Book - Sex and internal secretions (1961) 24

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Young WC. Sex and internal secretions. (1961) 3rd Eda. Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore.
Section A Biologic Basis of Sex Cytologic and Genetic Basis of Sex | Role of Hormones in the Differentiation of Sex
Section B The Hypophysis and the Gonadotrophic Hormones in Relation to Reproduction Morphology of the Hypophysis Related to Its Function | Physiology of the Anterior Hypophysis in Relation to Reproduction
The Mammalian Testis | The Accessory Reproductive Glands of Mammals | The Mammalian Ovary | The Mammalian Female Reproductive Cycle and Its Controlling Mechanisms | Action of Estrogen and Progesterone on the Reproductive Tract of Lower Primates | The Mammary Gland and Lactation | Some Problems of the Metabolism and Mechanism of Action of Steroid Sex Hormones | Nutritional Effects on Endocrine Secretions
Section D Biology of Sperm and Ova, Fertilization, Implantation, the Placenta, and Pregnancy Biology of Spermatozoa | Biology of Eggs and Implantation | Histochemistry and Electron Microscopy of the Placenta | Gestation
Section E Physiology of Reproduction in Submammalian Vertebrates Endocrinology of Reproduction in Cold-blooded Vertebrates | Endocrinology of Reproduction in Birds
Section F Hormonal Regulation of Reproductive Behavior The Hormones and Mating Behavior | Gonadal Hormones and Social Behavior in Infrahuman Vertebrates | Gonadal Hormones and Parental Behavior in Birds and Infrahuman Mammals | Sex Hormones and Other Variables in Human Eroticism | The Ontogenesis of Sexual Behavior in Man | Cultural Determinants of Sexual Behavior
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Section F Hormonal Regulation of Reproductive Behavior

Cultural Determinants of Sexual Behavior

Margaret Mead, Ph.D., Associate Curator Of Ethnology, American Museum Of Natural History, New York

I. Introduction

The authors of the preceding chapters on reproductive behavior (Hampson and Harapson, Lehrman, Money, Young) have presented material from which several general conclusions may be deduced. Among the vertebrates as a whole, it is evident that genetic, experiential or psychologic, and physiologic (particularly hormonal) factors |)articipate in the regulation of reproductive l)ehavior. The pattern of behavior displayed by adults is the product of the interaction of these factors from the embryonic period into adulthood, but at no time is the contribution of the several factors equal. During the embryonic and fetal periods genetic factors and fetal morphogenic substances thought to be secreted by the embryonic gonads are believed to be the active agents in the determination and differentiation of all the tissues conccrncfl with soxualitv, in


cluding the neural tissues mediating sexual behavior (Phoenix, Goy, Gerall and Young, 1959 ) . The suggestion that in man the effects of these substances on the tissues mediating sexual behavior may be overridden by the manner of rearing is contained in the chapters by Hampson and Hampson and Money, but it may be equally significant that in at least some lower mammals as well, experiential factors help to mold the patterns of sexual behavior displayed after the attainment of adulthood (Young, 1957). This suggests that phylogenetically the apparent rise of the experiential factor to dominance started early. After birth or shortly after birth in lower mammals (the limits have not yet been determined), gonadal hormones cease to be organizational and become purely activational. The extent to which they are activational in man is still equivocal. Most colleagues assign a minor role, if any, to them and hold to the view that the dominant factor is psychic (see chaj^ter by Money).

If this thumbnail sketch may be further abbreviated, it is apparent that experiential or psychologic factors act at two points, the degree depending on the phylogenetic position of the species. Once an animal is born and becomes subject to them, they modify the character of the soma established during embryonic and fetal development by genie factors and hormones. After the attainment of adulthood, they, rather than the hormones alone, give force to the sexual behavior that is exhibited.

