians and Persian Sufism
38 (McLynn :–). Burton was an accomplished linguist who mastered
39 Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, Portuguese, Persian, French, and the usual classical

       

1 languages. He also understood some Swahili and was acquainted with some
2 other African languages.
3 Burton realized that as an army officer or diplomat he might never pen-
4 etrate cultural worlds that were either distant or hidden from the typical
5 untrained British observer. One solution he implemented would not ac-
6 cord with contemporary ethical standards, namely, disguise. He used this
7 strategy both in his pilgrimage and in his researches in Karachi. It was a
8 strange anticipation of participant observation, one in which European lack
9 of understanding of “natives” is partly attributed to a decline in interracial
10 sexual contact, a decline implicitly blamed on the Victorian social mores
11 Burton so disliked: “The white man lives a life so distinct from the black,
12 that hundreds of the former serve through what they call their ‘term of
13 exile’ without once being present at a circumcision feast, a wedding, or [60], (10
14 funeral. More especially the present generation, whom the habit and means
15 of taking furloughs, the increased facility for enjoying ladies’ society, and,
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16 if truth be spoken, a greater regard for appearances, if not a stricter code
17 of morality, estrange from their dusky fellow-subjects every day more and ———
18 more” (Richard Burton’s “Little Autobiography,” in Burton , vol. :). 0.0pt P
19 It is hardly surprising that Burton was often able to make astute, com-
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20 parative observations concerning a number of customs, their diffusion, and
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21 their cultural rationality. Polygamy, we shall see, was a case in point. In
22 a discussion of societies of sub-Saharan Africa that is contained in a re-
23 view of a book by the explorer Paul Du Chaillu he notes that exogamy, the [60], (10
24 levirate, and matrilineal descent are widespread (he does not employ the
25 modern terms), whereas cannibalism is not. He also observes a number of
26 widespread cultural traits: the prevalence of elaborate greetings, the ritual
27 abuse of a king about to ascend the throne, the attribution of illness to
28 witchcraft, the general concern of religion with the fending off of death, as
29 well as the belief in animated spirits rather than permanent ghosts (Burton
30 b). In other words, Burton was engaged in an attempt to define sub-
31 Saharan Africa as a “culture area,” to use the parlance of th-century an-
32 thropology.
33 Burton’s observations of variations in sexual and gender relations in dif-
34 ferent cultures are often both comprehensive and informative. His interest
35 in such matters cannot be considered aside from his own personal history,
36 some of which is known and much of which is subject to surmise. Burton’s
37 sexual exploits included a dalliance with some prostitutes at a brothel in
38 Siena when he was sixteen (Farwell :) and the attempted abduction
39 of a Latin teacher at a convent in Goa. During his stay in Sind he not only

       

1 completed his report on boy brothels but also collected information on
2 female prostitutes, including their undergarments, and took comparative
3 notes on the breast shapes of Sindi women. Later on, in England, he became
4 acquainted with Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton, a collector
5 of erotica who entertained a number of literary guests at Monk Fryston,
6 including Thomas Carlyle, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Kingsley,
7 and Coventry Patmore. The houseguests also included Fred Hankey, a dis-
8 ciple of the Marquis de Sade who liked to watch public executions from his
9 home in Paris. When Burton left for Dahomey, he agreed to supply Hankey
10 with a pelt taken from the skin of an African woman. Burton was joking, but
11 Hankey was serious (McLynn :–, ). Burton’s younger disciples
12 included the Victorian journalist and man-about-town Frank Harris.
13 McLynn also argues that Burton was sexually humiliated because he was [61], (11)
14 unable to satisfy his Indian bubu (mistress) and that his “abject failure as
15 heterosexual lover” may explain an increasing homoeroticism in his writ-
Lines: 78 to
16 ing and perhaps his behavior (:, ). This argument, apart from its
17 assumption that homoeroticism is a consequence of heterosexual failure, ———
18 is perhaps exaggerated inasmuch as Burton also enjoyed heterosexual con- 0.0pt PgV
19 quests and appears to have married happily. Burton and the former Isabel
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20 Arundell, an adventurous but proper Catholic lady, remained together un-
PgEnds: TEX
21 til Burton’s death. Burton did express the belief that anal intercourse was
22 “natural” and that the male nude was superior to the female nude (McLynn
23 :). While Burton tended to admire beautiful young women of any [61], (11)
24 “race,” with the exception of most black women, he disliked the appearance
25 of older women. Thus, when he encountered some “Prairie Indians” at the
26 Platte River en route to Utah, he described a “belle savage” with “sleek, long
27 black hair like the ears of a Blenheim spaniel, justifying a natural instinct to
28 stroke or pat it,” as well as a number of aged women: “The grandmothers
29 were fearful to look upon – horrid excrescences of nature, teaching proud
30 man a lesson of humility, and a memento of his neighbour in creation,
31 the ‘humble ape’ ” (Burton :). Burton’s social attitudes, which were
32 extreme even for their time, make much of his writing offensive to our
33 sensibility. Nonetheless, they were integral to the structure of his thinking
34 and to a racialist, anthropological discourse into which primitive Others
35 were conscripted.
36 In Burton’s writings a hierarchy of races emerges. The Australian Abo-
37 rigines are probably at the bottom, but Burton has little to say about them.
38 His remarks about Amerindians are ambivalent. He was impressed by the
39 valor of the Sioux in fighting a losing battle: “They inflicted horrid tortures

       

1 on their prisoners, as every child has read; but, Arab-like, they respected the
2 honor of their female captives” (Burton :). Burton regarded the “pure
3 negroes” of West and Central Africa as cruel and stupid (McLynn :–
4 ). He thought that “the peculiar development of destructiveness in the
5 African brain” was “the work of an arrested development, which leaves to
6 the man all the bloodthirstiness of the carnivore” (Burton :). During
7 discussion of his paper on Dahomey, which he read to the  in the mid-
8 s, Burton agreed with Governor Henry Stanhope Freeman of Lagos
9 that Islam had deservedly had better success than Christianity in converting
10 blacks. He attributed Islam’s success to the simplicity of the religion (Burton
11 b, :). In answer to a question he stated that he believed that the
12 pure Negro “would be improved off the face of the earth” (Burton :).
13 Paradoxically, Burton made one exception. He seems to have respected the [62], (12
14 Yoruba of Nigeria, who possessed “admirable forms and figures” (Burton
15 :). He also conceded that blacks were often hospitable to strangers
Lines: 82
16 but in a manner that emphasized a preponderance of emotion over reason:
17 they possessed “a peculiar power of affection,” albeit “as in children, it is ———
18 somewhat tempered by caprice” (Burton b:). 3 0.0pt P
19 Burton frequently observed that “negroids,” by which category he meant
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20 populations that resulted from a mixture of blacks with more northerly
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21 stocks such as Arabs, Europeans, and Berbers, were racially superior to
22 “pure negroes.” In his book on The Lake Regions of Central Africa ()
23 he noted that the proportion of Negro blood increased as one traveled [62], (12
24 inland from the East Coast. Sometimes he lumped Negroes and Negroids
25 together as Africans. His description of Africans is an unusually stark exam-
26 ple of the mutual construction of racial and moral stigmatization that is so
27 characteristic of the era in general and Burton in particular: “He partakes
28 largely of the worst characteristics of the lower Oriental types – stagnation
29 of mind, indolence of body, moral deficiency, superstition and childish
30 passion” (Burton :). East Africans, we are further informed, are
31 cruel, selfish, untruthful, and characterized by “savage rudeness” (Burton
32 :). Their culture is stationary: they are “unprogressive” in intellect
33 (Burton :). Burton does acknowledge that there is variation and
34 exception: “The Wanyamwezi bear the highest character for civilization,
35 discipline and industry” (:).
36 No systematic use of anatomical or physiological characteristics is present
37 in Burton’s writing. He was a racialist but not a raciologist. Race is primarily
38 characterized in terms of inherited mental and cultural dispositions, subject
39 to the influence of climate and topology.

       

1 In various ways, such as numerous assertions that Africans have an un-
2 pleasant odor, Burton, the one-time frequenter of Italian and Indian broth-
3 els, takes pains to convince his readers of his lack of sexual attraction to
4 Africans while stressing the promiscuity of the latter. His characterization
5 of African sexuality reflects both his ideas of racial superiority and a per-
6 sonal venom with perhaps deeper psychological roots. He speaks of the
7 “malignant unchastity” of the race (Burton :). In Somaliland “both
8 sexes are celebrated for laxity of morals” (Burton :). Throughout
9 East Africa marriage was seen by Burton as an institution that particu-
10 larly degraded women. One peculiarly Victorian irony was the tendency
11 of some of the era’s worst misogynists to castigate the “lower” races and
12 classes for their mistreatment of women: “Marriage with these people – as
13 among all barbarians and even the lower classes of civilized races[ – ]is a [63], (13)
14 mere affair of buying and selling” (Burton :). African males were
15 attractive to women of other races, Burton insisted, because their penises,
Lines: 88 to
16 which were particularly large even in the nonerect state, afforded women
17 sexual pleasure. Regurgitating this old piece of racial gossip, Burton, like ———
18 his th-century predecessor, Charles White, was content with a sample of 0.0pt PgV
19 one: “I measured one man in Somaliland who, when quiescent, numbered
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20 nearly six inches” (–, vol. :). Burton does not inform the readers
PgEnds: TEX
21 of his translation of the Arabian Nights precisely how he conducted this
22 measurement.
23 Burton’s portrayal of the sexuality of West Africans was, for the most part, [63], (13)
24 equally unflattering. He had heard many stories about the Amazon soldiers
25 of Dahomey before he set out on the first of two trips to that kingdom, but,
26 as he observed in a letter to Monckton Milnes in May , he was most
27 disappointed by what he saw: “The Amazons are bosh. I looked forward to
28 seeing  African virgins with the liveliest curiosity, having never in my
29 life seen a negress in such a predicament. Imagine my disappointment at
30 finding them to be chiefly wives taken in adultery and given to the king for
31 soldiering instead of being killed. They are mostly old and all fearfully ugly,
32 the officers are apparently chosen for the bigness of their bums” (McLynn
33 :). Like many other travelers to Africa and again in accordance with
34 an old polygenist tradition, Burton was intrigued by stories of apes making
35 amorous advances to black women (:, ).
36 Burton believed that the expression of sexual feeling was linked to climate
37 and terrain. He thought that in damp, hot, low-lying areas women were
38 more amorous than men. This was not true of mountainous zones. As an
39 officer in the British East India Company, Burton had ample opportunity to

       

1 observe women in Sind – single women, prostitutes, and married women.
2 In Sindh and the Races That Inhabit the Valley of the Indus () Burton
3 remarks that Sindi women differ from the women of most Islamic societies
4 in that they are not particularly chaste and that their unchastity is pub-
5 licized in “vernacular books.” Koranic law was not adequate to deal with
6 the debauchery of these women. Sindi men had, accordingly, developed
7 the practice of chopping off the heads of their errant wives. Sir Charles
8 Napier, Burton’s commanding officer, had endeavored to end this practice,
9 an unfortunate decision, in Burton’s view, because it resulted in an epidemic
10 of promiscuity on the part of married women.
11 As we have already remarked, Burton considered Indians and Arabs ra-
12 cially superior to Africans. His accounts of Eastern sexuality are, therefore,
13 more measured than his depictions of Africa, inasmuch as he was a student [64], (14
14 of Indian sexual technique and an admirer of Arab polygamy – in its place.
15 Burton had a particular loathing for Jews that became even more marked
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16 after hostile encounters with Jewish traders when he served as British consul
17 in Damascus in the late s. All of this should be borne in mind as we ———
18 consider what Burton had to say on three topics that much interested him: 6.5pt P
19 genital mutilation, heterosexual relations (heterosexual freedom, prostitu-
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20 tion, and polygamy), and homosexuality.
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   
23 [64], (14
24 Burton had a lifelong fascination with genital mutilation. Before making
25 his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, he underwent circumcision in the Moslem
26 fashion in order to perfect his disguise. He was interested in eunuchry, cir-
27 cumcision, subincision, clitoridectomy, infibulation, and labial elongation.
28 By the s, when he translated and edited The Book of the Thousand Nights
29 and a Night, he had accumulated a substantial amount of information.
30 Much of the th-century literature on genital mutilation, of which Bur-
31 ton’s work is an exemplar, focused on the Australian Aborigines, Africa, the
32 Jews, and the Arabs. This literature was founded on ethnographic fact as it
33 was then known, but, as Harriet Lyons has noted, the perceived provenance
34 of these customs, not to mention their absence among most Indo-European
35 peoples, concurred exactly with then current notions of racial hierarchy
36 (:).
37 Both before and since the th century, explanations of male and female
38 circumcision have dealt with a defined range of topics: the enhancement
39 and prolongation of sexual pleasure; the diminution of sexual sensation,

       

1 including castration; and cruelty and sadism. Issues of power – male versus
2 female, senior versus junior – are addressed only in recent writings. Burton’s
3 work falls within this tradition. He is impressed by the cruelty of many of
4 the operations, citing particular instances; one that involved the removal
5 of portions of abdominal skin in addition to the foreskin was supposedly
6 performed in a part of the Arabian Peninsula. Cruelty is clearly seen to be
7 an index of primitivity (Burton –, vol. :–, in Burton :–
8 ).
9 Burton noted that male circumcision was supposed to diminish sexual
10 sensation, but he did not think that it diminished pleasure in the female, as
11 the reduction in male sensation enabled intercourse to be prolonged (–
12 , vol. :–, in :–; see also –, vol. :). He claimed
13 that clitoridectomy was deemed necessary by some societies that practiced [65], (15)
14 male circumcision in order to forestall the unpleasant effects of too many
15 orgasms in the female. Both operations had been traditional among Arab
Lines: 103 to
16 peoples for some time. Burton stated in a Latin footnote in his Personal
17 Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina that clitoridectomy was said ———
18 to be universal in the area near Cairo and in the Hejaz region of Arabia 0.0pt PgV
19 and that a more radical operation involving labial excision was practiced in
Normal Pag
20 Somalia (–, vol. :). He also believed that clitoridectomy might be
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21 found among geographically remote groups of Jews (Burton –, vol.
22 : n. ).
23 If the purpose of such mutilations was to impose sexual control, it was as- [65], (15)
24 sumed by Burton and his contemporaries that such control was all too nec-
25 essary. This was the logic behind the occasional performance of clitoridec-
26 tomy in Europe and America in the mid-Victorian era: women deemed to be
27 incorrigibly promiscuous were forced to undergo the operation by a few gy-
28 necologists. Paul Broca, the French anatomist and raciologist, wrote of one
29 such case: “Her mother’s surveillance, a chastity girdle . . . nothing would
30 help” (Schiller :). In England Isaac Baker Brown, who “invented” sur-
31 gical clitoridectomy, was censured by his profession when he published his
32 results in a popular journal in . In America, after a few experiments with
33 clitoridectomy, castration was sometimes performed on female masturba-
34 tors, the last such case being in  (Barker-Benfield :). More prim-
35 itive peoples, who, unlike more respectable Victorians, supposedly could
36 not control their sexuality by purely mental means, were thought to re-
37 quire physical restraints, which were imperfect. In other words, an argument
38 that might otherwise seem to indicate that Africans, Jews, and Moslems
39 were sexually controlled was turned against them: “The moral effect of cli-

       

1 toridectomy is peculiar. While it diminishes the heat of passion it increases
2 licentiousness, and breeds a debauchery of mind far worse than bodily un-
3 chastity, because accompanied by a peculiar cold cruelty and a taste for arti-
4 ficial stimulants to ‘luxury.’ It is the sexlessness of the spayed canine imitated
5 by the suggestive brain of humanity” (Burton –, vol. : n. ).
6 Labial elongation is a less common practice than infibulation and cli-
7 toridectomy; it too is found in some African societies. In the previous chap-
8 ter we discussed the furor earlier in the th century over Saat-Jee, the so-
9 called Hottentot Venus, and the controversy as to whether elongated labia
10 were the product of cultural practice or an innate index of primitivity. Bur-
11 ton found the practice in Dahomey, explained it as a form of sexual control,
12 and dismissed it with a sneering remark: “The sole possible advantage to be
13 derived from this strange practice is the prevention of rape, but the men are [66], (16
14 said to enjoy handling the long projections, whose livid slatey hue suggests
15 the idea of the turkey-cock’s caruncle” (–:).
Lines: 107
16 The remarks we have just cited, which quite literally bestialize African
17 and Asian peoples, illustrate above all else the difference between Burton’s ———
18 moral compass and ours and demonstrate too the yawning gap between his 6.5pt P
19 anthropology and our own. While the missionaries of Burton’s and subse-
Normal P
20 quent eras may not have shared his fascination with genital mutilations, they
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21 shared his distaste for them. The legacy of such attitudes is clear: Africans
22 and others are suspicious of the motives of Westerners who condemn tra-
23 ditional forms of genital cutting. 4 (See chapter  for further discussion of [66], (16
24 these matters.)
 
28 Burton believed that his contemporaries were pathetically uneducated
29 about sexual matters, and their ignorance, particularly the ignorance of
30 young women, led to poor marriages. In the East brides knew what to ex-
31 pect, but this was not the case in England: “I have heard of brides over thirty
32 years old who had not the slightest suspicion concerning what complaisance
33 was expected of them: out of mauvaise honte, the besetting sin of the re-
34 spectable classes, neither mother nor father would venture to enlighten the
35 elderly innocents” (Burton –, vol. :). Such ignorance inevitably
36 led to trauma at the moment of defloration and a fear of the sex act that
37 diminished the pleasure of both partners, although Burton also speculated
38 that some women might be constitutionally incapable of sexual response
39 (–, vol. :).

       

1 Despite his apparent attention to the sexual desires of Victorian females,
2 Burton was no sexual egalitarian. He frequently, and more than merely con-
3 ventionally, refers to women as “the weaker sex” or “the weaker vessel.” His
4 own conduct suggests that he did regard the double standard as inevitable,
5 and there is much speculation about his knowledge of both female and male
6 prostitutes in India. However, in the poem Stone Talk, which he published
7 under the pseudonym Frank Baker, he strongly condemned the public spec-
8 tacle of prostitution on London’s streets:
Have you, I ask, no means to stop
The growth of such a poison crop –
To curb a scandal makes your name
Now and hereafter most infame? [67], (17)
(Burton a:)
15 Burton believed that women should not invade male domains, nor should
Lines: 118 to
16 they be cosseted as angels in the house. He was impressed by the degree of
17 sexual segregation in polygamous societies. Obviously, a lesser but marked ———
18 degree of sexual segregation was still the norm in th-century English so- 0.0pt PgV
19 ciety. Until his dramatically unsuccessful foray into Oxford undergraduate
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20 life, Burton had little or no experience of institutional, single-sex education.
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21 He and his brother Edward were educated by private tutors. However, he
22 served in the military and the diplomatic service and participated in the
23 world of the London clubs, both social and academic. In his last  years he [67], (17)
24 was to share much of his time and most of his travels with his wife, Isabel,
25 but by then most of his attitudes were fully shaped.
26 Polygamy flourished in Sind, Egypt, and Arabia, regions with which he
27 became familiar as soldier, scholar, traveler, and pilgrim. Burton preferred
28 the clear delineation of gender roles in these Islamic societies to the more
29 hazily defined distinctions of Victorian England. It was possible, Burton
30 argued, for Islamic males to develop a full association with one another,
31 regardless of barriers of class. Women could enjoy each other’s company and
32 would not be tempted to cuckold their husbands. Wives could own property
33 in their own right, which they could not yet do in England, and could leave
34 home for a few weeks without seeking their husbands’ permission. On some
35 occasions, Burton denied some of the more patriarchal traits of Islamic
36 cultures; on other occasions, he seemed to relish them (McLynn :,
37 ).
38 Burton did discover a sexual regime he admired in the most unlikely
39 place, the wilds of Utah, where the Mormons had recently settled. Here

       

1 both men and women struggled with raw nature, and there was polygamous
2 marriage. Burton arrived in Salt Lake City on August , , and stayed for
3 just one month. He had an audience with Brigham Young, with whom he
4 was greatly impressed. His book The City of the Saints () was and still
5 is regarded by Mormon scholars and writers as one of the fairest portraits
6 of their society at an early stage in its history (Bishop ). Burton com-
7 mented that in Utah “womanhood is not petted and spoiled as in the Eastern
8 states; the inevitable cyclical revolution, indeed, has rather placed her below
9 par, where, however, I believe her to be happier than when set upon an
10 uncomfortable and unnatural eminence” (a:). It is in the nature of
11 Utopias that they are hard to descry and impermanent in nature, and Burton
12 was well aware of this. Burton had also seen polygamous marriage at work
13 among several nations and peoples on three continents, Asia, Africa, and [68], (18
14 North America. He was hardly disposed to suggest that polygyny in most
15 of those societies could serve as a model for Europe. For one thing, such a
Lines: 136
16 recommendation would have been inconsistent with his disparaging views
17 on moral conduct, intelligence, and sexual behavior among most nonwhite ———
18 races. For another, he saw polygyny as inextricably linked to agrarian and 6.5pt P
19 pastoral socioeconomic systems, where labor rather than land is scarce and
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20 extra wives and children are a valued addition to the workforce. (See chap-
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21 ters  and  for discussions of the persistence of such characterizations of
22 African sexuality.)
23 [68], (18
24 To the unprejudiced traveller it appears that polygamy is the rule
25 where population is required, and where the great social evil has not
26 had time to develop itself. In Paris or London the institution would,
27 like slavery, die a natural death; in Arabia and in the wilds of the
28 Rocky Mountains it maintains a strong hold upon the affections of
29 mankind. Monogamy is best fitted for the large, wealthy, and flourish-
30 ing communities in which man is rarely the happier because his quiver
31 is full of children, and where the Hetaera becomes the succedaneum
32 of the “plurality-wife.” . . . The other motive for polygamy in Utah is
33 economy. Servants are rare and costly; it is cheaper and more com-
34 fortable to marry them. Many converts are attracted by the prospect
35 of becoming wives, especially from places where, like Clifton, there are
36 sixty-four females to thirty-six males. The old maid is, as she ought to
37 be, an unknown entity. Life in the wilds of Western America is a course
38 of severe toil: a single woman cannot perform the manifold duties of
39 housekeeping, cooking, scrubbing, washing, darning, child-bearing,

       

1 and nursing a family. A division of labour is necessary, and she finds
2 it by acquiring a sister-hood. (Burton a:)
Just a few years after his journey to Utah Burton was to describe polygamy
in another region of the world, West Africa. He approved of some aspects of
polygamy among the Egba Yoruba of Abeokuta. They observed postpartum
taboos on intercourse until the child was two or three years old. This custom
enabled the husband to enjoy legal marital relations with those wives who
were not nursing babies. Monogamous Europeans entertained no such ban
on sexual relations, to the detriment of their children: “Europeans, violating
the order of the animal creation, lay to their souls the flattering unction that
they are the largest and the strongest of races, forgetting that by conforming
to this African custom they might become both larger and stronger. Besides, [69], (19)
it would necessitate polygyny – that is to say, a love of offspring warmer than
sexual feeling. The Mormons have tried it with success” (Burton :).
There are a number of problems inherent to Burton’s argument. Was he Lines: 139 to
really so enamored of the Victorian family life he avoided by marrying late, ———
so enamored of children? 0.0pt PgV
Polygamy was clearly a sword (or, if one prefers, an overdetermined sym- ———
bol) with which Burton might combat several foes, for he had now clearly Normal Pag
gone so far as to advocate it. It was an instrument in a somewhat hetero- PgEnds: TEX
dox critique of Victorian morality, an argument that it was insufficiently
patriarchal and divorced from the nexus of biology and the true bonds of
23 [69], (19)
kinship. Likewise, Burton used his new understanding to lambaste that most
Victorian of professions, the missionaries. Burton hated most missionaries.
He was not a Christian, and he had, if we may be excused the anachronism,
a Nietzschean disdain for philanthropy. 5 Although he claimed to oppose
the slave trade, he also loathed the very people who wanted to do some-
thing to stop it. Like the functionalist anthropologists of later years, Burton
condemned those missionaries who were so keen to ban polygyny that they
were willing to destroy family life and social structure in the process:
32 During a missionary dinner at Abeokuta I was somewhat startled by
33 an account of their treatment of polygamic converts. Having acciden-
34 tally mentioned that a Protestant bishop in South Africa had adopted
35 to advantage the plan of not separating husbands and wives, I was as-
36 sured that in Yoruba the severe test of sincerity was always made a sine
37 qua non before baptism. This naturally induced an inquiry as to what
38 became of the divorcees. “We marry them,” said the Rev. Mr. Collmer,
39 “to some bachelor converts.” This appeared to me the greatest insult

       

1 to common sense, the exercise of a power to bind and to loose with a
2 witness, to do evil that good may come out of it, a proceeding which
3 may make any marriage a no-marriage. (Burton :–)
Burton’s contempt for Victorian hypocrisy thus led him to understand
the damage that Europeans were doing to African institutions, but his prej-
udices, which were strong even by the standards of his day, precluded any
move toward relativism.
       “ ”
11 It could be argued that Burton was an unlikely progenitor of the gay rights
12 movement, but he has been claimed as such (Lauritsen and Thorstad ).
13 His fascination with “the subject of unnatural crime” thoroughly perplexed [70], (20
14 Lady Isabel, who had burned his unpublished and unexpurgated translation
15 of The Scented Garden shortly after his death; rumor had it that several hun-
Lines: 148
16 dred pages dealt with the topic of pederasty. 6 Writing to Burton’s publisher
17 and collaborator, Leonard Smithers, Isabel Burton wrote: “I wish you could ———
18 answer me on one point. Why did he wish the subject of unnatural crime to -1.4115
19 be so largely aired and expounded – he had such an unbounded contempt
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20 for the Vice and its votaries? I never asked him this question unfortunately”
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21 (July , , Burton Archive). Lady Burton’s question has not been an-
22 swered. Some of Burton’s language in the famous “Terminal Essay” in the
23 Arabian Nights is beyond doubt homophobic: “V. F. Lopez draws a frightful [70], (20
24 picture of pathologic love in Peru” (Burton –, vol. :). However,
25 the subject matter of the essay disturbed some of its readers and probably
26 accounts for most of the controversy the translation caused.
27 Burton’s academic interest in homosexuality can be traced to the report
28 on lupanars, or male brothels, in Karachi that was prepared for Napier. Its
29 arguments and some of its texts are apparently reproduced in the “Terminal
30 Essay,” which contains a description of pederasty, other homosexual acts,
31 a discussion of varying cultural attitudes toward sodomy and bestiality in
32 different parts of the world, a translation of Greek and Latin words and
33 phrases describing homosexual acts, and, at various points of the text, lists
34 of prominent homosexuals.
35 In the“Terminal Essay” Burton claimed that the frequency of homosexual
36 acts as well as the tolerance extended toward them varied geographically.
37 The greatest frequency was found in the area between longitude  and 
38 degrees north. The area covered included the southern and, in pre-Christian
39 times, the northern Mediterranean regions, Egypt, Turkey, the Fertile Cres-

       

1 cent, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia (where it was treated as a “mere pecca-
2 dillo”), and parts of the Indian subcontinent. Farther east, the zone widened
3 to include all of China and Indochina, the South Seas, and both American
4 continents. The “sotadic zone” thus encompassed a large part of the world’s
5 population. Burton claimed that “geographical and climatic, not racial,” fac-
6 tors were responsible for the creation of a zone where “there is a blending of
7 masculine and feminine temperaments, a crisis which elsewhere occurs only
8 sporadically” (–, vol. :, ). Here there was a suggestion that the
9 “unnatural” might indeed be “natural” in certain ecological conditions. But
10 Burton would hardly have dared suggest that such behavior would provide
11 any sort of model for his own society, and it is unclear what his most private
12 thoughts were. One might note that the sotadic zone corresponds to no re-
13 ality. Perhaps because of the prudery of some African societies and perhaps [71], (21)
14 because of the overwhelming fear of African heterosexuality, Burton and his
15 contemporaries knew little about homosexuality in the pagan portions of
Lines: 161 to
16 sub-Saharan Africa (Bleys :–).
17 However vague Burton’s explanation may have been, he succeeded, quite ———
18 literally, in naturalizing rather than demonizing same-sex sexual relations. 0.0pt PgV
19 This was the first major contribution toward the ethnographic study of this
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20 topic. It was perhaps no coincidence that one of the letters and reviews
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21 pasted into the front cover of Burton’s own copy of the Arabian Nights
22 was a letter to the Academy by John Addington Symonds that attacked the
23 hypocrisy of the times and praised the “literary vigour, exact scholarship, [71], (21)
24 and rare insight into Oriental modes of thought” that characterized Bur-
25 ton’s magnum opus. Symonds was a well-known classical and Renaissance
26 scholar who was later to produce a life of Michelangelo. He was also the
27 author of a privately printed essay, A Problem in Greek Ethics: Being an
28 Inquiry into the Problem of Sexual Inversion (), which was reprinted
29 posthumously along with portions of A Problem in Modern Ethics ()
30 as part of Havelock Ellis’s Sexual Inversion (–). Symonds sent a draft
31 of A Problem in Modern Ethics to Burton shortly before the latter’s death
32 in  because, though “not exactly sympathetic[,] he is a perfect mine of
33 curious knowledge about human nature” (quoted in Grosskurth :).
34 Throughout his career Burton took, literally as well as metaphorically,
35 the road less traveled. He was a racist, but he believed that anthropologists
36 had to understand people in other societies. He was a sexist and misogynist
37 who believed in women’s right to sexual pleasure. He condoned and even
38 advocated polygamy, an extraordinary stance for an eminent Victorian, but
39 he stayed thirty years with the same wife. We can, in many ways, be grateful

       

1 that his vision of anthropology, rather than that of Edward Tylor and Lewis
2 Henry Morgan, was not victorious. However, as a pioneer in the anthropol-
3 ogy of sex and as a defender of sexual liberation (primarily for men), Burton
4 is without peer. His example should serve as a caution to modern scholars
5 who might easily assume that a progressive attitude on other social issues
6 uniformly accompanies advocacy of sexual liberation.
11 [Last Pag
13 [72], (22
Lines: 165
17 ———
18 426.45
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23 [72], (22

       

4  
7 Matriarchy, Marriage by Capture, and
9 Other Fantasies
11 [First Page]

part from Charles Staniland Wake, whose book The Development
13 [73], (1)
of Marriage and Kinship achieved instant obscurity on publication
14 and only received any real regard after its republication in , no
15 major evolutionary theorist regularly participated in the meetings of Dr. Lines: 0 to 1
16 James Hunt’s Anthropological Society of London (). Edward Tylor, J.
17 ———
F. McLennan, Sir John Lubbock (who was active in the rival Ethnological 13.0pt Pg
18 Society as well as in the later Anthropological Institute), and Henry Summer ———
19 Maine all published major works for a much wider audience. They were, Normal Pag
to varying degrees, members of the Victorian establishment. Maine was a * PgEnds: Ejec
law professor; Lubbock a banker, popular writer, and politician; McLennan
a somewhat unsuccessful lawyer; and Tylor a respectable, wealthy Quaker
23 [73], (1)
writer who became an academic. Their lives were, as far as we know, un-
tainted by scandal. McLennan’s disciple, William Robertson Smith, was, in-
deed, the subject of scandal because he dared to apply McLennan’s theories
27 to the study of Old Testament religion and linked the Hebrew patriarchs
28 to Australian savages. This, however, was an intellectual and not a personal
29 scandal (see Beidelman ). The American Lewis Henry Morgan was a
30 deist and a willing subject of puritanical restraint by his wife and the Rev-
31 erend Joshua McIlwaine, a family friend (see Stern :; Lyons :,
32 ). Johann Jakob Bachofen, the Swiss jurist, may have received some im-
33 proper family preferment in his public career (Campbell :xli) but was
34 otherwise blameless. None of these men belong to Steven Marcus’s category
35 of “Other Victorians.” Any reader who picked up Maine’s Ancient Law or
36 Tylor’s Primitive Culture in search of salacious or titillating detail would be
37 grimly disappointed.
38 Within these parameters, however, there was still considerable room in
39 the writings of these scholars for the conscription of real or imagined sav-
1 ages into Victorian conversations about sexual morality. With all this in
2 mind, let us turn to some well-known remarks by Sir Edmund Leach:
The British nineteenth-century evolutionist anthropologists were
mostly [sic] Presbyterian Scots, soaked in a study of the classics and
sharing, as far as one can judge, most of the paternalist imperialistic
values characteristic of the English ruling class of the period. Their
theories reveal a fantasy world of masterly men who copulated in-
discriminately with their slave wives who then bore children who
recognized their mothers, but not their fathers [see also McLennan
:chap. ]. This fantasy had some indirect resemblance to features
of American chattel slavery, but it bears no resemblance whatever to
the recorded behavior of any known species of animal. (:) [74], (2)
14 Given the quintessential respectability of the scholars we have just men-
15 tioned (only two of whom were Presbyterian Scots) and the less than fan-
Lines: 14
16 tastic nature of so much of their writing, what substance is there in Leach’s
17 provocative remarks? ———
18 Leach was clearly not referring to Maine, who believed that patriliny and 0.0pt P
19 patriarchy had existed from the earliest times and that the family was the
Long Pag
20 primal nucleus around which the gens had been built, nor to Darwin, who
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21 was inclined to doubt the truth of his friend Lubbock’s assertion of the
22 existence of primitive promiscuity on the basis of the sparse but signifi-
23 cant evidence of the behavior of higher primates (, vol. :). He was [74], (2)
24 alluding to the theories of McLennan, Robertson Smith, Lubbock, Morgan,
25 the Australian writers Lorimer Fison and A. W. Howitt, and Bachofen, who
26 believed that the original human society was one that practiced virtually
27 indiscriminate promiscuity. In Morgan’s work we read of the “consanguine
28 family” (:, , ), in Bachofen’s of “hetaerism” (:, ), and
29 in Fison and Howitt’s of the “undivided commune” (:). Morgan
30 (:), McLennan (:), and Bachofen (:) believed that de-
31 scent in the female line occurred when the paternity of children could not
32 be definitely determined.
33 All these writers believed that morality had evolved and that many primi-
34 tives were in a less evolved state. There was assumed to have been a particular
35 improvement in the status of women. McLennan () and Lubbock ()
36 believed that primitive promiscuity was succeeded by a stage of marriage by
37 capture, which survives in a symbolic form as a reminder of the brutal past.
38 It was also contended that prostitution in more developed societies may be
39 a survival of earlier hetaerism (Lubbock :–).
Several feminist scholars have noted that theories of the evolution of

 ,   ,   

1 the family reinforced dichotomies conducive to maintaining the Victorian
2 system of sex and gender. Rosalind Coward () has noticed a reification
3 of the essential antagonism between men and women in several evolutionist
4 works. This tendency is noted in the works of authors who appeared to
5 be sympathetic to women’s plight as well as those who frankly supported
6 male privilege. Because they did not consider the possibility of a cooperative
7 relationship between equals, Coward argues, their arguments naturalize the
8 socially constructed state of affairs that they are trying to explain.
9 Anita Levy (:–) has suggested that notions of a large gap between
10 savage and civilized women strengthened distinctions between respectable,
11 sexually controlled women and oversexed, savagelike, lower-class prostitutes
12 (though we will see in the next chapter that this discourse coexisted with
13 a tendency to see all female bodies as “savagelike” in their sexuality). This [75], (3)
14 was significant at a time when activists like Josephine Butler sought support
15 among middle-class women for repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts of
Lines: 31 to
16 the s. All the evolutionary theorists certainly linked modern prostitu-
17 tion to some events in the savage past. ———
18 The writings of the cultural evolutionists undoubtedly did invoke the 0.0pt PgV
19 same dichotomies deployed by Burton and his friends in the . Oppo-
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20 sitions between male and female, culture and nature, savagery and civiliza-
PgEnds: TEX
21 tion, gratification and denial, mastery and subordination were mutually re-
22 inforced by their juxtaposition. The evolutionists differed from polygenists
23 like Hunt and Burton in their insistence on progress. Burton, for example, [75], (3)
24 opined that women were happier when they knew who was boss and that
25 modern civilization placed too many restrictions on masculinity. On the
26 other hand, he found primitives too distasteful to emulate. Insofar as all the
27 admiring and deploring was more than an excuse for disclosure, it led to an
28 aporia from which one could exit neither forward nor backward. Evolution-
29 ary theorists offered a way out. Moreover, they sought to assure their readers
30 that even those things they did not like originated in some general move
31 toward improvement. Nonetheless, they did think it necessary to postulate,
32 or rather to invent, a zero point from which all such progress occurred. Inso-
33 far as that zero point was characterized by an assumption of sexual promiscuity
34 among the earliest humans and distance from it was gauged by the degree
35 to which such license had been overcome, speculations about sex were at the
36 core of evolutionary theory. Accordingly, the first works universally accepted
37 as the work of legitimate anthropologists co-opted the real and imagined
38 sexual practices of surviving primitives to construct their histories of the
39 emergence of civilization from savage beginnings.
In their discussions of the point zero of morality and in their interpre-

,   ,    

1 tation of succeeding stages of moral development the evolutionists used
2 language and styles of argumentation that were certainly more coy than
3 those adopted by Sir Richard Burton, Edward Sellon, and other seekers of
4 “destitute truth.” Occasionally, the rhetoric of allusion is a little direct. The
5 tableau of the Australian Aboriginal Marriage Ceremony in Lubbock’s Origin
6 of Civilization (figure ) leaves not too much to the imagination (:).
7 The matrilineal or matriarchal theorists were participants in a wider do-
8 main of discourse than Burton and Sellon, a domain that could not permit
9 discussion of the size of labia in Dahomey or phallic statues in India. How-
10 ever, we must remember that the Victorian novel, with its substantial female
11 readership, was a still wider but much more restrictive field of discourse. A
12 readership alarmed by Madame Bovary or Tess of the D’Urbervilles could not
13 have endured a novel that incorporated lengthy narratives describing total [76], (4)
14 promiscuity, brutal abduction, and exotic prostitutes. In other words, had
15 Lubbock’s Origin of Civilization been written as fiction rather than as a work
Lines: 37
16 of scholarship, large portions of it would never have seen the light of day.
17 McLennan, Lubbock, Morgan, and Bachofen all saw the unbridled gratifi- ———
18 cation of male lust as the original state of humankind, although they differed 0.0pt P
19 in their notions of how it had been brought under control. As we have noted,
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20 both Lubbock and McLennan believed that marriage by capture had once
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21 been universal and that its remnants could still be found in some modern
22 societies. Neither man credited primitive women with any desire to resist.
23 Lubbock thought that the sentiment of love was absent from some primitive [76], (4)
24 groups such as the Algonquin, basing his assertions on dubious missionary
25 tales about difficulties in translating the Bible (:). McLennan declared
26 that “savages are not remarkable for delicacy of feeling in matters of sex.
27 Again, no case can be cited of a primitive people among whom the seizure of
28 brides is rendered necessary by maidenly coyness. On the contrary, it might
29 be shown, were it worthwhile to deal seriously with this view, that women
30 among rude tribes are usually depraved, and inured to scenes of depravity
31 from the earliest infancy” (:).
32 Believing that the point zero was a Hobbesian state of continual war-
33 fare, McLennan thought that a premium would inevitably be placed on
34 male births. McLennan’s Primitive Marriage () had an elaborate plot: a
35 scarcity of women caused by female infanticide led, in McLennan’s scheme,
36 both to polyandry and the practice of marriage by capture, which in turn
37 was the forerunner of regulated exogamy. These earlier societies were so
38 promiscuous that mothers could not always identify the male parent, hence
39 the principle of mother right (matriliny). 1 As for Lubbock, he thought

 ,   ,   

13 [77], (5)
. Australian Aboriginal Marriage Ceremony, after Louis-Henri de Saulces de Freycinet, Voyage autour Lines: 48 to
du monde ( vols., –), pl. . From The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of ———
Man () by Sir John Lubbock. -3.86652
Normal Pag
20 that women were originally the communal property of males in the group.
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21 Subsequently, the desire to own women privately rather than communally
22 led men to capture women from outsiders (Lubbock :–). Thus,
23 men’s relations with other men led to the capture and control of women. [77], (5)
24 According to McLennan, the Australian Aborigines, who represented a low
25 stage in social evolution, still acted in this way: “Among the Australians,
26 according to one account, when a man sees a woman whom he likes, he
27 forces her to accompany him by blows, ending by knocking her down and
28 carrying her off. The same account (somewhat suspiciously) bears that this
29 mode of courtship is rather relished by the ladies as a species of rough gal-
30 lantry” (:–). Through somewhat twisted paths, men came to regu-
31 larize their sexual property rights. Once all the stages of exogamy, endogamy,
32 polyandry, and so on had been worked through, it was no longer publicly
33 acceptable to beat women about the head with clubs. Both female virtue
34 and mechanisms for its protection had come into existence, at least among
35 the respectable classes.
36 Lubbock’s discussion of wife lending and temple prostitution in Babylo-
37 nia and India is an exemplary illustration of those attitudes that have been
38 regarded as archetypally Victorian. He considered both to have originated
39 in remedies undertaken by the captors of brides to compensate their fellow

,   ,    

1 males who might resent any exclusive claim to possession of an outsider
2 female. His discussion was prefaced by an unctuous disclaimer: “The nature
3 of the ceremonies by which this was effected makes me reluctant to enter this
4 part of the subject at length; and I will have therefore merely to indicate in
5 general terms the character of the evidence” (Lubbock :).
6 Lubbock claimed that his theory of marriage by capture explained “the
7 remarkable subordination of the wife to the husband, which is so char-
8 acteristic of marriage and so incuriously inconsistent with all our avowed
9 ideas” (:). Furthermore, it was a curious fact that men often preferred
10 their captives to their original brides: “And even when this ceased to be the
11 case, the idea would long survive the circumstances which gave rise to it”
12 (:). On the surface, this is an explanation of the prestige of Athenian
13 and Indian courtesans, but it can also be read as an evolutionary apologia [78], (6)
14 for the Victorian double standard.
15 Ancient Society (), Lewis Henry Morgan’s major work on the evolu-
Lines: 50
16 tion of the family, mentions only in passing anything so dramatic as mar-
17 riage by capture (:); he is, in fact, the most sober of the matriarchal ———
18 theorists. Morgan was the only one of the grand theorists to visit and ob- 0.0pt P
19 serve a functioning matrilineal society, namely, the Seneca. His construction
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20 of stages in the evolution of the human family incorporated not only his
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21 knowledge of the Iroquois but also his classical learning and his own inter-
22 pretation of Mesoamerican prehistory. His speculations concerning primi-
23 tive communism and promiscuity were based in part on his interpretation [78], (6)
24 of Seneca kinship terminology and similar systems elsewhere. Morgan also
25 had a genuine admiration for the Iroquois people as well as a commitment
26 to democratic institutions and to the eventual equality of men and women
27 (:). All of these facts were consistent with a relative narrowing of the
28 moral gap between savages and his contemporaries in Morgan’s writings.
29 Morgan saw a regrettable worsening in the position of women after the
30 decline of matriarchy, for example (:). This aspect of Morgan’s argu-
31 ment was central to the incorporation of Morgan’s work in the critique of
32 the bourgeois family offered by Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family,
33 Private Property and the State ().
34 Morgan concurred in the belief that matriarchy had originated in an
35 era when sexual behavior made the determination of paternity impossible
36 (:), and he imagined the early existence of both promiscuous and in-
37 cestuous intercourse (the consanguine family) and of group marriage. Mor-
38 gan’s archaeology of the human family was based largely upon the recogni-
39 tion that the kinship terms found in the world’s languages fell into a small

 ,   ,   

1 number of predictable patterns and that the distribution of these patterns
2 was consistent with an Asian origin of New World populations. The consan-
3 guine family, as he imagined it, had developed from an earlier stage of gener-
4 alized promiscuity to one in which intercourse was incestuous but restricted
5 to members of the same generation. Punaluan marriage, the next stage, was
6 a group marriage between two or more brothers from one kin group and
7 two or more sisters from another. In other words, several men shared sexual
8 access to several women, although these women were other people’s sisters,
9 not their own. He believed that the relationship terminology of the Iroquois
10 reflected a former punaluan marriage practice that, he believed, had existed
11 very recently in Pacific Islands such as the Hawaiian archipelago. In Mor-
12 gan’s schema the Iroquois themselves had advanced to “pairing marriages”
13 in which a single man married a single woman or sometimes more than [79], (7)
14 one woman. Marriage among tribal peoples, according to Morgan, created
15 social links between clans, even after the disappearance of group marriage;
Lines: 56 to
16 indeed, such links were an important purpose of marriage. Morgan cau-
17 tioned his readers against feeling moral disgust concerning Hawaiian mar- ———
18 riage institutions. He criticized the missionary Hiram Bingham for pictur- 0.0pt PgV
19 ing the people of the Sandwich Islands “as practicing the sum of human
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20 abominations” and for accusing them of “polygamy . . . fornication, adul-
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21 tery, incest, infant murder, desertion of husbands and wives, parents and
22 children; sorcery, covetousness, and oppression” (Bingham :, quoted
23 by Morgan): “Punaluan marriage, and the punaluan family dispose of the [79], (7)
24 principal charges in this grave indictment and leave the Hawaiians a chance
25 at a moral character. The existence of morality, even among savages, must
26 be recognized, although low in type; for there never could have been a time
27 in human experience when the principle of morality did not exist” (Morgan
28 :).
29 Morgan accepted Bingham’s account of incestuous marriages between
30 full brothers and sisters at the upper reaches of Polynesian aristocracy (:
31 ), seizing upon it as evidence for survival of the consanguine family in
32 the era of the punaluan, something for which he was criticized by Wake
33 (:). Despite this lapse, Morgan may thus be seen to have supported
34 science against missionary delicacy for very different purposes than those of
35 Burton and his friends. Morgan did, however, assent in general terms to the
36 direction that others had discerned in the history of moral values:“Attention
37 has been called to the stupendous conjugal system which fastened itself
38 upon mankind in the infancy of their existence and followed them down to
39 civilization. The ratio of human progress may be measured to some extent

,   ,    

1 by the degree of the reduction of this system through the moral element of
2 society arrayed against it” (:).
3 Passages like this make it less surprising that Morgan had become an
4 admirer of Bachofen, to whose thinking a scandalized attitude toward sexual
5 license was central rather than peripheral and who saw an inclination to
6 experience such distaste as a driving force in human history. 2 In Bachofen’s
7 writing there is an explicit equation between the conquest of sex and the
8 triumph over nature. His primary sources are classical, specifically, Greek
9 history, Greek and Roman myths, the Oresteia of Aeschylus, and speculative
10 prehistory. Bachofen believed that matriarchy, or mother right (Das Mut-
11 terrecht, which is the title of his book), and marriage, which accompanied
12 it, had replaced an earlier stage of “unregulated sexual relations” in which
13 women were defenseless against abuse by men (:). “Exhausted” by [80], (8)
14 male “lusts,” Bachofen declaimed, “woman was first to feel the need for reg-
15 ulated conditions and a purer ethic, while men, conscious of their superior
Lines: 58
16 physical strength, accepted the new constraint only unwillingly” (:).
17 The era of mother right brought with it not only marriage but also agri- ———
18 culture, which, Bachofen believed, had had as ennobling an effect upon 0.0pt P
19 the sexual life of plants as marriage had had upon that of human beings.
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20 Although plants could not be imagined to have endured universal rape
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21 during the era of promiscuity, they had been subject to“the chaos of hetaeric
22 generation” (Bachofen :). The reproduction of cultigens was far more
23 seemly and ordered than that of the “swamp vegetation” that provided the [80], (8)
24 subsistence of the earliest human beings.
25 Contemporary feminist theorists who have been attracted to Bachofen’s
26 portrait of an era of matriarchy characterized by the worship of Demeter
27 and other goddesses of human and vegetable fertility would do well to con-
28 sider carefully the place that Bachofen assigns the “Demetrian” principle in
29 his total scheme of human evolution. The overall course of human devel-
30 opment, as Bachofen discerned it from Greek and Roman myths, literature,
31 and accounts of neighboring peoples, is a progression from domination by
32 physical drives to a state in which spiritual and intellectual ideals govern
33 human behavior.
34 Although the change from hetaerism to matriarchy was a major triumph
35 over ungoverned sensuality, it occurred at a stage during which the central
36 concerns of humanity, as manifested in religion, were still basically physical:
37 marriage, motherhood, and the propagation of plants (Bachofen :).
38 Moreover, Bachofen asserted, the era of mother right in ancient Greece
39 did not pass without dangerous regressions, owing to the overwhelmingly

 ,   ,   

1 physical nature of women. Bachofen argued that the phallic cult of Dionysus
2 appealed to the weaker, sexual side of female nature and that for some
3 time this atavistic religion threatened to undo the progress that had been
4 achieved in the name of Demeter and motherhood (:–). The
5 regression to which Bachofen objected was political as well as sexual. The
6 Dionysian mysteries introduced a deplorable democracy along with their
7 unfortunate debauchery. Indeed, the two trends were inextricably linked:
8 “The Dionysian cult . . . loosed all fetters, removed all distinctions, and by
9 orienting people’s spirit toward matter and the embellishment of physical
10 existence, carried life itself back to the laws of matter. This sensualization
11 of existence coincides everywhere with the dissolution of political organiza-
12 tion and the decline of political life. Intricate gradation gives way to democ-
13 racy, the undifferentiated mass, the freedom and equality which distinguish [81], (9)
14 natural life from ordered social life and pertain to the physical, material side
15 of human nature” (Bachofen :).
Lines: 66 to
16 The transition from hetaerism to maternalism, for Bachofen, was merely
17 one of degree, a sometimes uneasy shift from a less disciplined to a more ———
18 disciplined form of domination by the body. In the change from matriarchy 0.0pt PgV
19 to patriarchy Bachofen perceived a genuine qualitative difference in the
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20 nature of social and religious experience: for the first time the mind and
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21 the spirit are given precedence over the body. This occurs, says Bachofen,
22 because the father’s relationship to the child is not physically obvious but
23 must be intellectually cognized. Indeed, he says, it possesses “a certain fictive [81], (9)
24 character” (Bachofen :). Patriarchy and the Orphic religion, accord-
25 ing to Bachofen, sought to conquer the physical and the sensual. Homo-
26 sexuality, Bachofen points out, was regarded by some Greek thinkers as a
27 higher form of love than the purely sensual feeling aroused by the opposite
28 sex (:). Arguing in this vein, Bachofen is particularly approving of
29 Sappho’s intentions concerning her circle of women on Lesbos. Sappho’s
30 fundamental goal was to “elevate” her sex, to accomplish “a purification
31 and transfiguration of the feminine-material principle” (Bachofen :,
32 ). Sappho, says Bachofen, “deplored” the “strange, aimless striving pecu-
33 liar to women,” but, insofar as her inspiration came from Eros, she was never
34 able to rid herself of the taint of Aphrodite; it was her fate to be trapped
35 forever “on the dizzy heights where passion and reason are locked in eternal
36 conflict” (:, ).
37 For a later-th-century author like Bachofen, therefore, approval of ho-
38 mosexuality was not necessarily linked to sexual liberation, nor was it linked
39 to liberal ideas on matters such as race and class; indeed, for Bachofen,

