SOCIAL ORGANIZATION & SOCIAL SYSTEMS: SOCIETAL REGULATION of SEXUAL RELATIONS in DIFFERENT CULTURAL GROUPS
The objective of this work is to research and relate the different methods used in various societies in order to regulate sexual relations among members of that cultural group.
Throughout the world there are different cultural norms, or otherwise stated there are different activities that are either accepted or shunned within different cultural groups. This is especially true of sexual relations within a culture. Different marriage systems exist within different sectors of society and within different cultures throughout the world. There are several cultural universals stated to be within societies throughout the world which are the universals of: (1) “parental responsibility for long-term infant nurturing and education; (2) social regulation of sexual competition; (3) organization of sexual divisions of labor; (4) assignment of individuals to social groups and statuses; and (5) the formation of inter-group alliances and exchanges.” (Schwimmer, 1998)
I. Basic Regulations of ‘Exogamy’ and ‘Endogamy’ in Cultures/Societies
All societies have rules related to certain incest taboos, or rules of ‘exogamy’. This states a specific range or category of relatives that may not be considered for marriage or sexual partners by those within the society. Rules of ‘endogamy’ within a culture or society relates to marriage restriction not only among kin who are closely related but also rules that specifically channel individuals towards marriage within certain groups. The following diagram illustrates three specific ranges of relationships which are those of:
1) an inner group of close relatives with whom marriage is forbidden;
2) an intermediate range of relatives, associates and allies with whom marriage relations are encouraged and often required; and 3) an outer range of outsiders with whom marriage or other forms of interaction must be avoided.” (Schwimmer, 1998)
Three specific ranges of relationships within Cultural Groups
Source: Schwimmer (1998)
II. Yanomamo Culture
The Yanomamo people reside in the area of Central Brazil and Venezuela and are stated to be:.”..one of the oldest examples of the classic pre-Columbian forest footmen.” (Kittelson & Stafford, nd) These people live in “almost complete seclusion in the Amazon rainforests…[and are] “perhaps the last culture to have come in contact with the modern world.” (Kittelson & Stafford, nd) According to the work of Schwimmer (1998) the social process of the Yanomama is “concerned with the formation of groups and the regulation of intergroup relations through alliance and warfare.”
Groups and group relations are best understood “from the perspective of social distance” and in the case of marriages for this group marriages are “confined paired moieties within a settlement” but there are situations where marriages between different villages does occur with the most common being the need for allies in military for a settlement. The following diagram illustrates the ‘social distance and inter-group relationships among the Yanomamo’.
Social Distance and Inter-group Relationships among the Yanomama
Source: Schwimmer (1998)
III. Sexual Relations among Young People in Developing Countries (WHO Case Study report)
According to the World Health Organization in the report entitled: “Sexual Relations among Young People in Developing Countries: Evidence from WHO Case Studies” in studies that review various sociocultural settings findings are that:
In every setting, sexual activity begins during adolescence among many young people. Much of this activity is risky – contraceptive use is often erratic, and unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions are observed in many settings. Sexual relations may be forced. There are wide gender-based differences in sexual conduct and the ability to negotiate sexual activity and contraceptive use.” (WHO, 2001)
IV. Kinship & Anthropology
The work of Michael E. Fischer entitled: “Representing Anthropological Knowledge: Calculating Kinship: Analyzing and Understanding Cultural Codes” states that:
Kinship is one of the more important, pervasive and complex systems of culture. All human groups have a kinship terminology, a set of terms used to refer to kin. The study of kinship is the greatest common denominator across the different fractions of social anthropology. The first scientific study of kinship was conducted by Lewis Henry Morgan and reported in the work entitled: “Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family” (1870) (Fischer, 2001)
The work entitled: “The Anthropology of Kinship” states that social groups based upon matrifiliation are social groups in which membership is: “recruited through mothers” (Parkin, 2004) with the rationalization being a model of conception that appoints the father little if any role in the conception of a child. Filiation and descent groups are stated to: “…continue to play an important role in determining social behavior today throughout the world.” (Parkin, 2004) Stated as well in the work of Parkin (2004) is the fact that:
some form of sexual regulation, found either in the form of laws or taboos, is universal. One common regulation is a prohibition of sexual intercourse between relatives.” (Parkin, 2004)
However it is noted by Parkin that a variation exists from one society to another and over time as to which relatives are those forbidden to have sex with one another. Major is a major social mechanism within society and various structures within various societies cause a variation in the affects of marriage within that specific society.
The work of Parkin (2004) points out the fact that:
there were at one time a complex set of social norms defining appropriate relationships between African- and European-Americans. A male of European descent was forbidden to marry a female of African descent but sex between the two was permitted. The rules were different for a female of European descent and a male of African descent. Neither marriage nor intercourse was tolerated. In a very different case from northern Australia, it was proper for Tiwi males to marry young girls but no sex was expected to occur at the time of the marriage.” (Parkin, 2004)
Summary & Conclusion
Regulations of sexual relations is known to be existent in every cultural or societal group in some form and is often related to the family members that the individual is forbidden to have sexual relations with. Other reasons for regulation of sexual relations are due to religious beliefs, societal and military alliances, and other conceived morality issue within a cultural group or society. This work has reviewed the factors of ‘exogamy’ and ‘endogamy’ in the cultural group sexual regulations and as well as has stated several different cultural regulations of sexual activity in various cultures throughout the world.
Kittelson, a. And Stafford, a. (nd) Yanomamo. MSU. Online available at http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/southamerica/yonomamo.html
Schwimmer, B. (1998) Intergroup Relations and Social Distance among the Yanomamo. Online available at http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/case_studies/yanomamo/soc_dist.html.
Schwimmer, B. (1998) Marriage Systems. Online available at http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/marriage/intro.html.
Sexual Relations among Young People in Developing Countries (2001) World Health Organization. Online available at http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/publications/RHR_01_8/index.html.
Parkin, Robert J. (2004) the Anthropology of Kinship. Blackwell Anthologies in Social & Cultural Anthropology.
Fischer, Michael D. (nd) Representing Anthropological Knowledge: Calculating Kinship – Analyzing and Understanding Cultural Codes. Online available at http://www.era.anthropology.ac.uk/Kinship/kinIntro.html.
Social Organization & Social Systems: Societal Regulation
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