To this concept, anthropologists have much to contribute. This chapter will concern itself with their findings from crosscultural materials/ with an effort to test out the universality of certain forms of sex behavior in the human species, and with suggestions of new areas of research. Cross cultural studies may be classified as : historic studies based entirely on archaeologic and literary evidence, and contemporary studies, in which the data have been collected from living members of the society in question. Among contemporary studies, we may distinguish between studies of preliterate peoples, in which the data have to be collected from nonliterate informants and processed into writing, or through the use of observational technicjues, notes by investigators, tapes, film, etc., and studies of literate societies. The latter (because in most cases literacy and social complexity go hand in hand) are limited, on the one hand, because it is less easy to describe the entire culture, but, on the other, are more appropriate for the use of quantitative methods because of the possibility of using questionnaires, selecting respondents from sociologically defined classes, and subjecting individuals to a large number of physiologic tests, anatomic observations, etc., all of which are difiicult in primitive societies.

The primary materials for this chapter are studies of primitive cultures or, in a few instances, literate cultures which have been studied by anthropologic methods, oral information, and observation. I will draw heavily on my own studies of six primitive groups in the South Pacific, one exotic literate culture (Bali), one American Indian tribe (the Omaha), and on a systematic attention, within an anthropologic frame of reference (Mead, 1949b; Gorer, 1948; Bollard, 1937; Kluckhohn and Kluckhohn, 1948; Warner, 1941-47) for materials on contemporary American cultural behavior.

"One point should be noted. Many, if not most, discussions of sexual behavior, including those in the chnical literature, deal with its physiology and ignore the processes whereby the many varieties of behavior are patterned. The latter is the moiety which, of necessity, has been the particular concern of anthropologists and to which their contribution is so important. "Of necessity," we have added, because nowhere in primitive peoples have there been opportunities for the collection of data bearing "on the physiology" of sexual behavior, i.e., tests of the strength or intensity of sexual desire, gonadectomy, replacement therapy, determination of hormonal levels, etc. Recognition that differences in the strength and duration of sex activity may have a predominantly physiologic basis, in contradistinction to a purely psychologic basis, appears to be given in this chapter by the reference to individual variation in the intensity of libido, and by the references to the "period of endocrine reinforcement of sex drives" (p. 00) and to the "triggering of sex drives into the expected pattern". The path by which animal experimentalists have also arrived at these conclusions, particularly the last conclusion, is traced in the chapter by Young.


II. Methods

The difficulties inherent in the study of sex behavior in any society are generally recognized, but they are complicated by additional factors when primitive peoples are studied, areas of taboo which cannot be breached in any case with safety, refusal of one or both sexes to undergo any form of physical examination, small numbers of cases, the width of the language barrier which has to be overcome, status differences between Caucasian investigator and the aboriginal peoples. From such materials negative statements on such matters as absence of homosexual behavior, or absence of knowledge of the procreative role of the father, can only be accepted with the greatest caution and with very careful analysis of the personality and training of the investigator.

One further general consideration must be advanced about the nature of the data we have on sexual behavior (Bateson, 1947). One characteristic of human sex behavior is the insistence on privacy. This privacy may be of many types; it may be only a demand that others who share the same dwelling may not be able to observe and there may be no objections to nonparticipants hearing what is going on. In certain very rare instances, the only demand for privacy may be that nonparticipants remain at a distance and ignore sex activities. But in most human societies, sex relations are conducted in such a way as to exclude witnesses other than couples or individuals who are engaged in comparable activities. This universal aspect of human sex behavior is variously linked with demands for privacy in connection with other bodily functions, such as eating, excretion, suckling, etc. Crawley (1927) gives an illuminating discussion of the incompatibility of different states of bodily urgency and involvement, either within the same individual or between individuals, so that human beings may be repelled either by the food that is left after hunger is satisfied or by the sight of others eating when they themselves are hungry and debarred from participation in the meal. These human tendencies have serious implications for research in the field of sex. Coupled with demands for privacy there are found in almost every society whole areas of sex behavior which are characterized by gaps in awareness — taboos against naming parts of the body, taboos against verbalizing activities commonly engaged in, taboos against copulation in daylight or in a lighted room, etc. These gaps emphasize the intricacy of the systems of inhibition and expression which make up learned human sex behavior. In most societies, these gaps also provide areas where pornography, the socially disapproved stimulation of objectless erotic desire, can be developed (Mead, 1953).