,   ,    

1 Egypt, India, and the plebs and helots of the ancient world represented
2 matriarchal strongholds, intellectual and moral backwaters that had yet to
3 feel the improving force of Orphic patriarchal religion (:–). Con-
4 quest and domination in the service of Orpheus, patriarchy, and spiritual
5 improvement of the race were thus laudable human achievements. We may
6 further note that Bachofen’s theories are consistent with the widely held
7 th-century view that women, the “angels in the house,” might tame the
8 brute in men, but, thus transformed, it is these civilized male creatures who
9 must do the work of the intellect and the soul.
10 By the late s, anthropological opinion was divided into three camps,
11 the patriarchal theorists and the rival matriarchal schools of Morgan and
12 McLennan. As we briefly noted, Maine and his followers believed that the
13 patriarchal family had evolved into the larger patrilineal gens, which had [82], (10
14 formed the basis for early political and religious institutions. The head of
15 the patriarchal family, who controlled his wife, children, and slaves from
Lines: 70
16 birth through marriage to death, gradually lost his patria potestas as small
17 cities with a rural base evolved into multiethnic metropolises sustained by ———
18 the commerce of individuals. Accordingly, states based on property, terri- 0.0pt P
19 tory, and individual contract rather than kinship and group status were the
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20 final stage in social evolution. Maine’s schema, based on his knowledge of
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21 the ancient world (Greece, Rome, and India), assumed that the family had
22 existed throughout human history, although there had been changes in the
23 legal status of its members. [82], (10
24 The ideas of Morgan and Bachofen about the development of property
25 institutions and the family differ from Maine’s in that Morgan and Ba-
26 chofen believed in the existence of a period of promiscuity, followed by
27 matriliny, prior to the evolution of patriarchy. Both Maine and Morgan
28 agreed that the mercantilist state was preceded by an earlier social stage in
29 which political and property rights were invested in kin groups rather than
30 individuals. Some of the sharpest disagreements were between Morgan and
31 McLennan. Morgan accorded no significant role to marriage by capture in
32 social evolution. McLennan insisted that exogamy was an evolutionary stage
33 that preceded endogamy and that classificatory kin terminologies, the basis
34 of Morgan’s grand scheme, did not reflect present-day or past biological
35 relationships based on marriage but were instead the product of etiquette,
36 mere forms of address.
37 Until  McLennan probably had the best of the argument. For in-
38 stance, Morgan’s primary evidence for the systems of group marriage was
39 the existence in Asia and the Americas of what he called Ganowanian and

 ,   ,   

1 Turanian kinship terminologies, which he could document as a result of
2 the questionnaires he had been distributing since the late s. 3 However,
3 inasmuch as groups like the Iroquois, the Omaha, and the Tamils had no
4 institution comparable to Morgan’s ideas of group marriage, clear evidence
5 was needed of the concordance of Ganowanian terminology with actual
6 group marriage or the visible vestiges of it. Just a few years before his death,
7 Morgan received what he regarded as clinching evidence from his Australian
8 correspondent, the Reverend Lorimer Fison, the roué son of a rich British
9 landowner who had found religion and pursued a career as a missionary
10 first in Fiji and then in Australia.
       [83], (11)
14 Prior to the publication of Kamilaroi and Kurnai () by Fison and Howitt,
15 there was very little in the way of systematic knowledge of Australian Abo-
Lines: 76 to
16 rigines and their social institutions. Fison and Howitt’s book, their continu-
17 ing work over the next couple of decades, and, above all else, the appearance ———
18 in  of The Native Tribes of Central Australia by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. 6.5pt PgV
19 Gillen had made Australian culture the focal topic of anthropology outside
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20 North America by the turn of the century. By this time, “real” primitives
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21 were no longer present in most parts of North America and Africa and were
22 vanishing into barely accessible parts of the Amazonian jungle. Living proof
23 of the past could still be found in Australia and parts of Melanesia, although [83], (11)
24 even in those areas it was disappearing. The Tasmanians were gone, and
25 most of Howitt’s Kurnai spoke English. However, elements of the traditional
26 culture still survived in the Australian Southeast, and it was still alive and
27 well in other parts of the continent.
28 Australia was regarded as the living kindergarten of the human race. The
29 technology was still Paleolithic. The boomerang was used in some places to
30 hunt strange marsupials. There were no iron tools. There was no agriculture.
31 Clothing was uncommon. There was little in the way of government apart
32 from localized gerontocracies. Sexual and marital institutions certainly did
33 not accord with the teachings of the Christian church. Circumcision, subin-
34 cision (something previously unknown), and vaginal introcision were all
35 common. Polygyny was preferred. There were reports of marriage by cap-
36 ture and ceremonial sexual license.
37 Although there were other pioneers (Samuel Gason, W. E. Roth, and
38 T. G. H. Strehlow), the anthropological image of Australian primitivity
39 owed most to the four scholars we have mentioned. Of the four only

,   ,    

1 Spencer, who was the Foundation Professor of Biology at Melbourne, was
2 an academic. Howitt, the son of two British writers who immigrated to
3 Australia, was a bushranger and herder who became a civil servant. Fison
4 tried to enter academe as a lecturer in a Methodist college but did not
5 succeed in doing so. Gillen, who was uneducated, was responsible for the
6 mail and telegraph service in Alice Springs. He came to know the local
7 Aborigines well in his capacity as a magistrate. All four pioneers were con-
8 tent or had to be content to play second fiddle to metropolitan masters of
9 evolutionary theory. 4 When Morgan died, Tylor became the major sponsor
10 of Fison and Howitt. Sir James Frazer read the proofs of both The Native
11 Tribes of Central Australia by Spencer and Gillen and their second book,
12 The Northern Tribes of Central Australia () (see Ackerman :, ).
13 The theoretical work of McLennan and Robertson Smith in the s and [84], (12
14 that of James Frazer, Andrew Lang, Northcote Thomas, Sidney Hartland,
15 and Émile Durkheim in the s was particularly informed by the new
Lines: 85
16 Australian data.
17 Morgan contributed a prefatory note to Kamilaroi and Kurnai. Fison ———
18 was the author of the first part of the book. In the terms of what became 0.0pt P
19 known as “alliance theory” in th-century anthropology many of the so-
Normal P
20 cieties discussed by Fison and Howitt (the Kurnai are an exception) were
PgEnds: T
21 characterized by direct exchange and symmetric alliance. In these societies,
22 as alliance theorists viewed them, men of one socially defined group relin-
23 quished sexual rights in their sisters to men of another similar group who in [84], (12
24 turn supplied them with wives. In chapter  we deal with feminist objections
25 to some of the premises of alliance theory. Here we should note that Fison
26 and Howitt prefigured alliance theory in noting the dependence of indi-
27 vidual marriage upon group rights, though they downplayed the former
28 more than th-century writers did and understood the latter in a more
29 specifically sexual way than the alliance theorists.
30 Fison described at secondhand the moiety systems of the Mackay, Darling
31 River, and Mount Gambier tribes (Fison and Howitt :) and also those
32 of the Banks Islands and New Britain. The Mount Gambier tribe divided
33 into two intermarrying, exogamous moieties. Kumite men had to marry
34 Kroki women, and vice versa. Fison obtained information on the Kami-
35 laroi from indigenous informants, who described four matrilineal marriage
36 classes and six totems. Ipai and Kumbo were “brother” classes acting as
37 alternate generations of the same unnamed moiety; their counterparts were
38 Muri and Kubi. 5
39 Fison discovered that the Kamilaroi relationship terminology matched

 ,   ,   

1 Morgan’s Turanian type. In other words, it was not very dissimilar to the Iro-
2 quoian terminology typical of Ganowanian (or North American) systems
3 of consanguinity and marriage. Fison noted that the older men tended to
4 monopolize the women and that polygyny was desirable. However, elders
5 sometimes had to allow young men access to their wives, if they were of
6 the appropriate marriage class. Apparently, Fison had not discovered such
7 a practice among the Kamilaroi with whom he was acquainted, but a Mr.
8 Lance had observed it in another group. Furthermore, the same Lance had
9 reported that Clarence River Kamilaroi Kubi men would address stranger
10 Ipatha (feminine of Ipai) women as spouse. Membership in a moiety or mar-
11 riage class acted as a kind of sexual passport (Fison and Howitt :, ).
12 A system of marriage class equivalences had been established throughout
13 large parts of Australia. A visitor might be assigned temporary member- [85], (13)
14 ship in a local class equivalent to his own and temporary sexual access to a
15 woman of an appropriate group, even though he might be communicating
Lines: 91 to
16 by gesture language with foreigners a hundred miles from home. Armed
17 with this body of facts and the template of Morgan’s theory into which ———
18 he could mold them, Fison determined that group marriage of a sort still 0.0pt PgV
19 existed in Australia: “Marriage is theoretically communal. In other words, it
Normal Pag
20 is based upon the marriage of all the males in one division of a tribe to all the
PgEnds: TEX
21 females of the same generation in another division. Hence, relationship is not
22 merely that of the individual to another but of group to group. By this it
23 is not meant that present usage is hereby stated, but that this is the ancient [85], (13)
24 rule which underlies present usage and to which that usage points” (Fison
25 and Howitt :).
26 So considerable were the sexual opportunities thus afforded to the Aus-
27 tralian Aborigines that paternity might well be in question, and matrilineal
28 descent was accordingly the only logical mode of ascription to gens and
29 marriage class: “For, when a man has no exclusive right to his wives; when
30 even strangers from a distant tribe, who are of a class corresponding to
31 his, may claim a share in his marital rights; when a woman is married to
32 a thousand miles of husbands, then paternity must be, to say the least of it,
33 somewhat doubtful. But there can be no possibility of mistake as to mater-
34 nity, and therefore it seems natural enough that children should ‘follow the
35 mother,’ as several of our correspondents put it” (Fison and Howitt :).
36 Albeit a woman might be “married to a thousand miles of husbands,”
37 such men did have to belong to the correct class and generation. Incestuous
38 marriages and marriages in breach of the exogamy rules were abhorrent
39 to the Aborigines. Although a residue of group marriage existed among

,   ,    

1 them, they had progressed beyond Morgan’s early stage of promiscuity (the
2 consanguine family), a stage of which there was evidence in the Malayan ter-
3 minology found among some tribes in which no terminological distinctions
4 were made between fathers and any kind of uncles, between mothers and all
5 aunts, and in which siblings were equated with all cousins of similar sex.
6 However, a tradition existed among the Dieri of South Australia that indi-
7 cated that memories of sexual chaos were still fresh. Gason had received an
8 account of the origin of totemic groups (the murdus) from his informants.
9 “Evils” had resulted from an early period of promiscuity. The Dieri elders
10 had beseeched the Good Spirit Muramura for assistance. He had created
11 totemic classes based on animate and inanimate objects such as dogs, mice,
12 emus, rain, and iguanas and assigned each branch of the Dieri to one of
13 them. From that time forth they could intermingle but not intermarry (Fi- [86], (14
14 son and Howitt :; Morgan :).
15 Doubtless, the Dieri had such a tradition. The end of incest and other
Lines: 95
16 forms of indiscriminate sexuality is a feature common to origin myths. This
17 was surely a fact known to Victorians who studied the classics as well as ———
18 to modern readers of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Fison’s ethnographic data were 0.0pt P
19 good enough that we can read them in our own way, but his own under-
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20 standings were inextricably bound to the moral predispositions he shared
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21 with Morgan, and his analysis was therefore prone to ambitious deductions
22 and leaps of faith. Both Fison and Howitt believed that the “undivided
23 commune” (corresponding to Morgan’s consanguine family), as described [86], (14
24 in the Dieri myth, had once existed throughout Australia. From it had been
25 created the marriage-class systems for which Australian Aborigines are fa-
26 mous, although they are by no means universal (Howitt ).
27 The Kurnai of Southeast Australia had patrilocal territorial groups rather
28 than moieties or marriage classes. Marriage took place between these groups
29 subject to incest rules. Howitt thought that they were more socially ad-
30 vanced than the groups of the interior, although they had a Malayan kinship
31 terminology (regarded by Morgan as a survival of promiscuity). Marriage
32 was arranged individually. A boy would ask a girl to elope with him. These
33 secretive arrangements often resulted in a physical confrontation between
34 the couple and the bride’s parents, and tempers were only gradually as-
35 suaged (Fison and Howitt :, ). Adulterous wives were severely
36 punished, and there was some evidence of strong sexual jealousy (Fison
37 and Howitt :). Fison compared Kurnai marriage to the syndyasmian,
38 or pairing marriage, of the Iroquois, although he thought that institutions
39 such as the license surrounding marriage by elopement, occasional soro-

 ,   ,   

1 ral polygyny, and the levirate were survivals of group marriage (Fison and
2 Howitt :, ). Fison thought that the Kurnai had once had a two-
3 class system.
4 The importance of “totems” is taken for granted in Fison’s discussion of
5 the Kamilaroi. Anthropological interpretations of “totemism” are an im-
6 portant instance of the close interface between speculations about primi-
7 tive sexuality and broader theoretical concerns. The notion that totemism
8 was an early, albeit not the primal, stage in the evolution of religion had
9 been developed by McLennan. He believed that totemism was a develop-
10 ment of fetishism and that the worship of animals and plants (the totems)
11 was historically coincident with matrilineal descent and a system of exoga-
12 mous clans that were named after totemic species (McLennan ; Stock-
13 ing :, ). McLennan’s discussion was focused on the Greeks, the [87], (15)
14 Egyptians, and the Amerindians. In the s McLennan’s distinguished
15 disciple, William Robertson Smith, decided that the original Semitic peoples
Lines: 101 to
16 were pastoral nomads organized into matrilineal, exogamous, totemic clans.
17 Totemic affiliation enabled primitive people to determine who was and who ———
18 was not kin to them and thereby regulate marriage. The totem was identified 0.0pt PgV
19 with the blood of the clan and might well have been ancestral to it. Because
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20 the totem was an object of veneration and worship, it was routinely avoided
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21 and only eaten at specific religious gatherings of the clan (Smith , ).
22 Smith believed that Jewish religion in the years prior to the exile still bore the
23 traces of totemism. In one way or another, all Victorian theories of the origin [87], (15)
24 of totemism link it to sex and theories of conception. After the appearance
25 of Kamilaroi and Kurnai, Australia was to furnish the primary evidence for
26 totemic practices among surviving primitives.
27 Although McLennan and Morgan both died in , theories advocating
28 the priority of mother right and its origins during a stage of promiscuity
29 flourished for another couple of decades. However, they were subject to
30 challenge. That the findings of the mother right theorists proceeded from
31 prejudice rather than from an ineluctable reality bared by the probings of
32 science was demonstrated by Wake in his  work on The Development
33 of Marriage and Kinship, a tour de force in which the theory of primitive
34 promiscuity, McLennan’s views on marriage by capture, the dogma that as-
35 serted the universal priority of matriliny, and Lubbock’s ideas on hetaerism
36 were all laid waste. For example, Wake noted that abduction and ceremonial
37 marriage by capture were not necessarily connected. The latter was merely
38 a jural institution that served to publicize marriage (Wake :). While
39 Wake’s book was not a success, the fact of its appearance does mark a turning

,   ,    

1 of the tide. However, the notion of the oversexed primitive did not very
2 quickly disappear. For all Wake’s many reminders to his readers and to
3 himself that primitive customs were not disgusting when viewed in their
4 context, the author did believe (see our prior discussion) that the religion
5 of the future should replace the love of procreation with the love of chastity
6 and that Christianity had taken a step in that direction.
7 In the same year that Wake’s book was published the Australian scholar
8 John Mathew declared his opinion that group marriage was not to be found
9 among the Aboriginal peoples and that there was no proof that it had ever
10 existed on the Australian continent (Barnes :). In  the Finnish
11 scholar Edward Westermarck launched an even more radical attack on
12 mother right theory and ideas of primitive promiscuity in the first edition
13 of The History of Human Marriage, a book which in many respects forms [88], (16
14 a bridge between the Victorian period and the modernist writings of Mali-
15 nowski. 6 Westermarck’s career lasted until the s, and he is accordingly
Lines: 105
16 one of a new generation of scholars whom we shall discuss in the next
17 chapter. Later Victorian matriarchal theorists read his work (and argued ———
18 against it), but they continued their own conversation about the role of 0.0pt P
19 primitive promiscuity in the origin of the family; it is this conversation that
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20 we shall discuss here.
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21 In  A. W. Howitt published a lengthy ethnographic account of the
22 Dieri and related tribes of Central Australia with a special focus upon a
23 marriage system that seemed to him to offer clues to the manner in which [88], (16
24 individual marital unions might have emerged from group marriage. In this
25 work Howitt takes issue with McLennan, Maine, and Bachofen for their
26 speculative reconstructions of the origin of marriage, arguing that his field
27 research came much closer to settling the question. Key to the Dieri kin-
28 ship system, as Howitt understood it, was the coexistence of two forms of
29 marriage: noa marriage and pirauru marriage. Howitt said that noa was
30 equivalent to the English “spouse” and that noa marriage united individual
31 men of an appropriate marriage class with individual women of another.
32 Pirauru marriage observed the same class rules but united many men with
33 many women (Howitt :–). Howitt clearly viewed pirauru marriage
34 as the “missing link” between the “undivided commune” and individual
35 marriage.
36 Pirauru marriage, in fact, was said by Howitt to account for the “unusual
37 laxity” he observed in “intersexual relations” and “the freedom with which
38 the Yantruwunta, Dieri, and other tribes proffered their women to friendly
39 strangers” (:–). White settlers, he informed his readers, referred to

 ,   ,   

1 the institution as “the paramour custom” (Howitt :). Pirauru cou-
2 ples were assigned to each other by the elders shortly before circumcision
3 ceremonies, which involved a brief period of ceremonial license. At each
4 circumcision ceremony, new pirauru partners were assigned, but men and
5 women also kept their old ones (Howitt :). The end result was, ef-
6 fectively, a form of group marriage, though male and female pirauru part-
7 ners did not form discrete corporate groups. Howitt argued that pirauru
8 marriage is “clearly a form of group marriage” (:). However, the pic-
9 ture that emerges from Howitt’s description of the institution is one of
10 crosscutting networks of sexual access rather than of groups of men having
11 rights in corresponding groups of women. The pirauru partners of a man
12 or woman were dispersed over a wide area and were available for sex, pro-
13 tection, and economic cooperation when movement through the territory [89], (17)
14 created a need for them, but noa husbands maintained primary rights to
15 their wives. The consent of a woman’s noa husband, if he was present, had
Lines: 111 to
16 to be sought, except during periods of ceremonial license. Howitt remarked
17 that paternity was often uncertain under this arrangement (:, ). ———
18 Howitt acknowledges that forms of capture and the jus primae noc- 0.0pt PgV
19 tis accompanied some marriages in this group of tribes. 7 He cites J. M.
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20 O’Donnell on the Kunandaburi to the effect that when a woman who had
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21 been promised to a man came of age, other men whose class membership
22 would have made them potential husbands helped him drag her off, “biting
23 and screaming, while the other women look on laughing.” The men shared [89], (17)
24 the woman for hours or days before she was claimed by her individual
25 husband, who could punish her by “beating or by cutting [her] with a knife”
26 if she attempted to run away (Howitt :).
27 Howitt took issue with some of his contemporaries on key issues of kin-
28 ship theory. He disagreed with McLennan, for example, because McLen-
29 nan saw the origin of marriage in the capture of women, whose scarcity
30 had driven men to a form of polyandry. He described Bachofen’s idea of a
31 primitive gynocracy as “grotesque” and Maine’s notion of primitive patri-
32 archy, accompanied by polygyny, as more appropriate for ancient Aryans
33 and Semites than for true primitives (Howitt :–). Howitt saw ex-
34 change, not capture, as the force that impelled the evolution of marriage and
35 saw group marriage, not the capture of individual women, as the original
36 form. He argues that noa marriage is a late form of marriage that emerged
37 out of group marriage as exchange became a more important feature of
38 social life, just as group marriage replaced an even earlier period of promis-
39 cuity, of which only traces remained, for the same reason (Howitt :).

,   ,    

1 Howitt suggests that the peoples of Australia might be profitably seen as
2 forming a continuum, with the Dieri near one end of the series and the
3 Kamilaroi and Kurnai at the other. The Dieri group would be characterized
4 as having group marriage“at all times, modifying the rights of the individual
5 husband,” while those groups at the Kamilaroi end of the spectrum gave the
6 husband exclusive control over his wife’s sexuality, except for “rare occur-
7 rences of extensive license.” In between were tribes where periods of license
8 were more frequent than among the Kamilaroi and Kurnai but where such
9 license was, nonetheless, a “temporary reversion” to a group marriage that
10 was no longer a permanent state of affairs (Howitt :–). Howitt
11 concluded that the social organization of Australian Aborigines was “based
12 upon the relations of the sexes regulated according to their conception of
13 morality” and that “the moral sentiment is as strong in its way with them [90], (18
14 as with us” (:–). Nonetheless, he believed that his work “proved
15 conclusively” that “in Australia, at the present day, group marriage does exist
Lines: 115
16 in a well-marked form which is evidently only the modified survival of a still
17 more complete social communism” (Howitt :). ———
18 In The Native Tribes of Central Australia Spencer and Gillen furnished 0.0pt P
19 further evidence in favor of the theory of group marriage. They discussed
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20 the piraunguru custom of the Urabunna, which was very similar to the
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21 pirauru marriage of the neighboring Dieri, although they furnished much
22 less clear detail than Howitt (Spencer and Gillen :–, ). Their
23 primary work was with the Arunta. Their findings were based in part on [90], (18
24 Gillen’s acquaintance with the Arunta people and a short period of field-
25 work during which they witnessed the engwura sequence of male initiation
26 ceremonies. They had no doubt that the Arunta practiced some forms of
27 group marriage. The Arunta had two patrimoieties, but it was their divisions
28 (marriage classes or sections and subsections) that regulated marriage. The
29 Southern Arunta had a four-section system, but an eight-section system
30 was found among the Northern Arunta. Among the Arunta a marriageable
31 man and woman (unawa) were usually classificatory cross-cousins but not
32 first cousins. Prior to marriage to a single man who had to be an unawa
33 an Arunta woman was taken out into the bush by a group of men that did
34 not include her future husband (Spencer and Gillen :, ). Her vulva
35 was then cut. 8 Those members of the party of males who were members of
36 appropriate kinship categories then had sexual access to the woman. After
37 this ceremonial intercourse was complete the woman was given away to her
38 husband, who was to exercise primary but not exclusive sexual rights over
39 her (Spencer and Gillen :, ).

 ,   ,   

1 Spencer and Gillen also note a form of license that was practiced at cor-
2 roborees. A husband might allow a son-in-law (actual or classificatory)
3 to have sexual access to his wife. In normal times rules of strict mother-
4 in-law avoidance were in force (Spencer and Gillen :). For Spencer
5 and Gillen, the premarriage ceremony was a living survival of group mar-
6 riage and the license at corroborees was a ritual reenactment of ancestral
7 conditions during the Alcheringa, or Dreamtime. They were dismissive of
8 explanations for such customs that discounted group marriage. 9 However,
9 they stressed that all forms of Aboriginal marriage were subject to rules and
10 that marriages were arranged through peaceful negotiations, not violent
11 abduction. Promiscuity “did not exist” as a normal feature of society, despite
12 a lesser degree of sexual jealousy than existed in white society (Spencer and
13 Gillen :, , ). [91], (19)
14 Marriage classes among the Arunta did not own totems, which were as-
15 signed according to women’s encounters with ancestral spirits at the time of
Lines: 119 to
16 conception. The Arunta believed that ancestral beings wandered the coun-
17 tryside and were transformed into natural objects such as stones, trees, ———
18 witchetty grubs, emus, and frogs. Each totem had its own totem center. 0.0pt PgV
19 A woman passing through the territory associated with a particular totem
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20 might conceive a child as the result of a local totemic spirit’s entering her
PgEnds: TEX
21 body, regardless of her or her husband’s affiliation. As there was consider-
22 able room for interpretation after the fact, children were often assigned to
23 their fathers’ totems, but there was no need for them to be. Thus, the Arunta [91], (19)
24 provided a negative instance for the purported link between totemism and
25 exogamy (Spencer and Gillen :–).
26 The indigenous theory of totemism presented to Spencer and Gillen by
27 their informants was one that clearly denied physiological paternity:
Added to this we have amongst the Arunta, Kuritcha, and Alpirra
tribes, and probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, the
idea firmly held that the child is not the direct result of intercourse,
that it may come without this, which, merely, as it were[,] . . . prepares
the mother for the reception and birth also of an already formed spirit
child who inhabits one of the local totem centres. Time after time we
have questioned them on this point, and always received the reply that
the child was not the direct result of intercourse. (Spencer and Gillen
:, emphasis added)
38 When one asks questions pertaining to potentially contested points of bi-
39 ology or cosmology, it is important that one frames the questions well, that

,   ,    

1 communication is honest, and that one understands the replies. Spencer
2 and Gillen did not inform their readers precisely how this question was
3 asked, as such refinements of methodology had hardly developed. Gillen
4 did understand some Arunta, but interpreters were used, and presumably
5 not all were reliable. We cannot be sure of the reliability of their information
6 in this instance, but that does not mean that it was false.
7 In keeping with this statement of native belief Spencer and Gillen denied
8 that subincision could be a form of birth control. They note that the only
9 barrier to an unsustainable increase in population was the frequent practice
10 of infanticide. Following the suggestion of the physiologist (and occasional
11 anthropologist) Edward Charles Stirling, they reject the depiction of subin-
12 cision by Edward Micklethwaite Curr, Charles Sturt, and others as “the
13 terrible rite.” However, they do view it as “a most extraordinary practise” [92], (20
14 and are surprised to hear that opening the urethra along its entire length
15 does not usually produce dire medical results (Spencer and Gillen :–
Lines: 130
16 ).
17 Although no product of the new science of ethnography, written in the ———
18 colonial periphery, could yet command the reputation of armchair works 0.0pt P
19 like The Golden Bough, written by an esteemed scholar at Cambridge Uni-
Normal P
20 versity, Sir James Frazer, The Native Tribes of Central Australia quickly be-
PgEnds: T
21 came the late Victorian and Edwardian equivalent of a citation classic. The
22 authors’ style was graceful, the data were sometimes sensational, and the
23 work had the imprimatur of their patron, Frazer himself. Furthermore, the [92], (20
24 work incorporated a new technology. Spencer and Gillen included more
25 than  of their own photographs. They were mainly of Arunta ceremo-
26 nial, but there were also prints of personal ornaments, stone axes, shields,
27 boomerangs, knives, and decorative designs. Gillen had become an amateur
28 photographer before his collaboration with Spencer.
29 In  Spencer and Gillen went on a yearlong expedition on camelback
30 through Central Australia. They took with them a Kinematograph (a movie
31 camera) and an Edison concert phonograph with wax cylinders. Spencer,
32 who had to learn the art of cinephotography from scratch in a desert en-
33 vironment with the cumbersome equipment of those early days, succeeded
34 in producing footage of several Arunta rituals. He wrote articles for a Mel-
35 bourne newspaper describing the expedition. He also gave public lectures
36 on his return. In her excellent book Wondrous Difference Alison Griffiths
37 tells us that Spencer found it necessary to warn his potential audience that he
38 would be displaying photographs of naked savages. She speculates that this
39 warning was perhaps also designed to attract an audience eager to encounter

 ,   ,   

1 visions of naked sexual alterity, although neither the lectures nor the pho-
2 tographs were remotely pornographic (Griffiths :–). How the
3 Arunta would have felt had they known that Spencer was exhibiting images
4 of their secret ceremonies to large, unknown audiences is quite another
5 matter. As far as they knew, only Spencer’s two friends, Fison and Howitt,
6 were to see them (Griffiths :).
7 It took more than a decade for the full impact of the work of Spencer
8 and Gillen to be appreciated. Even those who did not agree with some of
9 its arguments or disputed its data made much use of it. It informed not
10 only Frazer’s Totemism and Exogamy () but also Durkheim’s The Ele-
11 mentary Forms of the Religious Life () and Malinowski’s first book, The
12 Family among the Australian Aborigines (). As we have indicated, some
13 of the book’s most influential findings concerned the Arunta’s ignorance [93], (21)
14 of physiological paternity, a notion that sharpened the image of Australian
15 primitivity, and their supposedly anomalous form of totemism, a pertur-
Lines: 136 to
16 bation that contributed to the demise of totemism as a key problematic of
17 evolutionism. 10 ———
18 Within a few years of the publication of Native Tribes, W. E. Roth de- 0.0pt PgV
19 scribed ideas of conception similar but not identical to those of the Arunta
Normal Pag
20 among the Tully River blacks far away in Queensland (Leach :–;
PgEnds: TEX
21 Montagu :–). However, the Tully River blacks did acknowledge
22 physiological paternity among animals as opposed to humans.
23 In The Northern Tribes of Central Australia Spencer and Gillen confirmed [93], (21)
24 that among the Northern Arunta there was no necessary connection be-
25 tween an individual’s totem clan and the clans of his or her father or mother.
26 Accordingly, Frazer decided that it was time to revise his own theory of
27 totemism. In  he had already expressed a view quite different from
28 that of Robertson Smith, that totemism arose because savages could not
29 imagine an immaterial rather than an embodied soul, and they accordingly
30 conceived of individual souls as deposited in plants and animals (Stocking
31 :, ). In  Frazer had created a second theory, which envisaged
32 totemism as ceremonial collective magic dedicated to increasing the supply
33 of desired totemic species (Ackerman :). There was a division of
34 labor whereby each different group within the tribe was made responsible
35 for the increase of a particular species and accordingly built up a relation-
36 ship of respect toward it. In an essay published in the Fortnightly Review
37 in  Frazer claimed that Arunta conceptional totemism was the original
38 form of that institution and as such preceded magic aimed at increasing the
39 food supply. Frazer’s third theory of totemism presupposed a philosophy of

,   ,    

1 evolution that saw the primitive mind as childlike or the primitive body as
2 oversexed:
So astounding an ignorance of natural causation cannot but date from
a past immeasurably remote. Yet that ignorance, strange as it may
seem to us, may be explained easily enough from the habits and modes
of thought of savage man. In the first place, the interval which elapses
between the act of impregnation and the first symptoms of preg-
nancy is sufficient to prevent him from perceiving the connection
between the two. In the second place, the custom, common among
savage tribes, of allowing unrestricted license of intercourse between
the sexes under puberty has familiarised him with sexual unions that
are necessarily sterile; from which he may not unnaturally conclude [94], (22
that the intercourse of the sexes has nothing to do with the birth of
offspring. Hence he is driven to account for pregnancy and child-
birth in some other way. . . . Nothing is commoner among savages the Lines: 142
world over than a belief that a person may be possessed by a spirit. . . . ———
Now, when a woman is observed to be pregnant, the savage infers with 0.0pt P
perfect truth that something has entered into her. What is it? And how ———
does it make its way into her womb? (:) Normal P
PgEnds: T
21 If one strips away the assumptions about “unrestricted license” and the
22 patronizing language (“savages the world over”), and they are not merely
23 incidental, one is left with assertions that someone born outside a culture [94], (22
24 with a scientific tradition might not connect initial intercourse with “the
25 quickening” and might well conclude that, inasmuch as most acts of inter-
26 course (particularly before full puberty) do not lead to pregnancy, inter-
27 course is not causally linked to pregnancy or is certainly not the sole cause
28 of it.
29 As for conception totemism itself, George Stocking has analyzed the ver-
30 sion of the above text that appeared in the first volume of Totemism and
31 Exogamy (Frazer , vol. :–). With some irony, he observes that
32 Frazer’s primitive philosopher changes sex in midstream. A pregnant wom-
33 an might identify her quickening with a natural event that catches her fancy,
34 for example, a lizard jumps nearby, a butterfly flies above, a moonbeam
35 shines. When the child is born, its physical features may bear the impress of
36 spirit entry – it may be said to look like a lizard. The source of conception
37 totemism is, therefore, the “sick fantasies of pregnant women” (quoted in
38 Stocking :). The argument we have just reviewed is not typical of
39 Frazer, who rarely wrote explicitly about sexual topics. Leach notes, for

 ,   ,   

1 example, that “although ‘fertility’ is one of the central themes of Frazer’s
2 The Golden Bough, human sexual intercourse is mentioned only as a magical
3 procedure for improving the crops!” (:).
4 One of the most prominent defenders of the theory of primitive igno-
5 rance of paternity was the Gloucester solicitor Edwin Sidney Hartland, who
6 was twice president of the Folklore Society in Britain. He had published
7 work on the folklore of his native Gloucestershire as well as on the folklore
8 of European peasants and the classical world. In volume  of The Legend of
9 Perseus () Hartland achieved a considerable reputation among literati
10 by his exposition of the story of Perseus’s birth through the miraculous fer-
11 tilization of Danae by Zeus during a shower of rain. Using the comparative
12 method, Hartland showed how this story was one of a body of Märchen that
13 told of the miraculous birth of heroes. Sometimes the mothers were virgins. [95], (23)
14 Often the mode of impregnation was irregular and involved an unusual part
15 of the mother’s body (an example was the common European tale that the
Lines: 151 to
16 Holy Ghost had impregnated the Virgin Mary through her ear).
17 Around the end of the s Hartland decided that the traditions of ———
18 primitive peoples were also part of folklore. During the first decade of the 6.5pt PgV
19 th century he defended anthropological folklore against detractors who
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20 believed that the new discipline should concern itself only with “Aryan”
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21 peoples, and he defended the Tylorian tradition against individuals such
22 as Andrew Lang who sought to diminish the evolutionary distance between
23 primitive and civilized peoples (Dorson :–). In the two volumes [95], (23)
24 of Primitive Paternity (, ) Hartland repeated much of the argument
25 of The Legend of Perseus and then proceeded to deal with primitive morality
26 and ignorance of physiological paternity. Some primitive beliefs concerning
27 the birth of ordinary people resembled common folkloric accounts of the
28 birth of heroes.
29 Hartland’s argument is simple enough. He maintained that most primi-
30 tive peoples throughout the world have low morals, although there is some
31 degree of variation. He thought primitive men allowed other men more
32 liberties with their wives than they would if they understood the facts of
33 conception. The comparative rarity of pregnancy, as compared to inter-
34 course, made it less likely that people of low intelligence would notice a con-
35 nection between the two. The replacement of mother right by father right
36 makes little difference unless there is some degree of social advancement.
37 He spends  pages advancing this point. For example:
39 Among the Hurons Charlevoix reports that the young people of both

,   ,    

1 sexes abandoned themselves without shame to all sorts of dissolute
2 practices. (Hartland :)
4 Mr. Monteiro, writing of the Mussorongo Ambriz and Mushicongo
5 tribes, says: “The Negro knows not love affection or jealousy . . . .”
6 (Hartland :, ellipses in original)
8 [On the Malagasy:] Their sensuality “is universal and unconcealed.”
9 (Hartland :)
11 The Russian peasants . . . attach but too little importance to the sex-
12 ual relations supposed to be safeguarded by their Church. (Hartland
13 [96], (24
15 Before she is handed over to him she has to undergo a cruel and Lines: 160
16 revolting rite which is performed with the cognisance [of], but not
17 ———
among the Arunta, in the presence of the bridegroom (if we may 6.5pt P
18 dignify him by that name). (Hartland :) ———
Normal P
20 Not surprisingly, Hartland mentions Howitt’s Dieri and W. H. R. Rivers’s
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21 Todas of southern India (see below) as well as the Arunta (:–, –
22 ), but his language is always less guarded and markedly more pejorative
23 than in the original accounts. [96], (24
24 One compelling reason for primitive ignorance of paternity was the fre-
25 quency of intercourse involving prepubertal children. Such unions would,
26 of course, be sterile. Furthermore, sexual intercourse between young girls
27 and adult men often caused “such injury to the sexual organs as may seri-
28 ously affect the reproductive powers after maturity is reached” (Hartland
29 :). It is not quite clear what Hartland means by this statement, but
30 he did offer his readers a worldwide database of actual and alleged prepu-
31 bertal sex and child marriage, noting that such practices were, “as might be
32 expected, very common on the continent of Africa” (:).
33 A mere  years separate us from Primitive Paternity. The modern reader
34 finds it hard to separate sane but perhaps misguided statements about the
35 possible, rational causes for ignorance of physiological paternity from the
36 matrix of racial prejudice in which many of them are embedded. It is per-
37 haps significant that the most extreme, value-laden statements concerning
38 primitive sexuality, sexual knowledge, and social institutions come not from
39 the early fieldworkers such as Howitt, Spencer, and Gillen, although they

 ,   ,   

1 were all believers in group marriage and ignorantia paternitatis, but from
2 two of the armchair theoreticians, Frazer and Hartland, who partially mis-
3 read and exaggerated their findings.
4 Hartland bequeathed no intellectual legacy to anthropology because his
5 ideas died with his generation. The same cannot be said of Rivers, the ex-
6 perimental psychologist who studied color perception in the Torres Strait
7 Islands in , the inventor of the genealogical method, the student of
8 Toda polyandry, the prominent evolutionist who became a diffusionist, the
9 medical psychiatrist of Craiglockhart, and, at the very end of his life, the so-
10 cialist who decried the destruction of Melanesian culture. He is the subject
11 of an acclaimed biography by Richard Slobodin () and a protagonist
12 in a fictional trilogy by Pat Barker based on his work with shell-shocked
13 officers at Craiglockhart. He too believed in group marriage, after a fashion. [97], (25)
14 He was able to study a people who actually combined female infanticide and
15 polyandry and sometimes polygyny as well.
Lines: 183 to
16 Rivers visited the Todas of the Nilgiri Hills in southern India for a total of
17 five months in –. His fieldwork involved the use of an interpreter who ———
18 was a Christian catechist (Stocking :). The Todas were and still are a 0.0pt PgV
19 cattle-keeping people, and much of Rivers’s ethnography is occupied with
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20 a description of their sacred dairies. However, it is his brief account of their
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21 system of kinship and marriage (Rivers :–) that has remained in
22 the collective memories of anthropologists. The Todas are divided into two
23 castelike endogamous moieties, each of which is subdivided into exogamous [97], (25)
24 clans. Premarital sexual relationships were the norm, although girls were
25 betrothed (and sometimes formally married) in early childhood. Cross-
26 cousin marriage was preferred, and brother–sister exchange sometimes took
27 place. Marriage was ideally polyandrous. The husbands were often real or
28 classificatory brothers. When the wife became pregnant, the eldest brother
29 presented her with a miniature bow and arrow (the pursütpumi ceremony),
30 thereby legitimizing the future offspring. The brothers were not the only po-
31 tential genitors of a child. Women had formal and informal, temporary and
32 permanent sexual partners in addition to their legal husbands. Rivers said
33 that the Todas had no concept of adultery and little in the way of jealousy.
34 Casual lovers would therefore not even be noted. The formal extramarital
35 unions included partnerships with males in the opposite half of the tribe
36 who were forbidden as legal husbands by the endogamy rule. There were
37 also approved liaisons with keepers of the sacred dairies. Men could also
38 pass on their wives to others in exchange for a payment, but in these cases
39 the new partner became a legal husband. Rivers observed that the Todas

,   ,    

1 had a reputation for low morality among neighboring tribes and that their
2 morality was indeed low by European standards. However, his analysis of
3  cases of color blindness demonstrated to Rivers that women were more
4 faithful to their husbands than the Todas’ reputation and self-image might
5 lead one to expect. Familial color blindness followed patterns that indicated
6 that a substantial portion of color-blind men were indeed the genitors of
7 their wives’ children (Rivers :–).
8 Rivers was intrigued to note the coincidence between female infanticide
9 and polyandry that McLennan might have led him to expect. However, he
10 was unsure whether female infanticide was a cause or an effect of polyandry.
11 In any case, he noted that the Todas might well have brought the institution
12 of polyandry from elsewhere and that infanticide was declining because
13 of missionary pressure. As the sex ratio changed, polygyny was occurring. [98], (26
14 Some marriages were simultaneously polyandrous and polygynous, leading
15 to a state of de facto (but not institutionalized) group marriage. Rivers felt
Lines: 187
16 that this state of affairs might well be a transitional point on the way to
17 monogamy (:). The authorial tone with which Rivers discusses these ———
18 matters is quite dispassionate for the period, considering the nature of his 0.0pt P
19 data. To some extent, the detached approach he takes is an artifact of the
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20 scientific method, which Rivers, the medical doctor, wished to impart to
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21 ethnographic research. The discussion of color blindness and sexual moral-
22 ity is one form of evidence for this, as is his famous use of formal genealo-
23 gies, both to determine marriage rules and to document their relationship to [98], (26
24 actual practice. The Todas, in this early ethnography, are very much objects
25 of the anthropological gaze rather than subjects in their own right, but they
26 are not conscripted as counterexamples to Victorian or Edwardian sexual
27 orthodoxy.
28 One year after The Todas appeared Rivers published his famous paper,
29 “On the Origins of the Classificatory System of Relationships” (). He
30 thus became active in two related debates concerning the referents of rela-
31 tionship terminologies and the place of “group marriage” in social evolu-
32 tion. The debate over the significance of kin terms begun by Morgan and
33 McLennan could thus be resumed  years later by Rivers and Kroeber.
34 What concerns us here is that, like Morgan, Rivers believed that relationship
35 terminologies were not “mere forms of address” or artifacts of the psychol-
36 ogy of language but rather referred to present or, more often, to past social
37 forms. Rivers agreed with Morgan that contemporary relationship termi-
38 nologies often encoded systems of consanguinity and affinity, but he noted
39 that they could refer to factors other than biological kinship such as clan

 ,   ,   

1 membership, age, and generational status, indeed, to a varied set of social
2 rights, duties, and privileges. The Malayan terminology was not, as Morgan
3 thought, a survival of that stage of “the consanguine family” where parent–
4 child incest was banned but brother–sister relationships were permitted, but
5 was instead a marker of relationships based on generational status. How-
6 ever, Rivers felt that terminologies of Morgan’s Ganowanian and Turanian
7 types (Iroquoian, Crow, Omaha, and Dravidian in our contemporary usage)
8 were indeed survivals of the practice of group marriage, which he saw as the
9 marriage of all the members of one moiety, class, or clan to all the members
10 of another (Stocking :). In  Rivers also published a review of
11 Northcote Thomas’s Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia [Last Page]
12 (). In his review Rivers advanced the notion that pirauru marriage and
13 allied institutions represented transitional forms, somewhere in between [99], (27)
14 group marriage and individual marriage, suggesting that some term other
15 than “marriage” be used for such customs. He also stated, however, that he
Lines: 191 to
16 believed it possible that more research on the Australian continent would
17 turn up cases of genuine group marriage, still in existence at the time he ———
18 wrote (Rivers b:–). 114.4590
19 At the beginning of the th century, both continuities and changes were
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20 evident in anthropological discussions of kinship and marriage. On the one
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21 hand, many still held the belief that human evolution had been accom-
22 panied by an increasing diminution of sexual license. On the other hand,
23 that belief was increasingly one that needed to be defended. It was even [99], (27)
24 beginning to be challenged by its equally distancing converse, a belief that
25 primitives were less highly sexed than their civilized counterparts. As we
26 shall see in the following chapters, as the th century moved on, those
27 who drafted primitive sexuality into blueprints for social engineering were
28 increasingly inclined to see or imagine in it things that modernity would
29 do well to import rather than a simple list of dangers that the civilized were
30 enjoined to eschew.

,   ,    

4  
7 The Reconstruction of “Primitive
9 Sexuality” at the Fin de Siècle
11 [First Pag
12 In the eighteenth century, when savage tribes in various parts of the world first
13 [100], (1)
began to be visited, extravagantly romantic views widely prevailed as to the simple
and idyllic lives led by primitive peoples. During the greater part of the nineteenth
century, the tendency of opinion was to the opposite extreme, and it became usual Lines: 0 t
17 to insist on the degraded and licentious morals of savages. . . . ———
18 In reality, however, savage life is just as little a prolonged debauch as a protracted
19 idyll. Normal P
Havelock Ellis, Analysis of the Sexual Impulse PgEnds: T

23 he period we are now to examine is one in which anthropology [100], (1)
24 is institutionalized in the United States (the American Anthropo-
25 logical Association is founded) and is taught in universities for the
26 first time in the United States and Great Britain, ethnography in the true
27 sense is first written, Australian kinship studies mature, and Durkheim’s
28 school flourishes in France. This is the time when the British imperium in
29 Africa is solidified, and at home the welfare state is making its first tentative
30 appearance during a period of class struggle. It is the period of jingoism,
31 the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, and World War I. The eugenics
32 movement flourished on both sides of the Atlantic, in the academy and in
33 the halls of power. Psychoanalysis was born, and there also appeared several
34 works of sexology or, as Michel Foucault would say, scientia sexualis. These
35 included Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (); Das Weib
36 by Hermann Ploss (); John Gregory Bourke’s Scatologic Rites of All Na-
37 tions (); Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds’s Sexual Inversion
38 (); Ellis’s The Evolution of Modesty (), Analysis of the Sexual Impulse
39 (), and Sex in Relation to Society (); Edward Westermarck’s The
1 History of Human Marriage () and The Origin and Development of Moral
2 Ideas (–); Sigmund Freud’s report of his analysis of “Dora” (); and
3 Ernest Crawley’s The Mystic Rose (). Crawley’s Studies of Savages and
4 Sex () is a posthumous work that re-creates the Zeitgeist of the world
5 preceding Mead and Malinowski. 1
6 According to Foucault, discourse in this period validated and naturalized
7 the status of the heterosexual, procreating couple and created a buzz around
8 the figures of the perverse adult, the masturbating child, the Malthusian
9 couple, and the hysterical woman (:). In Britain there was doubtless
10 less stigmatization of the Malthusian couple than in France, but contracep-
11 tive advice remained a matter of controversy. Foucault did not consider a
12 fifth sexual Other, “the differently sexed savage,” nor did he examine the
13 place of the anthropologist in the structures of knowledge and power he so [101], (2)
14 famously elaborated. In this chapter we shall attempt, among other things,
15 to undertake these tasks.
Lines: 21 to
16 Anthropologists’ representations of the sexuality of primitives underwent
17 radical changes in the years between  and the Great War. Ellis, Wester- ———
18 marck, and Crawley did more than anyone else to revise widely held opin- 0.0pt PgV
19 ions on such matters. Andrew Lang and Northcote Thomas also made their
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20 contributions. Evolutionary fantasies about primitive promiscuity, mar-
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21 riage by capture, and exotic forms of sexual abuse were already suspect by
22 the time the first classics of modern ethnography were written, though we
23 have long since learned not to expect any simplistic replacement of fantasy [101], (2)
24 by “truth.” Historians of social anthropology have dealt relatively little with
25 the circumstances that led to the disappearance of these illusions. To a
26 degree, the works of these three thinkers were informed by new data, but
27 they were also fictions of the fin de siècle, refractions of ideas concerning
28 racial and sexual difference, sexual freedom, and restriction. Furthermore,
29 the late Victorian and Edwardian eras saw a series of attacks on the familial
30 institutions and gender concepts of the mid-Victorian era. It is our con-
31 tention that those attacks, which came from both the advocates of social
32 purity and the proponents of sexual liberty, paralleled a refashioning of the
33 images of primitive strangers so that such images could continue to serve as
34 foils for a new generation.
35 The reader of textbooks in anthropology, whether they are historical
36 compendia or introductory surveys, will learn little of these five thinkers,
37 whose contributions have been largely obliterated from our collective mem-
38 ory. Ellis, the author of the seven volumes of Studies in the Psychology of Sex,
39 which originally appeared between the s and the s, is regarded as

   “ ” 

1 a quaint but interesting scholar, overshadowed by his great contemporary,
2 Freud, and as such has been the subject of two excellent biographies (Brome
3 ; Grosskurth ). He is not usually regarded as an anthropologist.
4 Westermarck is known to regional specialists as an early ethnographer of
5 Morocco and to most anthropologists as the inventor of one or two theories
6 concerning incest that are dimly recalled from their oversimplified and gar-
7 bled traduction in introductory textbooks. Most anthropologists today will
8 complete their careers without reading a word he wrote. Brief summaries of
9 The Mystic Rose appear in a few modern sources (Honigmann :–;
10 Evans-Pritchard :–), but little is said of the book’s author. During
11 their lifetimes, both Ellis and Westermarck enjoyed intellectual celebrity
12 and, in Ellis’s case, some notoriety. Crawley, an Anglican churchman who
13 briefly was headmaster of a public school and subsequently wrote articles [102], (3)
14 of general scientific interest for Nature, received plaudits from many of his
15 contemporaries, including Edwin Sidney Hartland, Arnold van Gennep,
Lines: 27
16 and Westermarck (Theodore Besterman in Crawley :vii), and from one
17 distinguished successor (Malinowski ). Crawley’s primary success was ———
18 outside academe. He was a player of lawn tennis and a sportswriter. His 0.0pt P
19 obituary notice in the Times (October , ) contains the remark: “He
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20 was also known as an anthropologist.”As for Lang, he is best remembered as
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21 a folklorist. Thomas is remembered as an interesting footnote in the history
22 of the armchair anthropology of kinship and social organization, though,
23 as we shall see in the next chapter, he played a not dishonorable role as the [102], (3)
24 first ever government anthropologist.
25 One can only surmise the reasons for such oblivion. The modern aca-
26 demic is easily bored by the lengthy compilations of data that were so be-
27 loved by both practitioners of the older physical anthropology and expo-
28 nents of the comparative method. Yet many still read Lewis Henry Morgan
29 and Edward Tylor. A more telling point is that historical memory is always
30 shaped by current concerns, for example, intellectualist versus sociological
31 theories of religion, the evolution of social organization, and, more recently,
32 “the invention of kinship” as well as, for that matter, the invention of nearly
33 everything else (see Kuper ). Only latterly did human sexuality and
34 sexual or gender difference reemerge as acknowledged problematics within
35 anthropology. Last but not least, transition points in the history of any
36 discipline are notoriously difficult to comprehend. Paradigms erode slowly
37 and in ways that often elude the consciousness of innovators. Transitional
38 perspectives frequently appear as wrongheaded to modern readers as the
39 paradigms they replace; nonetheless, they are both the products and the

    “ ”

1 agents of changed intellectual and social climates. Sensitivity to the nuances
2 of change can bridge the apparent chasms of difference that emerge when
3 recent systems of truth and error are compared to older ones.
4 The movement from social evolutionism to historical particularism and
5 cultural relativism has been well explored by some historians of Ameri-
6 can anthropology (e.g., Harris ; Stocking ). On the other hand,
7 the parallel movement toward relativism and functionalism (as well as the
8 hyperdiffusionist detour) in British anthropology has been less exhaustively
9 detailed (apart from Stocking  and Langham ). Insofar as this move-
10 ment encompassed changes in our view of kinship and marriage, it both
11 drew upon and contributed to changes in broad cultural understandings of
12 sexuality. The very replacement of “sex” as a category of understanding by
13 the more neutral “kinship and marriage” during the years when functional- [103], (4)
14 ism dominated British anthropology has helped to erase the importance
15 of fin de siècle debates about primitive and modern sexuality from the
Lines: 29 to
16 collective memory of anthropologists. It is our contention that challenges
17 to notions of sexual morality in fin de siècle society contributed to a ten- ———
18 dency to replace fictive images of lascivious savages with representations of 6.5pt PgV
19 primitives as either less highly sexed than civilized men and women, less
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20 imaginative in their exercise of the sexual function, or blocked by taboo or
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21 environmental restraints from the full exercise of their libidos.
23 [103], (4)
25 In earlier chapters we argued that there were not one but several discourses
26 about sexuality in th-century anthropology but that the highly sexed
27 primitive was a figure common to most of them. Iconography and popular
28 culture also employed images of oversexualized primitives. Sander Gilman’s
29 brilliant essay “The Hottentot and the Prostitute: Towards an Iconography
30 of Female Sexuality” (:–) commences with an account of Édouard
31 Manet’s painting Olympia (–), which shows a naked white female
32 attended by a black female servant. The reader is then introduced to other
33 th-century images of oversexualized females, including the exhibitions
34 involving Saat-Jee, the “Hottentot Venus,” and photographs and plates from
35 volumes by Pauline Tarnowsky and by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo
36 Ferrero that depict genital anomalies and peculiarly atavistic facial features
37 in both Hottentot females and modern European prostitutes. The images
38 that Gilman analyzes are used to establish links between the sexualized
39 female body, primitivity, behavioral excess, biological degeneracy, and the

   “ ” 

1 underclass of those times. Ideas of degeneracy and evolutionary atavism had
2 become particularly prominent by the fin de siècle. A current of pessimism
3 about urbanization, industrialism, and social instability was reflected in the
4 belief that modern society could unwittingly defeat the forces of natural
5 selection and allow the undesirable elements that flourished in its unhealthy
6 cities to reverse the tide of progress. The equation between“savages”and real
7 and imagined “enemies within” became even more specifically concerned
8 with bodies and physiology as the new sciences of sexology and criminology
9 were brought to bear on social crises and moral panics. Homosexuals, Jews,
10 criminals, prostitutes, artists, and the insane were all seen as threats to the
11 entire community (Gilman ).
12 Several feminist historians (see, e.g., Russett ; Levy ) have dis-
13 cussed the oversexualizing of the female body during the Victorian era, [104], (5)
14 noting that wanton savage women were often depicted as warnings of the
15 need to control all female sexuality. Such authors, however, pay little if
Lines: 36
16 any attention to the parallel treatment of primitive males. John and Robin
17 Haller, in The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America (), discuss ———
18 th-century ideas of male sexual evolution but say relatively little about 0.0pt P
19 the treatment of primitive women. Susan Kingsley Kent, in Sex and Suffrage
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20 in Britain, – (), provides an excellent account of the social and
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21 political ramifications of the Victorian double standard but is not concerned
22 with the anthropological literature. In truth, the processes described by all
23 of these authors reinforced each other in the creation of the tropic portrait [104], (5)
24 of the oversexed savage.
25 Men of the Victorian middle classes were allowed more sexual indulgence
26 than respectable women. Despite this, men were believed to be charac-
27 terized by a higher mental development, making them less subject to the
28 demands of their reproductive systems than their wives, provided they had
29 not obstructed their mental development at an early age by indulgence in
30 the “solitary vice.” Images of primitive sexuality that saw male and female
31 alike as debauched shored up a number of planks in the construction of
32 the Victorian sexual and gender system. Such images underscored a belief
33 in greater sexual differentiation the higher one went up the evolutionary
34 ladder. Men, confronted with lecherous savage ancestors, might excuse their
35 visits to prostitutes as inevitable expressions of male nature while at the
36 same time congratulating themselves on hours spent in the study, the office,
37 or the laboratory. Women, on the other hand, whose lives were centered
38 mainly upon marriage and reproduction, might, as Levy suggests, be warned
39 that their elevation above the primitive was tenuous at best and depended

    “ ”

1 upon strict adherence to domestic norms. When norms came under attack
2 at the fin de siècle, differentiations between men and women, savage and civ-
3 ilized remained salient, but some of the terms of the comparisons changed
4 their value, and new tropes emerged.
5 There were early criticisms of the hypothesis of primitive promiscuity.
6 That notion clearly contradicted Sir Henry Maine’s opinions concerning
7 the early patriarchal family, and, not surprisingly, he attacked it (:).
8 Others were more reserved as to their opinions. In correspondence with
9 Westermarck Tylor requested that Westermarck, who was preparing a sec-
10 ond edition of The History of Human Marriage, ensure that “I am put right
11 in the Introduction, as an unbeliever in ‘communal marriage”’ (December
12 , , in Wikman :). His opposition had not been very public.
13 Sir Charles Darwin gave the theory a lukewarm endorsement in The De- [105], (6)
14 scent of Man. He was disturbed because his own reading suggested that
15 higher apes (e.g., gorillas) were characterized by small families headed by
Lines: 40 to
16 jealous males. The gregarious, promiscuous commune conjured into being
17 by the “matriarchal” theorists contradicted the principle of continuity in ———
18 evolution. Furthermore, it would not allow for the individual choice on 0.0pt PgV
19 which his theory of sexual selection depended. However, Sir John Lubbock
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20 was his friend, neighbor, and ally, and Darwin did not regard himself as
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21 an expert in the new social anthropology. He thought that the marriage tie
22 was very loose in many primitive societies and that there was much sexual
23 license, but he doubted the necessity for “believing in absolutely promiscu- [105], (6)
24 ous intercourse” (Darwin :).
25 In his discussion of sexual selection Darwin remarks that women, unlike
26 men, do not delight in competition but are tender, unselfish, and nurturant.
27 However, he noted: “It is generally admitted that with woman the powers of
28 intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly
29 marked than in man; but some, at least, of these faculties are characteristic of
30 the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilisation” (Dar-
31 win :, ). Furthermore, as Francis Galton had noted, few women
32 had excelled in the arts, history, philosophy, and science. Overall, “the av-
33 erage of mental power in man must be above that of woman” (Darwin
34 :).
35 Charles Staniland Wake’s book The Development of Marriage and Kinship
36 () laid waste to the theory of primitive promiscuity, John F. McLennan’s
37 views on marriage by capture, and Lubbock’s ideas on hetaerism. Wake’s
38 book was neither a commercial nor an academic success. It was cited but sel-
39 dom, and its author later died in Chicago, an obscure and forgotten figure.

   “ ” 

1 It was Darwin rather than Maine or Wake who inspired a revival of “patri-
2 archal” theory during the first decade of the th century. His views on the
3 family organization of the higher apes furnished a model to J. J. Atkinson,
4 whose Primal Law was published in , at which time Sigmund Freud
5 was beginning to develop the theory of psychoanalysis in Vienna. For many
6 scholars during the first half of the last century and in some small circles
7 even today, psychoanalytic theory is the primary source of speculation on
8 the evolution of sexuality and the family. Few scholars of any kind and few
9 devotees of psychoanalytical theory read Primal Law, the book that was
10 the foundation stone of Freud’s theory of the origin of religion, the incest
11 taboo, and the Oedipus complex, as expressed in Totem and Taboo ().
12 All of these phenomena, and with them culture itself, were imagined by
13 Freud to have been born of the guilt felt by a horde of young men after an [106], (7)
14 uprising during which they killed their fathers and subsequently married
15 their mothers.
Lines: 50
16 That Atkinson’s work ever saw the light of day was due to his own cousin
17 Andrew Lang, the distinguished folklorist, who published the work together ———
18 with his own Social Origins after the author’s death. Lang explained the 0.0pt P
19 origin of exogamy with reference to Crawley’s theory of the need to avoid
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20 harmful contact with females and to his cousin’s theory. Atkinson’s argu-
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21 ment was a compote of patriarchal theory (but not Maine’s version of it),
22 common ideas of primitive brutality, Darwin’s observations on gorilla fam-
23 ily organization, as well as the projections of his own imagination. Atkinson [106], (7)
24 postulated the existence of an archaic family, headed by a senior male, who
25 had sole access to the women of the group, including his own daughters.
26 Bands of exiled young males seized women by force from other family
27 groups. Eventually, mothers demanded that their sons be allowed to remain
28 in the group, but, in exchange, the patriarchs demanded that the sons re-
29 nounce access to their own mothers. Émile Durkheim published a review
30 of the Lang and Atkinson volume in the Année Sociologique in which he
31 was somewhat sardonic about Atkinson’s speculations about a past that was
32 almost prehuman (–:–). 2
33 To Atkinson’s theory, Freud added just a few key elements: parricide,
34 mother–son incest, guilt, and totemism. Briefly, Freud argued that men
35 invented totemism and the incest taboo out of guilt stemming from a mass
36 slaying of fathers by sons followed by the sexual appropriation of the mur-
37 derers’ mothers. The memory of the father, displaced onto totemic animals,
38 could be both honored and erased by taboos surrounding the killing and
39 eating of the totems. Interestingly, Freud’s theory of totemism is entirely

    “ ”

1 based on male desire, male agency (parricide, war between the brothers,
2 instigation of totemism). He does not consider why women in such societies
3 also believe in totemism. In this he differs from Atkinson’s original version
4 of the primal horde theory: Atkinson thought that the driving out of the
5 young males had ended because the mothers insisted on it once human
6 ancestors had evolved enough for long, close relationships between mothers
7 and children to develop. Atkinson’s theory, though it is a crucial part of
8 a general trend away from matriarchal theory (though some, like Robert
9 Briffault, continued to believe in it), continues to allow female agency and
10 affective relationships between men and women that are other than sexual.
11 There is little if anything in Freud’s version of patriarchal origins theory to
12 explain why women should also believe in totemism. Matrilineally inherited
13 totems (and hence exogamous matrilineal clans) are explained simply as a [107], (8)
14 way of rendering the mother taboo.
15 When Freud adapted Atkinson’s theory, he added to the notion of the pri-
Lines: 54 to
16 mal, brutal primitive his own speculations concerning Australians, whose
17 myths, he believed, revealed a more recent consciousness of incestuous ———
18 desires than could be attributed to healthy, civilized adults. Adapting the 0.0pt PgV
19 popular recapitulation hypothesis (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”),
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20 he compared totemism to childhood animal phobias. Such phobias are
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21 characterized by a psychic strategy whereby ambivalent sentiments toward
22 the same-sex parent are displaced onto animals. By identifying totemism
23 with childhood animal phobias, Freud was able to view primitives as being [107], (8)
24 simultaneously childlike, irrational, guilt ridden, and closer to unsocialized
25 sexuality than civilized adults. In this analysis of totemism lies the explana-
26 tion for the fact that Freud saw primitives as simultaneously taboo ridden
27 and sexually lascivious. This is exactly the position Freud attributes to the
28 child late in the Oedipal phase, a point where significant limits have already
29 been placed on the gratification of desire. It should be noted that the zero
30 points of Atkinson’s and Freud’s stories of social evolution begin not with
31 primitive promiscuity as such but with a “family” of sorts in which at least
32 some restrictions on sexual access are maintained by the jealousy of the
33 senior male. It requires little speculation on our own part to descry the
34 link between Freud’s assassinated patriarch, Atkinson’s primal males, and,
35 indeed, the corn god of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, sacrificed
36 annually only to rise again – they are all transformations of the discourse
37 on phallic worship that we examined in an earlier chapter.
38 Lang died just a year before the appearance of Totem and Taboo, so we
39 can only surmise what he would have thought of Freud’s adaptation of

   “ ” 

1 Atkinson’s ideas. In Social Origins Lang suggested that the younger males
2 who were cast out of the primal group (we must recall that in this version
3 of the hypothesis the patriarchs stay alive and keep their women) obtained
4 sexual partners by raiding other family groups. At some point members of
5 such groups somehow got the notion of arranging themselves into pairs to
6 facilitate the peaceful exchange of women. These newly created exogamous
7 moieties would use animal sobriquets to insult each other, which eventually
8 led to the emergence of totemic ideology. In The Secret of the Totem Lang,
9 perhaps in an attempt to reach a compromise with some critics, suggested
10 that phratry exogamy was given a religious meaning through the introduc-
11 tion of totemic taboos (:). In short, instead of commencing with the
12 “undivided commune” (which did not resemble “the family” in any sense
13 we would recognize), social evolution commences with family bands domi- [108], (9)
14 nated by patriarchs. Moiety and clan exogamy were thus not the product of
15 an “unconscious reformation” that led to the dividing of the original group
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16 but were instead the product of conscious alliance between formerly war-
17 ring groups. Given that Lang rejected the evolutionary sequence embraced ———
18 by Morgan, Lorimer Fison, A. W. Howitt, and Baldwin Spencer, it is not 0.0pt P
19 surprising that he also rejected the idea of universal ignorance of paternity
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20 among primitives. He was willing to concede that the Arunta denied the
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21 father’s role in procreation. However, he observed that other Australian
22 groups who were as primitive as or more primitive than the Arunta were
23 perfectly aware of physiological paternity. For this reason he suspected that [108], (9)
24 such nescience was a unique product of Arunta dogmas about reincarnation
25 rather than simple ignorance (Lang :–). In no way did Lang wish
26 totally to deny distance and differentiation between Australian Aborigines
27 and ourselves, but he did see the differences as being less radical than did
28 some of his contemporaries. His rejection of matriarchal theory accompa-
29 nied a rejection of the Tylorian theory of animism. Lang insisted that there
30 were residues of monotheism in Australian religion. This theoretical turn
31 may have accompanied his interest in spiritualism.
32 Thomas was Lang’s disciple as both an anthropologist and a spiritualist.
33 There is, however, nothing esoteric or occult in Kinship Organisations and
34 Group Marriage in Australia (). The book contained a long and pre-
35 cise exposition of what was known about Australian section systems. After
36 completing this task Thomas launched an attack on assumptions that rela-
37 tionship terminologies referred to biological connection rather than “duties
38 and status.” Given that the Arunta term unawa covered a whole category of
39 women whom a man might have married in addition to the person he did

    “ ”

1 marry, it could not be translated into any single term in English such as
2 “wife” (Thomas :). One would not say that “the fact that femme in
3 French means both wife and woman is an argument for the existence of
4 promiscuity in France in Roman or post-Roman times” (Thomas :).
5 Thomas then reviewed all the Central Australian customs such as pirauru
6 marriage and supposed variants of the jus primae noctis that had been ad-
7 duced as evidence of the former practice of group marriage and concluded
8 that each probably had a specific function and that all such customs, apart
9 from saturnalian reversals, excluded intercourse between certain categories
10 of people. His examination of Howitt’s material on Dieri pirauru was partic-
11 ularly thorough, and he exposed a number of problems and contradictions
12 in the narrative. 3
13 After reviewing the work of Howitt and that of Spencer and F. J. Gillen, [109], (10)
14 Thomas was hardly sure what the pirauru custom represented, but he was
15 sure that it was not a survival of group marriage (:–). Indeed, he
Lines: 60 to
16 felt that descriptors such as “secondary marriage” were unhelpful. Thomas
17 had previously discussed the advantages and admitted disadvantages of ———
18 Westermarck’s definition of “marriage” as “a more or less durable connec- 6.5pt PgV
19 tion between male and female, lasting beyond the mere act of propagation
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20 till after the birth of the child” (:). He felt that it was the best defi-
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21 nition anthropologists had at that time. Many societies permitted forms of
22 “gamic union” that were not perduring and did not impose the same rights
23 and confer the same duties as marriage (Thomas :). Thomas appears [109], (10)
24 to have endorsed Lang’s views on Arunta nescience, but he has little to say
25 about it (:).
26 What Thomas displayed was an ability to talk about Australian Aborig-
27 inal sexual mores and marriage rules in a language that attempted “scien-
28 tific” precision. Such language may indeed deprive Australian social life of
29 flesh and blood, but it does try to avoid the ethnocentric excesses still so
30 widespread in the first years of the th century. Such language was com-
31 mon in social anthropology  to  years later. By that time ideas of group
32 marriage and primitive promiscuity were to be found only on the fringes of
33 the discipline.
    
37 In  Westermarck’s doctoral thesis, which was to constitute the first six
38 chapters of The History of Human Marriage, was accepted by his university
39 in Finland. Two years later the complete book appeared in print. Nearly

   “ ” 

1  years later the author described how his research led him to dispute the
2 theory of primitive promiscuity.
From Darwin’s book I discovered that several scientists held the view
that primitive man lived in a state of promiscuity – in other words,
that in the earliest ages of our race individual marriage relations did
not exist and all men had access to all women without distinction.
He himself thought that in those times the men’s jealousy would pre-
vent such a condition, but took for granted – on the ground of Mor-
gan’s, McLennan’s, and Lubbock’s investigations – that promiscuity
or something similar had, at a later date, been general amongst the
human race. I went to the authorities he quoted, and thus at last –
at twenty-five years of age – found it necessary to learn to read an [110], (11
English book. In the material I collected concerning the manners and
customs of different peoples, I also thought I could trace remnants of
earlier promiscuity; thus I began by supporting a theory which I was Lines: 69
to dispute later on. But I had not got far before I found that I was on ———
the wrong track. I perceived that marriage must primarily be studied 0.0pt P
in its connection with biological conditions, and that the tendency ———
to interpret all sorts of customs as social survivals, without a careful Normal P
investigation into their existing environment, is apt to lead to the most PgEnds: T
arbitrary conclusions. (Westermarck :)
23 Many of Westermarck’s disagreements with the author of The Descent of [110], (11
24 Man arose from the simple fact that in many ways he was more Darwinian
25 than Darwin himself. For instance, he felt that human racial variation could
26 be adequately explained by natural selection and that the theory of sexual
27 selection was at best redundant and at worst misleading. He firmly believed
28 that some form of lasting pair bonding was part of the human inheritance
29 from our primate ancestors. Such marriages had to last sufficiently long to
30 ensure that children, few in number, might be nurtured until such time as
31 they could fend for themselves. In that sense, “marriage” had a biological
32 as well as a cultural base. He believed that monogamy was probably the
33 prevalent form of marriage in primitive societies. Polygamous institutions
34 were special adaptations. Polygyny was most common among advanced
35 savages and barbarians; its causes included differentials in power, boredom
36 on the part of men, barrenness, and the premature aging of females (West-
37 ermarck –, vol. :–). The “higher forms of civilization” favored
38 monogamy, in part because the supply of animal milk reduced suckling
39 time, the number of wars decreased, pregnancy taboos declined, and there

    “ ”

1 was a less intense need for offspring. Additionally, civilization had made
2 female beauty more durable. Social evolution had also resulted in changes
3 that had favored women who benefited from monogamy: “Moreover, the
4 sentiment of love becomes more refined, the passion for one more absorb-
5 ing. The feelings of the weaker sex are frequently held in higher regard. And
6 the better education of women enables them to live comfortably without
7 the support of a husband” (Westermarck –, vol. :). Later on we
8 shall examine and dispute the contention that Westermarck’s attitudes to
9 monogamy constituted a defense of Victorian marriage. What concerns us
10 now is that his Darwinian interpretation of human social history underpins
11 and sustains his attack on theories of sexual communism.
12 Westermarck used several arguments to attack the theories of McLennan,
13 Morgan, and Lubbock: [111], (12)
14 . The theory of primitive promiscuity was based on unreliable reports
15 by missionaries and travelers. Very often data were misinterpreted. The
Lines: 76 to
16 absence of a word for marriage in a foreign language did not entail that
17 the institution did not exist among its speakers. New data from reliable ———
18 sources, for example, E. H. Man on the Andamanese and John Mathew on 0.0pt PgV
19 the Australian Aborigines, indicated that supposedly promiscuous peoples
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20 were simply not promiscuous (Westermarck :–).
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21 . Even if promiscuity did exist among some primitive peoples, no proof
22 was available that it had always been present. Culture contact, slavery, and
23 colonization often caused a collapse in morality and a decline in the birth- [111], (12)
24 rate (Westermarck :–).
25 . McLennan and Lubbock were wrong to suggest that the condition
26 of women in very primitive communities was particularly degraded. The
27 ethnographic evidence did not point in that direction (Westermarck ).
28 Furthermore, if women had to labor hard in primitive communities, the
29 same was true of their menfolk (Westermarck :–).
30 . The fact that a people permitted premarital sexual relations did not
31 mean that they permitted promiscuity. The two concepts were not the same
32 (Westermarck :–).
33 . Primitives tended to marry early in life, and few were left unmarried.
34 More advanced peoples tended to favor late marriage, and a number of
35 individuals were left on the shelf. For a variety of reasons the latter condition
36 was more conducive to promiscuity than the former: “Irregular connexions
37 between the sexes have on the whole established a tendency to increase along
38 with the progress of civilization” (Westermarck :).
39 . Lubbock had contended that institutions such as the lending of wives to

   “ ” 

1 strangers and the jus primae noctis demonstrated that individuals asserting
2 their own privileges had to make a ceremonial concession to the group. Such
3 practices were, therefore, survivals of group marriage and primitive promis-
4 cuity. Westermarck suggested some more prosaic interpretations such as the
5 observance of rules of hospitality (:–).
6 . There was little evidence of ignorance of physiological paternity in any
7 existing group (Westermarck :–).
8 . Morgan’s analysis of relationship terminologies was faulty. McLennan
9 had been correct to suggest that they were merely terms of address rather
10 than accurate reflections of marriage patterns past or present (Westermarck
11 :–).
12 . Ethnographic evidence did not indicate that matriliny inevitably pre-
13 ceded patriliny (Westermarck :–). [112], (13
14 . Male jealousy was a biological and cultural universal in human soci-
15 eties. This very fact rendered it unlikely that systematic promiscuity could
Lines: 90
16 ever have been the rule (Westermarck :–).
17 In Analysis of the Sexual Impulse, originally published in  as volume ———
18  of his Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Ellis gave his loyal support to West- 0.0pt P
19 ermarck on the question of primitive promiscuity. He observed that the
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20 conclusion that primitive peoples were “abandoned to debauchery” often
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21 rested on misunderstandings of customs such as wife lending and ritual
22 intercourse (Ellis a, pt. :–). Sometimes a genuine increase in
23 promiscuity could be the consequence of interference by missionaries with [112], (13
24 established cultural practices: “Yet this dangerously unsettling process has
25 been applied by missionaries on a wholesale scale to races which in some
26 respect are often little more than children” (Ellis a, pt. :). Like West-
27 ermarck but in a much more cursory fashion, Ellis examined the ethno-
28 graphic record of the time and claimed that it failed to support the hypoth-
29 esis of primitive promiscuity. One of the examples he cites is particularly
30 interesting to modern readers of J. Philippe Rushton’s notorious writings.
31 Although “the Negroid races of Africa” were reputed to be “particularly
32 prone to sexual indulgence,” a French army surgeon in his Untrodden Fields
33 of Anthropology had remarked that “the negress is rather cold and indifferent
34 to the refinements of love” (Ellis b, pt. : ). White men, the surgeon
35 had noted, were particularly unlikely to satisfy black women because their
36 penises were too small and they achieved ejaculation in too short a time.
37 Westermarck’s Darwinism led him to consider that many features of hu-
38 man behavior, for example, marriage, maternal and paternal care, and maid-
39 enly coyness, were rooted in instinct and therefore “normal.” In his review

    “ ”

1 of the fifth edition of The History of Human Marriage, which was first pub-
2 lished in  in the seventh volume of Studies in the Psychology of Sex,
3 Ellis was pleased to note that “the two main points in this [Westermarck’s]
4 method are its biological basis and its inductive collection of comparative
5 facts” (b, pt. :).
6 In the  edition of Analysis of the Sexual Impulse Ellis cites Freud and
7 Crawley. A gradual rapprochement developed between Crawley and Ellis,
8 albeit they started from very different premises. Although Crawley was not
9 among those who viewed primitives as slaves to excessive sexual drives,
10 he did subscribe to that school of opinion that saw them as entrapped by
11 superstition and taboo.
12 In The Mystic Rose Crawley developed a theory of marriage origins with
13 highly individualistic premises. Primitive individuals lived in a state of fear. [113], (14)
14 Contagion was a dreaded result of contact with any other thing or person.
15 This net of primitive irrationalism was exemplified by the fear of sexual
Lines: 102 to
16 contagion, a terror on the part of each sex of that which was opposite and
17 alien to it. Sexual intercourse was, needless to say, a requirement for the con- ———
18 tinued existence of any society. Accordingly, it was performed but at times 0.0pt PgV
19 and in a manner stipulated by taboo. Hedges were always necessary against
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20 the dangers caused by the crossing of ritual boundaries. Not surprisingly,
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21 Crawley was hostile to all theories of religion, kinship, and sexuality that
22 were based in assumptions of human gregariousness. He devoted much of
23 his time to attacking McLennan, noting that marriage by capture could well [113], (14)
24 be the very thing McLennan said it was not, a cultural expression of sexual
25 coyness.
26 Whereas Crawley’s opinions may strike the modern anthropologist as
27 somewhat quaint, it is easy selectively to read Ellis and easier still to read
28 Westermarck and to conclude either that the modern, relativist view of
29 primitive and modern sexuality is fully adumbrated in their writing or that
30 they are, fundamentally, eminent Victorians at heart. To do the former,
31 one must ignore many things, including frequent references to the “lower
32 races” and progress in the refinements of love. With regard to the latter
33 point of view, one must note Westermarck’s annoyance at depictions of
34 primitive lasciviousness. Second, his book The Origin and Development of
35 Moral Ideas occasioned some outrage, inasmuch as it suggested that moral
36 judgments were anchored in the emotions and not in reason and that there
37 were no absolute moral truths. Third, by the s (e.g., in A Short History
38 of Marriage in ) Westermarck had adopted a more functionalist and
39 less evolutionist style in his writing. Nonetheless, the writing of all three

   “ ” 

1 men on periodicity, Ellis’s and Westermarck’s opinions on the evolution of
2 modesty, and Ellis’s opinions concerning female neoteny all indicate that
3 their thought world was very different from our own while revealing sharp
4 breaks with their immediate past.
 : , ,  “  ”
8 In an early conference paper (Lyons and Lyons ) we suggested that
9 one consequence of the work of Ellis and Crawley was the substitution of
10 the image of the “undersexed” for that of the “oversexed” savage. Those
11 remarks were exaggerated, but they had a point. Westermarck, Ellis, and
12 Crawley were all convinced that primitive humans had a mating season,
13 a “rutting” time just like many other mammals. At other times they were [114], (15
14 sexually inactive.
15 Traces of periodicity were to be found even in civilized European coun-
Lines: 108
16 tries: “In the eighteenth century Wargentin showed that in Sweden more
17 children were born in one month than another” (Westermarck :). ———
18 Statisticians had noted the same in other European countries. In general it 5.0885
19 appeared that conceptions peaked in May and June, which fact was reflected
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20 in a February–March peak in the birthrate (Westermarck :). While
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21 Westermarck did not adequately explore nonbiological explanations for the
22 alleged phenomenon, his European data were at the very least more than
23 anecdotal. However, when he endeavored to substantiate the existence of a [114], (15
24 rutting season among primitives, he relied on a kind of evidence that he
25 would never have entertained from a proponent of primitive promiscu-
26 ity: “Speaking of the Watch-an-dies in the western part of Australia, Mr.
27 Oldfield remarks, ‘Like the beasts of the field, the savage has but one time
28 for copulation in the year. About the middle of spring . . . the Watch-an-
29 dies begin to think of holding their grand semi-religious festival of Caa-ro”’
30 (Westermarck :).
31 Westermarck entertained various reasons for the timing of rutting. It
32 was noteworthy that among non-European as well as European peoples
33 “we find . . . the sexual instinct increasing at the end of the spring” (West-
34 ermarck :). This was true, for instance, of India, and it was at this
35 time that the festival of Holi was held. However, the main festival time in
36 some parts of India was in January, a fact Westermarck found problematic,
37 because he felt that saturnalian festivals and the mating season should coin-
38 cide. Sexual periodicity could not be explained simply in terms of the posi-
39 tion of the heavenly bodies. Nor was it adequate to suggest that the mating

    “ ”

1 season occurred when there was a plenitude of food, because May and June
2 in Scandinavia were “rather hard” months. Conditions at the time of birth
3 and infancy were critical. Clearly, the mating season had to be timed so that
4 births could take place during the season that was optimal for the survival
5 of progeny (Westermarck :–). The principle of natural selection was
6 at work.
7 In Westermarck’s opinion there was a simple reason why the mating sea-
8 son had nearly disappeared among civilized populations. Progress had en-
9 abled humans to escape the rigors of the seasons, thus permitting more
10 “variations as to the pairing time,” a pattern that was preserved and trans-
11 mitted from generation to generation. A similar pattern was to be found
12 among a few primitive groups such as the Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego, who
13 had an adequate food supply all year round. [115], (16)
14 It is to be noted that Westermarck made no direct observations about
15 the sexual potency of primitives, although the notion of periodicity implies
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16 such, and Ellis and Crawley were to make some very unambiguous remarks.
17 Certainly, he did not believe that primitive peoples were always consumed ———
18 by sexual desire, and that is perhaps one reason why he embraced a theory 0.0pt PgV
19 of incest that is the very opposite of Freud’s inasmuch as he assumed that
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20 groups with an innate aversion to incest would have been favored by natural
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21 selection (Westermarck :–). He thought that such an aversion did
22 not come into play when close relatives were reared apart and were unaware
23 of the relationship, so he was, in fact, speaking of a behavioral trait triggered [115], (16)
24 by contiguity: “What I maintain is that there is an innate aversion to sexual
25 intercourse between persons living very closely together from early youth,
26 and that, as such persons are in most cases related, this feeling displays itself
27 chiefly as a horror of intercourse between near kin” (Westermarck :).
28 Crawley at first eschewed biological explanations for primitive sexual
29 restraint as surely as Westermarck rejected ritual determinism. The dis-
30 agreement extended to the explanation of brief periods of license. Whereas
31 Westermarck noted the coincidence of saturnalia and the supposed mating
32 season and implied that nature in some way dictated its desires to culture,
33 Crawley explained these festivals, which we would now call liminal rites or
34 rituals of reversals, as magical ways to bridge the barriers that taboos had
35 created between humans.
36 Ellis reconciled the biological and ritual positions on the origin of sexual
37 restraint by suggesting that taboos could only take hold where the sexual
38 instinct was fundamentally weak (a, pt. :, ). This weakness was
39 often correlated with an underdevelopment of the sexual organs and certain

   “ ” 

1 psychic manifestations, for example, lack of jealousy (something Wester-
2 marck would not have credited). The sexual urge, rather than being con-
3 stant, ebbed and flowed. At its peak it burst forth in violent manifestations
4 of sexual energy, feasts, orgies, and saturnalia (Ellis a, pt. :). Ellis
5 accepted many of Westermarck’s notions concerning periodicity and the
6 rutting season and added more ethnographic data about their salience in
7 primitive societies as well as statistical data that demonstrated that such
8 phenomena were still significant in contemporary societies. He relied on
9 some colorful and dubious travelers’ tales such as the suggestion by Dr.
10 Frederick Cook of the Peary North Greenland expedition that among the
11 Eskimo, secretions, passions, and muscular activities diminish over the win-
12 ter but that “soon after the sun appears a kind of rut affects the young
13 population. They tremble with the intensity of sexual passion” (Ellis a, [116], (17
14 pt. :). Such violent but occasional outbursts of the sexual instinct were,
15 in Ellis’s opinion, the reason why so many mistakenly believed that savages
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16 possessed a particularly powerful sex drive.
17 Crawley accepted many of Ellis’s arguments and modified others. Adding ———
18 for good measure a dose of Anglican anti-Catholic sentiment, he wrote an 0.0pt P
19 essay on “Chastity and Sexual Morality” that appeared in a posthumous vol-
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20 ume edited by Theodore Besterman, Studies of Savages and Sex. This work is
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21 informed by a profoundly nonrelativist dogma. Crawley’s intent in his essay
22 was to write a minihistory of the “biological, economic and psychological
23 causes of sexual morality” and, concomitantly, a study of “distribution of [116], (17
24 the habit of chastity, and the natural curve of its development” (:).
25 The reader is informed that, “roughly speaking, the sexual impulse is a
26 psychical outgrowth from the nutritive, corresponding to it as physiolog-
27 ical reproduction corresponds to physiological nutrition” (Crawley :).
28 The undernourished primitive had “underdeveloped” sexual organs and
29 manifested “difficulty in attaining sexual excitement” (Crawley :). Ac-
30 cordingly, notions of primitive sexual communism were absurd. Crawley
31 enthusiastically repeated some of the arguments of Ellis and Westermarck
32 (:–). Unlike Ellis and Westermarck, Crawley was insistent that there
33 was no primitive mating season in the strict biological sense. However,
34 cultural institutions fulfilled the same role, inasmuch as they had a latent
35 biological function. Group gatherings and festivals, whose overt purpose
36 was merrymaking, were the occasions for sexual arousal and were often
37 followed by long periods of natural chastity. “Thus we have a cultural as
38 well as a physiological rhythm of periodicity” (Crawley :).
39 Overall, Westermarck’s attacks on the promiscuity hypothesis served to

    “ ”

1 elevate the primitive Other; Crawley’s theories had a very different effect.
2 He informed his readers that the higher races not only had greater sexual
3 potency but could concentrate on higher things because their young took
4 longer to mature and the “associational centres of the brain” could develop
5 even after puberty. The savage child was as intelligent as the European up
6 until puberty, but “subsequently he ‘runs to seed,’ or rather ‘to sex”’ (Crawley
7 :).
8 The reader of the above account might be excused the thought that there
9 is one human physiological process, menstruation, that is undeniably peri-
10 odic but that is not directly linked to any mating season. Indeed, menstrual
11 taboos commonly prohibit mating. A close reading of the texts, particu-
12 larly Ellis’s The Evolution of Modesty, leaves one with the feeling that Ellis
13 confused menstruation with heat. He answered his own inquiry as to why [117], (18)
14 intercourse was prohibited during menstruation with the remark that “the
15 whole of religion is a . . . remolding of nature, a repression of natural im-
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16 pulses, an effort to turn them into new channels” (Ellis a, pt. :–).
17 Thomas Laqueur has recently observed that the hormonal basis of ovula- ———
18 tion was not understood until the s and that women who read medical 0.0pt PgV
19 advice books were once told to restrict intercourse to the twelfth to sixteenth
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20 days after menstruation if they wished to avoid pregnancy (:)! Further-
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21 more, the relationship between menstruation and the cycle of ovulation was
22 not understood. Nineteenth-century writers frequently confused menstru-
23 ation with heat (Laqueur :–). [117], (18)
24 The imagery involved in medical accounts of menstruation was quite
25 vivid. According to Laqueur, Walter Heape, an antifeminist reproductive bi-
26 ologist who taught at Cambridge, used language “redolent of war reportage”
27 to describe the “destruction” of the uterine lining, referring to it as a severe
28 and devastating periodic action (:). In Man and Woman, the first
29 edition of which appeared in , Ellis lamented that women were “peri-
30 odically wounded in the most sensitive spot in their organism” (:).
31 The behavioral effects of menstruation, which allegedly included a rise in
32 the suicide rate of females, were bemoaned: “They emphasize the fact that
33 even in the healthiest woman a worm, however harmless and unperceived,
34 gnaws periodically at the roots of life” (Ellis :). If one connects these
35 remarks with Ellis’s later comments about periodicity, particularly among
36 primitives, one may make some inferences about the classificatory schemata
37 that consciously or unconsciously directed his inquiries. In all fairness, one
38 must remark that Ellis tentatively tried to extend the concept of periodicity
39 to men, claiming that there was evidence of this phenomenon in the timing

   “ ” 

1 of nocturnal emissions (a, pt. :). Of course, there is no suggestion
2 of “wounds” or “disease” in his description of male periodicity.
3 The shift from presumed moral hierarchies to interpretations of partially
4 understood physiological evidence left primitives both closer to lower ani-
5 mals than civilized folk and less sophisticated in their sexual attainments.
6 It is fair to note, however, that Westermarck is far less pejorative in his
7 descriptions of primitives than is Ellis, though the underlying logic of his
8 arguments is similar, as both men see natural selection working its effects
9 more clearly and directly upon the uncivilized.
10 Both Ellis and Westermarck modified the Darwinian model of courtship.
11 Darwin assigned the male the active role and the female the passive role
12 in this process. Ellis believed that women were naturally passive in sexual
13 intercourse (Grosskurth :). Westermarck observed that, in point of [118], (19
14 fact, women in primitive societies sometimes played an active role in the
15 choice of mates and frequently had the chance of refusing. Both Wester-
Lines: 135
16 marck and Ellis drew attention to the role played by modesty in courtship.
17 Westermarck observed that nudity was not a sign of immorality among ———
18 those groups such as the Australians and Tasmanians who wore no clothing 0.0pt P
19 (Westermarck :–). Clothing that might originally be adopted for
Normal P
20 several reasons, including decoration, warmth, a new sense of modesty, or
PgEnds: T
21 perhaps the desire of husbands to hide their wives’ bodies from rivals, served
22 as a source of temptation or sexual excitement. Coyness and coquetry on the
23 part of females now became possible (Westermarck :–; Ellis a, [118], (19
24 pt. :–).
25 In Ellis’s view modesty was the concealment of sexual processes. It was
26 prompted by fear, was particularly manifest in the behavior of the female
27 sex, and was originally based in instinct (see Ellis a, pt. ). It was quite
28 incorrect to assert that primitives were less modest, a fact that Ellis demon-
29 strated by a review of over  ethnographical sources. Indeed, insofar as
30 modesty was based in an instinct shared by some animals, it was hardly
31 surprising that it should be exhibited most among those whose lives were
32 closer to nature. Modesty might have developed to signal periods of sexual
33 unavailability or, conversely, as a sexual lure (Ellis a, pt. :, ). Ellis
34 believed that modesty had ceased to be of much use to the most cultivated
35 classes in Europe but was still important among just those lower-class indi-
36 viduals who, like primitives, were likely to be deemed immodest by popular
37 opinion (a, pt. :–).
38 Ellis somewhat infamously (see, e.g., Jackson :–) postulated that
39 women might enjoy their own violation or feign reluctance, a speculation

    “ ”

1 that offends current sensibilities to such an extreme degree that we forget
2 that it also contained, implicitly, a new acknowledgment of female desire
3 and sexual agency. Of marriage by capture, for example, Ellis says: “While
4 this is sometimes a real capture, it is more often a mock capture; the lover
5 perhaps pursues the beloved on horseback, but she is as fleet and as skillful as
6 he is, cannot be captured unless she wishes to be captured, and in addition,
7 as among the Kirghiz, she may be armed with a formidable whip; so that
8 ‘marriage by capture,’ far from being a hardship imposed on women, is
9 largely a concession to their modesty and a gratification of their erotic im-
10 pulses” (:). More radically, Ellis makes a similar observation of women
11 of the middle class. Westermarck quotes him as repeating the following
12 remark, made by one lady to another in front of a painting by Rubens of
13 The Rape of the Sabine Women: “I think the Sabine women enjoyed being [119], (20)
14 carried off like that” (–, vol. :).
15 The overall effect of much of the work we have been discussing was
Lines: 143 to
16 the rehabilitation of one term in the Victorian ranking of race, gender,
17 and sexuality: sex itself gained in acceptability far more than did either ———
18 primitives or women. 6.5pt PgV
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   :      PgEnds: TEX
22 Much writing on the history of anthropology occurs as though the disci-
23 pline existed in a social vacuum. The three scholars we have been discussing [119], (20)
24 published their work during a period of considerable social turmoil. We
25 question whether it is a coincidence that the smug image of the sexualized,
26 promiscuous savage was replaced by another, more ambiguous image at a
27 time when the institution of marriage and sexual relationships of all kinds
28 had become a matter for public scrutiny. We should make it clear that we
29 are not as convinced as Foucault () was that discourses of reform and
30 “shake-ups” in sexual attitudes merely served to shift the focus of constraint.
31 We do think that there was some genuine groping toward liberalization
32 of sexual norms at the period we were discussing, however fumbling and
33 however guided by the emergence of new loci of power. There was also a
34 very real repression of discussion of certain sexual matters.
35 It would be useful to acquaint the reader with some of the most important
36 events of the period between  and . In February  Charles Brad-
37 laugh and Annie Besant won an appeal against their conviction for pub-
38 lishing a pamphlet on contraception by the American Charles Knowlton.
39 In  a Leeds dermatologist, Dr. Henry Allbutt, published a volume called

   “ ” 

1 The Wife’s Handbook, which instructed readers in the use of the Mensinga
2 diaphragm. The General Medical Council of the British Medical Association
3 struck his name from the medical register. By  the volume had sold
4 , copies (Fryer :–).
5 The agitation of Josephine Butler and her supporters finally achieved
6 the replacement of the Contagious Diseases Acts with the Criminal Law
7 Amendment Act in  (Bristow :–). The Criminal Law Amend-
8 ment Act raised the age of consent and attempted to control procuring and
9 the white slave trade. It did not do a perfect job, and agitation continued
10 until another bill, the Criminal Law Amendment White Slavery Bill, was
11 passed in  (Bristow :–). Unfortunately, the  bill outlawed,
12 on pain of two years’ hard labor, private as well as public homosexual acts
13 between males. Flogging was also made a penalty for homosexual acts (Bris- [120], (21
14 tow :). The bill, as many have noted, may have intensified the perse-
15 cution of homosexuals in England and abetted the social construction of
Lines: 152
16 a medicalized category of permanently and innately homosexual people.
17 The s witnessed the Oscar Wilde trial and the prosecution of George ———
18 Bedborough, the bookseller who sold copies of Ellis’s Sexual Inversion. That 0.0pt P
19 book was published by Watford University Press, an entirely fictional com-
Normal P
20 pany, because no medical publisher would handle it.
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21 It is generally known that the Victorians were both fascinated and repelled
22 by masturbation. Booklets issued by the Church of England’s White Cross
23 Society dealt with its dangers, and Edward Littleton, headmaster of Eton, led [120], (21
24 a campaign against vice in the public schools (Bristow :–). Soon
25 after the Boy Scouts were created in , Sir Robert Baden-Powell’s Rovers
26 (older Scouts) were given Rovering to Success, a guidebook whose chapter
27 entitled “Woman” instructed the boys that the “rutting season” could be
28 negotiated without loss of semen if they bathed their “racial organ” in cold
29 water daily (Bristow :). Ellis thought that masturbation was not in-
30 trinsically undesirable and did not lead to blindness or psychiatric break-
31 down, but excessive indulgence was pathological and should be prevented
32 (a, pt. :–). There were various attempts to stop the publication
33 of supposedly corrupting materials. Efforts were made to clean up theatrical
34 performances (Ellis a, pt. :–).
35 As the above account implies, a number of social agendas, some with
36 overlapping and others with conflicting aims, were being brought forward at
37 this period. The groups founded to promulgate the agendas of social purity
38 included the National Vigilance Association (whose secretary, William A.
39 Coote, became Britain’s answer to Anthony Comstock, secretary of the New

    “ ”

1 York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and whose head, Percy Bunting,
2 was editor of the Contemporary Review), the Public Morality Council, and
3 the aforementioned White Cross Society. It should not be assumed that
4 the members of these associations were uniformly conservative in their
5 aims. Bishop Winnington Ingram was active in the Oxford House settle-
6 ment movement before heading the Public Morality Council. Some orga-
7 nizations included a number of feminists such as Josephine Butler, Ellice
8 Hopkins, and Millicent Fawcett. Butler, however, resigned from the National
9 Vigilance Association in  because she was dismayed by its increasingly
10 repressive turn under Coote’s leadership. Feminism, in general, grew during
11 this period. Some feminists sided with the social purity movement and
12 some were against it. Discontent with the double standard took two forms:
13 a demand for male chastity and a call for more freedom for women. The [121], (22)
14 former was somewhat more common in the period before World War I (see
15 Kent :– passim). Not all feminist demands for male continence
Lines: 158 to
16 were linked to a general desire for social purity, however. The transmission
17 of venereal disease from profligate men to dependent women was a major ———
18 concern that motivated, among other things, Christabel Pankhurst’s famous 0.0pt PgV
19 slogan “Votes for Women, Chastity for Men” (Kent :).
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20 Significantly, in the period between  and , Ellis published in a
PgEnds: TEX
21 short-lived journal called the New Freewoman, founded by two active mem-
22 bers of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Many other feminists, in-
23 cluding Millicent Fawcett and Ellis’s friend Olive Schreiner, were infuriated [121], (22)
24 by the New Freewoman’s frank discussions of “contraception, sexual plea-
25 sure, lesbianism and menstruation” (Kent :–). A very different,
26 small, and elite group supported a different kind of family reform. These
27 were the eugenicists, led first by Francis Galton and then by Karl Pearson,
28 who was an intellectual rival of Havelock Ellis as well as a temporary rival
29 for the affections of Olive Schreiner. Eugenicists all supported positive eu-
30 genics, which would have encouraged the fit to breed while discouraging the
31 unfit from breeding. Some, however, supported stronger measures such as
32 compulsory birth control and sterilization for the unfit. All were terrified
33 at the thought of families of degenerates who bred prolifically. There was
34 much interest in the work of the Italian “criminal anthropologist” Cesare
35 Lombroso, who believed that some individuals inherited a disposition to
36 crime that was evidenced in certain bodily stigmata. Under the influence
37 of Lombroso, Ellis wrote The Criminal (). One must observe that by
38 the standards of the day many eugenicists were progressive. George Bernard
39 Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Potter Webb, and Pearson all thought of them-

   “ ” 

1 selves as socialists. So too did Havelock Ellis – from time to time. Lastly, it
2 should be noted that Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics, was a firm
3 believer in the intellectual inferiority of women.
4 Ellis supported the “sterilization of the unfit” (:) and also sug-
5 gested in correspondence with Galton that individuals could be awarded
6 Certificates of Eugenic Fitness based on physical examination (June , ,
7 Ellis Papers). In  he published A Study of British Genius, an analysis of
8 some leading figures in the new Dictionary of National Biography, inspired
9 by Galton’s Hereditary Genius (Grosskurth :). Particularly proud of
10 his Suffolk origins, Ellis also corresponded with the physical anthropologist
11 John Beddoe (October , , Ellis Papers), an author who had cataloged
12 the racial types of England in great detail in The Races of Britain. Later in
13 life, Ellis expressed approval of the racist American immigration laws of the [122], (23
14 s, which were supported by American eugenicists on the grounds that
15 they would limit the entry of those races that had a high ratio of popula-
Lines: 160
16 tion growth (Ellis :). However, he disapproved of attempts to legalize
17 voluntary sterilization in Britain (Grosskurth :). ———
18 Another small group of individuals were freethinkers and libertarians, at 0.0pt P
19 least on certain issues. Sheila Rowbotham and Jeffrey Weeks () have de-
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20 tailed the friendship of Havelock Ellis and Edward Carpenter. Ellis was also
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21 associated with John Addington Symonds. Both Carpenter and Symonds
22 were homosexuals. Symonds was a distinguished biographer and literary
23 scholar who specialized in the study of Renaissance poets and artists such [122], (23
24 as Sir Philip Sydney, Benvenuto Cellini, and Michelangelo. He corresponded
25 with the German scholar Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who created the term Urn-
26 ing to describe individuals who were innately homosexual. He collaborated
27 with Ellis on the latter’s work on homosexuality, supplying several of the
28 case studies for Ellis’s Sexual Inversion. (In the  German edition that ap-
29 peared before the work was published in England he was listed as coauthor.)
30 His pamphlet A Problem in Greek Ethics, which examined paiderastia in an-
31 cient Greece, was posthumously reprinted at the end of Ellis’s Sexual Inver-
32 sion but removed from the second edition. In writings such as the privately
33 circulated A Problem in Modern Ethics Symonds claimed that homosexuality
34 was not a disease and that homosexuals had made valuable contributions
35 to literature, government, and the military (Norton , ; Grosskurth
36 :–).
37 Poet, mystic, nudist, anarchist, and socialist organizer Edward Carpenter
38 lived much of his life with his working-class lover, George Merrill, on an
39 estate he purchased in Derbyshire. He was the author of the epic poem

    “ ”

1 Towards Democracy (), Love’s Coming of Age (), and The Interme-
2 diate Sex (), which resumed the battle for gay dignity inaugurated by
3 Symonds (Rowbotham and Weeks ; Dawson ). He also wrote In-
4 termediate Types among Primitive Folk (), which we shall discuss in a
5 little while. Eleanor Marx and her husband, Edward Aveling, were also part
6 of Ellis’s small circle. Edith Lees, who married Ellis, had several lesbian
7 affairs and, like Ellis, preached a gospel of sexual freedom. James Hinton, a
8 Yorkshire doctor who wrote about a vaguely spiritual dependence of organic
9 processes on the laws of physics (Fortes :–), exercised a posthumous
10 influence over a diverse body of people, including Ellis, his wife, the novelist
11 Olive Schreiner, and the social purity leader Ellice Hopkins.
12 Most of the eugenicists, most of the feminists, and virtually all of the
13 supporters of social purity believed that some form of radical intervention [123], (24)
14 in family life was essential because the status quo was scandalous. Thus, they
15 justified the intervention of legal officers, settlement workers, churchmen,
Lines: 166 to
16 Boy Scout leaders, and teachers in people’s private and family lives. Not all
17 of these modes were confessional in the way that Foucault () suggests. If ———
18 the s, s, s, and s were an era when pious hypocrisy and the 0.0pt PgV
19 double standard kept a widespread license away from polite eyes, the period
Normal Pag
20 after  was a period of exposure and attempts at intervention. Some of
PgEnds: TEX
21 these interventions were designed to alter behavior; others took issue with
22 sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy themselves.
23 It is fitting now that we say more about the extent to which the work of [123], (24)
24 our three thinkers was influenced by the social currents of their day. Neither
25 Ellis nor Westermarck had a conventional marriage. Ellis’s marriage to Edith
26 Lees was described by him as “semi-detached.” Westermarck was a bachelor
27 and may have been a homosexual. Westermarck () avoids the issue of
28 his personal sexuality in his autobiography, where he mentions no intimate
29 relationships with women and describes several close friendships with men.
30 A dislike for certain varieties of Christianity is evident in the works of
31 Crawley and Ellis. Crawley, as we remarked, condemned the Catholic
32 Church’s attitudes toward celibacy. Westermarck attacked the Catholic
33 Church because its obsession with female impurity, from the time of the
34 church fathers to the present, had resulted in the degradation of women
35 (–, vol. :–). Westermarck, indeed, was a thoroughgoing athe-
36 ist who did not, like some agnostics, feel a need for substitute religious
37 experience. In his autobiography he remarks, “Sometimes on Sundays I
38 accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Coupland to South Place, a meeting place in
39 Finsbury for those who wish for other Sunday fare than is offered them

   “ ” 

1 in churches. There I heard Charles Bradlaugh, Annie Besant, and other
2 freethinkers. There was, in addition, some kind of hymn singing with ‘Hu-
3 manity’ substituted for ‘God.’ I do not feel much attracted by such relics
4 of ritual, and the last thing I should dream of worshipping is humanity –
5 although I am glad I can be useful in its service” (Westermarck :).
6 Westermarck has been accused of being a defender of conventional Vic-
7 torian monogamy (Coward :, , ). If he helped to naturalize what
8 Foucault has described as the heterosexual, procreating couple, it was be-
9 cause of an addiction to the Darwinian paradigm. In any event, he explicitly
10 denied any conservative intent (Westermarck :). He believed that
11 some sort of monogamy was part of our primate inheritance and that from
12 the woman’s point of view it was preferable to polygyny. He felt, however,
13 that monogamy in its modern form was an institution in need of improve- [124], (25
14 ment. In The History of Human Marriage Westermarck remarks that the
15 postponement of the age of marriage and the stresses of urban life have
Lines: 172
16 led to a decline in morality:
17 ———
Almost everywhere prostitution increases in a higher ratio than popu- 0.0pt P
lation. In consideration of these facts, it is almost ridiculous to speak ———
of the immorality of unmarried people among savages as a relic of Normal P
an alleged primitive state of promiscuity. . . . There are several factors PgEnds: T
in civilization which account for this bad result. The more unnatural
mode of living and the greater number of excitements exercise, no
23 [124], (25
doubt, a deteriorating influence on morality; and poverty makes pros-
titutes of many girls who are little more than children. But the chief
factor is the growing number of unmarried people. . . . Free sexual in-
tercourse previous to marriage is quite a different thing from promis-
cuity, the most genuine form of which is prostitution. But prostitution
is rare among peoples living in a state of nature and unaffected by
foreign influences. (:–)
31 Westermarck did not say that all primitive groups permitted premarital
32 sex but rather showed that there was much variability in this respect. He
33 did not advocate a return to primitive sexual institutions. He believed that
34 conjugal love had probably grown more intense with the advance of civi-
35 lization. He conclusively rejected the mid-Victorian equation between the
36 primitive female and the prostitute. His position was not inconsistent with
37 the advocacy of trial marriage, a position that was advanced for the time.
38 In the earliest years of the twentieth century trial or companionate mar-
39 riage was championed by a number of sexual radicals, including Have-

    “ ”

1 lock Ellis and Elsie Clews Parsons (). Later on, its advocates included
2 Bertrand Russell, Bronislaw Malinowski, and the American judge Ben Lind-
3 sey. They believed that marriages would be better preserved and children
4 would be happier if couples were allowed to live together before making
5 a long-term or lifetime commitment. Furthermore, Ellis stated that extra-
6 marital and premarital sexual intercourse need not be condemned unless
7 the welfare of children was affected (a, pt. :–). In The Future of
8 Marriage in Western Civilization, a very late work, Westermarck announced
9 his support of Judge Lindsey (:–). Nonetheless, he was worried
10 about allowing total freedom in premarital sex: “To sum up the gist of this
11 lengthy discussion: however desirable it may be for a man to receive sex
12 experience from a woman belonging to his own class as a prelude to his
13 marriage, the acquisition of it is attended with such risks for the woman [125], (26)
14 that he must consider whether he has a right to utilize her as a means of
15 preparing him for his marriage – with another woman” (:).
Lines: 183 to
16 Westermarck felt that monogamous institutions should and would sur-
17 vive but that they would have to undergo a number of changes. Making di- ———
18 vorce easier would make marriage more durable (Westermarck :). An 0.0pt PgV
19 increasing divorce rate was not a sign that marriage was no longer healthy. In
Normal Pag
20 the long term more diverse forms of marriage would be tolerated: “It seems
PgEnds: TEX
21 to be very likely that this prediction will come true; that in questions of sex
22 people will be less tied by conventional rules, and that they will recognize
23 greater freedom for men and women to mould their own amatory life” [125], (26)
24 (Westermarck :).
25 In his autobiography Westermarck notes that he was pleased to serve as
26 vice president of two feminist societies during the s, although, ironi-
27 cally, the reason for the invitation was something he had not written. Sime,
28 his editor at Macmillan, added a final sentence so that The History of Hu-
29 man Marriage would end with a flourish. Its purport was that women were
30 gradually triumphing over the prejudices, passions, and selfish interests of
31 men (Westermarck :). Westermarck felt that this ending was far too
32 optimistic and subsequently changed it.
33 Elsewhere, Westermarck expressed the opinion that the subjection of
34 women seemed to be a constant in human history but that in primitive
35 societies, because of the strong sexual division of labor, women had their
36 own sphere of public influence (–, vol. :–). Subsequently, they
37 had lost it but in the future might regain it. He believed that the subjection
38 of women had a number of causes. The ones he chose to list indicate a
39 degree of conflict between his Darwinism and his feminism. They include

   “ ” 

1 the Darwinian contrast between the sexual impulses: the active male and
2 the passive female, the male drive to exercise power, and “the natural in-
3 feriority of women in such qualities of body and mind as are essential for
4 independence” (Westermarck –, vol. :–).
5 The contradiction between Havelock Ellis’s “feminism” and his Darwin-
6 ism has already been remarked. In Man and Woman he not only wrote
7 about the terrible effects of menstruation but contrasted the two sexes in
8 every conceivable way, listing body measurements, brain size, perception,
9 and creative abilities. He thought that the smaller size of the female brain
10 simply reflected the smaller stature and bulk of women; however, he be-
11 lieved that, inasmuch as mental ability varied more in men than in women,
12 there were significantly more geniuses of the male than of the female sex and
13 also more idiots. Men were more creative and independent; women were [126], (27
14 unoriginal, dependent, and nurturant. Some of these apparent weaknesses,
15 however, were the consequence of the admirable maternal role that women
Lines: 189
16 performed. Ellis employed a contorted version of the theory now known
17 as neoteny to show that women were, in fact, more evolved than men. This ———
18 was not inconsistent with his other observations, for he believed that in evo- 0.0pt P
19 lutionary terms, if not cultural ones, nurturance was more important than
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20 variation and creativity. For all that, this aspect of Ellis’s argument borders
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21 on the old Victorian notion of separate spheres. The angel in the house,
22 beloved of Victorian sentimentalists, was also supposed to be nurturant
23 and childlike. Ellis endeavored to demonstrate that in hominid evolution [126], (27
24 the more evolved forms retained a degree of paedomorphism, namely, all
25 primate infants resemble each other; humans retain that form later in life
26 and deviate less from it. Ellis said that women are more neotenic than men,
27 Orientals are more neotenic than whites, and the Negro is the least neotenic
28 of the human species. Despite Ellis’s involvement with feminists and his
29 marriage to one of them, he had strong reservations about suffragists who
30 were noisy in their demands and indulged in violent public demonstrations
31 (see Ellis ).
32 In The Task of Social Hygiene (), which was published under the aus-
33 pices of the National Council for Public Morals, one of the social purity lob-
34 bies, Ellis advances a program for social hygiene and eugenics. He remarked
35 that in the th century civil intervention had improved life in a number of
36 ways: better sanitation, improved working conditions, the ending of child
37 labor, and compulsory public education. The regulation of the family would
38 complete this admirable process. It was necessary to improve both the qual-
39 ity and quantity of the stock. Ellis felt that “feminism,” birth control, and

    “ ”

1 other eugenic measures could achieve the same results. He particularly liked
2 some of the German maternal feminists who stressed that women should
3 enjoy equality in pursuit of their own gender-specific, nurturant instincts.
4 He championed their campaign to remove the stigma attached to childbirth
5 out of wedlock so that the maternal instinct might be freed from male con-
6 trol. He advocated birth control so that society might live free from degener-
7 ates and families could live free of hunger; however, he felt that sterilization
8 of the unfit was an unnecessarily harsh measure. Wherever possible, eugenic
9 controls should be exercised on a voluntary basis. Ellis also pointed to the
10 folly of those who advocated Draconian measures to control prostitution,
11 drinking, and other social vices. Inevitably, such measures had undesirable
12 consequences and usually proved ineffective as well as unpleasant.
13 Ellis’s views on birth control in no way justify Foucault’s characteriza- [127], (28)
14 tion of scientia sexualis and its practitioners as uniformly opposed to the
15 Malthusian couple. Unlike some eugenicists who approved of birth control
Lines: 193 to
16 for obvious reasons but disdained its feminist supporters, and unlike others
17 who feared it would lead to “suicide” of the fit rather than limitation of the ———
18 unfit, Ellis strongly supported the campaigns and many of the campaigners 0.0pt PgV
19 of the early th century (:–, , ). He maintained a -year
Normal Pag
20 friendship with Margaret Sanger, who may have fallen in love with him
PgEnds: TEX
21 during her first visit to London (Grosskurth :– passim), and an
22 acquaintanceship with Sanger’s archrival, Marie Stopes (see chapter ).
23 Westermarck and Ellis were both fascinated by the ethnography of homo- [127], (28)
24 sexuality and the situation of the homosexual in Victorian and Edwardian
25 society. Ellis believed that homosexuality was biological in base. In his study
26 Sexual Inversion, coauthored with John Addington Symonds, Ellis cited a
27 plethora of ethnographic data in order to demonstrate that homosexual-
28 ity was common, indeed routine, behavior in many non-Western societies,
29 particularly those that encourage late marriage and seclusion of military
30 personnel. Where homosexuality was encouraged, many would engage in
31 it. Ellis even included an appendix on schoolgirl crushes (a, pt. :–
32 ) as well as one on homosexuality among tramps written by “Josaiah
33 Flynt” (a, pt. :–). However, in late Victorian respectable adult
34 society, homosexuality was actively discouraged, and, accordingly, the per-
35 son who practiced homosexuality in spite of all threats and dangers was
36 likely, in Ellis’s opinion, to be a congenital invert. Ellis did not wish to imply
37 that homosexual behavior in later life was entirely determined by heredity;
38 rather, he spoke of a “predisposition” that may or may not be triggered into
39 action (a, pt. :–).

   “ ” 

1 In the case of homosexuality hereditarian views led to liberal but not
2 radical conclusions. Insofar as homosexuality was congenital, inverts could
3 not and should not be cured. Insofar as they might be useful, indeed bril-
4 liant, members of society, they should not be persecuted. Rather, homosex-
5 ual adults should enjoy the right to pursue sexual relationships in private.
6 However, Ellis felt that public displays of homosexual behavior were unac-
7 ceptable in the prevailing social climate (a, pt. :–). Doubtless,
8 Ellis’s collaboration with Symonds, the unhappy life of his own wife, Edith,
9 and his friendship with Carpenter led him to appreciate the burden society
10 inflicted on homosexuals.
11 Westermarck, for his part, felt that Ellis, along with Richard von Krafft-
12 Ebing and Albert Moll, who were also authorities on homosexuality, had
13 “underestimated the modifying influence which habit may exercise on the [128], (29
14 sexual instinct” (–, vol. :). Westermarck believed that if there was
15 an inherited predisposition to homosexual behavior, it was “only a feature
Lines: 199
16 in the ordinary sexual constitution of man” (–, vol. :). All that was
17 necessary to activate that predisposition was close and exclusive association ———
18 in daily life with members of the same sex. In Morocco, a country where 0.0pt P
19 Westermarck had spent six years, homosexuality was common among cer-
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20 tain single-sex groups such as the scribes who worked together from early
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21 childhood, but in other occupations and in certain neighborhoods homo-
22 sexual practices were rare (–, vol. ). At the very end of his life Wester-
23 marck regretted that he had not given more stress to the congenital element [128], (29
24 in homosexuality. He felt that it was the reason for the persistence of homo-
25 sexuality despite all attempts to ban it (Westermarck :).
26 Westermarck’s ethnographic survey of homosexuality was contained in
27 the second volume of The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. Carpenter
28 used it as a major source for Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk, a
29 small but retrospectively significant volume that first appeared in . In
30 that volume Carpenter also cites Symonds, Sir Richard Burton, Père Joseph
31 Lafitau, Hubert Howe Bancroft, and the German-Jewish sexologists Iwan
32 Bloch and Magnus Hirschfeld. He argues that “intermediate types” often
33 play important roles as priests, shamans, prophets, diviners, magicians, tem-
34 ple prostitutes, poets, and artists. They are suited for these roles because they
35 combine features of both the male and female temperament. Ethnographic
36 evidence from Siberia, Alaska, the southwestern pueblos, the North Ameri-
37 can Plains, Polynesia, and biblical Syria and Canaan is cited. In Carpenter’s
38 opinion sexually repressive cultures and religions such as Mosaic Judaism
39 and Christianity were responsible for the deprecation of the rituals and

    “ ”

1 ritual practitioners of those people whom they suppressed by force of arms
2 (Carpenter :–).
3 Carpenter also described two forms of military pederasty. Greek homo-
4 erotic practices were originally developed among the armies of the Do-
5 rian peoples. Dorian societies not only elevated homoerotic love, they also
6 accorded equal status to women. Second, he discusses same-sex relations
7 among the Samurai of Japan. His point was simple: where the “interme-
8 diate sex” was not repressed, its members made worthy contributions to
9 society. Intermediate Types reflects the work of Carpenter’s contemporaries
10 such as Westermarck, Symonds, and Ellis, but it is itself an adumbration of
11 current gay sociology and anthropology, particularly the work of Stephen
12 O. Murray and David F. Greenberg. However, we must acknowledge that
13 Intermediate Types conscripts the sexuality of others into European sexual [129], (30)
14 politics, despite advancing an argument with which many contemporary
15 readers are likely to have considerable sympathy. This is a reality we will
Lines: 203 to
16 encounter more frequently the closer our story moves toward the present.
17 ———
18 6.5pt PgV
         ———
 Normal Pag
PgEnds: TEX
21 Prostitution was at the core of many of the discourses of both feminism
22 and social purity. The old Victorian double standard, which saw men and
23 women as having fundamentally different sexual natures and some women [129], (30)
24 as being irretrievably fallen and thus acceptable vessels for male lust, was
25 not tolerable to participants in the feminist, social purity, and social hy-
26 giene movements. Although many were content to concentrate on women’s
27 economic condition as a cause of prostitution, there was a growing belief
28 that greater sexual satisfaction would have to be found within marriage if
29 prostitution were to be combatted. There was thus a growing concern with
30 the diagnosis and treatment of sexual blocks. Freud’s work is a case in point,
31 although he did not have much influence in England until after the Great
32 War. Medical notions of mental and sexual inadequacy, whether labeled as
33 hysteria, neurasthenia, neurosis, or perversion, represent an inward turning
34 of the ideas of degeneracy we discussed earlier in this chapter. In Sexual
35 Anarchy () Elaine Showalter has examined the crisis in masculinity at the
36 fin de siècle that was reflected in the writings of figures as diverse as Wilde,
37 Rider Haggard, and Robert Louis Stevenson and in popular and scientific
38 notions of degeneracy, perversion, madness, inadequacy, and neurosis.
39 The work of Ellis, Crawley, and Westermarck was certainly a part of this

   “ ” 

1 discourse, which may help explain the emergence of the “undersexed sav-
2 age.” “Primitive” sexuality was imagined in terms that either opposed or
3 exaggerated the civilized condition. Hence, a society troubled by promiscu-
4 ity and seduction had asserted a fundamental closeness between oversexed
5 primitives and the seductive women and oversexed men of the lower classes.
6 When men of the middle classes came to be troubled by their own perceived
7 (or perhaps imagined) repressions and sexual disabilities, similar disorders,
8 often in exaggerated form, began to crop up in their representations of
9 primitives. Alternatively, insofar as primitives as well as sex itself rose in the
10 Western estimation, primitives were portrayed as more natural and sensible
11 than their civilized counterparts. Westermarck, more than Ellis and Crawley, [Last Pag
12 inclined to the latter view.
13 [130], (31
14 
While Crawley’s work quickly passed into obscurity, the work of Ellis and Lines: 212
Westermarck did exercise some influence on the direction of anthropology ———
during their own later years and for a short time afterward. As we shall see, 120.95
Westermarck’s pupil, Malinowski, turned to Ellis after he became disillu- ———
sioned with Freud, made detailed notes on Ellis’s writings, and used themes Normal P
from Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex as chapter headings in The Sexual PgEnds: T
Life of Savages in Northwestern Melanesia (). Ellis was pleased to write
the introduction to that work. If one reads it closely, one may notice refer-
23 [130], (31
ences to periodicity, which Malinowski considered to be a purely cultural
phenomenon, insofar as it existed.
We believe that the “undersexed savage” or “occasionally sexed savage” of
Ellis and Crawley is best seen as a transitional model, bridging the gap be-
tween Victorian images of savage lechery and portraits that represent South
Sea Islanders, whether Trobrianders or Samoans, as having passionless and
boring but stable and sexually well-adjusted marriages.

    “ ”

4  
7 “Old Africa Hands”
11 [First Page]

12 ustralia may have been seen as the zero point of cultural evolution,
13 but Africa did not cease to be a locus for the stigmata of alterity. [131], (1)
14 The British encounter with Africa was characterized by a number
15 of prevailing stereotypes of “African” sexuality and such linked matters as
Lines: 0 to 1
16 sensual, even feral, ritual dances and the failure of Africans to benefit from
17 education and civilization, even to be “spoiled” by it. Many of these tropes ———
18 come together in a remarkable report of a ceremony in Elele, southern Nige- 7.217pt P
19 ria, in , prepared for his superiors by E. M. Falk, a district commissioner
Normal Pag
20 in the British colonial service:
PgEnds: TEX
22   (among the semi civilized)
23 A party of local drummers and singers with native made instruments [131], (1)
24 then relieved the exhausted school band, a fire of logs blazed up in the
25 darkening compound and a mass of villagers crowded around them,
26 and commenced what is called a “play”, more correctly described as
27 a frenzied shuffle dance, known in Europe commonly as la danse du
28 ventre. The most conspicuous feature of it is the prominence not of
29 the stomachs but of the reverse portions of the performers’ anatomy.
30 The sexes dance separately, round and round in circles moving in op-
31 posite directions or in spirals to the rhythm of the drummers and cho-
32 rus. Every muscle of the dancer vibrates. Many swing lighted lamps
33 in their hands, and this and the fitful firelight made an indescribable
34 impression of weirdness, a real witches’ sabbath. A large crowd of
35 spectators clad in every imaginable garment from the factories and
36 old clothes dealers stores of Manchester throngs around. Gaudy loin-
37 cloths jostle khaki breeches, tweed caps are cheek by jowl with brilliant
38 silk handkerchieves tied around the heads of the fair, a dandy in im-
39 maculate white ducks ogles a dusky beauty naked to the waist, and
1 youths disport themselves in nothing but a ragged singlet and scant
2 waistcloth. Such are the costumes of holiday makers in this part of
3 Africa. (Falk Papers)
5 In Falk’s narrative one can hear the echoes of countless conversations on
6 the verandah after dinner during which colonial officials and their wives
7 enunciated the stereotypical opinion of Africans, that they are sensual, over-
8 sexed, not very intelligent, and childish and that they ineptly imitate their
9 European superiors. These motifs in colonial writings about Africa have, of
10 course, been noted by other writers. Philip Curtin (), Dorothy Ham-
11 mond and Alta Jablow (), and Gustav Jahoda () are among those
12 who have alluded to such images. Brian Street () and Marianna Tor-
13 govnick () have paid particular attention to these and related themes in [132], (2)
14 literature. Implicit in Falk’s narrative is the old racist adage: “Take away the
15 veneer of civilization and they’re back in the bush.” We heard it as recently
as  from an oil company employee who was seated next to us on a flight Lines: 19
17 from Lagos to London. ———
18 As we shall see, Falk’s opinions on the capacity of Africans to benefit from 6.5pt P
19 civilization, especially where matters of sex and gender were concerned,
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20 had more consequences than similar attitudes held by many other colonial
administrators, as he happened to be in charge of the district of Calabar PgEnds: T
22 in  at the time of the Igbo Women’s Rebellion, an event that brought
23 British attitudes to African sexuality and gender relations into sharp relief. [132], (2)
24 This episode also increased demand for government anthropology in British
25 Africa, though the divergence between administrators’ and anthropologists’
26 attitudes helps both to explain the temporary nature of such demands and
27 to dispel any simplistic conceptions of anthropologists in Africa as hand-
28 maids of colonialism.
29 At the outset, we must note that authors of fiction, journals of explo-
30 ration, and government documents commonly used tropes similar to Falk’s
31 to describe African sexuality and intelligence, but in many cases such im-
32 agery was countered by remarks that sought some sympathetic understand-
33 ing of Africans. Indeed, this is true of some writings much earlier than
34 Falk’s, particularly ones that presented some kind of ethnographic view-
35 point. Travel narratives, missionary journals, popular fiction, administra-
36 tors’ reports, and some early ethnography are less far apart than we were
37 taught in the last days of functionalism, as Mary Louise Pratt () has
38 made us well aware. 1 Accordingly, racist stereotypes are sometimes juxta-
39 posed with a kind of protorelativism in writings about Africa produced

 “  ”

1 during the last third of the th century. In matters of sex and gender,
2 sensationalism, prurience, and familiar myths of oversexed Africans and
3 their downtrodden and degraded women occasionally are interrupted by
4 some more nuanced and perceptive accounts of kinship and marriage. Sex-
5 uality, kinship, and marriage are subjects of intense interest to ethnogra-
6 phers, regulators, and the general public. In the first third of the th cen-
7 tury, when colonialism in Africa became bureaucratized and anthropology
8 became professionalized, we can see a polarization in the writings of ad-
9 ministrators and ethnographers that led the former to distrust the latter,
10 even when they sought anthropological expertise. To explore these trends
11 we shall look at the work of some th-century writers whose activities
12 combined adventure and exploration with observation and intervention,
13 the last two of which might be seen as laying the groundwork for adminis- [133], (3)
14 tration and ethnography. We will then compare the writings and career of
15 Northcote Thomas, in his role as a government anthropologist, with those
Lines: 27 to
16 of Falk. It is our contention that, whatever its shortcomings, anthropology
17 did eventually become a counterforce to the more extreme forms of colo- ———
18 nial discourse, though this very fact may have limited the degree to which 0.0pt PgV
19 anthropologists were taken seriously as players in the colonial game.
Normal Pag
20 Winwood Reade belonged to the Anthropological Society of London
PgEnds: TEX
21 () (see chapter ). He was an admirer of Richard Burton. He was later
22 to be known as a rationalist and humanist who wrote The Martyrdom of
23 Man. In  members of the  knew Reade as the young author of Savage [133], (3)
24 Africa (), a description of his journeys in what are now Senegal, Gambia,
25 Cape Verde, Ghana, Fernando Póo, Gabon, Congo, and Angola. The book
26 is in part travelogue, in very small part ethnography, and in some measure
27 political tract. It must be remembered that at the time when both Reade and
28 Burton first described their African experiences the future of the “peculiar
29 institution” of slavery was being decided in North America, and the Euro-
30 pean powers were still unsure whether and by what means their “civilizing
31 mission” could be extended to the “Dark Continent.” Savage Africa incorpo-
32 rates certain obligatory elements (or clichés) of writings about West Africa
33 at this period. There is a description of human sacrifice in Dahomey that
34 seems to be secondhand. In a short chapter on cannibalism it is revealed
35 that people always accuse their neighboring opponents of such a practice.
36 Reade’s description of his role in Africa evokes a Jungian Shadow that an-
37 thropologists have struggled to bar from their collective consciousness: “I
38 make, of course, no pretensions to the title of Explorer. If I have any merit,
39 it is that of having been the first young man about town to make a bona fide

“  ” 

1 tour of West Africa; to travel in that agreeable and salubrious country with
2 no special object, and at his own expense; to flaner in the virgin forest; to
3 flirt with pretty savages, and to smoke his cigar among cannibals” (Reade
4 :preface).
5 Reade’s representations of African intelligence, sexuality, and ritual con-
6 tained most of the stereotypes characteristic of his era as well as some
7 equally characteristic contradictions. Africans were depicted as indolent
8 people, drunkards, thieves, liars who possessed “no mental culture of any
9 kind.” The men were “frivolous and effeminate; they spend their nights in
10 singing and dancing” (Reade :). (The dance, as we have seen and will
11 continue to see, is a pervasive leitmotif in colonial portraits of Africans.)
12 The seemingly contradictory portrayal of African men as debauched and
13 effeminate was common in the writings of the era, perhaps designed to [134], (4)
14 reassure Europeans, whose sense of their own virility was threatened by the
15 chimera of the oversexed savage they themselves had created. In Reade’s
Lines: 29
16 portrait both physical stigmata and behavioral traits were cited as evidence
17 for an oversexed but fundamentally unmanly African male: ———
18 13.0pt
19 The virile member is much larger than is found in Europeans, except-
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20 ing in those who are idiotic. It is one of the chief seats of colour. When
PgEnds: T
21 a negro child is born, it has a black ring round the virile member,
22 a reddish mark on the nail, and another in the corner of the eye.
23 These are the last signs by which the descendant of a negro can be [134], (4)
24 distinguished.
25 According to some writers, the same secretion forms the beard and
26 propagates the human species. The negro seldom has any hair upon
27 his face; it is never abundant; and he rarely has a great number of
28 children. There is also a peculiarity in the negro’s voice by which it
29 can be distinguished. It is not unlike that of a eunuch. (:)
31 Reade’s portrayal of African women also employs contradictory tropes.
32 They are portrayed, on the one hand, as unattractive (though relatively non-
33 lascivious) drudges, drained of beauty by the“savage passions” of their men-
34 folk, and, on the other, as dangerous cannibalistic seducers (Reade :,
35 ). Both images were widespread. Both can be found, for example, in Rider
36 Haggard’s She (), a best-selling novel of the s that has never gone
37 out of print. Haggard offers his readers stories of the wild dancing of the
38 fictional Amahaggar people (chapter ), a generally unattractive group, and
39 an account of a cannibal feast during which a rejected female lover caresses

 “  ”

1 an intended victim before he is seized and an attempt made to kill him with
2 a heated pot (chapter ).
3 Reade provides us with some similar set pieces in which African myth and
4 colonial legend seem to merge so that African reality, if it is there at all, is
5 totally submerged. Reade recounts the story of Tembandumba, queen of the
6 Jaga, the “African Messalina,” as related by Father Cavazzi. The Jaga of the
7 Congo had a number of legends about Amazon warrior queens. The first
8 was Shinga, but Tembandumba was the most ferocious. Reade’s account is
9 illustrated by a memorable engraving of The Queen of the Cannibals (figure
10 ) bearing shield and spear, surrounded by other Jaga warriors, one of whom
11 (to her immediate left) is murderously dispatching an enemy, while speared
12 corpses lie to her right (:).
13 [135], (5)
Following in the footsteps of the great Zimbo, she would turn the
world into a wilderness; she would kill all living animals; she would
burn all forests, grass and vegetable food. The sustenance of her sub- Lines: 41 to
jects should be the flesh of man; his blood should be their drink. ———
She commanded that all male children, all twins and all infants 0.0pt PgV
whose upper teeth appeared before their lower ones, should be killed ———
by their own mothers. From their bodies an ointment should be made Normal Pag
in the way which she would show. The female children should be PgEnds: TEX
reared and instructed in war; and male prisoners, before being killed
and eaten, should be used for purposes of procreation. (Reade :
23 [135], (5)
) 2
25 Reade’s accounts of African sexuality are often contradictory. On the one
26 hand, he claimed (in a passage specifically arguing against those claiming
27 “equality” for Africans) that “the typical negro, unrestrained by moral laws,
28 spends his days in sloth, his nights in debauchery” (Reade :). On
29 the other hand, he admits that “during the whole time which I passed in
30 Africa, I never saw so much as one indecent gesture pass between a man and
31 a woman” and that “in many parts of Africa, no marriage can be ratified till
32 a jury of matrons have pronounced a verdict of purity on the bride” (Reade
33 :, ).
34 Significantly, Reade made some attempts at applied anthropology, some
35 of which, themselves, were or became tropes in the descriptive and ad-
36 ministrative imaginations. An attempt, albeit condescending, was made to
37 understand polygamy within its context. Accordingly, it is described as an
38 institution that was “as great a benefit in Africa as in Europe it would be
39 an evil” (Reade :). Polygamy was “one of Nature’s necessities” in a

“  ” 

13 [136], (6)
Lines: 60
16 . The Queen of the Cannibals. From Savage Africa () by W. Winwood Reade.
17 ———
18 land where sterility was common and infant mortality was high. Reade’s 3 1.1334
19 recommendations concerning education, unfortunately, were based on ap-
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20 praisals of African mentality that continued to inform the thinking of ad-
PgEnds: T
21 ministrators like Falk. It is significant that these assessments have a sexual
22 tinge. While Reade thought that there might be a benefit in teaching black
23 children trades, he believed the missionaries’ attempt to impart a European [136], (6)
24 education to Negroes was futile, even dangerous, because of a precipitous
25 decline in mental ability that, he believed, accompanied puberty in Africa
26 (:).
27 There were, of course, later explorers who were to become much more
28 famous than Winwood Reade. Two of them, Sir Henry Morton Stanley and
29 Sir Samuel White Baker, both of whom were active imperialists, conform
30 much more to popular impressions of Victorian writers. In other words,
31 they had very little to say about sexuality or sexual morality in Africa. Both
32 of them did mention cannibalism, which was presumably thought to be a
33 less dangerous topic and might act as a surrogate and index for unmention-
34 able forms of savage immorality. Jahoda () has noted that in discourses
35 of cannibalism, food and sex are often in a metaphorical relationship. In
36 Through the Dark Continent Stanley, describing Asama Island, observes that
37 human skulls “ornamented the village streets of the island, while a great
38 many thigh-bones, ribs and vertebrae lay piled at a garbage corner, bleached
39 witnesses of their hideous carnivorous tastes” (:). Baker was quite

 “  ”

1 willing to extend the appellation “cannibal” to various peoples on the basis
2 of hearsay, but he did claim to have witnessed one actual episode among his
3 own troops, whom he called the “Forty Thieves.” Some of them supposedly
4 ate the liver of an enemy, believing that it would cause every bullet they fired
5 to kill a Bunyoro (Baker :, ).
6 In other respects, Stanley is at pains to portray Africans fairly by the
7 standards of his time, which, of course, are not our standards. He believed
8 that the societies of the Congo basin were at a disadvantage compared to Eu-
9 rope and America because of the hot African climate, inhospitable terrain,
10 and prolonged periods of cultural isolation. “European pauperism planted
11 among them would soon degenerate to the low level of aboriginal degrada-
12 tion” (Stanley , vol. :). One particularly “degenerate” group was the
13 Uhombo, who lived about  miles west of Lake Tanganyika. Deciding that [137], (7)
14 it was appropriate that the readers of Through the Dark Continent should
15 know what a typical African village was like, Stanley described the conical
Lines: 62 to
16 grass huts that surrounded a circular common and then portrayed their
17 inhabitants, the Uhombo. He did indeed see “a hundred beings of the most ———
18 degraded, unpresentable type it is possible to conceive,” but these villagers 0.0pt PgV
19 knew how to farm appropriate crops, built serviceable grass huts, had nor-
Normal Pag
20 mal bodies and well-developed senses, and had some notion of property.
PgEnds: TEX
21 “Only in taste and judgment, based upon larger experience, in the power
22 of expression, in morals and intellectual culture, are we superior” (Stanley
23 :, emphasis added). [137], (7)
24 Stanley, who had experienced poverty as the child of a fallen woman in
25 Wales, believed that commerce and paternalistic direction would civilize
26 Africans and that the endeavor was worthwhile for the white man because
27 of the Dark Continent’s immense riches. There is a bitter irony in Stanley’s
28 frequent professions of philanthropy. Apart from his discovery of Living-
29 stone, Stanley’s main legacy to history is his role in what he claimed was a
30 philanthropic endeavor, the establishment of the International Association
31 of the Congo on behalf of King Leopold II of Belgium, who was to turn that
32 region into a private, predatory preserve.
33 Sir Samuel Baker, the son of a West Indian slave owner, was the discoverer
34 of Lake Albert and from  to  performed an administrative function
35 as governor-general of Equatoria for Khedive Ismail of Egypt. His role in
36 the latter capacity was supposedly to stop the Arab slave trade, a task for
37 which he claimed success, probably without justification. Baker’s opinions
38 reflected the “folk-polygenism” of the plantocracy. Both the stereotypes and
39 the attempts at moderation described in The Albert N’yanza tell us some-

“  ” 

1 thing about an era in which exaggeration of difference could be conscripted
2 as part of a plea for enlightened governance.
A creature of impulse, seldom actuated by reflection, the black man
astounds by his complete obtuseness, and as suddenly confounds you
by an unexpected exhibition of sympathy. . . . When the horse and the
ass shall be found in double harness, the white man and the African
black will pull together under the same régime. It is the grand error of
equalizing that which is unequal, that has lowered the negro character
and made the black man a reproach.
In his savage home, what is the African? Certainly bad; but not so
bad as white men would (I believe) be under similar circumstances.
He is acted upon by the bad passions inherent in human nature, but [138], (8)
there is no exaggerated vice, such as is found in civilized countries.
(Baker :)
Lines: 68
16 Baker attempts some naturalism, with associated advice for administra-
17 tors. He makes the familiar observation that the minds of African infants are ———
18 precocious but that the brain soon ceases development. Baker, like many, be- 0.0pt P
19 lieved that a too-easy climate causes “languor and decay” (:xxiii). Once
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20 formed, racial characteristics do not alter, even when the locality changes.
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21 The English remain the same the world over, and the Negro too retains his
22 “natural instincts”: “And these natural instincts being a love of idleness and
23 savagedom, he will assuredly relapse into an idle and savage state, unless [138], (8)
24 specially governed and forced to industry” (Baker :).
25 Baker also tried his hand at understanding polygamy and related anthro-
26 pological staples. He blamed the climate for breeding sensuality, leading to
27 polygyny and, in turn, to a lowered status for women. These were all pieces
28 in prevailing collective representations of Africans. Baker does make the
29 points that bridewealth enhances the value of daughters and that marriage
30 in general has a strong economic dimension. These ideas were to appear
31 later as key concepts in functionalist anthropology, though in Baker’s for-
32 mulation these insights hardly led to relativism. Women are seen as “slaves”
33 of men’s passion (though love is said to be nonexistent), and, most signif-
34 icantly, Baker concludes that “so long as polygamy exists, an extension of
35 civilization is impossible” (:xxiii, xxiv).
36 By the end of the th century, colonial control in Africa was being so-
37 lidified, and medical advances made travel safer. Mary Kingsley is perhaps
38 the most well known of a number of female travelers who took advantage
39 of these conditions. Mary Henrietta Kingsley (–) was a competent

 “  ”

1 zoologist and an individual who, despite prejudices, laid some of the foun-
2 dations for the social anthropology of West African societies. She wrote two
3 books, Travels in West Africa () and West African Studies (). In her
4 work it sometimes appears that her intellect and experience (she liked most
5 of the Africans she met) are at war with the collective representations of the
6 colonial class that she could not wholly or was not yet willing to discard. “I
7 own I regard not only the African but all coloured races, as inferior – inferior
8 in kind not in degree – to the white races,” remarked Kingsley in an appendix
9 to her book (:). In her opinion the African’s greatest deficiency lay
10 in a lack of technical prowess. She also believed in the polygenist notion that
11 Africans and whites were separate species (Kingsley :). In her view
12 social institutions such as polygyny and slavery constituted barriers to the
13 kind of progress missionaries wished to achieve. Africans were not “keen on [139], (9)
14 mountaineering in the civilisation range” (Kingsley :). The attempt
15 by missionaries to civilize Africans by teaching them literary and clerical
Lines: 81 to
16 skills and a religion of “self-abnegation” was bound to have disastrous ef-
17 fects. Echoing Reade and Burton, Kingsley contemned the urban Negroes ———
18 of Freetown (:). 0.0pt PgV
19 On the other hand, Kingsley was skeptical of claims that Negro brain
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20 development, while precocious in children, was arrested in later years, while
PgEnds: TEX
21 European brains continued to develop (:). She also believed that
22 West Africans could be educated in the technical skills in which they were
23 deficient and could be made by European culture into “a very good sort of [139], (9)
24 man, not the same sort of man that a white man is” (Kingsley :).
25 Kingsley downplays reports of cannibalism, though she does not deny that
26 it exists. With regard to polygamy, Kingsley is critical of the obsession that
27 missionaries had concerning the obliteration of this institution. She be-
28 lieved that polygamy might be compatible with being a good Christian
29 and that African morality was made worse by attempts to suppress this
30 institution. Kingsley, a spinster, was no admirer of Victorian marriage. She
31 understood that women had both rights and agency within African mar-
32 riage systems. For example, she noted that marriage among the Igalwa and
33 the M’pongwe of Gabon involved a formal prestation to the bride’s mother
34 and mother’s brother as well as several supplementary gifts. Although the
35 main marriage payment had to be returned in the event of divorce, which
36 was common, supplementary gifts were retained by the wife’s kin. Igalwa
37 and M’pongwe women nagged their husbands frequently and sometimes
38 yelled at them in public “in a way that reminded me of some London slum
39 scenes” (Kingsley :). The men might retaliate with violence. Were the

“  ” 

1 blows to result in the drawing of blood, the wife would return to her kin,
2 seek annulment, and soon be free to remarry. Her relatives would be glad
3 enough to retain the supplementary gifts they had received at the time of
4 her wedding (Kingsley ).
5 Kingsley was also aware that not all the pressure for polygynous marriage
6 came from the male sex: “The African lady does not care a travelling white-
7 smith’s execration if her husband does flirt, so long as he does not go and
8 give to other women the cloth, & c., that she should have. The more wives
9 the less work, says the African lady; and I have known men who would rather
10 have one wife and spent the rest of the money on themselves, in a civilized
11 way, driven into polygamy by the women” (:). Burton, of course, had
12 made the same point but without the same stress on female agency.
13 There is no suggestion of primitive promiscuity in Kingsley’s work. She [140], (10
14 believed informants who told her that love had existed in Africa before
15 the coming of the white man. Her reaction to this idea, however, contains
Lines: 83
16 elements of the “primitive Africans are better than civilized ones” trope as
17 well as being expressed in the language of evolutionary atavism: “For we ———
18 may here find a real golden age, which in other races of humanity lies away 0.0pt P
19 in the midst of the ages behind the kitchen middens and the Cambrian rocks”
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20 (Kingsley :). We are now entering a period in the history of anthro-
PgEnds: T
21 pology and exploration in which some of the cruder stereotypes of primitive
22 sexuality were modified, moderated, or replaced by other, usually milder
23 stereotypes (see chapter ). In some measure, this was due to the growth of [140], (10
24 anthropological science and an increment in knowledge about the lives of
25 tribal peoples. However, the development of modern fieldwork techniques
26 was more than a decade away when Kingsley wrote. We shall suggest that
27 it may be significant that very few of the individuals whose work helped
28 to demolish the image of the oversexed savage (as Kingsley’s short com-
29 ments tend to do) were themselves involved in typical Victorian marriages.
30 Edward Westermarck, to whose work Kingsley briefly refers (:), was
31 a confirmed bachelor with homosocial tendencies. He was also an atheist
32 and moderately feminist. Havelock Ellis had a semidetached marriage with
33 a lesbian writer. After years of obedience to her parents, Mary Kingsley was
34 unprepared to be the angel in anyone’s house. It would seem that in late
35 Victorian society a certain positioning of oneself was necessary not only to
36 escape or simply to avoid social constraints but also to see “others” in new
37 ways.
38 Unlike the lady traveler Kingsley, Sir Harry Johnston was one of the
39 leading imperialists of his time, ranking in importance behind only Cecil

 “  ”

1 Rhodes and Lord Frederick Lugard. He added some , square miles
2 to Britain’s East African empire (Stocking :). When he first visited
3 Africa, he was also a botanist, a painter, and a journalist. He was briefly a
4 traveler and an explorer in the Congo and Angola. He had a spell of military
5 service in the Sudan and joined the British consular service in the s. His
6 first duties were in eastern Nigeria in administering the Oil Rivers protec-
7 torate. He then set up the British administration in Central Africa in ,
8 acting as the first commissioner in Nyasaland (–) before becoming
9 consul general in Tunis and special commissioner in Uganda from  to
10 . Johnston was a prolific writer: his many books and articles cover not
11 only his period of service in Africa but also his opinions on woman suffrage
12 in England and the condition of blacks in the United States. He wrote a
13 number of volumes for young boys on British explorers in the colonies, [141], (11)
14 including Pioneers in West Africa (), which propagated the imperialist
15 gospel to the generation that came of age in the interwar years. Respected as
Lines: 89 to
16 a competent amateur anthropologist, he strongly advocated the teaching of
17 anthropology as part of the training of colonial officials (Stocking :, ———
18 ). 0.0pt PgV
19 Johnston believed that true Negroes were mentally and morally inferior
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20 to savannah-dwelling Islamic peoples such as the Fulani and the Hausa,
PgEnds: TEX
21 who were partly Semitic or Caucasian. In other words, he subscribed to
22 the body of ideas that became known as the Hamitic hypothesis (Lyons
23 ), variants of which were promulgated by Charles Seligman and Elliot [141], (11)
24 Smith. In his A History of the Colonization of Africa by Alien Races ()
25 Johnston claimed that blacks were “born slaves,” inasmuch as their mental
26 and physical characteristics, which included a degree of docility, destined
27 them for servitude. However, he believed that such racial differences could
28 be lessened by education. His paternalistic approach was probably shared
29 by a majority of missionaries and administrators.
30 In the following passage and footnote from Johnston’s book British Cen-
31 tral Africa (:, ) we see classic tropes of the colonial encounter as
32 well as attempts to moderate their effects. Africans are said to be educa-
33 ble, though their mentality was alleged to diminish when puberty (and a
34 highly developed sexuality) set in. Their dances are described as wild, but
35 wild within limits. Little boys are portrayed as truly depraved and given to
36 self-abuse (in an era when worry about self-abuse in England and America
37 amounted to a moral panic). Few girls, it is claimed, remain virgins past the
38 age of five. Adults, on the other hand, are acknowledged to be comparatively
39 continent:

“  ” 

1 Still, taken as a whole, I think it must be admitted that the average
2 negro of British Central Africa is not a born fool. His mental powers
3 are not much developed by native training, but I am certain that he
4 has in him possibilities in the present generation as great as those of
5 the average Indian; and there is really no saying what he may come
6 to after several generations of education. I think it is truly remarkable
7 the way in which a little savage boy can be put to school and taught
8 to read in a few months and subsequently become a skilful printer or
9 telegraph clerk, or even book-keeper. The little boys are much sharper
10 and shrewder than the grown-up male. When the youth arrives at
11 puberty there is undoubtedly the tendency towards an arrested devel-
12 opment of the mind. At this critical period many bright and shining
13 examples fall off into disappointing nullity. As might be imagined, the [142], (12
14 concentration of their thoughts on sexual intercourse is responsible
15 for this falling away.
Lines: 96
16 This is the negro’s genetic weakness. Nature has probably endowed
17 him with more than the usual genetic faculty. After all, to these people ———
18 almost without arts and sciences and the refined pleasures of the senses, 0.0pt P
19 the only acute enjoyment offered them by nature is sexual intercourse. Yet
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20 the negro is very rarely knowingly indecent or addicted to lubricity.
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21 In this land of nudity which I have known for seven years, I do not
22 remember once having seen an indecent gesture on the part of either
23 man or woman and only very rarely (and that not amongst unspoilt [142], (12
24 savages) in the case of that most shameless member of the community
25 – the little boy. An exception must be made to this statement where
26 the native dances are concerned, and yet here, also, the statement is
27 really equally true, for although most tribes have initiation ceremonies
28 or dances which are indecent to our eyes since they consist of very
29 immodest gestures and actions, they can scarcely be called wantonly
30 indecent, because they almost constitute a religious ceremony and
31 are performed by the negroes with a certain amount of seriousness.
32 Those dances are never thrust on the notice of a European; it is with
33 the greatest reluctance that they can be brought to perform in his
34 presence. . . . Our only knowledge is derived from the more or less
35 trustworthy accounts of educated natives. So far as I know, the only
36 dance of a really indecent nature which is indigenous to Central Africa
37 and has not been introduced by low caste Europeans or Arabs, is one
38 which represented originally the act of coition, but it is so altered to
39 a stereotyped formula that its exact purport is not obvious until ex-

 “  ”

1 plained somewhat shyly by the natives. (Johnston :, emphasis
2 added)
4 The following footnote occurs below the quoted passage:
6 Nevertheless, it is reported to me that after these dances (especially
7 when a large quantity of native beer has been drunk) orgies of what
8 are occasionally called a “shameful” character ensue. These, however,
9 are seriously entered upon at certain seasons of the year just as they
10 are at fairs in Egypt, a custom which has been handed down from
11 remote antiquity through different forms of religion and under many
12 different practices, but originating undoubtedly in the worship of the
13 phallus [our emphasis], as a symbol of creative power. It may safely [143], (13)
14 be asserted that the negro race in Central Africa is much more truly
15 modest, is much more free from real vice than are most European
nations. It is absurd to call misuse or irregularity of sexual intercourse Lines: 98 to
17 “vice.” It may be wrong, it may be inexpedient, it may conflict with ———
18 the best interests of the community and require control or restriction 13.0pt Pg
19 [our emphasis again]; but it is not a “vice.” And in this sense the negro
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20 is very rarely vicious after he has attained to the age of puberty. He is
only more or less uxorious. Here, again, to give a truthful picture it PgEnds: TEX
22 must be noted that the children are vicious, as they are amongst most
23 races of mankind, the boys outrageously so. A medical missionary who [143], (13)
24 was at work for some time on the west coast of Lake Nyasa gave me in-
25 formation concerning the depravity prevalent among the young boys
26 in the Atonga tribe of a character not even to be expressed in obscure
27 Latin. These statements might be applied with almost equal exacti-
28 tude to boys and youths in many other parts of Africa as almost any
29 missionary who thoroughly understands the native character would
30 know.
31 As regards the little girls over nearly the whole of British Central
32 Africa chastity before puberty is an unknown condition. (Except per-
33 haps among the A-nyanja). Before a girl becomes a woman (that is to
34 say before she is able to conceive) it is a matter of indifference what she
35 does and scarcely any girl remains a virgin after about five years of age.
36 Even where betrothed at birth, as is often the case, or at a few months
37 old, she will go to the family of her future husband when she is four
38 or five years of age and although she will not formally cohabit with
39 him till she has reached the age of puberty, it constantly happens that

“  ” 

1 she is deflowered by him long before that age is attained. (Johnston
2 :– n.)
4 The ostensible concern Johnston demonstrated for fairness and balance
5 in accounts of Africa written for adult readers is not always present in the
6 writings he directed at schoolboys, the overt purpose of which was the
7 glorification of the imperial mission. The bravery of men like Mungo Park,
8 Hugh Clapperton, and the Lander brothers was better dramatized by dire
9 portrayals of the natural and human realities they tried to transcend. There
10 is, of course, no mention of sexuality (apart from nudity), but cannibalism
11 and witchcraft fulfill their usual roles in the absence of the former:
12 Amongst the black people themselves there were terrible cannibals,
13 [144], (14
poisoners, and even mesmerists. Some of the men and women . . .
14 were possessed of horrible tastes. They not only liked to eat human
15 flesh, and would waylay (as they do in the south-eastern part of Sierra Lines: 108
16 Leone at the present day) lonely men and women and children at
17 ———
night, kill them, cook them, and eat them, and pretend afterwards that 6.5pt P
18 they had been slain by leopards or lions. ———
19 . . . All the stories of ogres, witches, vampires, and ghouls, with Normal P
20 which you have been thrilled from the age at which it was safe to let PgEnds: T
21 you read about such things – safe because you knew these creatures no
22 longer existed in England, or wherever your comfortable home was –
23 were not all imagination. They were based on real things which oc- [144], (14
24 curred within the experience of the prehistoric peoples of Europe . . .
25 and also on what used to occur, and even still occurs in Africa. (John-
26 ston :, )
28 Such was the comparative method specially retooled for the white school-
29 boys of the empire.
30 Johnston’s peregrinations were not confined to Africa. He was also the
31 author of The Negro in the New World (), a volume that met with the
32 approval of Theodore Roosevelt. The educational programs at Tuskegee
33 and Hampton not unsurprisingly met with his approval, as their educa-
34 tional philosophy accorded with the gradualism that he endorsed (Johnston
35 :–). In this book he claimed that the Negro was morally almost
36 on a par with the white race, but he also stated his opposition to mixed
37 marriages: “The white people in the United States will have to get used to the
38 presence of the Negro in their midst, but not as a brother-in-law” (Johnston
39 , as quoted in Johnston :).

 “  ”

1 The period between Kingsley’s writings and the end of Johnston’s career
2 saw the conclusion of the age of exploration. In the year that Travels in West
3 Africa was published the city of Benin fell to a British punitive expedition.
4 During the next decade the “pacification” of Nigeria was completed. As the
5 whole continent apart from Liberia, Ethiopia, and, nominally, Egypt came
6 under active European control, there was a change in race relations. One
7 may make an exception of South Africa, where the Boer War was fought
8 and where most of the social changes we now discuss had already occurred.
9 We are referring to the installation of administrative bureaucracies, indirect
10 rule in the British territories, direct rule in the French colonies, new settler
11 colonies in Kenya and southern Rhodesia, and changes in the gender bal-
12 ance among colonists everywhere. The last point is worthy of our attention,
13 because it solidified the color bar in all respects. [145], (15)
14 A number of writers who differ greatly in their method and theoretical
15 approach to sexuality (e.g., MacCrone  for South Africa during the th
Lines: 123 to
16 and th centuries; Cairns  for southern and eastern Africa; Ballhatchet
17  for India; Hyam  for India, Africa, and elsewhere; and Stoler  ———
18 for Indonesia) have noted some similar historical dynamics with respect to 0.0pt PgV
19 the gender balance and the color bar.
Normal Pag
20 In the early period of contact in India (during the th century) British
PgEnds: TEX
21 officers took Indian wives as well as mistresses. Later on they took mistresses,
22 or bibis. In the period after the Indian mutiny the officers rarely took mis-
23 tresses, but caravans of prostitutes served the ordinary British soldiers, who [145], (15)
24 came predominantly from lower-class families. By  “lock hospitals (not
25 so punitive in their regime as in Britain) were available in all cantonments to
26 treat prostitutes suffering from venereal disease” (Hyam :). In addi-
27 tion, some officers and common soldiers availed themselves of homosexual
28 contacts. After the Suez Canal opened, it became easier for administrators
29 and senior officers (and eventually some even in the lower ranks) to bring
30 their memsahibs to India. Sexual contact between British officers and Indian
31 and Anglo-Indian women was increasingly frowned upon, although there
32 were some willing to break the rules. The reasons for this change included
33 the presence of wives and an enlarged European community, the rise of so-
34 cial purity in England, and stricter rules about abuse of authority and moral
35 leadership. Without good reason, some fears developed about the security
36 of British women, as readers of A Passage to India and The Raj Quartet
37 are well aware. Obviously, the new barriers to sexual contact (which were
38 never simply one-way) had the undesirable effect of increasing segregation,
39 but we note with some amazement that one prominent modern historian

“  ” 

1 (Hyam ) seems single-mindedly to regard the impediments placed on
2 the sexual contact between British men and Indian women and women
3 of other colonized nations as merely the exportation of British prudery to
4 nations that had a healthier attitude to sex!
5 There is a rough parallel between events in Africa and in India, except
6 that there was no stage in which intermarriage was deemed permissible in
7 Africa. Initially, traders, seamen, planters, and hunters availed themselves
8 of some of the sexual opportunities that came their way. Missionaries did
9 not do so, with a few notorious exceptions. Most of the explorers (Burton
10 and possibly Reade being partial exceptions) were imbued with a sense
11 of moral responsibility and caste loyalty and, in some cases (e.g., David
12 Livingstone), feelings of repulsion toward African women (Cairns :–
13 ). A notable exception was the German explorer Mehmed Emin Pasha [146], (16
14 (Eduard Schnitzer), who married an African and converted to Islam. In
15 other words, the codes of sexual interaction were not unconnected with
Lines: 127
16 class demarcations in Europe. Until the very end of the Victorian era, the
17 European presence in sub-Saharan Africa north of the Limpopo was over- ———
18 whelmingly male, and that is why so much of what we have hitherto outlined 0.0pt P
19 is a “boy’s story” of African sexuality. Some Victorian missionaries, partic-
Normal P
20 ularly in South-central Africa, brought their wives with them, and there
PgEnds: T
21 were a few redoubtable lady missionaries such as Mary Slessor in Calabar.
22 Administrators and diplomats usually left their wives at home. Even the
23 courageous Isabel Burton did not join her husband when he became consul [146], (16
24 in Fernando Póo. Tropical disease, difficulty of travel, and frontier hardships
25 were obvious reasons for the absence of women, but fear of African males
26 was another. Sir Samuel Baker reluctantly consented to his wife’s desire to
27 accompany him on his African travels: “I shuddered at the prospect for her,
28 should she be left alone in savage lands at my death” (:).
29 Improved travel, an increasing ability to treat tropical disease, and the im-
30 position of Pax Britannica by conquest enabled women to travel and reside
31 more freely in Africa. There was also a feeling that the “white man’s bur-
32 den,” the moral incumbencies of imperialism, might be better discharged if
33 administrators and missionaries were to bring their wives with them. Mis-
34 sionaries in particular could present an example of monogamous, Christian
35 family values. Wives could nurse, teach in schools, and instruct African
36 women in practical skills such as needlework. There were, of course, con-
37 tinued concerns about the white women’s safety and even moral integrity
38 when exposed to “rude contact with coarse animal natures” and “depraved”
39 language (Sir Harry Johnston, quoted in Cairns :).

 “  ”

1 In Africa, as in India, the coming of women has been blamed for an
2 intensification of the color bar. In both cases that closure was accompanied
3 by occasional outbreaks of panic about the rape of white women. In both
4 cases such fears had little justification. Inevitably, there were just a few cases
5 on which such fears could be built. In Kenya “the Legislative Assembly set up
6 a commission of enquiry, which reported that from  to  there had
7 been only sixteen cases of sexual assault against Europeans, and of those
8 only one was the rape of an adult woman. Seven were against children, and
9 these were in every case committed by African boys aged between ten and
10 fifteen employed as servants in European households. The age of the victims
11 was between two and seven, and what particularly outraged the settlers
12 was that in some cases the children had contracted venereal disease” (Gill
13 :). Had these women and children stayed in Britain, of course, many [147], (17)
14 would not have been able to afford servants at all. Moreover, among British
15 families who did keep servants, cases of sexual abuse of young girls were
Lines: 133 to
16 far from rare. In Britain, however, it was the servants who were the victims,
17 and respectable people passed over such matters in silence. In British Africa ———
18 male house servants were the rule. 0.0pt PgV
19 Meanwhile, other events in Kenya put a temporary stop to the practice of
Normal Pag
20 concubinage by colonial officials in Africa and elsewhere. In the Sudan Sir
PgEnds: TEX
21 Reginald and Lady Wingate had already taken steps against this practice, but
22 it was common elsewhere until . Hubert Silberrad was an assistant dis-
23 trict commissioner who “inherited” two African wives from his predecessor, [147], (17)
24 who had paid bridewealth for them. One of them was a girl of about twelve
25 who did not like the arrangement. Silberrad also came to an arrangement
26 with an askari, or native police officer, to acquire a third girl age twelve
27 or thirteen. There was some dispute over the deal, and Silberrad locked
28 up the askari. A neighboring white farmer and his wife removed two of
29 the girls and complained to the governor. Upset by the mild punishment
30 Silberrad received (he was placed last instead of first on a list of  assistant
31 district commissioners eligible for promotion), the farmer, Routledge, blew
32 the scandal wide open. The secretary of state at the Colonial Office, Robert
33 Offley Ashburton Crewe, issued an official circular warning that grave con-
34 sequences would ensue for officials involved in “immoral relations with na-
35 tive women,” and it was distributed to most of the colonies except the West
36 Indies, where racial intermarriage was not discouraged (Hyam :–
37 ). As we have already noted, such measures were bound to have a few
38 undesirable as well as the obvious desirable effects, inasmuch as the officials
39 became more remote from the communities over which they presided.

“  ” 

1 We examined a small sample of files containing the reports, correspon-
2 dence, and journals of colonial officials in Africa (mainly Nigeria) cover-
3 ing the period – in the Rhodes House library at Oxford. We noted
4 that some of the officials were accompanied by their wives and that in all
5 cases the expatriate social world was very narrow. Most of the officials were
6 imbued with a sense of imperial duty, but their attitudes toward African
7 institutions, intelligence, and morality were at best paternalistic and at worst
8 contemptuous. Falk and his wife were typical in this regard.
9 Among the many materials we examined were some boxes pertaining
10 to Lord Lugard, Nigeria’s first governor-general and author of The Dual
11 Mandate (); to Hubert Mathews, who spent  years in the Nigerian
12 colonial service and received a certificate in anthropology from Oxford in
13  and a diploma in ; and to Falk himself. In addition, we examined [148], (18
14 some of the reports of Northcote Thomas, whose career included a tour of
15 duty as the first government anthropologist in Nigeria. There is, as we will
Lines: 137
16 demonstrate, a contrast between the attitudes of Thomas, who had already
17 gained a reputation for his anthropological writings on Australian kinship, ———
18 and the career administrators. 0.0pt P
19 By the time of Thomas’s appointment in  there had been sporadic
Normal P
20 lobbying in anthropological circles for some  years both to establish an
PgEnds: T
21 Imperial Bureau of Ethnology and to train officers in the colonial service in
22 anthropology. Although the Colonial Office was not fully convinced of the
23 benefits of anthropological training, a few leading administrators, including [148], (18
24 Johnston and Sir Richard Temple, were in the anthropologists’ camp. By
25 this time Oxford, Cambridge, and London were offering limited programs
26 in anthropology. In  R. R. Marett of Oxford told the anthropological
27 section of the British Association that in the six years that Oxford had
28 offered its diploma and certificate courses its  students had included 
29 colonial officers, there being ten from West Africa, nine from Sudan and
30 Egypt, one from British East Africa, and one from India (Marett in Temple
31 et al. :; Stocking :).
32 It would be as wrong to assume that there was anything like an insti-
33 tutional culture in anthropology at this time as it would be anachronistic
34 to assume relativism in its practitioners. Professionalization was merely
35 beginning. Most anthropologists were still evolutionists of one stamp or
36 another, except for W. H. R. Rivers and Elliot Smith, who had embraced
37 diffusionism; additionally, many of Sir James Frazer’s disciples were more
38 interested in Britain or in Greece and Rome than in the colonial territories.
39 On the other hand, a strong camaraderie as well as a common ethos of

 “  ”

1 paternalism and racial superiority pervaded the colonial service. It was a
2 world in which one changed for dinner, was served drinks on the verandah,
3 and socialized only with those one regarded as one’s peers. A year or two’s
4 exposure to evolutionist anthropology would not be designed to break or
5 tamper with such an ethos.
6 In contrast, Northcote Thomas was a member of the Society for Psychical
7 Research as well as the Anthropological Institute. He shared interests in folk-
8 lore, the occult, and the family with Andrew Lang, who was his intellectual
9 mentor and collaborator. As we have seen, Thomas’s writings on Australian
10 marriage and mating customs were devoid of Victorian moral presump-
11 tion. In those writings he had delivered a devastating critique of Morgan
12 and Spencer and Gillen and had denied the existence of group marriage.
13 Later remembered in colonial circles as a “recognized maniac” who “lived on [149], (19)
14 vegetables” and wore sandals even back in England, Thomas seems to have
15 alienated local colonial officials from the moment he began work in south-
Lines: 143 to
16 ern Nigeria (Stocking :). Lugard, who became governor of the newly
17 united Nigeria in , disliked Thomas and had him transferred to Sierra ———
18 Leone, where he got into further trouble for refusing to disclose to the au- 0.0pt PgV
19 thorities the names of presumed murderers in the Human Leopard Society.
Normal Pag
20 It is interesting to contrast Thomas’s views of Edo and Igbo marriage and
PgEnds: TEX
21 sexual morality with those of his contemporaries such as Falk and Mathews.
22 Other colonial administrators regarded premarital sexuality among tra-
23 ditional southern Nigerian peoples as immoral. Bride-price was seen as a [149], (19)
24 form of outright purchase and marriage accordingly as a form of slavery.
25 The difficulty of obtaining divorce in many Nigerian societies was viewed
26 as an impediment to the freedom of women. This, of course, does not mean
27 that the male colonial elite was feminist or necessarily in favor of easy di-
28 vorce. Rather, it signifies that they used and exaggerated the patriarchy of
29 traditional institutions in Africa as a distancing device. Falk, significantly,
30 regarded the premarital arrangements of the Igbo of Aba as the social prod-
31 uct of the institution of bride-price and the natural product of their prim-
32 itivity. High bride-price, he suggested, led to immorality, not restraint: “As
33 soon as he has attained the age of puberty an adolescent will be allowed to
34 have connection with the girl for whom his parents or guardian have paid a
35 bride price. Restraint is quite unknown among so primitive a people. If lack
36 of funds prevent early marriage, the growing boy will find another man’s
37 wife or daughter with whom to gratify his instincts.”4 An alleged absence of
38 homosexuality and incest among the Igbo and Ibibio is seen by Falk to be
39 merely the result of animalistic, heterosexual indulgence. 5

“  ” 

1 Sometimes social institutions were observed that did not fit the prevailing
2 stereotypes. In such cases, a writer’s style of reportage could, nonetheless, be
3 used to make native custom appear to support prevailing views of African
4 character. In the following assessment by Mathews the author notes the
5 relative freedom conferred upon Nungu women by the fact that wives were
6 difficult to obtain in this region of central Nigeria. However, the resulting
7 situation is shaped by diction and irony into evidence of the unruliness of
8 women and the inability of men to maintain order:
10 There always are numbers of men who have no wives, but are trying by
11 hook or crook to get them. This makes the women very independent.
12 If a sufficient inducement is offered a woman, or if she is moved by
13 a desire for change, she will desert one man for another. She is, of [150], (20
14 course, careful to choose a man who lives in another village, for it
15 would be too risky both for her and for her new consort to be within
Lines: 149
16 easy reach of the previous and now aggrieved husband. The first result
17 of such a desertion is that the abandoned husband wanders round ———
18 the countryside loudly bemoaning his loss to the accompaniment of a 13.0pt
19 drum, and trying to get the woman to take pity on him and return. If
Normal P
20 this is of no avail, and the man is sufficiently daring, he will lie in wait,
PgEnds: T
21 perhaps with the other men of his village, near the farms, or on the
22 edge of the village to which the woman has run away, and will shoot
23 or kidnap the first member of the village who appears. In this way [150], (20
24 the responsibility of the private quarrel devolves upon the community
25 and an inter-village feud arises. 6
27 Most European “experts” on Africa were of the opinion that some unde-
28 sirable outcomes had resulted from the suppression of slavery, the introduc-
29 tion of general purpose money, and changes in law and custom induced or
30 forced by government and the churches. It was assumed that many changes
31 in family structure and family law had adversely affected the morals and sta-
32 tus of African women. It is, of course, entirely possible that a general anomie
33 was expressed in changing sexual behavior, but it is entirely certain that there
34 were some who were inclined to prejudge these outcomes. Falk felt that the
35 efforts of missionaries “to incul[c]ate the virtues of chastity” and the ease
36 with which the native courts granted divorce under the new colonial dispen-
37 sation had damaged the institution of marriage in Nigerian tribal society.
38 In some cases, Falk remarked, men sold their wives and young daughters.
39 In other cases, women “emancipated” by divorce drifted into concubinage

 “  ”

1 and prostitution. Reformers failed when they did not take proper account
2 of the “native mind” and the “negro character” and its “inherent vices.”7
3 Falk was not sure that he knew the remedy for the “moral chaos” that sup-
4 posedly surrounded him. He recommended an ordinance restricting child
5 marriage and, for each district, a codification of the law of marriage, divorce,
6 and custody that native courts would apply. He regretted the unwillingness
7 of native leaders and native courts to permit the registration of marriages.
8 In general terms, he felt that the colonial administration should take a more
9 active supervisory role in the everyday lives of the Igbo and Ibibio.
10 To the reader of modern accounts of the  epidemic in southern
11 Africa, Falk’s remarks on gonorrhea are most interesting. It would appear
12 that both the surveyors of morality and those whom they survey have their
13 own folklore. It would be of interest to know from which body of folklore [151], (21)
14 the following tale (now displaced to Zambia and Zimbabwe, not to mention
15 Nepal and Thailand) originated:
Lines: 157 to
Most District Officers have probably come across cases of violation of ———
children and immature girls by men afflicted with gonorrhea. Such 0.0pt PgV
cases are more common among the Ibibios than among the Ibos. It ———
is said that the offence is based on the belief that to have connection Normal Pag
with a virgin is a cure for the disease, but the evidence on this point PgEnds: TEX
is conflicting. The strongest proof of the existence of this belief lies
in the fact that no native lacks the opportunity to gratify his sexual
23 [151], (21)
passions with mature females, and that the crime seems otherwise
inexplicable among a population who lead natural lives as the people
do. All persons ever arraigned before the writer for this crime were
pagan bushmen. 8
28 Northcote Thomas was perhaps unique among government officials
29 working in Nigeria in the early decades of the century inasmuch as he
30 was not disturbed by any of the sexual and marital customs of the peoples
31 among whom he was resident. Although he gives considerable information
32 about premarital sex and adultery among the Edo and the Ibo, his tone in
33 writing about these matters is, for the most part, matter-of-fact, neither
34 alarmed nor ironic. His reports make it clear that although members of
35 these societies may act differently from Europeans, they are, in fact, bound
36 by clear rules. He describes what payments must be made or gifts given
37 between lovers or to the parents or husband of a sexual partner in various
38 localities. He notes under what conditions sexual relations are permitted,
39 when they are not, and when local custom dictates that sexual freedom must

“  ” 

1 end. Moreover, he recognizes differences between groups. “The women of
2 Okpe,” he remarks in his work on the Edo, “seem to be far more moral,
3 according to European lights, than those of the tribes of the south. It seems
4 to be exceedingly rare for a girl to bear a child before marriage.” Reporting
5 on the marriage of very young girls at Soso, in the extreme north of the Edo
6 area, he states that he “could not, however observe the slightest ill-effects of
7 this premature marriage, on the contrary, both young and older wives, ap-
8 peared to be particularly healthy, and the standard of physical development
9 was a good one.”Attitudes such as these, as well as his propensity for wearing
10 sandals and his interest in the occult, were reasons why Northcote Thomas’s
11 anthropology had little appeal in the circles of colonial power. Thomas did
12 not do intensive fieldwork in the Malinowskian mode, but his detailed work
13 implied an intimacy with African custom that transcended the color bar. [152], (22
14 In  events occurred that led the British Colonial Office to reconsider
15 its attitudes toward anthropology and, in particular, to recognize a need
Lines: 167
16 for more accurate information about women, marriage, and the family.
17 The patterns of colonial social relations made it inevitable that as little ———
18 direct knowledge British administrators had of the motives and emotions of 0.0pt P
19 African men, those of women were even more of a mystery. These circum-
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20 stances meant that resistance by women to colonial rule, when it occurred,
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21 was met with a level of misunderstanding sufficient to provoke both public
22 and bureaucratic responses from London.
23 In  riots erupted in several communities in the south of Igboland [152], (22
24 and in nearby Ijaw coastal towns. The protests were led by women traders
25 who anticipated that their inclusion in a census indicated the imminent
26 imposition of government taxation. Other possible causes of the protests
27 included the converting of farmland from the cultivation of food crops to
28 cash crops and the women’s indignation at the male-dominated native court
29 system. Mrs. Falk, whose husband was now resident in Calabar, described
30 in her diary the conditions that pertained among colonial wives during the
31 rebellion: “Outwardly we still lead a fairly normal life, except for a number
32 of strange women in the station. We drive about, play tennis and go to one
33 another’s houses and to the club, and pretent [sic] that all is well. We are
34 not going to show the natives that we are alarmed or nervous. But we are
35 preparing for the worst.” 9 In the meantime, her husband was engaged in
36 fighting the women’s insurrection in Opobo District. On December , ,
37 he wrote to her about an encounter during which police deflected an attack
38 on a government office by defying the Nigerians’ expectation that British
39 troops would not fire on women who “wrecked” government offices: “Total

 “  ”

1 death . Since then all quiet at Opobo. Factories reopened. The war fleet
2 paddled away as soon as it realized that the plan had failed.” Mrs. Falk
3 wrote proudly of her husband’s firmness of purpose: “I have just heard
4 a lovely joke, which is being told along the coast. People say that Daddy
5 saved the situation in this province by quick and firm action. The only real
6 punishment for the natives is to burn their villages and to seize their goats,
7 chickens and yams. Daddy ordered the police to burn an abandoned village
8 to make the chiefs sue for peace. So people say that Daddy’s latest slogan is
9 ‘A village a day, keeps the riot away.”’10
10 Both the Falks speculated on the causes of the disturbances and the char-
11 acter of Africans. Their conclusions were informed by many of the stereo-
12 typical assumptions we have been documenting, especially those concern-
13 ing the treatment of African women and the ability of Africans to benefit [153], (23)
14 from the “improving influences” of colonialism. Both Falks denied that the
15 rebellion was the result of Igbo women acting independently to redress
Lines: 171 to
16 their own grievances. Assumptions about the intelligence and status of local
17 women made such a possibility appear unlikely. In Falk’s official report and ———
18 “Plan for the Government of Calabar” () he expressed the certainty that 0.0pt PgV
19 the women were encouraged to riot by the men, who hoped that British
Normal Pag
20 consideration for women would undermine colonial authority. 11 Mrs. Falk
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21 blamed the riots on agitation from “American negroes,” whom she believed
22 to be both “far more civilized than the African negroes” and eager to start a
23 worldwide black revolution. She worried about the effects of civilization on [153], (23)
24 Africans: “It is already obvious that this country will go the way of India if
25 we continue to educate the natives as fast as it has been done during the last
26 few years. We certainly do not make them happier. . . . The half-educated
27 negro is a disgusting specimen. The real pagan is the best of the lot.”12
28 It must be stressed that the Falks were not regarded by their associates
29 as eccentric (as Northcote Thomas was) or as extreme or excessive in their
30 views. When Falk left Calabar in  to become acting administrator of the
31 colony in Lagos, a testimonial praised the Falks’ admirable work on behalf of
32 local welfare. It congratulated Falk for heading the Leprosy Relief Commis-
33 sion and for work in road building and other public works and in teacher
34 training. Mrs. Falk, according to the testimonial document, “is known and
35 admired by all classes for her common sense, a trait rare in these days.”
36 She served as president of the Calabar branch of the Ladies Association of
37 Nigeria, and the testimonial said that her excellence at needlework would
38 be attested to by that body. 13
39 The Igbo Women’s War and its suppression had immediate repercussions

“  ” 

1 in London. The Colonial Office was disturbed and, furthermore, faced criti-
2 cism. Shortly thereafter (in ), Lugard received a letter from the National
3 Council of Women (a British body that is still in existence) urging that a
4 woman be appointed in the Colonial Office as a consultant on women’s is-
5 sues. Lugard replied that this would be inadvisable but that the International
6 African Institute, which included women researchers (Audrey Richards and
7 others are mentioned), were looking into such matters. He also stated that
8 he did not think a woman in the Colonial Office could have prevented the
9  women’s riots (, Lugard Correspondence).
10 The events of  did indeed result in the employment of anthropolo-
11 gists such as Charles Kingsley Meek (previously government anthropologist [Last Pag
12 in northern Nigeria) and G. T. Basden, who concentrated most on the role
13 of men among the troublesome Igbo. Most important, two female scholars [154], (24
14 were asked to study Igbo women. They were Margaret Green, who wrote
15 Ibo Village Affairs (), and Sylvia Leith-Ross, who wrote African Women
Lines: 177
16 (). The studies by Meek and Green are solid, functionalist works that
17 do not promote the racial or sexual stereotypes of the preceding century. ———
18 (They are concerned with the delineation of social structure.) 140.57
19 In the end, the misrecognition of African sexuality and gender roles that
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20 was itself the complex product of the colonial practice of racial distanc-
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21 ing and gender separation had produced political consequences that called
22 out for investigation. The studies were undertaken at the behest of a colo-
23 nial government that thought that the women’s war indicated that sex and [154], (24
24 gender among the Igbo posed a peculiar problem in surveillance that an-
25 thropologists might help them solve. The divergence we have seen between
26 bureaucratic and anthropological attitudes may help to explain why this
27 project, in British Africa at least, never was as successful as either its pro-
28 ponents or its detractors claimed and continue to claim.

 “  ”

4  
7 Malinowski as “Reluctant Sexologist”
11 [First Page]

12 n The Sexual Life of Savages in Northwestern Melanesia () Bronis-
13 law Malinowski derides th-century sensationalism concerning prim- [155], (1)
14 itive sexuality and emphasizes the stable marital relations that succeed
15 youthful promiscuity among Trobrianders. 1 His work appealed greatly to
Lines: 0 to 1
16 Havelock Ellis and Bertrand Russell, who were endeavoring to develop the
17 foundations of a new secular sexual morality. This chapter discusses the uses ———
18 made of anthropological data by the pioneering advocates of companionate 0.0pt PgV
19 marriage, contraceptives, and sex education and assesses the degree to which
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20 their views were shared by Malinowski. It also explores the limits of any new
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21 “objectivity” concerning “primitive” sexuality.
22 Malinowski, in a witty essay written during the s but not published
23 until  years after the author’s death, remarks upon the tendency of an- [155], (1)
24 thropologists to report data concerning primitive behavior in such a way
25 as to transform primitives into models of “an ideal human state” (:).
26 In this essay, which was intended as a statement of the role scientific an-
27 thropology might play in debates of the s concerning sexual reform,
28 Malinowski dismisses as “junk” attempts to assimilate psychology and be-
29 havior to modes of existence advocated by apologists for diverse ideolo-
30 gies (:–). He gave as an example the discovery of a “puritanically
31 chaste” primitive by Father Wilhelm Schmidt, Elliot Smith, and William
32 J. Perry, while W. H. R. Rivers had “advanced Socialism in England be-
33 cause he imagined that Melanesian savages were Communists” (Malinowski
34 :). “One or two quite intelligent writers on feminism,” Malinowski
35 chides, “have based their reformatory conclusions on the fact of primitive
36 mother right, while . . . [f]ree love has been advocated for the last fifty years
37 all over the world by pious references to primitive promiscuity” (:–
38 ).
39 Despite this vociferous rejection of distortions of the data to fit ideo-
1 logical requirements, Malinowski does not refrain from offering his con-
2 temporaries a number of very specific prescriptions for sexual reform. The
3 “stratified morality” advocated by Malinowski would involve the retention
4 of marriage, said to be universal among primitives, as a central social in-
5 stitution. Those married couples who willingly and responsibly take on the
6 role of parents are to be suitably rewarded with both the “greatest human
7 happiness” and “special social privileges.” Bachelors and spinsters are to
8 be tolerated, even permitted sexual expression, but might be subjected to
9 deterrents imposed by the system of taxation (Malinowski :). Ho-
10 mosexuals, Malinowski suggests, should be provided with some “arrange-
11 ments” by which they may gratify their desires without risk of persecution
12 and without the danger that they might “infect” others (:). In the
13 article, which was published under the title “Aping the Ape” (although the [156], (2)
14 draft copy in the Yale University library indicates that he had not selected
15 a title for it), Malinowski mentions a number of contemporary advocates
Lines: 15
16 of sexual reform as persons who have been misused by defenders of free
17 love and argues that their positions are really more compatible with his ———
18 own. These figures include Havelock Ellis, Bertrand and Dora Russell, and 0.0pt P
19 Judge Ben Lindsey, an American famous at the time for his advocacy of
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20 “companionate marriage.” Marie Stopes, the English birth control crusader,
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21 is not mentioned by name but figures in the essay as “The Sensible Woman
22 (Birth Control Expert).” Malinowski further argues that the true facts of
23 primitive sexuality are much closer to the state of affairs he advocates than [156], (2)
24 to the ways of life championed by either traditionalists or advocates of free
25 love. Thus, Malinowski believed, the reforms he proposed were dictated not
26 by utopian vision but by objective science.
27 It is perhaps unfair to hold a scholar to opinions expressed in an article
28 he chose not to publish during his lifetime. We shall, however, attempt in
29 this essay to demonstrate that “Aping the Ape” is merely an unusually clear
30 and forthright statement of positions taken by Malinowski elsewhere in
31 published sources and public statements, a statement particularly valuable
32 because it is explicit in its acknowledgment of the common ground shared
33 by Malinowski with leading sexual reformers of his day. We hope that by
34 examining Malinowski’s work, especially The Sexual Life of Savages, in the
35 context of the ideas of some of these thinkers, particularly Ellis and Russell,
36 we can understand better the importance of contemporary political and
37 social debate in shaping the thinking of this staunch advocate of empiricism.
38 Michel Foucault argued that sexuality is an area in which scientific dis-
39 course can be seen with particular clarity to have been shaped, indeed neces-

   “ ”

1 sitated, by political considerations. Foucault () includes the work of El-
2 lis in the scientia sexualis he examines in his History of Sexuality but does not
3 consider any empirical research among primitives under that category. To
4 what degree, we shall ask, do Foucault’s characterizations of sexual scholar-
5 ship accurately describe the work of some of Malinowski’s contemporaries,
6 and how well do they apply to Malinowski’s own work?
     
10 Anthropology was and is, or so we were all once told, a science based on
11 participant observation. Malinowski has been regarded as the pioneer of
12 this technique, although he was not, in fact, its first practitioner (see Hinsley
13 ; Stocking ). Now what, precisely, is participant observation? The [157], (3)
14 anthropologist gains entry to the stranger community, sits, watches, and,
15 above all else, listens to what the strangers tell him or her about themselves.
Lines: 19 to
16 Confession, Foucault () informs us, emerged as a technique of power
17 during the th century. Employed for centuries by the Catholic Church, the ———
18 technique later entered the secular realm. The lawyer, doctor, social worker, 6.5pt PgV
19 and alienist all hear confessions. The manifest aim of such procedures is the
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20 eliciting of truth and the remedying of disease or disorder; their latent func-
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21 tion is to reinforce the unequal power structure that compels and conducts
22 discourse.
23 It is a paradox of modern civilization, Foucault asserts, that the need to [157], (3)
24 tell the other(s) about oneself is perceived as a mechanism of individua-
25 tion, whereas it is, in fact, a method of socialization and subordination.
26 In other words, the confessional strategy is embedded in mystification. A
27 patient with a sexual problem discusses it with a psychiatrist, who judges,
28 consoles, reconciles the patient perhaps to this situation, and, having elicited
29 the requisite number of statements, converts them into a truth useable by
30 patient and interlocutor and compatible with the ideology of the power
31 structure. The patient’s behavior is triply determined by outside forces: ()
32 there is a personal secret that results, in fact, from an implicit or explicit
33 injunction to hide things so that () a satisfaction is gained from “self-
34 revelation” and “self-discovery,” which are perceived to be voluntary but, in
35 fact, emerge out of a social compulsion to confess, and () a truth is elicited
36 and a cure effected by a socially approved agent. Malinowski’s anthropology
37 is surely a confessional art, but does it accord with Foucault’s description of
38 confession?
39 From his Trobriand informants, Malinowski gained detailed knowledge

  “ ” 

1 of folklore, “tribal” economics, garden magic, sexual theories, and sexual
2 behavior. His very claim to fame rested on his ability to elicit detailed and
3 reliable information. Confession is not absent from primitive praxis. We
4 find it associated with curing and witch-finding cults, for example, often
5 with considerable sexual content in the confessed material. The Trobriand
6 practice of exhumation and examination of corpses for signs of sorcery,
7 followed by general discussion concerning the sorcerer’s possible motives,
8 often led to the revelation of significant sexual misconduct. Misconduct,
9 thus confessed, would normally have been broadcast to all interested parties,
10 typically an entire village. Margaret Mead, writing about the introduction of
11 Christianity to Peri Village (Manus), notes that villagers chose Catholicism
12 over Protestantism partly because of the attraction of auricular confession:
13 the confession of sin to a single individual promised a desirable gain in [158], (4)
14 privacy to a community that, like the Trobriands, was used to public ex-
15 posure of private indiscretion (:, –). If similar pressures were
Lines: 28
16 at work in the agrarian village communities served by the early Catholic
17 Church, Christian confession might well have helped to establish the value ———
18 placed on privacy in Europe, whatever it may have done later to threaten its 0.0pt P
19 achievement. Of course, it is a paradox of privacy that a good deal of it is
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20 necessary to create a guilty secret so burdensome that one feels a compulsion
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21 to confess.
22 At any rate, Malinowski was not collecting Trobriand secrets in the pri-
23 vacy of the confessional. His express purpose was to share them with the [158], (4)
24 world, a purpose that critics of social science have long insisted is more easily
25 accomplished with the secrets of those who wield little power – primitives,
26 the poor, women, and children. Malinowski seized upon indigenous com-
27 pulsions to confess as a source of data in The Sexual Life of Savages (:–
28 ) and elsewhere.
29 Trobrianders, however, were not accustomed to making confessions to
30 scientists, hence the need for participant observation. Much of Malinowski’s
31 scientific evidence is drawn from the spontaneous confidences of friends
32 (:). He also employs such projective systems as myth and dramatic
33 performance (notably, the disparaging public imitation of white men’s sex-
34 ual ineptitude [:]) as guides to sexual attitudes and behavior. Where
35 self-revelation is not available, Malinowski listens to gossip or asks questions
36 of white traders and administrators. He makes ordinary Trobriand language
37 disclose sexual information by the careful interlinear translation of texts,
38 verbatim transcriptions of conversations, and glosses of lexical items. These
39 multiple methodologies are employed with such seeming ease that the skill

   “ ”

1 and imagination involved are easy to overlook. It is even easier to overlook
2 the fact that, once subject to the hermeneutic operations of the ethnogra-
3 pher, these disparate fragments assume for Malinowski’s European reader,
4 albeit not for his Trobriand informants, something of the character of a
5 psychiatric case history – a constructed portrait of the sexual, emotional,
6 and familial experience of a composite Trobriander, offered to readers with
7 an implicit invitation to compare it with their own case histories and those
8 of their friends. If the confession as existential experience is absent from
9 Malinowski’s fieldwork, its transformation into its characteristic literary
10 form is certainly present in his ethnography.
11 If Malinowski’s informants were not offered therapy, as one presumes
12 to have been the case with the subjects of published psychiatric reports,
13 certainly the possibility is there that another therapeutic purpose of case [159], (5)
14 histories may have been served – the “healing” of the reader or of those
15 over whom the reader may have professional influence. Moreover, there is
Lines: 32 to
16 evidence, to be discussed later, that Malinowski intended his work to be used
17 in this way. ———
18 Throughout two of his three periods in the field, two of them in the 0.0pt PgV
19 Trobriands and the first in Mailu, Malinowski practiced a form of self-
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20 confessional autotherapy by keeping a field diary, “keeping the diary as a
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21 form of psychological analysis” (:). There is only one diary entry
22 for his first trip to the Trobriands, a visit that resulted in his first publica-
23 tion on that culture, examining myths of reincarnation and advancing the [159], (5)
24 idea of Trobriand ignorance of physiological paternity (Malinowski ).
25 The posthumously published A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term ()
26 contains very little data on Trobriand sexuality and, unsurprisingly in a per-
27 sonal account, next to nothing on the intellectual influences that informed
28 Malinowski’s field research. The diary’s notoriety in anthropological circles
29 arose from Malinowski’s repeated revelations of antipathy rather than ad-
30 miration toward his subjects, especially his use of the word “nigger,” whether
31 in Polish or English. In such a context his reports of sexual attraction to male
32 and female Trobrianders, including two instances in which such attraction
33 progressed to “pawing” (Malinowski :, ), inevitably appeared ex-
34 ploitative to readers in the s and beyond.
35 George Stocking has drawn attention to the noticeable link between Ma-
36 linowski’s not infrequent periods of depression and personal sexual frustra-
37 tion and his explosions of revulsion toward his Trobriand hosts (:).
38 In our own reading we have noted expressions of regret about a perceived
39 betrayal of his fiancée that often follow Malinowski’s accounts of sexual

  “ ” 

1 arousal (e.g., :). The overall impression is one of someone strug-
2 gling with the sexual constraints of his own culture while recording the
3 apparently greater freedoms of another. Most of the relevant diary entries
4 occur between mid-April and the end of May , a time when Malinowski
5 was undergoing a conflict, reminiscent of some Victorian fiction, over the
6 need to write a letter to a former object of his affections, Nina Stirling, so
7 that he might be free to become engaged to Elsie Masson. A diary entry of
8 April , in particular, reveals that he anticipated that a respectable marriage,
whether to Nina or Elsie, would entail limitations on sexual expression that
contrasted to the experience of the Trobrianders: “A pretty, finely built girl
walked ahead of me. I watched the muscles of her back, her figure, her legs,
and the beauty of the body so hidden to us, whites, fascinated me. Probably [160], (6)
14 even with my own wife I’ll never have the opportunity to observe the play
15 of back muscles for as long as with this little animal. At moments I was
sorry I was not a savage and could not possess this pretty girl” (Malinowski Lines: 38
17 :). One of the “pawing” episodes took place on the evening of the ———
18 same day. The next day, Malinowski was overcome with guilt, both about * 26.0pt
19 this incident and his rejection of Nina Stirling. His response was reminiscent
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20 of the sexual culture we discuss in earlier chapters, insofar as it incorporated
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21 both the sexualizing of a primitive woman and a vow of purity as a condi-
22 tion of his projected engagement: “Resolve: absolutely never to touch any
23 Kiriwina whore. To be mentally incapable of possessing anyone except E. [160], (6)
24 R. M. [Elsie Masson]” (Malinowski :). Two days later, on April ,
25 Malinowski collected information about Trobriand positions during sexual
26 intercourse (:). Returning to his tent, he had what he described as
27 a “flash of insight” (emphasis his): “Physical intimacy with another human
being results in such a surrender of personality that one should unite only
with a woman one really loves” (Malinowski :). Three days later,
Malinowski was assuring himself that Elsie Masson was the only woman he
“really” loved while acknowledging that in his “sensual apperceptions” Nina
33 Stirling “corresponded . . . better” to his “emotional longings” (:).
34 By the time Malinowski published an ethnographic account of the data
35 on sexuality he had collected from the Trobriands, they had been con-
36 scripted, for better or worse, into a discourse that challenged the social and
37 cultural norms that informed the conflicts Malinowski experienced in the
38 field. In that discourse the Trobrianders were not “niggers,” “little animals,”
39 or “whores” but, in many ways, admirable examples.

   “ ”

1  :     
Malinowski knew and corresponded with some of the leading sexual re-
formers in England during the s and s, met some of their counter-
parts (e.g., Margaret Sanger) in the United States, and corresponded with
European members of the psychoanalytic movement, including Princess
Marie Bonaparte, who was a personal friend, and Wilhelm Reich, whose
work he encouraged but never endorsed. Malinowski’s English contacts
included Marie Stopes, Havelock Ellis, and Bertrand Russell. The four re-
formers were as unlike in personality as they were in background, yet they
shared some (but not all) political aims in common.
12 Stopes, well known as the founder of the first birth control clinic in Eng-
13 land, wrote a number of popular books (e.g., Married Love and Wise Par- [161], (7)
14 enthood, both published in ) that advocated sex education, sexual satis-
15 faction for both marriage partners, a “spiritual” love relationship based on
mutual companionship, birth control, and eugenics. No libertarian, Stopes Lines: 45 to
17 believed that marital fulfillment, family spacing, and birth control were ———
18 moral imperatives that should be implemented by education and example. 6.5pt PgV
She was saddened by the failure of her gospel to penetrate to those who ———
most needed it, the ignorant and the poor, who should be discouraged from Normal Pag
breeding both for the amelioration of their own hardship and for the good PgEnds: TEX
22 of the race. The full title of the organization Stopes founded, the Society for
23 Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress, clearly reveals its founder’s [161], (7)
24 ethos. 2 One of the vice presidents of Stopes’s organization in the s was
25 Bronislaw Malinowski. At an earlier period, in the s, Bertrand Russell
26 had also served in this capacity. However, he resigned in  in protest
27 against Stopes’s decision to support the prosecution on grounds of obscen-
28 ity of the English distributors of Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation (Kerss
29 :). Russell later remarked that Stopes’s books, written in the language
30 of the educated classes, were immune from prosecution, while Sanger’s pub-
31 lications for working women were banned because working women could
32 understand them (:–). Unlike Russell, Stopes loved the applause of
33 the Establishment, and by the s, when she gained the endorsement of
34 the Church of England’s Lambeth Conference and the Prince of Wales, she
35 had received the support of the Establishment’s more “progressive” mem-
36 bers.
37 Russell, the grandson of a prime minister, the godson of John Stuart Mill,
38 and the heir to a peerage, could more readily afford the Establishment’s
39 disdain and was ideologically and temperamentally inclined toward the role

  “ ” 

1 of mischievous social gadfly. A diehard libertarian individualist, Russell was
2 more open about his extramarital relationships than was conventional in
3 his day. The author of Principia Mathematica noted that “societies that have
4 been conventionally virtuous have not produced great art. Those which
5 have, have been composed of men such as Idaho would sterilize” (Russell
6 :). Russell condemned the church’s traditional support of celibacy
7 and asceticism, advocated sex education and the abolition of obscenity laws,
8 supported the idea of trial marriage (see below), upheld the right of women
9 to enjoy sexual and social equality within and without marriage, and favored
10 freer divorce laws. All these opinions were lucidly and forcefully proclaimed
11 in Marriage and Morals ().
12 Rebel though he was, Russell’s program for sexual reform did not differ
13 much from those proposed by less scandalous figures of the period. He [162], (8)
14 argued that casual sex that did not create an emotional bond between the
15 partners was socially and personally detrimental; trial marriage might di-
Lines: 49
16 minish the need for it (Russell :). In principle, he approved of some
17 intrusion by the state in the affairs of the household. It was desirable that the ———
18 state and its agencies should enhance the health and welfare of the family 0.0pt P
19 by providing education and sanitation and by relieving the working-class
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20 father of much of his financial and social burden. However, Russell was
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21 aware that the intrusion of state power was potentially dangerous, insofar as
22 the destabilization of the working-class family might have unforeseen con-
23 sequences and a militaristic nation-state might educate a nation of soldiers. [162], (8)
24 Russell also gave qualified support to the eugenics movement. He believed
25 that positive eugenics, that is, promoting the breeding of the more intel-
26 ligent, was desirable, albeit politically impractical, in a democratic society.
27 Surprisingly, he also supported a negative eugenic measure, the sterilization
28 of the mentally retarded, although he noted that sterilization of the morally
29 incompetent, epileptics, and others deemed socially unfit was unjustifiable
30 and dangerous, given the present state of knowledge (Russell :–,
31 –).
32 Raised in the th century, Russell, not surprisingly, adopted an evolu-
33 tionary schema in Marriage and Morals, albeit he did not consider that
34 sexual morality had exhibited any unilinear progress. Rather, he appears to
35 have believed that a review of human evolution and social history might
36 reveal what had gone wrong. Given that human sexual behavior, family
37 organization, and sexual education were the products of nurture as well as
38 instinct, such a review might suggest precisely what rational humans could
39 do in order to create sexual enlightenment.

   “ ”

1 No anthropologist himself, Russell utilized the works not only of Ma-
2 linowski but also of Robert Briffault, whose latter-day beliefs in primitive
3 matriarchy and sexual communism were challenged by Malinowski. Rus-
4 sell’s library, now housed at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario,
5 contains a copy of Malinowski’s Father in Primitive Psychology with half a
6 dozen annotations as well as an unmarked copy of The Sexual Life of Savages.
7 On November , , Russell dispatched the following letter to Mali-
8 nowski: “I have been reading with a great deal of interest not only Sex and
9 Repression in Savage Society but also Argonauts of the Western Pacific and
10 your little book on Paternity in the Psyche series. I found your observations
11 on paternal affection divorced from power and inheritance very interesting
12 psychologically and throwing a great deal of light on the nature of the
13 paternal sentiment” (Russell Archive). Russell utilized Malinowski’s data [163], (9)
14 to demonstrate that paternal care developed from an instinctive bond that
15 grew out of cohabitation, that it was present even when physiological pater-
Lines: 55 to
16 nity was an unknown concept, and, insofar as it flourished before patriarchy
17 began, that patriarchy was not necessary to support it. The Trobrianders ———
18 thus demonstrated to Russell that the structure of the Victorian family was 0.0pt PgV
19 neither a biological nor a moral necessity (:–).
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20 Both Russell and Malinowski shared an admiration for Havelock Ellis.
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21 Writing in the New Statesman and Nation in , Russell lauded Ellis for
22 his “unprejudiced” scholarship:
23 [163], (9)
Havelock Ellis’ most notable quality is a kindly sanity. Almost all writ-
ers on sex have some axe to grind; they want to prove that people hate
their fathers, or love their mothers, or ought to know all about sex
at the age of three, or ought to know nothing about sex till the age
of twenty-one. Some wish to prove that sex covers the whole of life;
others that it is nothing but an unimportant and temporary aberra-
tion from which well-regulated persons are immune. Havelock Ellis
holds none of these theories: on each subject he knows what is to be
known, and draws the conclusions of a sensible, unprejudiced person
who likes people to be happy. (:–)
34 Ellis was indeed a kindly recluse, disinclined toward polemic. One nonethe-
35 less suspects that when scholar A says of scholar B that he has no axe to grind,
36 both scholars wish to grind the same axes. As we shall see, this was to some
37 extent true.
38 Box  of the Malinowski Papers at Yale University contains a substantial
39 correspondence ( items in all) between Malinowski and Havelock Ellis,

  “ ” 

1 mostly letters from Ellis to Malinowski. Writing in the Birth Control Review,
2 the journal of the American Birth Control League, Malinowski had this to
3 say of Ellis: “To me in my earlier youthful enthusiasm, Havelock Ellis was
4 first a myth, fraught with artistic and moral significance; later he was an
5 intellectual reality in shaping the plastic phase of my mental development;
6 finally he became a great personal experience when I met him and saw
7 realized in life the anticipation of a great personality” (a:). In what
8 ways, then, did Ellis shape the “plastic phase” of Malinowski’s development?
9 In what ways did the two men agree, and on what subjects did they differ?
   
13 In , as a young Polish student, Bronislaw Malinowski came to England to [164], (10
14 study with Leonard Hobhouse, Edward Westermarck, and Charles Seligman
15 at London University. He quickly adopted Westermarck’s position that the
Lines: 67
16 individual family was a universal human institution and that accounts of
17 group marriage were spurious (see Lyons and Lyons ; Stocking ). ———
18 This position was sustained in Malinowski’s thesis, which was published in 6.5pt P
19  as The Family among the Australian Aborigines, his first book (Firth
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20 :, ). Utilizing Westermarck’s definition of marriage as a “more or
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21 less durable connection between male and female, lasting beyond the mere
22 act of propagation until after the birth of the offspring” (:, ), Ma-
23 linowski asserted that Australian Aborigines most certainly possessed the [164], (10
24 institution. He further endorsed the attacks of Andrew Lang, Northcote
25 Thomas, and Ernest Crawley on interpretations of the pirauru institution
26 as group marriage. In an appendix to his book he stated his approval of the
27 argument of Crawley’s The Mystic Rose, which he had read while his own
28 book was in press (Malinowski :–). He appeared to endorse the
29 key notion that sexual contact in primitive societies was beset by magical
30 danger and that marital rites were designed to remove such perils. Fur-
31 thermore, customs such as the couvade and brother–sister avoidance were
32 also the consequence of such beliefs. The name of Havelock Ellis does not
33 occur in the index. However, according to Grosskurth, intellectual contacts
34 between Ellis and Westermarck increased around this time (:). This
35 fact may not be insignificant, given the close ties between Westermarck and
36 Malinowski. Perhaps it was around this time that Malinowski’s “youthful
37 enthusiasm” first directed him to Ellis’s work.
38 Malinowski’s admiration of Ellis was passed on to his students and some
39 members of his seminar. Ashley Montagu told us that he read much of

   “ ”

1 Ellis’s work and greatly admired him (personal communication, ). It
2 is not uninteresting to note that in  Malinowski’s student Meyer Fortes
3 wrote a review for Man of Life in Nature by the obscure Victorian thinker
4 James Hinton solely because “any document which helps us to understand
5 the mental evolution of so redoubtable a social thinker as Havelock Ellis
6 cannot be lightly dismissed” (:). In  Ellis, who always avoided
7 the public gaze, declined an invitation to be Huxley Memorial Lecturer at
8 the Royal Anthropological Institute (Grosskurth :). By the s the
9 old physical anthropology and the Victorian comparative method were no
10 longer in vogue. Both had informed Ellis’s thinking.
11 We have observed in Ellis’s analyses of primitive sexuality the rejection
12 of notions of primitive licentiousness and immodesty and the substitution
13 for them of an assertion that the sexual urge is weak and sporadic among [165], (11)
14 savages. Malinowski did not endorse all of these views, but his reaction to
15 them greatly informed his thinking on Trobriand sexuality. Our knowledge
Lines: 74 to
16 of Malinowski’s reaction to Ellis’s work is based on an undated notebook
17 on Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex that forms part of the Malinowski ———
18 papers at Yale University. It was certainly written after Malinowski’s return 4.24251p
19 from the field and, in all likelihood, before Malinowski invited Ellis to com-
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20 ment on early drafts of The Sexual Life of Savages.
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   
23 [165], (11)
24 Malinowski’s notes cover five volumes of Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of
25 Sex, namely, volume  (renumbered volume ), Sexual Inversion; the title
26 essay, “The Evolution of Modesty,” in volume  (renumbered as volume );
27 the essay “The Sexual Instinct among Savages” in volume ; Sexual Selection
28 in Man (volume ); and Sex in Relation to Society (volume ). In all, there
29 are some  pages, not all of which are legible. 3
30 On homosexuality, Malinowski had this to say: “In my conclu. Nothing
31 to learn ? ab. hosox. from Trobs. Except that when great freedom perver-
32 sion ? doesn’t exist. As to pract. hints of moral cond. thrghly in symp with
33 H. E. (except VII concl.)” (). Although the notebook contains no direct
34 statement concerning Ellis’s assertion that, insofar as homosexuality is con-
35 genital, it could not be cured, the above extract indicates a belief that if the
36 Trobriand institutions produced a low incidence of homosexuality, greater
37 heterosexual freedom in Western society might effect a similar result.
38 Some seven pages of the notebook deal with “The Evolution of Modesty.”
39 Malinowski appears to have approved of the gist of Ellis’s argument.

  “ ” 

1 Malinowski’s remarks concerning “The Sexual Instinct among Savages”
2 reveal the extent to which his own later argument may have resulted from his
3 reaction to Ellis. He doubts Ellis’s claim that the sexual instinct has increased
4 rather than diminished with the growth of culture: “I’d say: it has become
5 diff., plastic, more varied with individuals (comp. to gustatory instinct)”
6 (). Interest in sex per se and passion need not be equated; passion, but not
7 sexual interest, had increased with the growth of civilization.
8 Ellis’s argument that the existence of penalties for unchastity was evi-
9 dence of a low sex drive is dismissed with a witticism: “You could as well
10 argue that a ceinture de chaste was a sign of chastity” (). If, indeed, prim-
11 itives were, as Ellis suggested, horrified by the sight of genitals, how then
12 could he explain the prominence of genitals in primitive art?
13 Malinowski concludes his notes on Ellis’s essay with the following ob- [166], (12
14 servation: “I cannot agree fully with his general conclusion that while . . .
15 restrictions on sexual intercourse are very numerous, there is underlying
Lines: 87
16 these restraints a fundamental weakness of the sexual instinct” ().
17 Malinowski’s notes on Sex in Relation to Society consist of very brief notes ———
18 on each chapter. In a couple of cases it is not clear whether he is merely sum- 0.0pt P
19 marizing Ellis or indicating his own agreement with the latter’s argument.
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20 The following are some of Malinowski’s notes on the first five chapters:
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21 . On the mother and her child: “We can learn but little from savages about
22 this. Except to see how badly they do it.”
23 . Sex Education: “Here I am firmly impressed by the fact that H.E. and [166], (12
24 all those who are for sex education are right.”
25 . (Sexual education and) Nakedness: “Learn a great deal of healthy stuff
26 from savages.”
27 . The Valuation of Sexual Love: “By studying savages we may also gain an
28 insight into the real position of love.”
29 . The Function of Chastity: “Trobr . . . have no chastity. Are there any
30 expressions of [it?] there at all?” (, )
31 A consistent thread runs through Malinowski’s meditations on the Tro-
32 brianders and Ellis. Savage sexuality is free, healthy, and somewhat mo-
33 notonous. Civilization, affecting the pliant individual in many ways, has
34 brought with it better maternal care, more variation, and more passion, but
35 this sophistication has clearly exacted a toll in the form of unsuccessful and
36 unhappy experiments. Ellis has underestimated the role played by environ-
37 ment as against instinct and has mistaken sexual monotony for low sexual
38 drive. For all their disagreements, the two men seem to agree on one very
39 important point: “Learn a great deal of healthy stuff from savages.”

   “ ”

1         
We may ask to what extent The Sexual Life of Savages was concerned with
the lessons we might learn from primitives. In the introduction Malinowski
denies that “the native–European parallels of the present book are meant to
provide a homily on our own failings or a paean on our virtues” (:xxv).
He stresses at several points that his is a “scientific” treatment (Malinowski
:xxiii, xxiv, xxvi). Are we, then, to discount the possibility that anything
of the reformer’s zeal might have motivated the ethnographer? There are,
we suggest, some good reasons not to do so.
Malinowski certainly did take a visible part in the debates of the s
12 concerning sexual reform. His lectures on the subject included an address
13 to the First International Congress on Sexual Questions held in Berlin in [167], (13)
14 . As we have seen, he wrote a number of articles stating his views on
15 sexual behavior. He was a friend and supporter of Stopes and, of course,
admired and was admired by Ellis. What of The Sexual Life of Savages? To Lines: 110 to
17 what degree was the ethnographer informed by developments at home? ———
18 One fact that must be remembered in assessing the relative importance of 6.5pt PgV
“objective” and “reformist” postures in The Sexual Life of Savages is that, for ———
the period under discussion, the opposition is, to some degree, a false one. Normal Pag
There was not yet a tendency on the part of reformers and radicals in Britain PgEnds: TEX
22 and America to see science as one of the tools of a controlling establishment,
23 a tendency for which the current popularity of Foucault’s work is itself an [167], (13)
24 important piece of evidence. Rather, to expose such controversial questions
25 as sexual behavior to the cold, clear light of science was seen, in itself, as
26 a liberating procedure. If there had been, as Foucault asserts, a loud and
27 compulsory discourse about sexuality taking place since the th century,
28 the reformers of the first third of the th century were certainly unaware of
29 the fact. Ellis was haunted by the  prosecution of George Bedborough
30 for distributing the first volume of Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex
31 (Grosskurth :–). Both Ellis and Malinowski, despite important
32 theoretical differences with Freud, viewed him as a great liberator for his
33 open and scientific discussion of sexuality. Science, by revealing and pub-
34 licizing the objective truth about human sexuality, would, in the minds of
35 reformers such as Ellis, Russell, and Malinowski, lead to social arrangements
36 more in tune with what science was best equipped to discover: the real
37 facts about human nature. In the important area of birth control, what was
38 specifically being fought for was the right to seek and disseminate scientific
39 knowledge. 4 Ellis, who certainly regarded himself as an objective scientist,

  “ ” 

1 described late in life the motives that had led him at  to resolve upon his
2 life’s work: “I determined that I would make it the main business of my
3 life to get to the real natural facts of sex apart from all would-be moralistic
4 or sentimental notions, and so spare the youth of future generations the
5 trouble and perplexity which this ignorance had caused me” (a:ix, em-
6 phasis added). Malinowski, on page  of The Sexual Life of Savages, asserts,
7 “That which means supreme happiness to the individual must be made a
8 fundamental factor in the scientific treatment of human society” (:).
9 We can, however, see in The Sexual Life of Savages evidence of reformist
10 concerns beyond the legitimation of a science of sexuality itself. Ellis, who
11 supplied an introduction for the work, wrote to Malinowski on March ,
12  (Box , ), that he believed him to be a moralist in spite of him-
13 self. By a close examination of the text we hope to demonstrate that the [168], (14
14 “scientific” questions Malinowski asks of the Trobriand data reflect many
15 concerns raised by reformers, particularly Ellis and Russell.
Lines: 114
16 Certain themes in Malinowski’s writings on sexuality may be said to serve
17 the purposes of demythologizing widely held views concerning marriage ———
18 and the family in primitive society and providing models for reform. A 0.0pt P
19 repeated theme in these writings, as we have noted, is Malinowski’s insis-
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20 tence upon the universality of marriage and the nuclear family in human
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21 society. 5 In particular, as a fieldworker in a matrilineal society, he is at pains
22 to demonstrate that clan organization can coexist with the nuclear family.
23 Malinowski frequently criticized both his forebears and his contemporaries [168], (14
24 for insisting on the exclusive priority of either the communal family or
25 the monogamous heterosexual pair; his debates with Briffault concerning
26 matriarchal communalism are well known (see Briffault and Malinowski
27 ). 6 He was equally opposed to what he termed the “Adam and Eve” the-
28 ory (Malinowski :); that is, the belief that the monogamous couple
29 was the sole original social unit. In a  review of Briffault’s The Mothers
30 () and a posthumous edition of Crawley’s The Mystic Rose Malinowski
31 states that the “black and white,” “yea or nay” attitude on this subject is dis-
32 torting (:). 7 Similarly, he rejected the notion of primitive promiscu-
33 ity and the experiments in the abolition of the conjugal family that were then
34 being tried in the Soviet Union and advocated by some at home, with clan
35 communism and free love as charter myths. He also scorned the opinion
36 of John Broadus Watson and his followers, whom he described as “mis-
37 behaviourists” (Briffault and Malinowski :), that the institution of
38 marriage was doomed to disappear within  years. Central to Malinowski’s
39 accounts of Trobriand sexuality is the repeated insistence that premarital

   “ ”

1 license and respect for the institution of marriage were not mutually exclu-
2 sive phenomena. The brakes put on license by the centrality of marriage are
3 evident in many of the accounts of specific aspects of Trobriand sexuality
4 offered in The Sexual Life of Savages.
5 Infantile sexuality is a topic that Freudian theory had made a subject
6 for wide debate by the s. Malinowski had already argued in a 
7 paper republished in Sex and Repression in Savage Society () that among
8 Trobrianders the transfer of disciplinary functions from the father to the
9 mother’s brother had prevented the development of the Oedipus complex,
10 with its associated repression of childhood sexuality by a threatening, po-
11 tentially castrating father.
12 In his magnum opus on Trobriand sexuality Malinowski has moved be-
13 yond the critique of Freud for which he appears to be best known by writers [169], (15)
14 interested in his views on culture and personality. In The Sexual Life of
15 Savages there is no direct engagement with Freud. In his preface Ellis con-
Lines: 118 to
16 tends that by  Malinowski was “neither Freudian nor anti-Freudian” but
17 recognized “the fertilizing value of Freud’s ideas” (Malinowski :liv). In ———
18 a brief remark on Freud at the beginning of the chapter “Erotic Dreams and 0.0pt PgV
19 Fantasies” Malinowski remarks that he had to reject more of psychoanalytic
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20 theory than he could accept but acknowledges that his findings “showed
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21 beyond all doubt how even a theory which has, in the light of investigation,
22 to be partly rejected can stimulate and inspire” (:).
23 In The Sexual Life of Savages Malinowski documents the lively interest [169], (15)
24 in sex shown by children in the Trobriands, thus validating the claim, still
25 shocking to many in , that children had such interests, but he also
26 stresses that these interests are guided and channeled not by a stern father
27 but by a consciousness, even at this early age, of the importance of custom.
28 Children’s sex games are regarded with amused tolerance by adults, but
29 the games consist of imitations of sexual intercourse within contexts where
30 such behavior would be acceptable for their elders: pretended marriages and
31 imitations of the amorous expeditions of adolescents (Malinowski :).
32 Adolescence in the Trobriands, as is now well known, is a period associ-
33 ated with considerable sexual freedom. If there were any stage in the Tro-
34 briand life cycle that could provide evidence for some notion of “primitive
35 promiscuity,” it would be this one. Malinowski’s treatment of Trobriand
36 adolescence in The Sexual Life of Savages stresses both the lack of repression
37 (and the resulting satisfaction and emotional health) and the clear presence
38 of controlling rules. Moreover, Trobriand adolescent freedom is portrayed
39 as a period leading inexorably, if gradually, to marriage.

  “ ” 

1 Like Ellis and Crawley and despite his seemingly contradictory comments
2 in the notebook quoted above, Malinowski stresses the need for external
3 stimuli to erotic passion, even during the period of adolescent “license”:
4 “Early acquaintances take fire, as it were, under the influence of music and
5 moonlight, and the changed mood of the participants, transfigure the boy
6 and girl in each other’s eyes. Intimate observation of the natives and their
7 personal confidences have convinced me that extraneous stimuli of this
8 kind play a great part in the love affairs of the Trobrianders” (:).
9 Echoing Ellis and Stopes (a:–), Malinowski does not fail to point out
10 that there appears to be a periodic element in Trobriand dalliances: “Such
11 opportunities of mutual transformation and escape from the monotony of
12 everyday life are afforded not only by the many fixed seasons of festivity
13 and permitted license, but also by that monthly increase in the people’s [170], (16
14 pleasure-seeking mood which leads to many pastimes at the full of the
15 moon” (:).
Lines: 128
16 It is of some interest to note that the topics Malinowski considers worthy
17 of discussion in The Sexual Life of Savages are in many cases subjects that ———
18 had engaged Ellis’s particular attention in the Studies in the Psychology of 0.0pt P
19 Sex. We have already mentioned external sexual stimuli and periodicity of
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20 stimulation; other topics include “modesty,” to which Ellis devotes a volume
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21 and Malinowski a chapter; the connection between love and pain (a section
22 in Ellis, several pages in The Sexual Life of Savages); and sexual dreams (a
23 chapter in Ellis, a chapter on “Erotic Dreams and Fantasies” in Malinowski). [170], (16
24 Ellis devotes a volume to the psychic state in pregnancy; Malinowski pro-
25 vides a long account of Trobriand pregnancy customs, although little of the
26 material in it seems very directly related to the “sexual life.” In fact, it would
27 not be an exaggeration to say that there is strong evidence, here and in the
28 notebook, that it was Ellis’s work that provided Malinowski with a model to
29 use in investigating sexuality in a primitive society.
30 A subject that was much discussed during the s was “companionate
31 marriage.” Ellis (b, pt. :–) and Russell (:–) both advo-
32 cated variants of it. Malinowski included a section entitled “Husband and
33 Wife as Companions” in The Sexual Life of Savages (:–). The term
34 “companionate marriage” was most prominently associated with Judge Ben
35 Lindsey, who was hounded out of his position in the family relations courts
36 of Denver because of his advocacy of it (Russell :). In an article for
37 the Birth Control Review () Lindsey offered a summary of the principal
38 arguments of his  book Companionate Marriage. The arrangements that
39 he advocated included ready access to contraception and sex education,

   “ ”

1 divorce by mutual consent for the childless, counseling by experts to help
2 couples with children stay together (though they might be granted divorces
3 if counseling failed), and alimony laws that reflected the growing economic
4 independence of women (Lindsey :). Lindsey argued that contracep-
5 tion and divorce by consent were already available to those with knowledge
6 and means to circumvent hypocritical laws and that information about
7 sex was widely available to young people, although its clandestine nature
8 guaranteed that it would be inferior information.
9 Despite the continued opposition of Fundamentalists and a resulting lag
10 in legal changes, Lindsey’s beliefs are now so common among ordinary
11 middle-class people in England and North America that it is difficult to
12 appreciate how controversial they once were. Indeed, it is the very “taken-
13 for-grantedness” of easy access to contraception, divorce, and sexual infor- [171], (17)
14 mation that gives their current opponents a sense of urgency. Despite a good
15 deal of rhetoric, then and now, to the effect that companionate marriage
Lines: 132 to
16 would lead to happier marital unions and better relations between parents
17 and children (Lindsey and Russell are among those who argued in this vein), ———
18 the fact remains that easy divorce for the childless combined with ready 0.0pt PgV
19 access to the means to remain childless implied official acknowledgment
Normal Pag
20 of acts of sexual intercourse not intended or expected to lead to lifelong
PgEnds: TEX
21 monogamous relationships. Moreover, it implied that both partners might
22 seek sexual pleasure for its own sake and postpone or even avoid procreation
23 altogether. [171], (17)
24 Whether or not it was so labeled, the period of childlessness during which
25 marriage could be terminated at will constituted a form of “trial marriage,”
26 and some, including Russell, viewed companionate marriage largely in this
27 light. Others, including Ellis, whose wife described their marriage as semide-
28 tached (Grosskurth :), argued for greater freedom for couples within
29 a redefined marital union as a goal in and of itself (Ellis b, pt. :–
30 ). The basic tenet that sexual intercourse might be acceptable without
31 exclusive, lifetime commitment made these positions logically possible and
32 was undoubtedly the reason for the opposition to companionate marriage.
33 Bertrand Russell, arguing that acceptance of trial marriage would lead to
34 more open communication between parents and their adolescent children,
35 cites as an example of such communication the matter-of-fact statement of
36 a Trobriand father to his daughter’s lover: “You sleep with my child; very
37 well, marry her” (:).
38 In the Trobriand milieu described by Malinowski such a statement would
39 be made at the end of a long period of sexual experimentation and grow-

  “ ” 

1 ing sexual knowledge, culminating in an increasing commitment to one
2 individual. The marriages resulting from such commitment, according to
3 Malinowski’s account, typically stressed companionship, cooperation, and
4 mutual concern for children more than erotic passion, though the partners’
5 premarital experience guaranteed a reasonable measure of sexual satisfac-
6 tion to both of them (:–, –, ,  passim). These features
7 of Trobriand marriage and the preparation for it come close to the state of
8 affairs advocated by Russell, who believed in trial marriage, easy separation
9 for the childless, and a rational, companionable effort on the part of couples
10 with children to stay together after passion waned. Indeed, some of Russell’s
11 most “libertarian” positions, for example, his insistence that extramarital
12 sexual relations should be accepted both by society and by the spouses of
13 those who took lovers or mistresses, were offered in part as measures to [172], (18
14 insure that children were raised in stable, strife-free homes (:–).
15 Even the advocacy of sexual pleasure for women, an important plank in
Lines: 138
16 Russell’s platform for reform, was justified by him partly because of its sup-
17 posed influence upon the mental health of children: “If the mother’s sexual ———
18 life is satisfying to her, she will not look to her child for a type of emotional 0.0pt P
19 satisfaction which ought to be sought only from adults” (:).
Normal P
20 Ellis, like Russell, thought that trial marriage could be followed by a
PgEnds: T
21 permanent marriage in which responsibilities were taken more, not less,
22 seriously. Of trial marriage, he said: “The open recognition of a kind of rela-
23 tionship which already exists secretly on a large scale cannot but be a steady- [172], (18
24 ing and ennobling influence” (Ellis :). With regard to extramarital
25 sexuality, Ellis suggests that couples who confide in each other about their
26 love affairs are better equipped to cooperate in controlling and containing
27 them so as to neutralize their threat to the marital bond (b, pt. :,
28 ). Moreover, Ellis cites Malinowski as proof that sexual relations outside
29 marriage need not have any effect upon the endurance and usefulness of
30 that institution (Ellis :). Malinowski discusses divorce, jealousy, and
31 adultery in the Trobriands, notes that all occur and that jealousy may even
32 lead to suicide, but is also at pains to detail the economic advantages that
33 fall to men who keep their marriages intact despite dissatisfaction and the
34 number of cases in which a breach is, indeed, avoided (:–).
35 Companionate marriage, as it was advocated by reformers, and Trobriand
36 marriage, as it was described by Malinowski, were institutions that restricted
37 as much as they liberated. In both cases those freedoms that were permitted
38 served to support marriage either by providing training for it or by tol-
39 erating nonmarital sexual activity and thus isolating it where it could do

   “ ”

1 marriage no harm. Moreover, despite the advocacy of birth control by Ellis
2 and Russell, Malinowski’s support of Stopes, and the frequently asserted
3 Trobriand ignorance of physiological paternity, the separability of sexuality
4 and procreation is seen by all three men as conducive to greater, not less,
5 concern of marital partners for the welfare of their offspring. 8 One of the
6 conclusions that Malinowski draws from his insistence upon Trobriand ig-
7 norance of the facts of conception is the importance of parental sentiment
8 as a human emotion sui generis.
9 The advocates of companionate marriage did not doubt that the Fou-
10 cauldian figures, the hysterical woman, the Malthusian couple, the mas-
11 turbating child, and the adult pervert populated the sexual landscape. For
12 them, hysteria, masturbation, and perversion were better dealt with by neu-
13 tralization than suppression. Ellis and Russell were confident that perver- [173], (19)
14 sion and onanism posed a lesser threat to marriage and the family if they
15 were recognized and tolerated than if they were actively suppressed. Fe-
Lines: 142 to
16 male hysteria could be prevented by sex education and greater attention to
17 women’s sexual needs. They viewed birth control (the Malthusian couple) ———
18 as an asset to responsible parenthood, not a threat to it. 0.0pt PgV
19 The habits of primitive people could be cited, as Malinowski’s work was
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20 cited, as evidence for all these facts. That Malinowski supported all these
PgEnds: TEX
21 positions is beyond doubt. The degree to which the Trobrianders depicted
22 in The Sexual Life of Savages were constituted by the discourse on compan-
23 ionate marriage is a complicated question; Malinowski may have done no [173], (19)
24 more than describe the facts that were there. Apart, however, from the sim-
25 ilarity between Trobriand sexual life, as he depicts it, and certain elements
26 of companionate marriage, we may find evidence of his possible motives in
27 the facts that he didn’t find, the matters on which his texts are silent. Later
28 studies, most notably the work of Annette Weiner (), have demonstrated
29 the economic and political advantages to the father’s dala, or matrilineal
30 subclan, of debts incurred by sons for the care and preference they receive
31 from their fathers, an aspect of parent–child relations Malinowski slights in
32 stressing the purely sentimental aspects of fathers’ attachments to their sons.
33 Moreover, Weiner and others have detailed a rich sexual symbolism linking
34 marriage and property exchanges, a symbolism at which Malinowski barely
35 hints, despite his interest in sexuality. Dala politics and the symbolism of
36 the kula and the sagali are part of the Trobriand sexual discourse; could
37 Malinowski have failed to hear some of the things the Trobrianders were
38 saying to each other about sex because he was too concerned to make them
39 speak to us?

  “ ” 

1  “”  :   
2  
As we have remarked, the collecting of anthropological data in the field is
a confessional art, but it is peculiar in that it is the reader of ethnography
who normally receives “therapy.” The reader of a work like The Sexual Life of
Savages, if he or she were not a professional anthropologist, might be a social
reformer who saw in Trobriand daily life a justification for companionate
marriage or an intelligent layman who sought guidance for his or her own
life in Trobriand practice. However, the author intended that his books and
ideas should have a wider audience than this. Malinowski believed that his
12 new functionalist anthropology should be of practical use to the colonial
13 administrator and the missionary and that functionalism could therefore [174], (20
14 engender a more careful and enlightened colonialism. Insofar as this project
15 could be implemented, of course, the “therapeutic” focus of anthropology
would be redirected, at least in part, toward the peoples anthropologists Lines: 148
17 studied. ———
18 The movement toward applied anthropology seems to have slowly gained 6.5pt P
momentum within Britain in the period after the establishment of the In- ———
ternational African Institute by Frederick Lugard and others in . Ap- Normal P
plied anthropology thus only came into being in the last decades of British PgEnds: T
22 imperialism, and, as is well known, its appeal to the wielders of colonial
23 power was limited. In a sense, it was the anthropologist’s response to the [174], (20
24 depiction of him as a collector of sensationalist curios rather than a bearer
25 of practical advice. Insofar as he had rejected the trait collecting of dif-
26 fusionism and the survivals of evolutionism, Malinowski could have felt
27 immune from many such charges, but he must have felt sensitive to one
28 particular kind of criticism. One of his adversaries, according to Ian Hogbin,
29 was Sir Philip Mitchell, who remarked a decade after Malinowski’s death:
30 “Anthropologists, asserting that they only were gifted with understanding,
31 busied themselves with enthusiasm about all the minutiae of obscene tribal
32 and personal practices, especially if they were agreeably associated with sex
33 or flavored with obscenity” (:, quoted in Hogbin :).
34 Malinowski clearly felt that his data on Trobriand sexuality were anything
35 but irrelevant and obscure. In  and  he participated in special con-
36 ferences organized by the British Social Hygiene Council and the Board
37 of Study for the Preparation of Missionaries in order that scientists and
38 missionaries might discuss the desirability and practicality of intervention
39 (or nonintervention) by church representatives and colonial officials in the

   “ ”

1 sexual and family life of colonial peoples. The first conference took place
2 at High Leigh in Hoddesdon in October . On January , , there
3 was a one-day conference at Livingstone House, Westminster, to discuss
4 “The Contact of Modern Civilizations with Ancient Cultures and Tribal
5 Customs.”In March  Malinowski gave six lectures on problems of sex life
6 and morality at a vacation school for missionaries. The following remarks
7 made at the Livingstone House conference clearly indicate Malinowski’s
8 feelings concerning both the relationship between sexual behavior and a va-
9 riety of social institutions and the relevance of the functionalist Verstehen to
10 the missionary as well as the anthropologist: “The anthropologist’s function
11 at High Leigh was really to desexualize the sexual problem. To a slight extent
12 the title of our subject today is euphemistic. Very boldly, very graciously, Mr.
13 Paton, Canon Spanton and others have approached the problem from the [175], (21)
14 sexual side; but one of the first things I did was to urge that it is not possible
15 to discuss problems arising out of pre-nuptial licence, continence, higher
Lines: 155 to
16 development of conjugal morality without discussing social questions as
17 to the organization of the family, or marriage law, and the importance of ———
18 bringing up children.”9 0.0pt PgV
19 It should be remarked that the merging or dissolving of data on sexuality
Normal Pag
20 within the context of a broader discussion of marriage and the family, that
PgEnds: TEX
21 is, “desexualizing the sexual problem,” is an important component of Ma-
22 linowski’s functionalist approach in The Sexual Life of Savages. Moreover,
23 the approach is consistent with the importance Malinowski attaches to the [175], (21)
24 family. The notion of the interconnectedness of institutions is employed
25 to demonstrate the danger that an attack on a single institution may cause
26 damage to the whole social fabric. With respect to the third point, we have
27 already mentioned Malinowski’s advocacy of a more careful and enlight-
28 ened colonialism. It behooves us to examine the matter in greater detail.
29 Malinowski noted some of the negative effects of colonialism. However,
30 he greatly admired Lord Lugard. If Lugard’s “dual mandate” were prop-
31 erly executed, then the colonial enterprise might prove successful. In other
32 words, government would serve the interests of both colonizers and colo-
33 nized. Malinowski feared the destabilization of tribal culture and opposed
34 racial prejudice, though he thought the latter inevitable when the races were
35 in close contact. Most important, in this context he was wary of missionar-
36 ies’ attempts to improve pagan Africans. 10 Malinowski never advocated the
37 overthrow of colonialism; rather, he was concerned that it be administered
38 in as informed a manner as possible.11 A confessed agnostic, Malinowski was
39 always careful in his dealings with missionaries. Occasionally, he confesses

  “ ” 

1 a prejudice. His correspondence indicates that he was irritated by Roman
2 Catholic missionaries who sought either to stop native contraceptive prac-
3 tices or prevent the spread of contraceptive information.12 He was, of course,
4 himself a Catholic by birth and perhaps felt more comfortable passing judg-
5 ment on institutions to which he was not foreign. As the proceedings at High
6 Leigh and Livingstone House indicate, he maintained a good relationship
7 with members of the Anglican hierarchy.
8 Malinowski was invited to submit a memorandum for discussion by del-
9 egates to the conference at High Leigh. The memorandum consisted of a
10 series of questions, interspersed with Malinowski’s own comments, elucida-
11 tions, and explications of anthropological matters. The questions dealt with
12 topics such as premarital, marital, and extramarital sex; forms of ceremonial
13 license; polygamy; and polyandry. The memorandum stressed that there [176], (22
14 were certain universals in sexual conduct; parenthood was an institution
15 that all societies favored, whereas bestiality and sadism were universally
Lines: 159
16 proscribed; and homosexuality was said to be forbidden by most but not all
17 societies.13 In many other respects, rules of sexual conduct differed. Accord- ———
18 ingly, Malinowski advised a degree of relativism in sexual matters; indeed, 0.0pt P
19 he incorporated it into his questionnaire to such a degree that many of the
Normal P
20 questions are “loaded.” The following is our summary of the arguments
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21 included in the questionnaire and Malinowski’s comments:
22 . Sexual morality has changed and does vary within our own society. Just
23 as we tolerate divergence within our own society, so too should we tolerate [176], (22
24 it elsewhere. 14
25 . Missionaries must not dismiss traditional sexual codes as “heathen
26 immorality”; to encourage disrespect for any rules was to encourage the
27 rejection of rules in general.
28 . Certain customs that were repugnant to the missionaries might none-
29 theless possess important functions within the social fabric as a whole. They
30 might even act as a safety valve for urges that might otherwise be expressed
31 in ways that both Malinowski and his audience would find unacceptable. In
32 Melanesia, for example, missionary-inspired segregation of boys and girls
33 had been known to lead to homosexuality. Polygamy was another practice
34 that often had functional links with important economic and social institu-
35 tions. It was not even clear that there was an inherent opposition between
36 polygamy and Christian doctrine. In general, Malinowski warned, natives
37 were “unable to cope with regulations which frequently appear to them
38 unintelligent and always unpleasant and exacting.”15
39 In the discussions of Malinowski’s memorandum that occupied the larger

   “ ”

1 part of the weekend meeting several different positions were taken by the
2 delegates. Some of those present clearly disagreed with the tenor of Mali-
3 nowski’s argument, for example, Mrs. Donald Frazer, who argued that many
4 “native” practices such as premarital sexuality were, in an absolute sense,
5 degrading to women. Others, however, seemed to agree with him. The Rev-
6 erend Canon E. Spanton, secretary of the Universities’ Mission to Central
7 Africa, described an attempt to retain as much as possible traditional initia-
8 tion rites among the East African Malakonda in newly introduced Christian
9 initiation camps, a version of the idea of “functional substitution.”16
10 Malinowski seemed to approve of Spanton’s experiment, remarking that
11 “he had shown how necessary it is to make the Christian ideal more plas-
12 tic to find out what it really means.” 17 It would appear that Malinowski
13 maintained an exemplary patience, even though some of the missionaries’ [177], (23)
14 remarks may occasionally have irked him (e.g., the comment of a Mrs. Hop-
15 per that the initiation rites in her district were so appalling that the church
Lines: 169 to
16 could have nothing to do with them). Malinowski only once took issue with
17 the fundamental sexual attitudes of his audience, gently urging them to ———
18 embrace the new companionate ideal. In this instance, he remarked that 0.0pt PgV
19 the “positive development of sexual ethics” depended upon a “conscious
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20 appreciation by the Missionaries of the beauty of sexual relations within
PgEnds: TEX
21 married life.”18
22 How, then, do we interpret Malinowski’s incursion into the world of the
23 missionary? Earlier on, we discussed the relationship between the native [177], (23)
24 informant, the ethnographer, and the sexual reformer. Although he warned
25 the missionaries of excessive interference in the lives of others, at High Leigh
26 Malinowski was perhaps exploring a closer relationship between power and
27 knowledge. The anthropologist receives “confession” from the native infor-
28 mant. As a result, he acquires knowledge, which he passes on to the priest
29 (or administrator), who must hear of and watch the “sins” of the native
30 and, in accordance with the best anthropological advice, suffer them, sub-
31 tly alter them, or proscribe them. Such a relationship between power and
32 knowledge would, of necessity, have entailed an indirect anthropological
33 supervision of the daily lives of indigenous populations, a mode of conduct
34 hardly compatible with Malinowski’s individualism, unless one could say
35 that the alternative was wholesale interference by the ignorant. In any event,
36 there were too few anthropologists, too many missionaries, and far too
37 many other preoccupations to permit development of an applied functional
38 anthropology dealing with the intimate details of everyday life. Insofar as
39 applied anthropology developed in Britain, it concerned itself with land

  “ ” 

1 tenure, clan structure, and warfare and tended to leave the missionaries and
2 their concerns alone.
     “  ”
    
7 The question of whether precontact Trobriand Islanders and Australian
8 Aborigines understood the role of the father in conception is a conundrum
9 that surfaces in several contexts over a time span covering much of the th
10 century. The matriarchal theorists as well as Malinowski and Edmund Leach
11 are among those whose opinions we consider in this book. The follow-
12 ing discussion, which concentrates on Malinowski and his student, Ashley
13 Montagu, offers some observations on a debate that has never really ceased. [178], (24
14 In the third edition of The Sexual Life of Savages Malinowski offered the
15 following opinion: “The Trobrianders do not suffer from a specific com-
Lines: 173
16 plaint ignorantia paternitatis. What we find among them is a complicated
17 attitude towards the facts of maternity and paternity. Into this attitude there ———
18 enter certain elements of positive knowledge, certain gaps in embryological 5.0885
19 information. These cognitive ingredients again are influenced by beliefs of
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20 an animistic nature, and influenced by the moral and legal principles of
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21 the community” (:). This was a somewhat qualified statement of a
22 position that Malinowski had been defending throughout his professional
23 career. In The Family among the Australian Aborigines he had accepted Bald- [178], (24
24 win Spencer and F. J. Gillen’s authority concerning Arunta spirit children,
25 though, as we have seen, he was no defender of matriarchal theories of
26 human origins, which linked ignorance of physiological paternity to uni-
27 versal promiscuity and group marriage. Indeed, when he reported that Tro-
28 brianders were ignorant of physiological paternity, he used this “fact” to
29 argue against those very theories. Malinowski insisted that the existence
30 of individual marriage and strong father–child ties among matrilineal Tro-
31 brianders was proof that neither matriarchy nor communal marriage was
32 a necessary corollary to either matriliny or ignorance of the father’s role in
33 conception.
34 Malinowski’s essay on baloma spirits in the Trobriands appeared in .
35 This was his first account of Trobriand theories of conception. Although
36 some details in his account were to vary over time (did or did not the
37 Trobrianders understand the facts of life with respect to pigs and other
38 animals?), the essential details remained the same. Trobrianders believed
39 that the dead go to the isle of Tuma. Periodically, they tire of life in Par-

   “ ”

1 adise and are transformed into spirit children, who are washed ashore on
2 Kiriwina. A spirit child enters the body of a woman, impregnating her and
3 assuring the perpetuity of the dala. The father’s intercourse with the mother
4 merely “prepares the way” for the entry of the spirit child. Sperm does not
5 fertilize. The father can mold the form of the child by sleeping with the
6 mother during pregnancy. Although the biological role of the father is not
7 acknowledged, his social role in raising the child is very important. He is the
8 object of affection for both female and male children. Because the mother’s
9 brother is the locus of jural authority and paternity is not acknowledged,
10 there is no place for the Oedipus complex (Malinowski ).
11 An alleged ignorance (or “nescience,” as Ashley Montagu called it) of
12 physiological paternity suited Malinowski’s theoretical positions, insofar as
13 it was consistent with an intertwining of kinship, myth, and political econ- [179], (25)
14 omy. Matrilineal descent, belief in baloma spirits, and the rules of exchange
15 and inheritance could all be shown to be interlinked and to be consistent
Lines: 182 to
16 with a father who was tied to his offspring by sentiment, not substance.
17 The existence of a strong father–child bond in the absence of knowledge of ———
18 physiological paternity was also consistent with some of the goals of s 0.0pt PgV
19 sexual reformers, insofar as it might alleviate fears that sex divorced from
Normal Pag
20 procreation, as a result of birth control and greater sexual freedom, would
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21 inevitably lead to the breakdown of the family.
22 Malinowski may have had more immediate reasons for insisting on Tro-
23 briand ignorance. At the time of his fieldwork the Massim region was sub- [179], (25)
24 ject to considerable surveillance and intervention by administrators and
25 missionaries. The latter were concerned with morality, the former with
26 venereal diseases and a problem that was later proven to be linked to them,
27 what Rivers had called the “depopulation of Melanesia” (see Reed ;
28 Rivers ; Riley ). In its annual report for – the colonial admin-
29 istration announced plans to open lock hospitals in Losuia and Samarai in
30 the Trobriands (Riley :). Reyner Bellamy, medical officer and magis-
31 trate in the Trobriands, decided to examine every adult in the  villages
32 in that territory for venereal diseases. Between  and  he conducted
33 , genital examinations and claimed that he had reduced the incidence
34 of venereal disease from over  percent to somewhere between  and  per-
35 cent (Riley :). The government had outlawed adultery but left to the
36 missionaries the task of actually changing sexual behavior (Reed ).
37 Malinowski told his readers little of this immediate history. It is clear from
38 his writing, however, that he and his Trobriand informants saw a connection
39 between the alien sexual system that the missionaries were trying to impose

  “ ” 

1 and the insistence on the role of a genitor in the creation of children (see,
2 e.g., Malinowski :–). Some of Malinowski’s doggedness in affirm-
3 ing Trobriand nescience concerning physiological paternity was doubtless
4 intended to warn off those who wished to impose a regime of continence
5 and churchgoing on the Trobrianders, whether in the interests of morality
6 or the cause of public health.
7 Malinowski’s most bitter dispute was with the administrator Alex Ren-
8 toul, whose brief note in Man (Rentoul ) evoked rage and annoyance.
9 Rentoul, who had clearly not read all of Malinowski’s writings on the sub-
10 ject, claimed that his court experience in adultery cases clearly demonstrated
11 that Trobrianders knew all too well where babies came from. Malinowski
12 responded that statements in court did not properly represent Trobriand
13 attitudes. Parties to a dispute could be expected to frame their testimony in [180], (26
14 terms they knew would impress European authorities, and they would also
15 be likely to lie (Malinowski a:). The issue became divisive. Support for
Lines: 188
16 Rentoul from Jack Driberg and Edward Evans-Pritchard became the excuse
17 for a lasting professional schism. 19 (In Evans-Pritchard’s case there was also ———
18 the matter of a defection to A. R. Radcliffe-Brown; see Stocking :.) 0.0pt P
19 Malinowski poured particular scorn on Rentoul’s account of the inadequate
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20 contraceptive measures supposedly utilized by Trobriand women. Rentoul
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21 had claimed that Trobriand women possessed unusual muscular powers: “I
22 have been informed by many independent and intelligent natives that the
23 female of the species is specially endowed or gifted with ejaculatory powers, [180], (26
24 which may be called upon after an act of coition to expel the male seed. It
25 is understandable that such powers might be increased by use and practice,
26 and I am satisfied that such a method does exist” (:). Alex Rentoul
27 did not reveal his confidential sources, nor did he state the reasons for
28 his (intellectual) satisfaction. A subsequent letter to Man revealed that this
29 particular piece of “anthroporn” or colonial folklore had a long-lasting and
30 widespread currency. More than half a century before Rentoul, Sir Richard
31 Burton had salaciously recounted stories of the strength of the constrictor
32 vaginae muscle among Hindu maidens (Bothwell :).
33 What we have said may adequately indicate that Malinowski’s remarks
34 about Trobriand nescience occurred in a specific and new political context.
35 In other words, his account of Trobriand nescience was placed in a frame
36 very different from that which encased the assertions of John McLennan,
37 Baldwin Spencer, and James Frazer. What Trobriand men and women ac-
38 tually believed is another question that may never be adequately answered.
39 Surely Tilapoi, the legendary Trobriand woman of The Sexual Life of Sav-

   “ ”

1 ages, who had many children despite the fact that her ugliness supposedly
2 repelled all men, knew that this alleged repugnance could be overcome.
3 Doubtless, she had female friends who shared her secrets. The possibility
4 that Trobriand men and Trobriand women did not share the same form
5 of knowledge was not entertained by Malinowski. Many years later, and
6 therefore in a different context, Weiner (:) was to note that a resort to
7 beliefs in “magical” pregnancy could prove useful to adulterous Trobriand
8 women.
9 In his Columbia University doctoral thesis, which became his first book,
10 Coming into Being among the Australian Aborigines (), Montagu, who
11 became best known as a physical anthropologist, sought to defend his un-
12 dergraduate teacher, Malinowski, against those who challenged his state-
13 ments about Trobriand theories of conception. Montagu argued, as others [181], (27)
14 had before him, that the delay between intercourse and pregnancy made
15 their connection less than obvious. Unlike figures such as Edwin Sidney
Lines: 192 to
16 Hartland, however, Montagu did not see the failure to recognize the connec-
17 tion to be a result of a combination of licentiousness and lack of intellect; ———
18 rather, he saw it as a perfectly rational response to social and physiological 0.0pt PgV
19 circumstances.
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20 Malinowski had noted that despite the very considerable freedom they
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21 enjoyed, unmarried Trobriand girls very seldom became pregnant. He pre-
22 sumed that they knew nothing of contraception and confessed his ignorance
23 about any resort to abortion, although he suspected it happened at best [181], (27)
24 infrequently (Malinowski :–; Montagu :, ). Other ethnog-
25 raphers had reported similar data: Hogbin from Wogeo, Rivers from Eddy-
26 stone, Verrier Elwin on the Baiga of Central India, Roy Franklin Barton on
27 the Ifugao (see Montagu :–). Montagu was aware that some studies
28 of primate behavior and reproductive physiology indicated that there was a
29 gap between first estrus and successful pregnancy among some nonhuman
30 primates (:–). Utilizing demographic data, Montagu advanced a
31 strong case for the occurrence of a period of adolescent sterility among
32 human populations. A book incorporating this hypothesis appeared in 
33 under the title Adolescent Sterility and in , in revised form, as The Repro-
34 ductive Development of the Female. Montagu’s notion of delayed fertility in
35 at least some human populations has not been proven, but it is consistent
36 with some known facts. Delayed onset of fertility might be particularly
37 likely where diets are relatively low in animal protein or in conditions of
38 great physical activity (e.g., some young women athletes stop menstruating
39 altogether during periods of intensive training).

  “ ” 

1 Montagu reiterated Malinowski’s position concerning the interrelated-
2 ness of social organization, religion, and theories of conception (:).
3 He went further and claimed that among some Australian groups there
4 was no idea of physiological maternity (Montagu :–; Montagu
5 a). As evidence that maternity was merely social or sociological, he cited
6 narratives concerning southeastern and Cape York groups in which it was
7 asserted that the mother was merely an incubator for the child.
8 In the absence of knowledge about Trobriand and Australian inner un-
9 derstandings, as opposed to elucidations of some of their collective repre-
10 sentations by outsiders, their beliefs have been construed in ways that fit the
11 agendas of the interpreters. For the matriarchal theorists, Aboriginal “ig-
12 norance” of paternity was evidence of promiscuity and backwardness. For
13 Malinowski, it was evidence of interconnection of belief and social structure [182], (28
14 and proof that love for the father needn’t be based upon knowledge of his
15 role in conception. For Rentoul and other administrators, Trobriand denials
Lines: 198
16 of paternity were part and parcel of attempts to evade colonial authority. For
17 Montagu, the biologist and antiracist, nescience was consistent with those ———
18 aspects of scientific fact accessible to Australian Aborigines and Trobriand 0.0pt P
19 Islanders. It was also relative: Montagu pointed out that the facts of concep-
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20 tion weren’t fully known by European scientists until  (:). Many
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21 th-century fieldworkers in Australia reported that there was knowledge
22 of physiological paternity, at least by some people some of the time (see
23 Berndt and Berndt ; Goodale :, ; Warner :, ). Their [182], (28
24 statements on the topics supported one or more of several agendas, among
25 them a desire to combat stereotypes about Aborigines with careful field-
26 work. For Leach (), ignorance of paternity was something invented
27 by anthropologists as a device to distance primitives from themselves. The
28 Freudian agenda added a third possibility to the question, Did they know
29 or didn’t they? For Spiro (), “ignorance” is really “denial,” born out of
30 the very same Oedipus complex that Malinowski so vociferously denied in
31 the Trobriands – and it is not only the Trobrianders, Spiro implies, who are
32 in a state of denial.
33 For some anthropologists influenced by feminist thought, dogmas about
34 paternity are really dogmas about patriarchy. In  Man published two
35 articles in its ongoing debate on the issue of “virgin birth” (Delaney ;
36 Merlan ) that argued, among other things, that in both Aboriginal Aus-
37 tralia and European societies theories of conception, particularly as they are
38 understood by men, have been such as to enhance male control over women.
39 This can be done by stressing the importance of the male role of begetter,

   “ ”

1 which Delaney sees at the core of European beliefs, both physiological and
2 religious, or by stressing the nonphysical aspects of conception, in which
3 men’s role is not limited by their anatomy, as the Australians do. The “virgin
4 birth” controversy might well be described as an illustration of the old adage
5 that to a hammer, the whole world is a nail. In other words, it is a case study
6 in conscription.
    
10 The s saw the fall of the second Labour government in Britain, the start
11 of the Great Depression, and the gloomy sequence of events that led to
12 World War II. Some of Malinowski’s students, like Meyer Fortes, turned to
13 the Durkheimian functionalism of Radcliffe-Brown, which neglected indi- [183], (29)
14 vidual sentiments, including most expressions of sexuality.
15 During a conservative and despondent era, there is little time for “fri-
Lines: 202 to
16 volity.” It is an interesting fact that many anthropologists, although hardly
17 unaware of sexuality, regard the discussion of culturally variable ideologies ———
18 and practices that continually affect the daily lives of all peoples everywhere 6.5pt PgV
19 as frivolous. This may be one reason why the volume of anthropological lit-
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20 erature (journal articles as well as books) on sexuality diminished somewhat
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21 in Britain during this period. Significantly, in his special foreword to the
22 third edition of The Sexual Life of Savages, Malinowski expressed his concern
23 that readers were ignoring his demonstration of the utility of the functional [183], (29)
24 method: “I wanted to show that only a synthesis of facts concerning sex
25 can give a correct idea of what sexual life means to a people.” Unfortu-
26 nately, too many readers had misunderstood the book and instead picked
27 out “sensational details” to wonder or laugh at. These details included “the
28 notorious ignorance of physiological paternity, the technicalities of love-
29 making” (Malinowski :xix–xx, xxi). However, work did not cease, as we
30 shall see in chapter . As for Malinowski himself, having “desexualized” the
31 sexual problem, he turned his attention elsewhere in a way most appropriate
32 to the hungry thirties: “It is extraordinary what an uneven treatment has
33 been meted out in all studies to the twin impulses of sex and hunger respec-
34 tively . . . We are enjoying now a surfeit of sex – I alone have to plead guilty
35 to four books on the subject, two of which have the word sex on the title
36 page” (Malinowski b:x). This passage is from Malinowski’s introduction
37 to his student Audrey Richards’s Hunger and Work in a Savage Tribe. Apart
38 from the new political and economic climate, there may have been other,
39 more personal reasons why Malinowski turned his attention elsewhere. His

  “ ” 

1 initial interest in sexuality had resulted not only from the examination of the
2 Trobriand data, which was now nearly completed, but also from a flirtation
3 with psychoanalysis that had diminished appreciably after the publication
4 of Sex and Repression in Savage Society, in which he still accepted some of
5 Freud’s basic premises. Nonetheless, he still cared sufficiently for Freud’s
6 work to campaign for his nomination for the Nobel Prize in medicine in
7 . 20
8 At a time when the Nazis were triumphant in Central Europe, Malinowski
9 may also have been concerned about the fact that he was being interna-
10 tionally labeled as a “sexologist.” Sexology has seldom been regarded as a
11 respectable academic discipline. Politics, of course, played a role here too. [Last Pag
12 The Nazis had condemned sexology and burned the books of Havelock Ellis.
13 In the summer of  Lidio Cipriani, director of the Florentine Museum, [184], (30
14 writing in Corriere della Sera, described Freud, Adler, and Malinowski as
15 “Jewish sexologists.” Malinowski wrote letters to Richard Thurnwald in Ger-
Lines: 209
16 many and to Kazimierz Stolyhwo, president of the Polish Academy, among
17 others, asking them to make it public that he was neither Jew, nor anti- ———
18 Semite, nor sexologist. 21 114.45
19 In the United States a small minority of anthropologists continued to be
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20 interested in the cause of sexual reform and associated studies of sexuality.
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21 As for companionate marriage, the focus of the reforming zeal of Mali-
22 nowski and his contemporaries, it was doomed to become the orthodoxy
23 attacked by the next wave of sexual liberators, though birth control and [184], (30
24 sex education became the targets of a new surge of reaction. Perhaps the
25 lesson anthropology can best teach us about sexuality concerns the uni-
26 versal tendency of human beings, including anthropologists, to approach
27 the “real, natural facts” about sex through a heavy wrapping of cultural
28 clothing, clothing that simultaneously conceals and reveals and that is sub-
29 ject to change when alterations occur in the factors that determine cultural
30 hegemony.

   “ ”

4  
7 Margaret Mead, the Future of Language,
9 and Lost Opportunities
11 [First Page]
12 Anthropology lectures were full of references to Evans-Pritchard, Radcliffe-Brown
13 [185], (1)
and Margaret Mead. The set books had titles like Growing Up in New Guinea,
Structure and Function in Primitive Pago-Pago and Having It Off in Hawaii.
Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs Lines: 0 to 2
17 ———
Nina’s mother also had a huge collection of “sex books,” among which we included 4.35849p
Coming of Age in Samoa and Sex and Temperament; any book with the word ———
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20 puberty in it was O.K.
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21 Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
23 [185], (1)

24 he regime of professional authorities on sexuality, as Foucault un-
25 derstood it, had the effect of constructing sexuality so that incidents
26 that might otherwise be defined as isolated fantasies, sensations, or
27 behaviors were deployed to fit those who experienced them into reified
28 categories. These included the heterosexual adult, the hysterical woman, and
29 the homosexual. People were persuaded to perceive themselves as possess-
30 ing single identities and consistent sexual desires. It remained only for the
31 incentive of “cure” to be put forward for these sexual “subjects” to partici-
32 pate in their own ranking and the ranking of others according to standards
33 of “health” and “normalcy” that reflected the needs and conditions of the
34 culture that produced and rewarded the experts. As we have argued so far,
35 a parallel process of reification of the sexual subject took place when entire
36 races and whole cultures or even categories of cultures were ranked by ex-
37 perts not according to the sexual natures of individuals but according to the
38 supposed sexualities of entire groups.
39 Foucault suggests that the monogamous, heterosexual, reproducing cou-
1 ple, essential both to the stability of the labor force and to the orderly trans-
2 mission of capital, was little studied by sexual scientists. He argues that this
3 was the one silence the new discourse of diagnosis allowed and that this
4 absence of scrutiny privileged heterosexual reproductive marriage as the
5 only locus of sexual expression that did not require explanation. We have
6 seen thus far that heterosexual, reproducing couples in primitive societies
7 were studied, though in ways that focused upon their “difference” from the
8 norm – the bourgeois European or North American married couple. In fact,
9 even in studies of primitives, the fascination with “primitive promiscuity”
10 meant that the data under scrutiny were often drawn from the behavior of
11 the unmarried, whether authors were aware of this or not.
12 If ever there was, in the popular mind, an “expert” on sex, it was, for
13 more than a generation, Margaret Mead. Many of the facts about Mead’s [186], (2)
14 life are well known, from biographies, autobiographies, and published let-
15 ters (see Howard ; Bateson ; Grosskurth ; Lapsley ; Mead
Lines: 27
16 , ). Margaret Mead was born in Philadelphia in  and died in
17 New York in . She received her bachelor of arts from Barnard College ———
18 in  and her doctorate from Columbia University in . Her anthro- 0.0pt P
19 pology professor at Barnard, Franz Boas, had part of his contract bought
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20 out cheaply by the women’s undergraduate college of Columbia because his
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21 disagreement with the racist, anti-immigrant sentiments prevailing in the
22 United States in the s made him appear, to the president of Columbia
23 University, a dangerous radical not to be entrusted with the molding of [186], (2)
24 young men who were to be America’s future leaders (see Rosenberg 
25 for a discussion of this episode). Thus, anthropology, somewhat unusually
26 for the time, acquired a generation of notable female scholars, the most
27 famous of whom was undoubtedly Margaret Mead. A recent article notes
28 that Columbia produced  male and  female anthropology doctorates
29 before , a period during which Harvard graduated no women with a
30 doctorate in anthropology and the University of Chicago but two (Wallace
31 :).
32 In the decades since Mead died her work has been the subject of much
33 controversy, most notably, that which followed the famous attacks by Free-
34 man (, ) on her Samoan ethnography. There have been symposia
35 centered on those attacks (Brady ; Caton ) as well as restudies of her
36 field sites (for Samoa, see Holmes ; Côté ) and of her field materials
37 (Orans ; Grant ). It is not our intention to review this voluminous
38 literature here, still less to reinvent the wheel and start afresh on all of the
39 issues raised by previous authors. What we hope to do is to offer some ideas

 ,    ,   

1 of our own about Mead’s treatment of sexuality and its place in the story
2 this book has been telling.
3 The anthropological community, during Mead’s lifetime and after her
4 death, sometimes defended her, sometimes distanced itself from her views,
5 and was often divided over the value of her contribution. What anthropol-
6 ogy has never been able to do is free itself from her spell. She still, for exam-
7 ple, merits a few paragraphs, usually accompanied by a photo, in most in-
8 troductory anthropology textbooks, though these notices usually mention
9 some defects in her work. In  the American Anthropological Associa-
10 tion annual meeting celebrated the centennial of her birth with a number of
11 symposia and other well-attended events. Nonetheless, for some this chap-
12 ter will doubtless represent an unwonted degree of attention to a discredited
13 figure. To them we can only say that, like many of the authors we have dis- [187], (3)
14 cussed, Mead is indubitably part of the history of anthropology’s encounter
15 with sexuality, whatever value current practitioners of the discipline place
Lines: 31 to
16 on her work.
17 For people like the adolescent invoked by Erica Jong in the epigraph ———
18 to this chapter, anthropology was sex, and Mead was its mouthpiece. The 0.0pt PgV
19 anthropological profession was never very comfortable with either of these
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20 characterizations. Nancy Lutkehaus, in a  volume devoted to increas-
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21 ing the recognition of women’s texts within the anthropological canon and
22 exploring the reasons for their relative invisibility in the past, suggests that
23 anthropologists were embarrassed by Mead’s status as a figure who could [187], (3)
24 speak to a mass audience, particularly an audience of women. She observes
25 that Mead’s writing was dismissed as “feminine” and/or “unscientific” by a
26 number of critics, including A. C. Haddon, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, and Peter
27 Worsley (Lutkehaus :–). She notes that Clifford Geertz, among
28 others, has seen Mead’s writing as “undisciplined, loose limbed, and impro-
29 visational” (Lutkehaus :). Above all, Lutkehaus suggests, anthropol-
30 ogists have found sex, marriage, and infant care, especially when seen from
31 a woman’s perspective, to be embarrassing topics for discussion (:).1
32 Mead’s politics (or lack of them) have been criticized by both the Left
33 and the Right. Partly this is because Mead approached “primitives” with a
34 particular constellation of attitudes, consciously critical of some varieties of
35 hierarchy but apparently tolerant of others. She was more concerned with
36 challenging popular assumptions about the “nature” of sexual difference
37 than with investigating other forms of inequality. Even on the issue of race,
38 despite a famous “rap” on the subject with the black author James Baldwin
39 toward the end of her life (Mead and Baldwin ), during which she

,    ,    

1 congratulated herself on her lack of racist sentiment (see Walton  for a
2 less sanguine viewpoint), she had far less to say than Boas or Ruth Benedict,
3 for example. She frequently appeared oblivious to class difference when dis-
4 cussing“American”society. In her accounts of Samoa she certainly does note
5 the connections between rank and sexual norms but pays little attention to
6 such matters when comparing “Samoan” and “American” mores.
7 When Mead argued that sexual norms and experience were variable
8 across cultures, she was striking a blow against the tendency to generalize
9 about “primitive” sexuality and to contrast it with “civilized” practice. Mead
10 argued that there was no uniform “primitive” sexuality and no sexual regime
11 that was “natural” to all human beings. She believed that sexual behavior
12 was a product of the interaction between individual inclination and cul-
13 tural rules. She did not deny biological sex drives but did not assume that [188], (4)
14 they were universal in their expression. She also denied that such drives
15 were differentially distributed according to race or degree of civilization.
Lines: 37
16 In this sense, her work can be seen as relativist. On the other hand, when
17 she diagnosed members of her own and other cultures as “satisfied,” “frus- ———
18 trated,” “prudish,” “normal,” or “free” she was helping to promulgate a new 0.0pt P
19 classification of supposed sexual health and disease with its own forms of
Normal P
20 inequality and constraint.
PgEnds: T
21 The book that thrust Mead to fame, Coming of Age in Samoa, was pub-
22 lished in . It was based on fieldwork done in Manu’a, American Samoa,
23 between  and . The topic of her study had been approved by her [188], (4)
24 teacher Franz Boas as a test of an alleged universality of emotional stress
25 during adolescence, an idea that Mead and others attributed to the recently
26 deceased psychologist G. Stanley Hall. It should be noted, in this regard, that
27 Stephen O. Murray and Regna Darnell have suggested that Derek Freeman
28 and his supporters have overemphasized the importance of Mead’s work to
29 Boas’s critique of biological determinism, noting that this critique was well
30 established by the time Mead went to Samoa. Interestingly, they suggest that
31 Coming of Age in Samoa bears more resemblance to Malinowski’s work than
32 to the writings of Boas (Murray and Darnell :). They do acknowl-
33 edge that Boas’s interest in Mead’s topic may have been fed by resentment
34 at his treatment by Hall at Clark University some years earlier (Murray and
35 Darnell :).
36 An interesting sidelight on this choice of topic is that Boas, Mead, her
37 admirers, and her critics all seem to have operated under a misapprehen-
38 sion, or at least an oversimplification, of Hall’s argument, insofar as they
39 assumed that a relatively untroubled Samoan adolescence would constitute

 ,    ,   

1 a disproving “negative instance.” Ironically, the critique of Hall contained
2 in Coming of Age in Samoa could actually be read as confirmation of some
3 of his opinions of primitive adolescence, albeit a denial of the underlying
4 evolutionary assumptions of his work. Hall was characterized by Mead, in
5 a single brief sentence at the opening of Coming of Age in Samoa, as hav-
6 ing said that adolescence is universally a time of storm and stress (:);
7 supporters and critics of Mead’s work have since assumed that this was
8 Hall’s position and that it was contrary to Mead’s. 2 Mead’s attribution of
9 the notion of adolescent storm and stress to Hall has become part of the
10 folklore of the discipline (see, e.g., Orans :).
11 In fact, Hall had argued that adolescence, in the sense of a difficult period
12 of transition from childhood to adulthood, was largely the product of an
13 evolution from savagery to civilization that was as much biological as it was [189], (5)
14 cultural. In , when Hall’s book Adolescence was published, as well as in
15 the s, when Mead did her fieldwork, many people believed that prim-
Lines: 43 to
16 itive adults resembled the children of civilized nations. On the one hand,
17 Hall argued that primitives had recognized the importance of the transition ———
18 from childhood to maturity with ubiquitous puberty rituals. On the other 0.0pt PgV
19 hand, he argued that the transition between childhood and adulthood was
Normal Pag
20 more protracted among civilized peoples than among primitives (Hall ,
PgEnds: TEX
21 vol. :). Primitive puberty ceremonies, upon which he wrote at length,
22 seemed to him to effect a rapid but incomplete transition to adulthood,
23 which the civilized struggled lengthily to obtain through the religious, ed- [189], (5)
24 ucational, and medical establishments (Hall , vol. :–). In any
25 case, Hall believed that mature primitives, in their natural state, had less
26 of a transition to make, being essentially “adolescents of adult size” (,
27 vol. :). He provided a lengthy litany of authors who had warned of the
28 dangers of educating Africans and other members of the “adolescent races”
29 (Hall , vol. :–). These ideas smack of an evolutionist distancing
30 far more specific than the generalized biological determinism implicit in the
31 notion of universally difficult adolescence.
32 Further, insofar as Mead was given the specific problem of studying fe-
33 male adolescence, it is worth noting that many of Hall’s comments about
34 adolescent girls concern the special difficulties placed upon them by civi-
35 lization. It was common in Hall’s time to believe that gender differentia-
36 tion had increased with evolution. Émile Durkheim, for example, had ac-
37 tually used Samoa as an example of the similarity between the sexes among
38 primitives (:–). Hall cites such notions with apparent approval and
39 argues at great length that modern women and girls suffer because of at-

,    ,    

1 tempts to bring them to the level of civilized men, developing their intellects
2 at the expense of their nurturing capacities (, vol. :–). Inter-
3 estingly, among Hall’s many proposals for appropriate female education,
4 which included the development of maternal qualities, were suggestions
5 that girls should be trained in zoology and anthropology because women
6 were particularly fit to understand animals and primitives (, vol. :–
7 ).
8 It is not clear to what degree Mead recognized all the complexities in
9 Hall’s argument. Although in her autobiography she made a brief reference
10 to Hall’s belief in recapitulation and attributed the notion of adolescent
11 storm and stress to “German theory” (Mead :), in the text of Coming
12 of Age in Samoa Mead implied that she had contradicted Hall by the simple
13 [190], (6)
demonstration that adolescence was not a difficult time for Samoan girls. If
14 it were not, the travails of adolescence could not be biologically determined.
15 In emphasizing the differences between civilized and primitive adolescence, Lines: 47
16 however, Mead echoed a key feature of Hall’s argument, though she would
17 ———
not have endorsed his evolutionary scheme. Moreover, the call for a special 13.0pt
education for women that did not slight their maternal needs (which was ———
by no means unique to Hall) found increasing resonances in Mead’s work Normal P
as her career progressed. PgEnds: T
Mead attributed what she believed to be a relatively easy Samoan adoles-
cence to the few choices girls (and boys) were called upon to make about
23 [190], (6)
their future and to the society’s relatively casual attitude toward sexual
experimentation. Women and men alike were said to approach marriage
26 secure in the knowledge both of their own and of their partners’ sexual
27 competence. Moreover, Mead asserts that both sexes knew that appropri-
28 ate partners would eventually be found and that Samoans did not believe
29 in deep personal differences between individuals to which only true love
30 could cathect. Mead presents a picture of Samoan sexual health that must
31 have seemed remarkable to the legions of marriage counselors, writers of
32 advice manuals, psychiatrists, urologists, gynecologists, social workers, and
33 others busy in the work of diagnosing and remedying sexual malaise in
34 America and Europe: “Familiarity with sex, and the recognition of a need of
35 a technique to deal with sex as an art, have produced a scheme of personal
36 relations in which there are no neurotic pictures, no frigidity, no impotence,
37 except as the temporary result of severe illness, and the capacity for inter-
38 course only once in a night is counted as senility” (:). In an essay on
39 sex and the unmarried adult Mead says of sex in Samoa that it

 ,    ,   

1 is a skill in which one becomes adept and to which personality is felt
2 to be as irrelevant as it might be to a consideration of table manners.
3 Within the appropriate social class, one expects virtuosity from one’s
4 partner, in the same way that one expects any other form of graceful
5 social adequacy.
6 . . . The emphasis is laid not upon sex as a dangerous and powerful
7 force, but as a pleasant aptitude of the human race at which it is
8 suitable that those for whom it has no serious social consequences
9 shall play and become proficient with no fear that it will develop
10 desires which cannot be easily channeled within a not too burdensome
11 marriage bond. (:)
13 The long postscript to Coming of Age in Samoa, in which Mead discusses [191], (7)
14 the lessons America can learn from Samoa, was suggested by her publisher
15 as a device to attract a wider audience (Lutkehaus :; Côté :–
). It is not clear whether or not this was Mead’s sole motive; her field notes Lines: 54 to
17 do not suggest such a concern, though she had given public lectures on the ———
18 topic shortly before adding the section (Lutkehaus :; Mead :). 6.5pt PgV
19 Whatever her initial motive, for the rest of her career Mead was only too
Normal Pag
20 delighted to draw lessons for her own milieu from the cultures she studied.
Further, the text of Coming of Age in Samoa, and not just the postscript, PgEnds: TEX
22 is full of diagnostic and prescriptive asides. What were the lessons Mead
23 thought Americans could learn from Samoa, particularly as they concerned [191], (7)
24 sexuality?
25 In some ways, Mead’s account of Samoan sexuality could be seen by a
26 contemporary scholar as a prime example of the applicability of several of
27 Foucault’s principles. On the one hand, Mead staked part of her claim to
28 professional expertise on the diagnosis of sexual health and disease, at home
29 and abroad. On the other, somewhat ironically, the Samoan material could
30 be read as a demonstration that it is not only in the West that sex is a transfer
31 point of power.
32 Sexual behaviors were named, scrutinized, and regulated by Samoans to
33 the degree to which they affected or effected the acquisition and transmis-
34 sion of power and property. Masturbation or homosexual behavior among
35 the young or among temporarily unattached adults was said by Mead to be
36 of little concern to anyone, so long as reasonable discretion was observed
37 (:). Some young people, both boys and girls, formed relatively in-
38 tense homosexual attachments, but these were temporary in nature (Mead
39 :, ). Identified categories of heterosexual relationships included

,    ,    

1 properly arranged marriages; elopements, which might or might not lead to
2 marriages legitimated by property exchange; casual nighttime rendezvous
3 between unmarried, usually young partners; moetotolo (sleep crawling), a
4 highly specific form of sexual assault; and adultery. Of these, only moeto-
5 tolo, a boy gaining access to a girl’s sleeping mat under cover of darkness
6 by disguising his identity, was said by Mead to have consistently negative
7 consequences, and those for the boy, not the girl (:). On the one
8 hand, elopement might cause a stir for a while and might cause permanent
9 problems for the couple if the families did not agree to a marriage, but it
10 could be used by young people to get their own way. On the other hand,
11 elopement, in Mead’s account, was the one really risky sexual adventure for
12 girls, especially if they retained even nominal claims to virginity and their
13 lovers refused to marry them. In earlier times punishments for such girls [192], (8)
14 had been severe, and the value of high-ranking girls in the marriage stakes
15 could be seriously compromised (Mead :–).
Lines: 64
16 Unlike the Trobrianders, whose institutionalized adolescent sexual exper-
17 imentation Malinowski had not yet fully described at the time Mead did ———
18 her fieldwork, Samoans did not categorically sanction premarital sex. Mead 0.0pt P
19 describes Samoa as a society that had embraced strict Protestant Chris-
Normal P
20 tianity and that valued virginity but in which most adolescent girls could,
PgEnds: T
21 nonetheless, amass considerable sexual experience without incurring either
22 guilt or social disgrace. This was possible, in Mead’s opinion, because cer-
23 tain kinds of sexual expression, notably, youthful homosexual activity and [192], (8)
24 masturbation, existed outside the sphere of social interest and, therefore,
25 of social control, while heterosexual contact attracted such interest only in
26 the minority of cases where familial status was at stake. Such status, Mead
27 suggested, was compromised only if a liaison was indiscreet, incestuous, or
28 involved a woman of a high-ranking family, especially a ceremonial virgin,
29 known as a taupou. The higher a family’s rank, the more closely its girls
30 would be chaperoned and the more likely that their marriages would have
31 involved a public defloration ceremony, a custom that, Mead said, was only
32 slowly dying out at the time of her visit (:).
33 For most young people, according to Mead, casual love affairs, involving
34 late-night visits or meetings under the palm trees when the rest of the village
35 was asleep, carried few risks and many benefits. Adolescent males were told
36 about sexual techniques by older men and then taught them to their young
37 female partners (Mead :). Women thus learned, at an early age, that
38 sex could be pleasurable and how such pleasure could be attained. Above all,
39 Mead argued, unlike American girls, Samoan girls learned not to overesti-

 ,    ,   

1 mate sex, either as an evil to be avoided or an overwhelming, life-controlling
2 experience (:).
3 Sexual pleasure was predictable and not dependent upon any particular
4 relationship. The marriages that followed the years of experimentation were
5 portrayed by Mead as largely practical affairs. Sexual adjustment in mar-
6 riage was not seen by Mead as problematic for Samoans. She suggested that
7 most couples took it for granted and eventually turned their minds to village
8 politics and economic pursuits (Mead :–). Adultery, she reported,
9 was common and usually a cause for divorce only in instances where a chief
10 had been dishonored by the adultery of his wife. If feelings were strong, in
11 other situations the lover might undergo a ritual humiliation, followed by
12 reconciliation. On the other hand, divorce and remarriage were said to be
13 easily accomplished when married couples were unhappy with each other [193], (9)
14 (Mead :–).
15 We have noted the irony implicit in the fact that it is possible to see in
Lines: 68 to
16 Mead’s Samoan data, as in the historical European cultures described by
17 Foucault, close links between the surveillance of sexual behavior and the ———
18 structures of power. Surveillance was both an artifact of those structures 0.0pt PgV
19 and a powerful reinforcer of them. Girls were more likely to be guarded
Normal Pag
20 the higher one went in the social structure. Even when surveillance was
PgEnds: TEX
21 temporarily eluded, as in the case of elopement, self-regulation made con-
22 summation less likely to take place if the eloping girl was a high-ranking
23 virgin and the boy of good enough family to have a chance of gaining her [193], (9)
24 relatives’ consent to a proper marriage. On the other hand, Mead reported
25 that disgracing less well connected girls by eloping with them and not mar-
26 rying them was a popular route to status among young men (:–).
27 The world of Mead’s informants does not seem to have been exempt from
28 a tendency also common in the West: an expectation that suitors will be
29 more respectful of the chastity and reputation of high-ranking girls than of
30 those of low status. Mead, however, did not investigate the possibility that
31 rank could be a cause of psychological conflict for Samoan girls. In fact, she
32 views the predetermined nature of rank as a deterrent to inner strife.
33 As we shall see in chapter , a later generation of anthropologists was to
34 analyze Samoan attitudes to premarital sex as a manifestation of social, eco-
35 nomic, and even religious hierarchy. Mead, meanwhile, whose best-selling
36 work contained many of the materials necessary for such an analysis, has
37 been seen even by friendly critics as oblivious to issues of class (see, e.g.,
38 Lutkehaus : n. ).
39 There are a number of possible reasons for this apparent obliviousness.

,    ,    

1 The most obvious is that Mead was asked to study the emotions of ado-
2 lescent girls, not Samoan hierarchy. Mead, like some of the other scholars
3 interested in culture and personality, was relatively unconcerned with mat-
4 ters of class, an omission to some degree characteristic of American culture’s
5 tendency to personalize phenomena that elsewhere might be seen as social
6 or political. Moreover, it is by now a cliché to say that the bourgeoisie often
7 sees the whole world when it is really looking at its own image. When Mead
8 speaks of “American culture” in Coming of Age in Samoa she is really speak-
9 ing about white middle-class culture. When she speaks of the experience of
10 “average” Samoan girls she is simply extending this practice abroad. Another
11 factor was Mead’s decision to present her data as a “negative instance” to dis-
12 prove what she took to be Hall’s assertion that adolescence was universally
13 a time of storm and stress. If one is disputing alleged universals, it really [194], (10
14 doesn’t matter whether one’s conclusions apply to all or only some of the
15 young women of Samoa.
Lines: 76
16 In any case, regulation of sex according to rank need not necessarily lead
17 to emotional conflict, so long as both the rules and the paths for evading ———
18 them are clear, at least in Mead’s opinion. Mead reminds us often of the 0.0pt P
19 ludic elements of premarital sex in Samoa: “Sex is a game, played according
Normal P
20 to one’s age and rank; only the taupou, the daughter of the high chief, is
PgEnds: T
21 supposed not to play at all, but to marry as a virgin. If she is not a virgin,
22 she must have the courage to confess the fact, so that her virginity test may
23 be gracefully faked” (:). 3 [194], (10
24 Although at the time of its publication Coming of Age in Samoa was
25 received as advocating a new sexual freedom, from a current perspective the
26 work appears surprisingly nonpermissive. The latitude accorded Samoan
27 adolescents is blamed for a “poverty of conception of personal relations”
28 (Mead :). Although the Samoans are praised for accepting a wide
29 range of sexual techniques within the marital relationship, the beneficial
30 results of such acceptance are said to include the avoidance of “unsatisfac-
31 tory marriages, casual homosexuality, and prostitution” (Mead :).
32 The undesirability of these phenomena is taken for granted. Mead seems
33 to approve of Samoans’ tolerance toward adolescent homosexual behavior,
34 but her approval is largely based upon the fact that such tolerance seemed to
35 her to discourage the development of fully fledged homosexuals (:–
36 ). Dorothy Counts (personal communication, ), when working on
37 a United Nations–sponsored project in contemporary independent Samoa,
38 a place admittedly removed in space and time from American Samoa in
39 the s, was told by Samoans that, unlike Westerners, Samoans don’t

 ,    ,   

1 make an issue out of homosexuality but simply accept it. Counts’s acquain-
2 tances in Samoa used the English word “homosexual” to refer to someone
3 who answered to the description of a fa’afafine, the Samoan version of the
4 widespread Polynesian institution of gender crossing.
5 It is unclear to what degree Mead may have missed or ignored this as-
6 pect of adult Samoan life. Nowadays, fa’afafines are apparently much more
7 common than they were in the past (Mageo :–). It has, however,
8 been rightly observed that the absence of this institution in missionaries’
9 and travelers’ accounts, in contrast to the frequency with which similar
10 figures were mentioned elsewhere in Polynesia, need not mean it was ab-
11 sent or even rare on the ground (Besnier :–). Mead notes that
12 Samoan “native theory and vocabulary” recognized “the real pervert who
13 was incapable of normal heterosexual response” (:, ), but she does [195], (11)
14 not tell the reader what Samoan word(s) and theories she has in mind.
15 The single instance of such a person she claimed to have observed cer-
Lines: 80 to
16 tainly fits several of the criteria by which modern authors define fa’afafine
17 and its equivalents. Sasi, a -year-old boy preparing for the ministry, is ———
18 described as “pronouncedly feminine in appearance,” “skilled at women’s 0.0pt PgV
19 work,” and unusually comfortable and easygoing in the presence of girls
Normal Pag
20 (Mead :). Mead could find “no evidence that he had ever had hetero-
PgEnds: TEX
21 sexual relations” (:). Girls regarded him as “an amusing freak,” and
22 the men whom he had approached sexually looked at him “with annoy-
23 ance and contempt” (Mead :). In  Mead wrote that in Samoa, [195], (11)
24 preference by men for feminine occupations produced no more than “a
25 mild amount of amusement” (:). Mead also suggested in Com-
26 ing of Age in Samoa that the very small population in the area in which
27 she worked might account for the presence of only one such individual
28 (:). Nonetheless, despite this glimpse of a potentially interesting ex-
29 ception to the rule, Mead’s discussion of homosexuality in Samoa centers
30 upon the reasons why for most people same-sex eroticism is but a passing
31 phase.
32 Interestingly, Mead gives, as one reason for the alleged near-absence of
33 adult homosexuality, the “use in heterosexual relations of all the secondary
34 variations of sex activity which loom as primary in homosexual relations,”
35 thus “minimizing their importance” (:). In this observation Mead
36 does several things. She breaks down what we would now call “sexual pref-
37 erence” into technique, on the one hand, and the sex of one’s partner, on
38 the other. We shall see a similar breakdown of “sex” into its component
39 parts in Growing up in New Guinea. She implies that there are some sources

,    ,    

1 of pleasure that are missing from American heterosexual relations, leading
2 Americans to seek them in homosexuality. Although she closes down what
3 could be read as an encouragement of sexual variation by viewing it as an
4 inoculation against perversion, such encouragement might still be found by
5 those who sought it.
6 Subsequently, in her work on the Omaha, whom she calls “The Antlers” in
7 The Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe, first published in , Mead credits
8 early homosexual experience for the pleasure adult women take in hetero-
9 sexual activity. She says that without the knowledge gained from homosex-
10 ual experience, one would expect that the negative attitudes toward sex and
11 the antagonism between men and women that she believed to prevail among
12 the Omaha would result in a high level of frigidity (Mead :).
13 Although Mead suggests that Samoan girls are missing something signif- [196], (12
14 icant as a result of their culture’s lack of emphasis upon romantic love, she
15 blames the Western emphasis upon such love for the “huge toll of barren,
Lines: 84
16 unmarried women who move in unsatisfied procession across the Ameri-
17 can and English stage” (:). Offering a potentially radical critique of ———
18 her culture’s sexual ideology, evidence that sexual desire and love can be 0.0pt P
19 uncoupled in female as well as male experience, Mead blunts its impact by
Normal P
20 the suggestion that Samoan experience is thereby impoverished and that at
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21 home the unmated and the nonprocreative are “unsatisfied.”
22 Mead’s work on Manus, conducted in – and published in  as
23 Growing up in New Guinea, is regarded by many anthropologists (who, as [196], (12
24 a profession, have always tended to be skeptical of Mead’s sweeping asser-
25 tions) as her most successful work. If Coming of Age in Samoa might have of-
26 fered unintended support to some of what Hall actually said about primitive
27 adolescence, then Mead’s work on Manus was designed specifically to deny
28 the equation between primitive adults and civilized children. This equation,
29 found in the work of Freud among many others, involved both cognitive
30 and emotive components. Cognitively, it was asserted that primitive adults
31 thought magically rather than rationally, like Western children. Emotively,
32 primitives were thought to be either less given to repression of their im-
33 pulses, including their sexual impulses, or so afraid of sex that they hedged
34 it round with taboo and superstition.
35 Sexually, Manus contrasted in every way with the easygoing tolerance
36 Mead had found on Samoa: Manus adults, according to Mead, did not enjoy
37 any consensual form of heterosexual copulation. The ghosts of deceased an-
38 cestors were believed to punish severely any heterosexual activity other than
39 marital intercourse or forced sex with captive women, and no expectation

 ,    ,   

1 of affection or knowledge of sexual technique existed to sweeten marital sex,
2 particularly for women.
3 Mead actually describes a situation in Manus that might form the basis
4 of a critique of Western assumptions more radical than anything she found
5 on Samoa. The Samoans had merely failed to develop an ideal of romantic
6 love, at least as an observer from the United States understood that term,
7 not an unusual omission, according to much of the literature on kin-based
8 societies. The Manus, as Mead described them, seemed to have organized
9 normative sexuality in a manner that was quite distinctive. According to her
10 account, Peri villagers routinely expected that love, sexual play, and repro-
11 duction were to be found in three separate relationships (Mead a:–
12 ). The bond between brother and sister was expected to be both loving
13 and chaste. Sex between husbands and wives was directed toward reproduc- [197], (13)
14 tion only, while children of opposite-sex siblings engaged in various forms
15 of verbal sexual teasing as well as forms of nongenital sexual play that were
Lines: 92 to
16 never found in marriage.
17 The discovery that the affective, reproductive, and ludic functions of sex ———
18 could be uncoupled in collective representations might have led Mead to 0.0pt PgV
19 deconstruct the notion, described in our opening remarks about Foucault,
Normal Pag
20 of a unified sexual being, an assumption central to such “advanced” notions
PgEnds: TEX
21 of sexual functioning as Freud’s concept of the genital adult. Instead, Mead
22 insists that the people of Manus had impoverished sex lives (a:), a
23 warning to her compatriots reinforced by the strong similarities she noted [197], (13)
24 between Manus prudery and some aspects of American culture. In both
25 cases she implied that there was an association between a deemphasis on
26 grace and sensuousness and an overemphasis on economic competition
27 (Mead a:, –, –).
28 It would be a mistake, however, to see in Mead’s characterization of
29 Manus simply an endorsement for the stereotype of the naturally under-
30 sexed, taboo-ridden savage. Although Manus ghosts certainly were believed
31 to keep a stern and disapproving eye out for the sexual peccadilloes of the
32 living, Mead notes that violations did take place and forgiveness could be
33 immediately obtained by confession (a:). Mead blamed women’s
34 lack of sexual fulfillment on very local conditions, a combination of male
35 incompetence and women’s traditions, both things that could, conceivably,
36 be remedied. When C. G. Seligman wrote to her to ask if Manus women
37 were frigid in the “medical sense,” she replied that “tumescence” was absent
38 among Manus women and blamed this upon Manus culture and the fact
39 that Manus men lacked sexual technique. 4

,    ,    

1 Mead’s early writings on sexuality (later she was to remark that the public
2 overestimated the amount of attention given to sex in Coming of Age in
3 Samoa), insofar as they are informed by assumptions about sexual health
4 and disease, may be seen as part of the Western discourse about sex de-
5 scribed by Foucault. Insofar as they deal specifically with the sexuality of
6 the Manus and the Samoans they exhibit several of the tendencies we have
7 observed in other writings on primitive sexuality during the first third of the
8 th century. We have argued that a view of primitives as excessively chaste,
9 whether through superstition or physiology, was compatible with racial hi-
10 erarchy, just as the notion of primitive promiscuity had been. Despite some
11 pleas for skepticism about sexual theories from Edward Westermarck and
12 about racial theories from Franz Boas, this was the intellectual baggage the
13 generation of anthropologists who became prominent in the s carried [198], (14
14 with them as they interpreted their data. Some of them, most notably Mead
15 and Bronislaw Malinowski, devoted a good deal of effort to casting it off,
Lines: 100
16 which is not to say that at the end of the process they did not continue to
17 labor under other burdens. ———
18 Mead’s writing on sexuality differs, however, from both contemporary 0.0pt P
19 and earlier treatments of the subject in a crucial respect: the desires at-
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20 tributed to the primitive “Other” have been envisioned within the light of
PgEnds: T
21 female experience. The writers we have discussed in earlier chapters can
22 fairly be said to be telling a “men’s story.” Whether they believed primitives
23 to have been licentious, continent, inhibited, or sensible in matters of sex, [198], (14
24 the modal savage of their imagination was decidedly male. Female sexuality
25 was generally ignored or else treated as either a replica or an artifact of male
26 desire.
27 Richard Burton and his all-male colleagues at the Anthropological Soci-
28 ety of London in the s imagined a phallus-worshiping savage, refined in
29 the arts of love in his Asian manifestations, crudely but abundantly priapic
30 in his African ones. Evolutionary theorists like Morgan, Engels, Bachofen,
31 Lubbock, and McLennan differed in their attitudes to gender and class, but
32 all of them assumed a certain male insatiability to be part of the landscape
33 of human origins. When the undersexed primitive replaced the oversexed
34 savage in the fantasies of some evolutionary theorists in the late th and
35 early th centuries, it was the arousal of male desire that was the imagined
36 object of various cultural or biological ruses. Female sexuality, if it was not
37 assumed to mirror that of men, was thought to develop largely as an en-
38 ticement to its male counterpart, as in Havelock Ellis’s treatment of female
39 modesty. In Mead we have a writer who sees lack of female tumescence as

 ,    ,   

1 a problem to explain, though the use of the word “tumescence” to describe
2 female sexual response is indicative of a difficulty in writing about female
3 sexuality that we will discuss shortly.
4 It is a curious fact that Mead acquired far greater fame (or notoriety) as
5 a sexual reformer than Malinowski, despite his involvement with the birth
6 control movement, his correspondence with Ellis, and the citation of his
7 work by Bertrand Russell. Mead certainly shared many of the positions of
8 the sexual reform movements with which Malinowski was associated. She
9 approved of birth control, sex education, and greater attention to the phys-
10 ical pleasure of women. She never spoke in favor of promiscuity, although
11 she supported a lessening of sexual restrictions, and she endorsed neither
12 the persecution of homosexuals nor the unqualified acceptance of homo-
13 sexuality. She may have had to steer a very careful course on both topics, of [199], (15)
14 course. Gossip about her divorces and at least one extramarital affair would
15 have done her far more harm than Malinowski’s reputation as a womanizer
Lines: 104 to
16 ever did him. Moreover, her lesbian relationships with Benedict and others
17 have only become public knowledge since her death. During most of her ———
18 lifetime, Mead’s professional survival would certainly have been imperiled 0.0pt PgV
19 had this aspect of her life been revealed; at the same time, she is unlikely
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20 to have been inclined to condemn homosexuality entirely. Samoan homo-
PgEnds: TEX
21 sexual expression is treated as a sensible safety valve for desires that might
22 otherwise get out of hand and, more interestingly, as a training ground in
23 techniques that made heterosexual relations more pleasurable. As we have [199], (15)
24 seen, she treated Euro-American manifestations of homosexuality as an
25 artifact of sexual repression. She may even have believed this; in a culture
26 that teaches that one’s desires are unhealthy, one may accept at least part of
27 that diagnosis. If one is a student of culture, what more logical place than
28 culture itself to seek a cause for parts of one’s own experience one has been
29 taught to regard as perverse?
30 Mead saw many of the same desirable features in Samoan marriage that
31 Malinowski did in its Trobriand counterpart; both descriptions were com-
32 patible with the promotion of the ideal of companionate marriage. Having
33 worked in a variety of cultures, however, Mead was far more concerned
34 than Malinowski to document the variety in human sexual practice, both
35 primitive and contemporary. In “The Sex Life of the Unmarried Adult in
36 Primitive Society” she suggests that if a society succeeds in enforcing any
37 general sexual regime it must be congenial to some human individuals. She
38 argues that dysphoria is a likely result not of the prescription or prohibition
39 of any particular behavior but rather of inconsistency within the system of

,    ,    

1 sexual expectations. In the case of Manus she says that stress results from a
2 society that views males as inherently sexually aggressive but forbids them
3 access to local females while training females to be frigid. With regard to the
4 Omaha, she argues that traditional Omaha culture had dealt with a conflict
5 between an emphasis on female chastity and comparatively weak controls
6 on men by training women to be bashful and modest but not frigid (Mead
7 :–). In , when she visited the Omaha, strict chaperonage was
8 still required, though actual sexual behavior was changing rapidly. In The
9 Changing Culture of an Indian Tribe Mead suggests that a widespread con-
10 sternation concerning the rates at which women and girls become sexually
11 “delinquent” resulted from the fact that by  a generational change in
12 sexual mores, similar to that which had affected American society at large,
13 had occurred among the Omaha. Unlike the situation that Mead believed [200], (16
14 to exist in white culture, Omaha culture had not adjusted to recognize this
15 shift, leaving the old and the young at odds with each other. She also suggests
Lines: 108
16 that such adjustment might have been impeded by the fact that Omaha
17 blamed whites for this dysphoria, which provided them with a cognitive ———
18 and emotional coping mechanism without solving the basic problem (Mead 0.0pt P
19 :–). Of course, the Omaha may have been quite correct in their
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20 assessment of the situation.
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21 Moreover, Mead undoubtedly overestimated the degree to which Amer-
22 ican culture at large had accommodated changes in sexual mores by .
23 This was an instance in which Mead’s failure to take issues of class and [200], (16
24 ethnicity into account led her to a false generalization about American sex-
25 uality. Outside the elite, avant-garde circles in which Mead moved (see, e.g.,
26 Stocking :– for a description of Mead’s social milieu), Americans
27 in the s were far from coming to terms with a more permissive sexual
28 culture. This situation may even have affected Mead’s own writing and the
29 positions she took.
30 Although Mead shares many interests and positions with s sexual
31 reformers, she does not appear to have been actively involved with them in
32 the way that Malinowski was. Moreover, her specific concern with the emo-
33 tional experiences of women and children gave her positions on sexuality a
34 significantly different cast from those of Malinowski and Russell. In Samoa
35 Mead found people she deemed to be more sexually adjusted than many
36 of her compatriots, as Malinowski did in the Trobriands. Like Malinowski,
37 she links some of her subjects’ sexual equanimity to an absence of romantic
38 love and has some regrets about that lack. Where Malinowski, however, has
39 some qualms about the limits a lack of romantic passion places on the devel-

 ,    ,   

1 opment of male character, Mead notes the trade-offs she believes Samoan
2 women make in exchanging love for emotional security and reliable sexual
3 technique: “The Samoan girl never tastes the rewards of romantic love as
4 we know it, nor does she suffer as an old maid who has appealed to no lover
5 or found no lover appealing to her, or as the frustrated wife in a marriage
6 which has not fulfilled her high demands” (:).
7 Lowell Holmes, who revisited Mead’s field site in the s with the inten-
8 tion of reevaluating her data, suggests that Mead underestimated the level
9 of emotional attachment that may develop between men and women in
10 Manu’a: “Custom dictates that displays of affection between spouses and
11 lovers not take place in public, but expressions of love and affection were
12 often observed in the families of informants, and many of these same people
13 spoke of feelings for their wives that involved much more emotional depth [201], (17)
14 than mere compatibility or economic convenience. The folklore of Manu’a
15 contains notable examples of fidelity and expressions of deep emotional
Lines: 112 to
16 attachment between spouses and between lovers” (:). The absence of
17 love in primitive culture is, in fact, a remarkably persistent trope in ethno- ———
18 graphic accounts of courtship and marriage. It has had varied uses, from 0.0pt PgV
19 diagnosing primitives as suffering from a lack of finer feelings to expressing
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20 admiration for efficient social structures not dependent upon messy human
PgEnds: TEX
21 emotions for their continuity. Malinowski, for example, saw the absence of
22 romantic love in the Trobriands as, on the one hand, contributing to healthy
23 sexual adjustment and, on the other, as depriving young men of “the feeling [201], (17)
24 of mystery, the desire to worship at a distance” (:).
25 William Jankowiak, the editor of Romantic Passion, a recent volume de-
26 voted to the cross-cultural study of love, sums up the situation as follows:
27 “The study of romantic passion (or romantic love) as it is experienced in
28 non-Western cultures is virtually nonexistent. Why bother to explore what
29 is, according to historical conception, supposedly not there? After all it is
30 a given that romantic passion and its companion, affection, are unique to
31 Euro-American culture” (:). On the other hand, it is not uncommon
32 for ethnographers like Holmes to report that individuals fall in love even
33 where social norms don’t favor it. The loving couples who provide excep-
34 tions to cultural norms are almost as much of an ethnographic staple as
35 statements that this or that primitive society favors marriages arranged on
36 pragmatic grounds. Where the issue of love in non-Western societies is ad-
37 dressed, as in Jankowiak’s volume, the emphasis is generally on the question
38 of whether love is a universal emotion. The authors represented in that
39 volume present a convincing case for the existence of love in a wide variety

,    ,    

1 of cultures, including, significantly, Polynesian societies like Samoa. Helen
2 Harris’s essay in Romantic Passion is primarily aimed at refuting statements
3 made by Donald Marshall concerning the Mangaians of the Cook Islands.
4 Harris asserts, contrary to Marshall, that the Mangaians possess an extensive
5 vocabulary of terms for romantic and passionate love. Moreover, she says
6 that such love, even to the death, is a recurrent theme in myth and that the
7 Mangaians’ accounts of their own experiences bear many resemblances to
8 descriptions of love in Western psychological literature. Although the Man-
9 gaians (who will be discussed at greater length in chapter ) aren’t Samoans,
10 Harris cites Mead as a prime contributor to an image of all Polynesians
11 as “emotionally stunted yet exuberantly sexual people whose uninhibited
12 libidos set them apart from the rest of humanity” (:).
13 If writers like Holmes and Harris are correct, then Mead was almost [202], (18
14 certainly wrong about the absence of emotional intensity in Samoan hetero-
15 sexual relationships on the part of both men and women. This much said,
Lines: 116
16 however, it is worth asking what led her to write as she did and how one
17 should evaluate her work within the history of anthropology’s encounters ———
18 with sexuality. Even seriously flawed works may hold important historical 0.0pt P
19 lessons. Indeed, error may be more illuminating than accuracy when one is
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20 trying to determine how “facts” were constructed and conscripted to fit into
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21 an ongoing story.
22 Derek Freeman, who published two volumes after Mead’s death seeking
23 to discredit her work in Samoa, argued that Mead underestimated the inten- [202], (18
24 sity of Samoan emotions and overestimated the degree of sexual freedom
25 enjoyed by Samoan girls (, ). He believed that Mead made errors
26 partly because, as a loyal student of Boas, she was determined to make
27 a case for culture as a determinant of personality and partly because she
28 allowed herself to be hoaxed by some of her informants (Freeman :–
29  passim). Harris suggests that Mead’s work “shaped” anthropological
30 perceptions of Polynesia in a manner that made them consistent with exist-
31 ing images in literary and other sources (:). Freeman, similarly, notes
32 that Mead listed in the bibliography of her  dissertation fiction and
33 travelers’ reports describing the supposedly great sexual freedom enjoyed
34 in Polynesian societies (:). Interestingly, Harris makes a similar claim
35 to Freeman’s about hoaxing as a source of information about Polynesian
36 sexuality. In her case it is Marshall who is said to have been the victim of
37 “recreational lying” by bragging members of a “drinking group” (Harris
38 :). Martin Orans, who has performed a close comparative reading
39 of Mead’s field notes and the text of Coming of Age in Samoa, does not think

 ,    ,   

1 her data warranted the conclusions she drew about Samoan adolescence
2 (:–). Nonetheless, he suggests that Mead’s conclusions on sexual-
3 ity were not based upon the alleged hoaxing and, in any case, were far more
4 nuanced in their claims concerning Samoan adolescent freedom than either
5 Freeman or the majority of Mead’s reading public believed (Orans :–
6 ).
7 For Freeman, the major problem with Mead’s work is her loyalty to
8 Boasian cultural determinism. Freeman’s own view is that sexuality and
9 family relations are largely the result of biological patterning. For Harris,
10 the problem is somewhat different; she takes exception to the distancing
11 of Polynesians from members of Western cultures by denying them the
12 capacity to love. By Freeman’s own account, ironically, Mead was not as
13 committed to Boas’s project as his characterization of her argument might [203], (19)
14 lead one to suspect. Indeed, he suggests that she was subject to hoaxing
15 because she had devoted too much of her time to assembling an ethnolog-
Lines: 120 to
16 ical collection and not enough to solving the problem of whether Samoan
17 girls suffered storm and stress during adolescence (Freeman :–). ———
18 James Côté disputes this, producing evidence that Boas was fully apprised 0.0pt PgV
19 of Mead’s ethnographic work for the Bishop Museum, which, according to
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20 Côté, was complementary to her main project (:–). Mead, per-
PgEnds: TEX
21 haps more significantly, did not adopt a totally cultural determinist position
22 elsewhere in her work, for example, in “The Sex Life of the Unmarried Adult
23 in Primitive Society.” [203], (19)
24 Mead did have to work hard to persuade Boas to allow her to go to Polyne-
25 sia at all, and the project she had been handed was not her first choice. She
26 had wanted to work on issues of social change. In order to get to a more
27 distant field site than Boas normally thought appropriate for his female
28 students Mead had to agree to concentrate her studies on young women
29 like herself. Moreover, in order to get the work published, she had been
30 required to further concentrate upon “feminine” issues, specifically, a dis-
31 quisition on what parents and educators concerned with adolescent girls in
32 America might learn from Samoa. Once she accepted this particular form of
33 conscription (of both herself and her Samoan informants), this comparison
34 became the real subject of her book and women’s experience a major focus
35 of her work for the rest of her life. In this context, her remarks on love
36 take on meanings distinct from either an “Othering” of Polynesians or an
37 argument for cultural determinism. Specifically, she argues that American
38 sexual culture places pressure on girls that Samoan culture does not. This
39 pressure results from the fact that love is presented to them, on the one hand,

,    ,    

1 as a highly desirable experience and the only justifiable motive for sex and
2 marriage and, on the other, as an arena in which they must prove their worth
3 and at which they may fail (for examples of this argument, see especially
4 Mead :, ). Mead was one of many writers to note the hazards that
5 the Western linking of love, sex, and marriage poses for women: it is still a
6 major topic in feminist writing and research. Francesca Cancian () and
7 Carol Tavris (), for example, argue that one effect of modernity has been
8 a “feminization” of love, a transformation of love into a form of “work” for
9 women. Tavris says: “The female domain of emotional expression is part of
10 women’s general responsibility to keep their relationships humming along
11 and deal with any problems that occur. Marriage is the wife’s territory; her
12 domain of expertise. It is her job to know how everyone is feeling in order
13 to head off problems at the pass. Naturally, she is motivated to talk; she [204], (20
14 needs to know if anything in the relationship needs fixing, because she will
15 be blamed if she doesn’t fix it” (:).
Lines: 124
16 Even if we allow that Mead was wrong in denying that Samoans expe-
17 rience strong emotional attachments to their partners, there was a valid ———
18 contrast to be drawn between Samoan and American culture concerning 0.0pt P
19 the matter of love. Harris herself argues that the Polynesian culture she
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20 observed does differ from Euro-American culture in one respect: love is
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21 seen not as a duty, as a measure of success in personal relations, but rather
22 as “an emotional state that arises involuntarily, sometimes intensely – and
23 often unfortunately – as it overturns the plans of parents and disturbs the [204], (20
24 web of relationships that binds individuals to their family and community”
25 (:).
26 The other authors and cultures represented in Jankowiak’s volume simi-
27 larly present a picture of love outside modern Western culture as something
28 that happens, often (though not always) in violation of cultural norms.
29 Love is not described as a cultural requirement, let alone one particularly
30 exercised with regard to women, though some authors see a development in
31 this direction as a concomitant of modernization. Coming of Age in Samoa
32 was part of a cultural temperature taking on matters of love and marriage
33 that has been a characteristic of modernity in the West. Mead’s comparison
34 of Samoan and American sexual cultures may best be seen in this light
35 rather than as an argument about the presence or absence of biological
36 determinism or love as a universal emotion.
37 If Mead did not see American girls as being made especially happy by
38 their culture’s emphasis on romantic love, neither was she entirely willing
39 to relinquish it. If love were women’s work, to take it away would be to

 ,    ,   

1 undermine what women, by Mead’s time, had come to believe to be essential
2 to their happiness. Mead’s objection to what she perceives to be Samoan
3 emotional economy is one that Benedict raised concerning advocates of
4 free love in a journal entry made between  and  and later published
5 by Mead in An Anthropologist at Work (:): too much sensible sexual
6 hygiene is the enemy of belief in the possibility of an enduring love and
7 thus destroys the “dignity” of sex. It is significant that the one criticism
8 Boas made of Coming of Age in Samoa is that Mead failed to distinguish
9 between passionate and romantic love (Mead :; Murray and Darnell
10 :). “Passion” (which implies a strong sexual component) in West-
11 ern culture has largely been the province of men, “romance” of women;
12 indeed, the language of passion is one that women were often barred from
13 speaking. Boas’s observation was astute, and we believe Mead’s failure can [205], (21)
14 be explained by the fact that she was attempting to define, through cross-
15 cultural comparison, not merely a sensible sexuality but a female sexuality
Lines: 130 to
16 as well.
17 Mead sometimes supplied other scholars with suggestions about female ———
18 experience that might expand their male-centered formulations. In a letter 0.0pt PgV
19 to Malinowski she recommended several ways in which he might have taken
Normal Pag
20 more account of the female perspective in his writings, including paying
PgEnds: TEX
21 more attention to daughters’ perspectives in Sex and Repression in Savage
22 Society. 5 Ten years later she wrote to Erik Erikson that his notion of an “in-
23 trusive” stage in childhood sexual development privileged male experience [205], (21)
24 at the expense of the female’s receptive role in sexual intercourse. 6
25 In Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies () Mead com-
26 pares three societies in terms of their valuation and assignment of person-
27 ality traits labeled “masculine” and “feminine” in the West. The “feminine”
28 Arapesh; the “masculine” Mundugumor, whose women do not try to com-
29 fort crying babies and float infants down the river when they do not want to
30 be bothered with child rearing; and the “masculine” women and “feminine”
31 men of the Tchambuli have been much debated among anthropologists and
32 others. For our purposes, it is instructive to note that Mead does not load the
33 dice evenly with regard to these three variations on the patterns of gender.
34 She speaks in the warmest tone about the nurturant Arapesh, although her
35 time among them appears, from biographies and her autobiography, to have
36 been an unpleasant one because of an injured foot and heavy rains, which
37 could not be blamed on Arapesh passivity, and a growing boredom, which
38 could. Reo Fortune, from whom she became permanently estranged on this
39 field trip, accuses her of underestimating Arapesh aggression (:–). 7

,    ,    

1 A comparison between a claim Mead made in Sex and Temperament and
2 a statement in her field notes reveals at least one instance in which Mead
3 contradicted some of her own data. She makes much of the fact that Arapesh
4 men “grow” their wives; that is, they participate in the care and feeding of
5 little girls obtained for them by their fathers and brought up in their house-
6 holds to be their wives. There is a belief that premature intercourse will
7 cause both members of the couple to be stunted in physical development; in
8 Sex and Temperament Mead suggests that “slight unobtrusive chaperonage”
9 (:) keeps them apart, along with a generally passive attitude toward
10 sex. Her field notes state that a father may beat his son to prevent premature
11 intercourse. 8
12 In “The Sex Life of the Unmarried Adult in Primitive Society” Mead uses
13 the Arapesh to argue that a strong male libido is not an inevitable fact of [206], (22
14 nature. Of their sexual culture she says:
Of the insistent sexuality of man, which so many peoples take for Lines: 134
granted, they know nothing; of the innate aggressiveness of the male ———
they are equally ignorant. Sex is conceived of as a response to an ap- 0.0pt P
propriate situation. The mere presence of an unprotected woman is ———
not regarded as a stimulus to sex activity, and women go about and Normal P
sleep unchaperoned in houses with male friends or relatives of their PgEnds: T
husbands. The lengths to which such an attitude may lead a people is
well illustrated in the tabu during lactation when a man must sleep
23 [206], (22
beside the mother of his child, but have no intercourse with her. He
may not even have intercourse with another wife if he has one, for his
presence is necessary to make the child grow. It must be enclosed in
the rounded circle of its parents’ affection from which sex is temporar-
ily and painlessly banished. With the lack of interest in sex, it is not
surprising that homosexuality is practically unknown among the Ara-
pesh. Sex is conceived of as play, play meaning in Arapesh any gentle,
pleasantly toned activity. When a child is desired, however, sex activity
is conceived as work. The Arapesh have pregnancy magic which they
sometimes use, for it is said “if people get tired of copulating, they can
use pregnancy magic to help out.” (:–)
35 In Male and Female, published in  during the early stages of the
36 postwar glorification of domesticity, Mead revisits the Sepik River valley
37 in New Guinea in order to argue more explicitly not merely for recognition
38 of the cultural malleability of gender but also for a need to value distinct
39 but complementary qualities attributed to women and men. This seeming

 ,    ,   

1 inconsistency is explained by an assertion that, though culture can and does
2 define gender roles, the cultural imagination does not create out of nothing;
3 it takes its models from inborn temperaments. Caring and nurturance can
4 be instilled in either males or females, members of both sexes may be born
5 with a talent for them, but it is easier and therefore probably more common
6 to train women to be completely fulfilled by reproduction and nurturance
7 than men (see, e.g., Mead :). Indeed, at one point Mead asserts that
8 childbearing is an experience so real and so valid that “only very few and
9 very sick women who are bred in societies that have devalued maternity are
10 able wholly to disavow it” (:).
11 The Mundugumor cultural configuration is invoked to stack the dice
12 against a culture whose women are not encouraged to love children:
13 [207], (23)
      
14 These robust, restive people live on the banks of a swiftly flowing river,
15 but with no river lore. They trade with and prey upon the miserable, Lines: 143 to
16 underfed bush peoples who live on poorer land, devote their time to
17 ———
quarrelling and head-hunting, and have developed a form of social or- 2.84549p
18 ganization in which every man’s hand is against every other man. The ———
19 women are as assertive and vigorous as the men; they detest bearing Normal Pag
20 and rearing children, and provide most of the food, leaving the men PgEnds: TEX
21 free to plot and fight. (Mead :)
23 By contrast, Arapesh women, gently nurtured and fed by their moth- [207], (23)
24 ers, fathers, and adolescent husbands, are said to acquire sexual, among
25 other, benefits, accomplishing an “easy” transfer of “pleasant expectancy
26 from mouth to vulva, of soft, optimistic retentiveness” (Mead :). Ara-
27 pesh men, Mead acknowledged, did not fare as well. They had some diffi-
28 culties asserting themselves and considerable fear of strange women. They
29 did not, however, become homosexual, an outcome Mead attributed to a
30 lack of desire to dominate that made them uninterested in performing the
31 “active” homosexual role (:). On the whole, Mead claimed, Arapesh
32 sex roles were more congenial to women than to men, except, she admitted,
33 for the occasional woman who was still “positively sexed and interested in a
34 climax for herself ” (:).
35 Betty Friedan () characterized Mead as pursuing a “feminine protest,”
36 a fairly tireless advocacy of sexual attitudes that value nurturance and moth-
37 erhood as much as genital gratification. In particular, Friedan believed Male
38 and Female had played a significant role in creating the cultural atmosphere
39 that drove American women back to the kitchen and the nursery after World

,    ,    

1 War II. In fairness, Mead does argue, when prescribing for her compatriots,
2 that this female tendency toward nurturance should be balanced with an
3 encouragement for women to find fulfillment in other careers and to allow
4 for individual variation, though she warns against “masculinizing” women
5 and “feminizing” men (:–). As in Mead’s treatment of love in
6 Coming of Age in Samoa, her discussion of motherhood in Male and Female
7 recognizes the constraints that motherhood (especially in the American nu-
8 clear family) can place on women (:–), but she does not advocate
9 that women be encouraged to sacrifice its supposed joys.
10 In  Mead complained to Erikson that no one was writing about sex
11 anymore, except in the context of sexually determined aggression (an ob-
12 servation that is only partially consistent with our findings concerning this
13 period). 9 In the postwar world Mead was still seeking some way of assur- [208], (24
14 ing that love and pleasure could be linked with marriage and procreation.
15 While she continued to favor sex education, birth control, a more open atti-
Lines: 157
16 tude toward premarital experimentation, and the relatively liberal attitudes
17 toward divorce she had advocated twenty years previously, she was still wor- ———
18 ried, as she had been in , about the anxiety caused by too much freedom. 0.0pt P
19 Her solution to the question of divorce was permissiveness coupled with
Normal P
20 surveillance in the form of social science expertise applied to help people to
PgEnds: T
21 divorce with dignity or work to preserve their marriages. She also suggested
22 that anthropologists were uniquely qualified to help devise ritualized ways
23 of handling the new freedoms and providing advice, like the advice in her [208], (24
24 book, based on the experience of other cultures (Mead :–).
25 This therapeutic role for anthropology is not one that other anthropolo-
26 gists have been sure they wanted. Malinowski’s unfulfilled dream of an ap-
27 plied anthropology was limited to advising missionaries and administrators
28 on the proper management of the colonies. Mead continued to offer advice
29 on the matters she had touched on in her early work, in Redbook magazine,
30 in public lectures, and on government commissions. Her focus on women
31 and children doubtless played a role in making these forums available and
32 congenial to her – there is a long tradition of experts’ advice to women on
33 sex, marriage, and child rearing, partly linked to and partly independent of
34 the culture of professional expertise. Though John Haller and Robin Haller
35 () record the correspondence in the th century between males, both
36 boys and men, and doctors who offered advice on matters such as the effects
37 and prevention of masturbation, the popular advice genres have been aimed
38 largely at a female audience. Mead’s use of this tradition, a use that included
39 the addenda to Coming of Age in Samoa, assured her a wider audience than

 ,    ,   

1 Malinowski but also made her vulnerable to criticism. As Lutkehaus ()
2 notes, critics have included not only the anthropologists who disliked the
3 popular, “feminine” tone of her writing but also feminists like Friedan who
4 lament Mead’s association with a tradition that has generally supported
5 traditional sex roles.
6 Mead’s advice changed with changing times, though with a continuing
7 passion for the nurturance of children and the fuller expression of mas-
8 culine and feminine natures. In  she wrote in Redbook that “bisexual
9 potentialities are normal” (Metraux :). In  (by which time such
10 things were becoming less dangerous) Mead acted as one of the discussants
11 at the first panel at an American Anthropological Association conference
12 devoted to the study of homosexuality. Clark Taylor, who, some years earlier,
13 had urged a somewhat stunned association membership to actively pur- [209], (25)
14 sue such studies, has reported of the  occasion: “That was Margaret
15 Mead at her best, she was there with her transsexual secretary, and relatively
Lines: 161 to
16 open about her bisexuality, absolutely tremendously supportive” (Amory
17 n.d.). ———
18 Mead’s failure to develop a truly radical anthropology of female sexuality 0.0pt PgV
19 in the years when she was a public expert on the topic was, in large part,
Normal Pag
20 a political one. Her claim to authority would certainly have been compro-
PgEnds: TEX
21 mised by too radical a critique of an America in which political loyalty was
22 increasingly being measured by sexual conformity. Micaela di Leonardo
23 has offered us a trenchant account of the “fit” between Margaret Mead’s [209], (25)
24 change of position on gender malleability and the new political realities of
25 the postwar world. Male and Female “fit well the anxious, sexist postwar
26 Weltanschauung, and Mead’s own statements in publicizing the book reveal
27 her nervous skittering to establish simultaneously her scientific credentials
28 and her inoffensive ‘femininity,’ all the while ducking to avoid a stigmatizing
29 sexualization” (Leonardo :).
30 In her memoir of her parents Mary Catherine Bateson, Mead’s daugh-
31 ter, discusses the need her mother felt to keep her bisexuality (and some
32 aspects of her heterosexual attachments) secret in the atmosphere of s
33 America and her own sadness, tempered with at least partial forgiveness, at
34 discovering she had been kept in the dark (:–). Returning from her
35 final year of high school, spent in Israel, Bateson entrusted her mother with
36 a confidence concerning a brief (and unconsummated) romance she had
37 with a young woman there, expecting her mother to be pleased to be taken
38 into her daughter’s confidence. Instead, Mead (who later gave her daughter
39 a novel that cast bisexuality in a favorable light) launched into a lecture on

,    ,    

1 the damage it could do to her career were her daughter to become involved
2 in scandal (Bateson :).
3 Jean Walton, in a book on racial subtexts in feminist psychoanalytic writ-
4 ing, is less forgiving than Bateson. She sees Mead as concealing her sexuality
5 in order to claim an authority over the sexuality of racial “Others” that
6 would only be granted to a white heterosexual, whatever public pronounce-
7 ments Mead may have made in favor of racial tolerance (Walton :–
8 ). Certainly, if Mead had a more subversive message for American women
9 than she delivered in the surface texts of her work, it became increasingly
10 necessary, during the cold war period, to deliver it in innuendo and to re-
11 serve parts of it for later.
12 In a rather curious appendix to Male and Female Mead claims the role
13 of doctor, prescribing for the social “patient” (:). For several pages [210], (26
14 Mead tortures a peculiar metaphor about maintaining the right tautness on
15 the rope by which Americans have been taught to hitch their wagons to a
Lines: 167
16 star (:–) and explains why she doesn’t discuss “deviations” like
17 prostitution and “promiscuous homosexuality.” Precisely because she sees ———
18 these things as systematically related to the “healthy” aspects of American 0.0pt P
19 sexuality, she says, healthy readers need to be protected from discussion
Normal P
20 of them. Otherwise, they might either reject her arguments out of hand
PgEnds: T
21 or, instead of being inspired to show “mercy” toward deviants, launch “a
22 destructive crusade against those whose strength has been less than their
23 own” (Mead :–). One of those people, of course, might have been [210], (26
24 Mead herself.
25 There is, one might suggest, another problem of communication, quite
26 aside from any political considerations, that prevented Mead from devel-
27 oping a more explicit anthropology of female sexuality. It is a problem to
28 which feminist writers have repeatedly referred: the absence of a language
29 in which to write (or speak) about sex as women experience it. Adrienne
30 Rich () and Marilyn Frye () are among the many writers who have
31 either commented upon this problem or written works that tried to correct
32 it or both. Frye, for example, says that the term sex in English is inextricably
33 linked to notions of penile penetration and ejaculation rather than female
34 pleasure. Lesbians, she argues, may not know what to say when asked by
35 researchers how often they have “sex,” and heterosexual women may, in
36 effect, be reporting the frequency with which their partners have “sex.”
37 In the feminist science fiction classic Native Tongue (Elgin ) the
38 women of a future caste of linguists, seeking to evade the control held
39 over them by male linguists, who constitute the new ruling class because of

 ,    ,   

1 their control of interplanetary communication, secretly conspire to develop
2 a women’s language, Láadan. Suzette Hayden Elgin, the author of Native
3 Tongue, is herself a linguist. A group of feminist linguists in the United States
4 spent some time in the s enlarging and refining the Láadan vocabu-
5 lary, but, in a recent online interview, Elgin expressed disappointment that
6 more women had not expressed interest in learning the language. She says,
7 perhaps ironically, that she concluded after ten years that women did not
8 find ordinary English or French or Spanish inadequate for their purposes
9 (Glatzer ). Perhaps the “failure” of Elgin’s invented language to catch on
10 is a result of the fact that its lexemes are disproportionately concentrated in
11 two semantic fields: that of emotion and that of sex. Láadan, for example,
12 contains separate words for desired and undesired pregnancy and welcome
13 and unwelcome menopause as well as a lexeme for those menstrual periods [211], (27)
14 that come as a relief. Such locutions seem designed to express the entwining,
15 for women, of sex, reproduction, and their social consequences, a subject
Lines: 175 to
16 about which Mead had much to say. To label this intertwining is, on the
17 one hand, to recognize its existence. On the other, it is a way of reifying and ———
18 naturalizing cultural expectations that many women might wish to change. 0.0pt PgV
19 The conceit of a women’s language was a striking way to draw attention to
Normal Pag
20 the fact that the lexicon of public discourse lacked descriptors for women’s
PgEnds: TEX
21 experiences. Such a language, however, would not really have been a more
22 useful writing tool for Mead than the idiom she adopted, the one that the
23 arbiters of anthropological taste found so cloying. Although female sexual [211], (27)
24 experience involves bodily and emotional states shared by only part of the
25 population, Mead wanted to disseminate her thoughts about it as widely
26 as possible, contributions to such “female” venues as Redbook and Parents
27 Magazine notwithstanding. Accordingly, she had to speak and write in some
28 version of ordinary language, with certain problems attendant upon that
29 decision.
30 When Mead set out to write about sexuality from a female perspective
31 and/or a culturally relativist one, she had available several vocabularies, all
32 of which reified the prevailing ethos of Western culture. She suggested to
33 Erik Erikson that he would profit from devising a term for “female genital
34 behaviour” that did not encompass the male anatomical assumptions of his
35 “intrusive” stage of sexual development. 10 She also objected to the medi-
36 cotechnical discourse of Kinsey (Mead ) and the earlier sexual reform-
37 ers. Certainly, to a public for whom male models of sexuality such as Erik-
38 son’s seem “natural,” descriptors such as “soft, optimistic retentiveness” to
39 describe aspects of Arapesh female sexuality were bound to seem saccharine.

,    ,    

1 Both Mead and Erikson were speaking in metaphors, but Erikson’s locution
2 slipped past the radar of a culture that marked Mead’s talk as egregious. If
3 one rejects the language of the clinic and the smoking room to describe sex
4 and forgoes the escape routes of professional jargon, native terminology,
5 and flights into Latin that were already beginning to look dated, one’s al-
6 ternatives are limited. Apart from anything else, there are some things one
7 cannot say clearly. In  it is unlikely that a publisher would have allowed,
8 in a publication for a mass audience, a straightforward statement of the
9 “techniques” for pleasing women that Samoan men were said to possess and
10 Manus men to lack. Even if William Morrow would have allowed a word like
11 “clitoris,” it is almost certain that many women (and men, for that matter)
12 would have had to reach for their dictionaries to find out what it meant.
13 Even after doing so, a fair number would have remained unenlightened, [212], (28
14 given the injunctions of the time against masturbation and sexual explo-
15 ration. Our mothers, who married in  and , would almost certainly
Lines: 179
16 have fallen into this category.
17 Stocking reports that Mead possessed, at the time of her field research in ———
18 Samoa, a “lengthy and highly explicit list” of Samoan sex terms compiled 0.0pt P
19 by George Pratt, a missionary (:). He also observes that her notes
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20 include“a long and vividly detailed interview with one adult male informant
PgEnds: T
21 covering all aspects of Samoan sex life, including techniques of masturba-
22 tion and foreplay, sexual positions, frequency of married and premarital in-
23 tercourse, and female behavior at the height of orgasm” (Stocking :). [212], (28
24 Significantly, this explicit discussion did not find its way into Coming of Age
25 in Samoa. Indeed, a reader could be excused for a certain level of mystifica-
26 tion. What, precisely, were the “techniques” that Samoan men were said to
27 possess with such satisfying results? What exactly were the “secondary vari-
28 ations of sex activity” (Mead :) that Samoans allegedly transferred
29 from youthful homosexual play to adult heterosexuality? Mead seems either
30 to trust that her readers will have the knowledge to fill in the blanks or to
31 fear that they will be scandalized or uncomprehending were she to do so for
32 them.
33 Mead’s lack of explicitness in describing Samoan sexual techniques has
34 led one contemporary commentator, Nicole Grant, to conclude that “sex”
35 for the unmarried, at the time of Mead’s visit to Manu’a, meant “oral and
36 manual” stimulation rather than intercourse. This interpretation is seen to
37 solve two mysteries: the low pregnancy rate and the seeming contradic-
38 tion between premarital freedom and the high value placed on virginity
39 (Grant :–). The chief evidence for this interpretation is drawn

 ,    ,   

1 from Mead’s field notes, in which she recorded that “boys proceed from
2 breast, navel, abdomen, clitoris, vagina, using hands and lips,” and that cun-
3 nilingus and fellatio were “both frequent as preliminary to intercourse”
4 (Grant :).
5 Grant interprets “preliminary” as meaning that oral and manual sex were
6 the norm before marriage, though she acknowledges that a reader could also
7 conclude that they were used as foreplay (:–). Grant suggests that
8 it was missionaries and American sailors who introduced to Samoans the
9 notion that intercourse was the only activity that fully counted as sex, which
10 might even account for the disparity between what Mead’s informants told
11 her and what they told Freeman many years later (:–). Unfor-
12 tunately, since Mead does not carry the explicit language of her notes into
13 her text, Grant’s suggestions must remain but an interesting hypothesis. We [213], (29)
14 have tried to suggest here some possible reasons why Mead’s published text
15 left her readers so unenlightened.
Lines: 183 to
16 With regard to one of the puzzles Grant believes she has solved, the low
17 premarital pregnancy rate in Samoa, Mead in  offered a solution of her ———
18 own that is very much in keeping with a focus on female sexual sensibilities. 0.0pt PgV
19 This solution also indicates that she did think that at least some Samoan pre-
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20 marital sexual encounters included vaginal penetration. Citing the findings
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21 of C. S. Ford and F. A. Beach () and the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior
22 in the Human Female (Kinsey et al. ), Mead suggests that women may be
23 sexually most responsive at the point in the menstrual cycle when they are [213], (29)
24 least fertile. She argues that before marriage “the male is dependent on the
25 willingness of the female to yield to his advances, so he may be refused at
26 those periods when she is unreceptive.” Along with a period of adolescent
27 sterility this pattern is said to be a likely factor in low premarital pregnancy
28 rates in societies that allow a period of sexual freedom before marriage. After
29 marriage, the balance of power changes, and the pregnancy rate rises (Mead
30 :).
31 One of the few alternative vocabularies open to Mead was that of senti-
32 ment and domesticity, already devalued in contrast to the “serious” (mas-
33 culine) business of life. We have, many times in the course of a -year
34 anthropological career, heard the opinion expressed that Growing up in New
35 Guinea was a (marginally) better book than Mead’s other works because of
36 its extensive attention to cognition as opposed to babies and breast-feeding.
37 We have even been known to say something like this ourselves.
38 In the matter of language, as in the topics she addressed, Mead’s choices
39 left her open to attack and dismissal from both conservative and radical

,    ,    

1 positions. Mead attempted to validate and valorize, as both a serious subject
2 of study and a mode of sexual expression, some of the components of
3 what the Victorians had called women’s “separate sphere.” It appeared to
4 some as if she were invading public space to conduct a conversation best
5 held in a kitchen, a bathroom, or a boudoir. On the other hand, when
6 a later generation finally addressed the problem of how to speak about
7 sexual experience not encompassed by the categories of male heterosexual
8 hegemony, it developed not a solution but a blanket suspicion of all ordinary
9 language in the description of sex and gender. To a generation we shall meet
10 later in the book to whom terms such as “woman” and “homosexual” are as
11 problematic as “savage” and “primitive,” Mead could not help but sound
12 cloying, simplistic, and conservative.
13 Of course, the problem that we (and others) have called a problem of [214], (30
14 “language” is, more accurately, a problem of culture, if, indeed, it is possible
15 to separate the two. When experiences are difficult to label, it is often be-
Lines: 191
16 cause culture does not provide a space for them. An alleged problem with
17 “language” may, indeed, result from a lack of lexemes, but it may also result ———
18 from an interdiction against using the lexemes that exist or engaging in the 0.0pt P
19 behaviors to which those lexemes refer. Mead’s difficulties may well have
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20 been mainly of the latter variety. Both Walton () and Bateson ()
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21 suggest that Mead, in Blackberry Winter, jumped from an account of the
22 dissolution of her marriage at about the same time that Male and Female was
23 published to an account of her experiences as a grandmother some  years [214], (30
24 later. Both suggest that this was done to submerge the inconvenient details
25 of her sexual life. Both of them also imply that her lifelong equation of
26 female experience with maternity was, in part, a way of deflecting attention
27 from other experiences that might not have been met with sympathy had
28 they received closer scrutiny. In this textual practice Mead was not alone.
29 It is significant that Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex () was
30 published in the same year as Male and Female. Although the work seems
31 to later generations far more revolutionary in its challenge to conventional
32 categories, in some ways it addresses the same problem. Beauvoir argues
33 that “women” as a class have been created by men to fill the role of the
34 “Other” and that there is no discourse in which they may express themselves
35 as themselves. In other words, she was aware of the problem of language and,
36 accordingly, is regarded as a foundation theorist by those contemporary
37 writers who attempt to address this issue, although her book was largely
38 forgotten during the years in which Mead was enjoying a huge influence on
39 popular opinion. Nonetheless, Beauvoir tried to come to terms with some

 ,    ,   

1 of the same issues as Mead. Where Mead says motherhood needs to be pos-
2 itively valued as an integral part of the female sexual experience, Beauvoir
3 (:–) offers a lengthy discussion of women’s ambivalence toward
4 their children, documented by extensive allusions to literary, clinical, and
5 archival sources, rooting this ambivalence in a discussion of the fuzziness of
6 the self/other boundary that is part of French existentialist thought. Beau-
7 voir, like Mead, argues that children will benefit if their mothers are freer
8 to pursue other interests (:), employing a trope that has long been a
9 part of liberal, as opposed to radical, feminist discourse.
10 By using ordinary language words for what she may have intended as
11 thoroughly revamped experiences, Mead made it hard to tell how much of [Last Page]
12 a change she was advocating in the conceptualization of female sexuality.
13 Certainly, her apparently enthusiastic presence on government committees [215], (31)
14 and in the pages of mainstream women’s magazines in the s indicates
15 that she was, at the very least,“co-optable”; we think, however, that there are
Lines: 195 to
16 some clues that she occasionally had glimpses of possibilities of more pen-
17 etrating critiques than she ever produced. At the very least, she assured that ———
18 anthropology became a discipline in which women could encounter texts 167.656p
19 that took seriously women’s experience of childbearing, lactation, menstru-
Normal Pag
20 ation, and love (or the lack of it) long before other disciplines routinely did
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21 so and during a time when a feminist framework for speaking about such
22 things was largely in retreat. Moreover, we shall see in the next chapter that
23 other neo-Freudian apologists for the maternal imperative were far more [215], (31)
24 uncompromising than Mead in their conscription of the primitive into a
25 discourse that glorified and idealized maternity but bemoaned the failure
26 of actual mothers, at home and abroad, to achieve it.

,    ,    

4  
7 The “Silence”
11 [First Pag
12 Until a few years ago sex was a subject usually avoided in anthropological mono-
13 [216], (1)
graphs. This omission was due partly to sheer prudery, the legacy to the science of
our peculiar type of social and moral code, and partly to the difficulty of obtaining
information on this most intimate side of man’s personal life. But as the modern Lines: 0 t
17 anthropologist developed his technique of collecting data, lived in native villages, ———
18 talked with the people in their own language, and shared their daily life, on the
19 one hand it became obvious that a dismissal of sexual matters would really falsify Normal P
the whole perspective of the native culture, and on the other the collection of data PgEnds: T
22 became easier. . . . What is needed in this field is more work of the elaborately
23 analytical objective character given in Professor Malinowski’s Sexual Life of Sav- [216], (1)
24 ages, where the subject is set with the greatest care against its background of social
27 Sir Raymond Firth, We, the Tikopia

29 t the beginning of a discussion of sexuality in Tikopia that, all told,
30 occupies nearly a quarter of a lengthy book, Sir Raymond Firth
31 commented on the history and the prospects for the anthropolog-
32 ical study of sexuality. His remarks about the paucity of monographs until
33 the late s must be taken in context. He was referring to ethnographic
34 writing in the modern sense and not the Victorian and Edwardian modes
35 of writing we have already discussed. His hope that his work would be
36 a precedent for future publications on sexuality was not to be realized.
37 Significantly, Daryll Forde’s review of We, the Tikopia does not mention
38 the section on sexuality, concentrating entirely on Firth’s detailed data on
39 kinship, economics, and various aspects of ritual (:–).
1 There is a common consensus that sex retreated from the center stage of
2 anthropology sometime during the s. It was more than  years before
3 it reemerged as a major concern. We are hardly arguing that nothing about
4 sex appeared for an entire generation. In fact, quite a bit of useful, probably
5 more or less correct factual information can be gleaned from the ethno-
6 graphies of this period. However, anthropologists did not make sexuality as
7 such a subject of grand theory as it showed signs of becoming in the late
8 s. Sexuality did not so much disappear as become subsumed in other
9 discourses: kinship and marriage, child socialization, gender and aggres-
10 sion, even environmental adaptation. A few monographs appeared that did
11 feature sexuality as a major theme, but the discipline tended to treat these
12 discussions as sidelines. Only a minority of anthropologists wrote about sex
13 at all during this period, and most of them limited their remarks to a few [217], (2)
14 paragraphs. As late as  Robert Suggs and Donald Marshall remarked
15 upon “the suppression of a good deal of information on sexual behavior
Lines: 21 to
16 which will remain forever locked in the heads (and in some personal field
17 notes) of anthropological investigators” (a:). ———
18 The “silence” about sex in anthropology as well as the things that were 0.0pt PgV
19 said about the topic were almost certainly overdetermined. In these four
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20 decades the discipline underwent accelerated professionalization on both
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21 sides of the Atlantic. As Henrika Kuklick () has emphasized, most of
22 the new generation of anthropologists were no longer upper class or up-
23 per middle class in origin. Until the s jobs were hard to find. Anthro- [217], (2)
24 pologists avoided publications that might detract from their professional
25 status or that of an insecure discipline. Despite changes in societal atti-
26 tudes that occurred during the era of sexual reform, sex was still not en-
27 tirely respectable as a topic of serious scientific study. The Great Depres-
28 sion, World War II, and the onset of the cold war presented “progressive”
29 thinkers with issues for discussion that seemed to be far more pressing than
30 sex.
31 Theoretical developments within anthropology played their part in di-
32 recting attention away from sex. Radcliffe-Brown’s Durkheimian anthro-
33 pology made individual motivation a forbidden topic of discussion for
34 many British and South African social anthropologists, including some for-
35 mer students of Malinowski such as Meyer Fortes and Evans-Pritchard
36 (Stocking :–). The Durkheimian program excluded biological
37 and psychological data from its agenda. Inasmuch as sex was personal and
38 individual or universal and natural, it was not pertinent to sociology, though
39 its transformations in institutions such as marriage and the family were of

 “” 

1 central concern to the unsexed new science of kinship (see Borneman 
2 for a provocative discussion of this issue).
3 In the United States there is a less radical discontinuity between the
4 anthropology of the s and subsequent developments. The sociologi-
5 cal method made inroads at the University of Chicago during Radcliffe-
6 Brown’s sojourn there in the s but had much less impact elsewhere.
7 American anthropologists continued to take Freud seriously, whether they
8 accepted his sexual theory, modified it, rejected it, or subsumed it in new
9 syntheses. Individual psychology, including sexuality, continued to be dis-
10 cussed, but adult sexual behavior was rarely the subject of primary inter-
11 est. We shall consider some significant exceptions, including a few anthro-
12 pologists professionally employed in psychoanalytic practice. Many other
13 anthropologists of the “culture and personality” school rejected Freudian [218], (3)
14 orthodoxies concerning infantile sexuality, even when they discussed oral,
15 anal, and genital socialization. Nursing, toilet training, masturbation, and
Lines: 25
16 Oedipal desire (or the lack of it) were seen as both products and antecedents
17 of diffuse “modal personalities.” The sexual routines of early childhood ———
18 were likely to be seen as rooted in environment and ecology rather than 0.0pt P
19 as independent variables or cultural universals. The majority of American
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20 anthropologists of this period, like their British counterparts, did not dis-
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21 cuss sex (or culture and personality) very much at all. On both sides of the
22 Atlantic there was a tendency to disparage concern with childhood bodily
23 regimes and romantic sentiments as “feminine,” making them unattractive [218], (3)
24 objects of study for many men and some women.
25 Until the s British social anthropology and the variant forms of
26 American cultural anthropology were decidedly distinct national traditions.
27 However, both were founded on the rejection of the excesses of their th-
28 century evolutionary heritage. For Boas and his associates, opposition to
29 racism and the salvaging of traditional cultures were explicit goals, both
30 morally and theoretically. In Britain the rejection of racism was rarely a
31 dominant objective of social anthropologists, though we have seen that
32 their attitudes sometimes tended to diverge from other British participants
33 in the colonial encounter. British functionalists, whether followers of Ma-
34 linowski or Radcliffe-Brown, often saw themselves as advocates for tribal
35 peoples against colonial mismanagement. As believers in the organic in-
36 terdependence of social institutions, they decried the disruptive effects of
37 bans against bridewealth, enforced monogamy, interference with initiation
38 ceremonies, and disregard of the rules of inheritance.
39 At the High Leigh conference, it may be recalled, Malinowski had ad-
vocated an applied anthropology of sexuality. Anthropologists would train

  “”

1 missionaries in the principles of care and respect for indigenous institu-
2 tions. However, anthropologists’ perceived interest in sexuality could de-
3 tract from the seriousness with which colonial administrators received their
4 claims of expertise. We recall that one of the most influential of administra-
5 tors and one of those more supportive of anthropology, Sir Philip Mitchell
6 of New Guinea, criticized the obsession of anthropologists “with minutiae
7 of obscure tribal and personal practices, especially if they were agreeably
8 associated with sex or flavored with obscenity” (:).
9 Donna Haraway has noted an important similarity between British func-
10 tionalism and American studies of culture and personality (:–).
11 Both, she says, were focused on the organization of human raw material
12 into well-running systems, colonial societies in one case, a healthy American
13 citizenry in the other. Gilbert Herdt has made a similar point (:). [219], (4)
14 For Haraway such social and psychological engineering was part of the
15 discipline of capitalism. Sex, she argues, was something that required not re-
Lines: 33 to
16 pression as such but transformation into the reproduction of labor and the
17 production of capital as a means of supporting healthy families. Haraway’s ———
18 points are intriguing and to some degree certainly valid, but the politics 6.5pt PgV
19 of the “silence” in the anthropology of sex were somewhat more complex
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20 (and sometimes more benign) than she allows. Whatever their visions of
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21 the social applications of anthropology, both the Boasians and the British
22 functionalists were increasingly concerned to portray the people they stud-
23 ied in as positive a light as possible. For many practitioners, this concern led [219], (4)
24 either to active challenges to paradigms of oversexed savages or to discreet
25 silence about what had become an embarrassing topic. However, we shall
26 draw attention to a number of American writers who spurned the relativist
27 project and conscripted the sexuality of “primitive Others” as fodder for
28 their own antimodernist social agenda.
      
32 Malinowski’s third edition of The Sexual Life of Savages was published in
33 . It was his last word on the subject apart from posthumous publica-
34 tions. The political struggle against totalitarianism preoccupied Malinowski
35 during the last years of his life, eclipsing sex in his priorities. His posthu-
36 mously published Freedom and Civilization () is an impassioned de-
37 fense of liberalism against totalitarianism. After the fall of Poland in 
38 Malinowski, who had taken up an appointment at Yale, became involved
39 with the Polish partisan cause.
Among those who attended Malinowski’s seminars at the London School

 “” 

1 of Economics or worked with him at the new African Institute were the
2 Oceanists Ian Hogbin and Raymond Firth and the Africanists Meyer Fortes,
3 E. E. Evans-Pritchard, and Isaac Schapera. Three of these scholars gathered
4 ethnographic data about sexuality within a few years of the publication
5 of The Sexual Life of Savages. Firth’s We, the Tikopia () and Schapera’s
6 Married Life in an African Tribe () were major monographs that re-
7 ported these findings. Hogbin’s monograph on the Wogeo, The Island of
8 Menstruating Men, did not appear until , though he published several
9 significant articles in Oceania during the s and s on sexuality in
10 societies in the Solomons and New Guinea. With the exception of an early
11 paper on Zande ideas concerning conception, the soul, and the fetus and
12 some information in an article on the Zande royal court published in a
13 specialist regional journal in , Evans-Pritchard chose not to publish data [220], (5)
14 on Zande sexuality that he gathered in the s until the early s.
15 We, the Tikopia contains a detailed description of supercision (an op-
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16 eration during which a long cut is made through the top of a young or
17 adolescent boy’s foreskin), Tikopian terms for the genitalia, discussions of ———
18 infantile sexuality, indigenous theories of reproduction, folktales on sexual 0.0pt P
19 themes, and data on menstruation, courtship, marriage, and marriage ex-
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20 changes. Firth describes the most common sexual positions and techniques
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21 employed by Tikopians and the use of coitus interruptus, infanticide, and
22 abortion as modes of population control. Firth explicitly counters images
23 of Polynesia as a sexual idyll (b:). Although he frankly portrays the [220], (5)
24 violence and “crudity” as well as the romance in Tikopia premarital and
25 marital relations, Firth is always careful to point out parallels between Eu-
26 ropean and Tikopian practice, sometimes in ways that question Europeans’
27 assumptions about their own sexual morality: “Chastity in Tikopia is not a
28 moral issue; the physical state is interpreted consciously and traditionally
29 solely in terms of social advantage. This is so for the girl as well as for the
30 man. On reflection one wonders if this is not largely true of our own society
31 as well” (b:).
32 Firth describes among the Tikopia both courtship and romance as a pre-
33 lude to marriage and marriages that began with abduction and rape. The
34 overall impression is that neither images of “love among the palm trees”
35 nor pictures of high status elders brutally imposing their will upon the
36 young offer an adequate portrait of Tikopia courtship and marriage. Each
37 of these stereotypes has some basis in truth, as Firth depicts it, but only a
38 partial basis. Relationships between sweethearts commonly led to marriage
39 in Tikopia and often involved premarital sex. On the other hand, Firth’s

  “”

1 informants told him that marriage by capture had recently been frequent;
2 indeed, some of them had married in this way. Firth offers correctives to
3 both popular and anthropological representations of marriage by capture
4 that, as we have already noted, played a significant role in evolutionary an-
5 thropology. The “modern scientist,” Firth tells us, finds “ludicrous” the de-
6 scriptions in the popular press of “the savage who goes courting with a club
7 instead of a nosegay of flowers” (b:). On the other hand, Firth rejects
8 both general anthropological wisdom, which would suggest that Tikopia
9 capture was a mere formal survival of some ancient, “real” form of capture
10 between hostile clans or tribes, and Ernest Crawley’s particular suggestion
11 that capture was primarily a mode of overcoming female reluctance.
12 Firth thus offers his readers rare data on a widely discussed practice that
13 has seldom been described in detail. The fighting that occurred during and [221], (6)
14 immediately after the abduction of a Tikopian woman was real enough to
15 lead to injury and occasionally to death, although it was circumscribed by
Lines: 46 to
16 some social rules. Indeed, situating marriage by capture within its social
17 context is the key point of Firth’s analysis, as one might expect from Mali- ———
18 nowski’s student. It occurred between neighboring kin groups who previ- 0.0pt PgV
19 ously and subsequently coexisted in relative harmony. It occurred among
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20 Tikopians of noble rather than commoner rank. Ideally, the bride, who was
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21 usually unaware of the wedding plans, would be abducted from her house
22 in the middle of the night. Otherwise, she might be seized on a pathway
23 outside her residence (such seizures were regarded as a strong insult to her [221], (6)
24 lineage). Sometimes the groom too would be an unwilling partner to these
25 plans, inasmuch as his elders and betters might decide on their own choice
26 of spouse in order either to overcome his reluctance to marry or to substitute
27 their good choice of bride for his own poor one. If the bride did not con-
28 sent to sexual intercourse with the groom, she might face rape. Usually, the
29 parties settled down and accepted the fait accompli. An elaborate etiquette
30 governed the long series of visits and ceremonial food exchanges that se-
31 cured social peace. Firth adopts a matter-of-fact approach in the description
32 of abduction and rape. This is obviously upsetting to the modern reader. It
33 should be reiterated, however, that the sensationalism and ethnocentrism
34 he was endeavoring to counter were serious problems in their own right.
35 Most but not all Polynesian societies have a form of institutionalized
36 homosexuality. Firth found nothing of the kind in Tikopia, although he was
37 told that pederasty did occur (b:). Neither he nor his informants are
38 portrayed as being very interested in the topic.
39 Firth’s primary goal is to demonstrate the links between sexuality, kin-

 “” 

1 ship, and the economic system in a functioning Tikopian society. The final
2 paragraphs of We, the Tikopia discuss the practical uses to which anthro-
3 pology might be put and the limits to such deployment. Though Firth
4 introduces these conclusions with comments on the relevance of kinship
5 studies for those managing changes in land tenure in Polynesia, he insists on
6 a distinction between the role of the scientist and that of the social engineer:
7 “Social anthropology should be concerned with understanding how human
8 beings behave in social groups, not with trying to make them behave in any
9 particular way by assisting an administrative policy or a proselytizing cam-
10 paign to achieve its aims more easily” (b:). It would seem that Firth is
11 opposed to the practices we have defined as “conscription” and committed
12 to the relativity of moral truth:
13 [222], (7)
Missionary, government officer and mine manager are free to use
anthropological methods and results in their own interests, but they
have no right to demand as a service that anthropology should become Lines: 52
their handmaid. Nor can the standards which they invoke – “civiliza- ———
tion,”“humanity,”“justice,”“the sanctity of human life,”“Christianity,” 0.0pt P
“freedom of the individual,”“law and order” – be regarded as binding; ———
the claim of absolute validity that is usually made for them too often Normal P
springs from ignorance, from an emotional philanthropy, from the PgEnds: T
lack of any clear analysis of the implications of the course of action
proposed, and from confusion with the universal of what is really a
23 [222], (7)
set of moral ideas produced by particular economic and social cir-
cumstances. (b:)
26 Firth goes on to acknowledge that scientists will inevitably have their
27 own biases and to suggest that they must be aware of these prejudices and
28 allow for their possible effects. This is not in any sense an appeal for self-
29 reflexivity; that is prevented by the fact that one “claim of absolute validity”
30 is not questioned – the claim of science itself. That is precisely the claim that
31 Haraway has suggested requires interrogation. We recognize the dangers of
32 reifying “systems” and the authority of those who study them. Many critics
33 have found in functionalism a potential for blindness to issues of power
34 and resistance. We give an example of such an instance in our discussion
35 of Firth’s treatment of marital rape and abduction. Nonetheless, We, the
36 Tikopia offers a significant achievement in what Kath Weston (:–)
37 was later to call the “ethnocartography” of sexuality, at least of heterosexu-
38 ality. Such rich, layered descriptions, we argue, turned out to be surprisingly
39 rare.

  “”

1 Married Life in an African Tribe is Schapera’s study of the Kgatla peo-
2 ple of Botswana (then Bechuanaland) who were both horticulturalists and
3 pastoralists. Its author had taken his bachelor of arts as Radcliffe-Brown’s
4 student in Cape Town, studied with Charles Seligman, and assisted Malin-
5 owski as a doctoral student at the London School of Economics (Kuper
6 ). Schapera’s account of married life and heterosexual relationships
7 was crafted for the general intelligentsia rather than for a specifically aca-
8 demic audience. Consequently, the style is fluid, often anecdotal. Schapera
9 acquired a plethora of data concerning intimate sexual relations, including
10 love letters between unmarried and married couples. Although at the time
11 of publication Schapera had become a practitioner of Radcliffe-Brown’s
12 more austere structural functionalism, there are many echoes of Malin-
13 owski’s The Sexual Life of Savages evident in this book. Once again, there is [223], (8)
14 detail on love magic, courting techniques, positions in intercourse, theories
15 of conception, standards of beauty, and tolerance of adultery, at least within
Lines: 61 to
16 limits.
17 However, Schapera was much more concerned than Malinowski with ———
18 presenting a contemporary picture of a society undergoing rapid change 0.0pt PgV
19 (see Kuper ). He was clearly aware of the political and economic realities
Normal Pag
20 faced by the Tswana peoples. The Kgatla had settled in Bechuanaland in
PgEnds: TEX
21 the mid–th century in order to get away from the Boers in the Transvaal.
22 Missions began their work in the s, and, in the early s, the king,
23 Lentswe, adopted Christianity. By the early s a substantial minority of [223], (8)
24 Kgatla had become Christians. Missionaries preached against traditional
25 forms of marriage and ceremonial. Accordingly, Christians, at least in the-
26 ory, did not practice polygyny. The initiation ceremonies for both young
27 men and young women were greatly simplified and no longer contained
28 rites that were offensive to Christians. The missionaries also succeeded in
29 securing the abolition of bride-price (bogadi), but that policy was reversed
30 just before Schapera did his fieldwork in the early s. By that time, too,
31 there was substantial labor migration, particularly by young males, to the
32 towns and mining camps of South Africa. As Schapera portrayed them, the
33 Kgatla of the s stood between two different worlds. Those who did not
34 venture to the cities pursued their livelihoods in the way their ancestors had
35 done for a century or two, albeit many of them had received some primary
36 education and were increasingly reliant on a small number of consumer
37 goods. There was much poverty. A minority of Kgatla married according
38 to the rites of the Dutch Reformed Church, but traditional marriages were
39 more common, although often with reduced ceremonial. Labor migration,

 “” 

1 however, eroded the authority of the elders, who had once organized mar-
2 riages. 1 Young men who went back and forth to the cities acquired a degree
3 of financial independence that enabled them to subvert the power of the
4 elders.2 Accordingly, some marriages were still arranged, but others were the
5 result of individual choice. According to Schapera, premarital continence
6 had been a strict rule in the th century, but by  a degree of premarital
7 license prevailed.
8 Schapera does not question the reliability of assertions about the morality
9 of the old days; presumably, they are based on the consensus of his infor-
10 mants. Such assertions are commonplace in anthropological accounts of
11 elders’ recollections of past times. Schapera includes several case studies of
12 individuals whose path to marriage involves challenges to or compromises
13 with their elders’ wishes. In some cases the elders are brought round to the [224], (9)
14 young people’s point of view. Sometimes the couples elope and defy the
15 elders.
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16 Trained in a tradition that saw kinship as the key to coherence of tribal
17 societies, Schapera was presented with a society in which families had lost ———
18 some of their functions, not least in the organization and regulation of 0.0pt P
19 sexual behavior. Although Schapera is subtly critical of the colonial reality
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20 that produced this situation, in his conclusions he tries to paint as favorable
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21 a picture of Kgatla family life as possible: “Despite the many factors making
22 for disruption, the Kgatla family has therefore not broken down to any
23 considerable extent” (:). One must observe that the positive images [224], (9)
24 Schapera presents (and, for that matter, the negative ones) incorporate the
25 assumption that social organization founded on heterosexual marriage and
26 reproduction is the norm, and a desirable norm at that, in preindustrial
27 societies. Where Schapera finds some room to praise the new freedoms for
28 individuals, especially women, that praise is based partly on their potential
29 contribution to a more satisfying married life (:). Nonetheless, he
30 blames the changes introduced by Western civilization for a “lack of happi-
31 ness” and contentment that, he says, characterized many Kgatla marriages
32 (Schapera :).
33 Doubtless, Schapera’s choice of subject matter (his title, after all, refers
34 to functionalism’s key institution) is not conducive to discussion of homo-
35 sexual relationships. One wonders whether his evident concern to portray
36 Kgatla in as “good” a light as possible in a society where homophobia was
37 pervasive led him to neglect same-sex relationships. There is an isolated
38 reference (Schapera :) to homosexual play between women.
39 In an earlier chapter we discussed the curious history of speculations

  “”

1 about the alleged peculiarities of Khoi and San genitalia. As we noted, the
2 elongation of the labia and steatopygia in the buttocks were seen as markers
3 that placed these peoples at an infrahuman level on the Great Chain of Be-
4 ing. In his early monograph The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa, which was
5 not based on intensive fieldwork but rather on secondary sources, Schapera
6 had expressed the opinion that the apron was a physiological feature and
7 not the product of manipulation (:). He had noted that it was found
8 not merely among the Khoi and San but also among “various East African
9 peoples.” However, in Married Life in an African Tribe Schapera recounted
10 that Kgatla girls, at the onset of puberty, regularly manipulated the labia in
11 order to lengthen them and, further, that the practice continued after mar-
12 riage (:). Kgatla informants told Schapera that elongated labia were
13 seen as sexually attractive by both genders and were manipulated in sexual [225], (10)
14 play. In fact, as one informant said, elongated labia were a sign of adult
15 status (Schapera :). These statements provided an alternative view
Lines: 71 to
16 of a bodily characteristic that had been seen as an index of racial inferiority
17 and natural depravity. In Married Life in an African Tribe the elongation of ———
18 the labia was described as an innocuous cultural practice. 0.0pt PgV
19 Ian Hogbin, who was taught by both Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown,
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20 conducted fieldwork in many places, most notably in New Guinea (among
PgEnds: TEX
21 the Wogeo and the Busama) and in the Solomon Islands (Guadalcanal
22 and Malaita). In  he published a description of the sexual practices of
23 the people of Ontong Java, whom he saw as resembling Trobrianders and [225], (10)
24 Samoans in some ways, though he describes a less permissive society than
25 either Malinowski or Mead, at least with regard to premarital sex. Infantile
26 sexuality was not restricted. While premarital sex for women was technically
27 prohibited, it seems to have gone on discreetly; girls could be shamed for
28 promiscuity or quickly married off if they were discovered. Ugly or disabled
29 women became prostitutes, who were supposed to be the sole outlet for
30 unmarried youth and, at that time, for white men, who could previously
31 marry local women. Adult male masturbation was tolerated, female mas-
32 turbation was said to be unknown. Some men snuck in to have intercourse
33 with married women, pretending to be their husbands; they faced severe
34 shaming if caught. The only cases Hogbin observed involved widowers in
35 two cases and a known wife beater whom no one would marry in another.
36 There were a couple of cases of known homosexuality. In one the man was
37 regarded as rather comical, though many heterosexual men were said to
38 have had sex with him. Another homosexual man had committed suicide.
39 Homosexual men were said to use women’s oils to attract men. Female

 “” 

1 homosexuality was said to be unknown. Oral sex was performed within
2 marriage as foreplay or as an alternative to intercourse (Hogbin :–).
3 Physiological paternity was only partially understood: semen from many
4 acts of intercourse was believed to form a plug to stop the menstrual flow.
5 Women who had had intercourse only once were said not to be afraid of
6 becoming pregnant (Hogbin :–).
7 During World War II Hogbin was advisor on civilian morale to the prime
8 minister of Australia (–) and subsequently advisor to Governor Sir
9 Philip Mitchell on the rehabilitation of Melanesian populations first in
10 the Solomons and later in mainland New Guinea in the aftermath of the
11 Japanese invasion and defeat. He was also an expert on land tenure and
12 its applications in anthropology and government. Perhaps more than any
13 of Malinowski’s students, he fulfilled Malinowski’s program for an applied [226], (11
14 anthropology of personal life. In a series of articles in Oceania in  and
15  Hogbin discussed sexual behavior, morality, and social change among
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16 the Wogeo and Busama of New Guinea. Just as Mead had done in Manu’a
17 and Manus, Hogbin drew a contrast between sexual morality in two Pacific ———
18 communities (b:). Despite fears of female genital impurity the Wo- 0.0pt P
19 geo were portrayed as sexually permissive, encouraging premarital sex, and
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20 laughing at bawdy jokes and at myths and tales with a strong sexual and
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21 scatological content (Hogbin ). The Busama, however, regarded any
22 premarital or extramarital sex within their community as shameful. Some
23 of Hogbin’s informants made it clear that they experienced shame about [226], (11
24 adultery only when they were caught and that a fair amount of transgression
25 did occur. Whereas the Wogeo encouraged individual choice in marriage
26 (provided that the union was not incestuous or did not involve members of
27 the same moiety residing in the same village), the Busama expected that
28 all marriages would be arranged by older kin. In practice, the wishes of
29 the boy or girl were sometimes taken into account. Nonetheless, “romantic
30 attraction . . . receives no official recognition: indeed, the Busama bear out
31 the truth of La Rochfoucauld’s assertion that people would not fall in love
32 if they had not read about it” (Hogbin a:).
33 The Wogeo male cult, like others on the nearby Sepik River and elsewhere
34 in New Guinea, involved the use of a men’s house, secret ritual flutes, and
35 bloodletting. Specifically, Wogeo men made incisions on the penis in order
36 to purify it from female contamination. They explicitly compared this pro-
37 cedure with menstruation, which they saw as the female’s natural, periodic
38 mode of purification. The title of Hogbin’s book, The Island of Menstruating
39 Men, was therefore ethnographically accurate. Significantly, Hogbin does

  “”

1 not explicitly refer to the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim’s well-known the-
2 ory () that suggests the universal importance of male jealousy of female
3 fertility, reversing Freud’s ideas of penis envy. Hogbin does note that such
4 cults and the ideology that supports them often accompany forms of ritual
5 homosexuality, but he found no evidence of this among the Wogeo. He
6 said that homosexuality in the Wogeo village was uncommon, apart from
7 mutual masturbation by youths (Hogbin :). The Wogeo accepted the
8 homosexual practice that was routine among labor migrants isolated from
9 the opposite sex. They compared such sexual satisfactions to the experience
10 of eating tinned meat away from home. They liked it well enough, but pork
11 was preferable (Hogbin :).
12 Labor migration also resulted in homosexual contacts between Busama
13 males and other migrants. The Busama regarded homosexual practices as [227], (12)
14 deviant and were concerned about these developments. Hogbin discusses
15 the case of Ki’dolo’, a thief from a problem family who prostituted himself
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16 to army employees and was subsequently involved in two incidents in the
17 village. He was said to have introduced homosexual practices to the village. ———
18 Three other young men were also involved in similar incidents. In all four 0.0pt PgV
19 cases there was either a financial transaction or an element of force or a
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20 substantial age difference (Hogbin a:). The Busama, according to
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21 Hogbin, dismissed Ki’dolo’ as beyond shame, though he also reports that
22 they applied this diagnosis to Ki’dolo”s brother’s heterosexual pandering
23 and adultery. [227], (12)
24 The Busama thought that many contemporary youths were lacking in
25 shame. The experience of other cultures that followed labor migration
26 tempted them to break the rules of premarital chastity even at home. Al-
27 though Hogbin did question whether the elders were idealizing a mythical
28 golden age, he notes an increasing volume of bawdy discourse on mas-
29 turbation in the community and a somewhat increased (though still low)
30 incidence of seduction and illegitimacy. He blamed the prudery of the mis-
31 sionaries for developing an obsession with sex among the Busama.
32 Missionaries misunderstood Busama culture and therefore misrepresent-
33 ed it. Hogbin strongly disagreed with the views of an acquaintance, Stephen
34 Lehner, a missionary who had been the head of a Lutheran teachers college
35 in Bukawa, which was close to Busama. The two communities shared the
36 same language and culture. Hogbin took particular exception to remarks
37 made by Lehner that he quotes in his article on shame in Busama. Lehner
38 wrote of sex as “the pivot” of Bukawa existence, of a lack of moral princi-
39 ples, of feminine resistance to males covering their genitals: “All the phys-

 “” 

1 ical needs were satisfied in any place, and dances imitative of carnal lusts
2 were extremely popular and anchored in phallic religious views” (Hogbin
3 b:). In response, Hogbin remarked that morals were “relative”:
5 Thus in the Trobriands promiscuity before marriage is accepted as
6 normal, whereas in Manus, the girls are expected to be chaste. . . . I
7 would prefer to say that the native code is at some points different
8 from ours. . . .
9 It is relevant to mention here an incident which I witnessed some
10 years ago in the Solomons. No clothing was worn in the community
11 concerned, and when a young man whom I already knew returned af-
12 ter completing a period of indenture he immediately divested himself
13 of his loincloth. He would have been ashamed, he said, to call attention [228], (13
14 to his genitals by covering them. (b:)
Hogbin has some interesting things to say about the effects of Christian Lines: 83
17 ideology on Melanesian communities. He suggests that Christian notions ———
18 of sin may have provided an added sanction to reinforce Busama morality: 13.0pt
19 God was believed by some to watch even acts successfully concealed from
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20 fellow villagers. On the other hand, the cessation of severe physical punish-
ment for seducers, another result of Christian teaching, had probably had PgEnds: T
22 the opposite effect. Hogbin notes with some irony that Busama were quick
23 to quote New Testament prohibitions on fornication to counter a remark [228], (13
24 that premarital sex was not banned in the Commandments but that when
25 the same texts were brought to the attention of Trobrianders they shrugged
26 them off with the remark, “That’s only Paul.”
27 Hogbin, like other anthropologists of this period, worried about mission-
28 ary meddling and ethnocentrism. On the other hand, he diverged from the
29 usual anthropological practice of his time when he wrote of Christianity
30 as an integral part of s Busama culture, with its own local meanings,
31 rather than a mere accretion.
32 The role of missionaries was addressed, with a less nuanced disapproval,
33 in some of the writings of Geoffrey Gorer, Verrier Elwin, and Ronald and
34 Catherine Berndt, all of whom had much to say about other aspects of
35 the anthropology of sexuality. Gorer was a travel writer who received some
36 training in anthropology from Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict in the late
37 s and was referred to as an anthropologist for the rest of his life. Elwin
38 was an amateur anthropologist with a long and complicated career in India.
39 His work on adolescent sexuality among the Muria is cited in many anthro-

  “”

1 pology textbooks. The Berndts were professional anthropologists who did
2 extensive fieldwork in many areas of Australia and New Guinea.
3 Gorer came to the attention of the anthropological community with
4 Africa Dances (), a book that received some considerable favorable no-
5 tice in the quality press, where it was considered a work of anthropology.
6 Gorer was  years old when the book was published. He had received a
7 degree in English from Cambridge and had no anthropological training at
8 that time. He received a “crash course” in New York City in – from
9 Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, who had read and admired his book
10 (Caffrey :). By the time he completed his first proper field study of
11 the Lepcha of Sikkim (discussed below) he was certainly aware of some of
12 the deficiencies of his earlier work, which was somewhat ethnocentric and
13 filled with applications of half-digested evolutionary theory about fetishism [229], (14)
14 and matriarchy.
15 The book begins with Gorer’s meeting with Féral Benga, a Wolof dancer
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16 at the Folies Bergère in Paris and popular young man about town. Gorer
17 and his new friend traveled for three months in Senegal and other parts of ———
18 French West Africa as well as Ghana (then the British-ruled Gold Coast). 0.0pt PgV
19 The purpose of the trip was to see different forms of African dance and
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20 to recruit some dancers who would form Benga’s ballet troupe. Gorer pos-
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21 sessed an acid wit, a degree of misanthropy, a large measure of ethnocen-
22 trism, and proper moral indignation against French colonial administra-
23 tors, traders, and missionaries. Lebanese traders are portrayed as swindlers [229], (14)
24 who nonetheless make a real contribution to the Senegalese economy. There
25 are quite unsympathetic portraits of two Jews whom Gorer met. According
26 to Gorer, French administrators and their lackeys routinely humiliated and
27 sometimes beat Africans, traders shortchanged them, and missionaries tried
28 to deprive them of much that was valuable in their lives.
29 In Africa Dances Gorer sometimes but by no means always attempts to
30 debunk some of the myths about African sexuality we discussed in chapter
31 , especially those that concerned the dances he came to Africa to see. He
32 acknowledged an erotic element in African dance but noted such an element
33 in European dance as well (Gorer :). Indeed, Gorer’s remarks on
34 African sexuality err on the side of incorporating the rival stereotype of the
35 “undersexed savage” to which we referred in chapter : “Dances which seem
36 to us violently erotic are to the negro the equivalent of the Victorian sitting
37 in the conservatory. Far from being oversexed they are by European and
38 Asiatic standards frigid” (:). In a review of Africa Dances in Man S. F.
39 Nadel took Gorer to task for describing one dance performance as “a mix-

 “” 

1 ture of Breughel and Bedlam, semi erotic, semi ecstatic and quite cuckoo”
2 (:). Gorer acknowledged his own impression of African dance as
3 sexual and chaotic but seems also to have been aware that his perceptions
4 may have been conditioned by his own cultural background.
5 Gorer directs considerable venom at the results of missionary attempts
6 to alter African sexual mores:
The missionaries are changing all that. They have succeeded in making
sex as overwhelmingly important and as filthy in the minds of their
converts as it is in their own. With the obvious result that they either
indulge their natural instincts and lie about it, or become neurotic and
perverted. Anyone in the police department of the English colonies
will tell you that the aggressors in the fairly numerous cases of rape, es- [230], (15
pecially against small girls, are almost inevitably prominent churchgo-
ers. In the Ivory Coast the missionaries put their young male converts
to sleep in dormitories to avoid the occasion of sin, with surprisingly Lines: 102
successful public-school results. They all turned pederasts (so one of ———
the converts told me). (:) 3 0.0pt P
19 Himalayan Village () was Gorer’s study of the Lepcha of Sikkim, then
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20 an independent state in the Himalayas but now part of India. Gorer did
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21 preparatory work among urban Lepcha, but his actual stay among the rural
22 Lepcha was a mere three months. The ethnography, for all that, is quite
23 detailed. Gorer has much to say about the Lepcha marriage system. Most [230], (15
24 significantly, he noted that a form of anticipatory levirate and sororate was
25 prevalent. Both men and women, married and unmarried, had legitimate
26 sexual access to partners they might someday inherit from senior relatives.
27 There was in practice a great deal of sexual freedom despite a strict incest
28 taboo and a belief that illegitimate pregnancy could cause hailstorms. Talk
29 about sex, including bawdy jokes, was frequent in mixed company, although
30 some restrictions applied when certain in-laws were present. Like Mali-
31 nowski on the Trobrianders and Mead on Samoa (and numerous writers
32 on other non-Western societies) Gorer insisted that passionate love was
33 rare among the Lepcha and, where it occurred, was singularly disruptive
34 (:). In general, the Lepcha downplayed differences between individ-
35 uals. It is this lack of stress on individual affect, including jealousy, which, in
36 Gorer’s opinion, made it possible for the Lepcha to have access to numerous
37 sexual partners without arousing an aggression that their society explicitly
38 condemns.
39 Some Lepcha sexual usages described by Gorer may serve to remind rea