The presence of unobservable areas of sex activity presents certain barriers to research which are very difficult to overcome. It is even impossible to make objective or systematic observations of those areas of sex activity which are approved of by a society, such as festivals where sexual license turns everyone into a participant and nonparticipation means enacting a role which is socially unacceptable. Those sex activities that can be observed are in some way in the class of the disapproved, i.e., because a disapproved element of voyeurism is included, as when married couples make moving pictures of themselves which will in turn serve as sexual precipitants for further activity. Re-enactment of sex positions both by children among primitive peoples (such as in those examples obtained by Malinowski, 1929) and by prostitutes is likely to contain elements of conscious or unconscious distortion. Drawings and carvings made for l)ornographic ends are equally unreliable as data on actual practice. So the student of sex behavior is thrown back upon verbal reports by individuals of activities in wdiich they participated at some previous time under exciting circumstances that were exceedingly unconducive to rigorous observation and exact recording.

Even when it is possible to set the interviewing stage so that it seems sufficiently outside the culture to render ordinary cultural controls nonoperative, or to interview in a specially privileged communication pattern such as physician-patient, or to involve the cooperation of educated members of western societies who are disciplined in scientific methods and will honestly try to describe such matters as duration of intercourse or interval between intromission and ejaculation, these reports, although of scientific value as data on attitudes toward sex, have a limited value as accounts of exactly what does take place. Once time has elapsed, the type of retrospective falsification that accompanies all reports on matters of emotional interest to the reporter enters in. Studies of such reports on situations about which independent verification has been possible — self-reporting on dietary intake, mothers' reporting on their infants' achievements (Burks, 1928), or womens' records of menstrual rhythms, for example — have demonstrated how extraordinarily unreliable such restrospective reporting can be. If these considerations apply when we are judging the responses to interviews or questionnaires of the positively motivated members of modern western societies who believe the truth is essential if the physician or psychologist is to be able to advise them, the problem becomes much more difficult in dealing with members of non-European, nonliterate societies, many of whom believe that courtesy demands telling a questioner what he wants to hear. All statements about practices among people untrained in the idea that giving factual accounts of some event can be a moral obligation must be taken with additional caution.

These considerations make it possible to lay down some criteria for evaluating statements about sexual practices among any people, and particularly among people to whom factual reporting is unfamiliar. Denials of a practice cannot be regarded as meaningful if that practice is verbally recognized among a given people, even though a strong taboo exists against it. If a people consistently and independently express both amazement and disgust, or amazement and amusement at the mention of some sexual practice for which they have no name and against which they have no taboo, the probability is reasonably high that it is seldom practiced and then only as an individual discovery, not as an institution.

The matter of institutionalization is important; for example kissing (Nyrop, 1898), in the sense that it is known in the modern West, is relatively unknown either as a salutation or as a conventional piece of sexual forcplay in most of the rest of the world. If, however, any use of the lips exists, as in the sign of affection that is so frequent between mother and child in Oceania, in which the mother breathes lightly with parted lips along the surface of the child's forearm, then it may be expected that some mating pairs, on some occasions, will resort to related practices. This generalization has to be qualified by the possibility that whole areas of the body may be so involved in shame that they will be completely avoided, possibly in all mating for generations. A taboo such as the insistence on clothing or darkness (or on a rigorous separation between food ingestion and elimination) carries its own associated negations. On the other hand, all practices that are named and described with acceptance as something that everybody does, or something that young lovers do, may be accepted as practiced. Again, considerable caution is necessary to distinguish between formal, liighly institutionalized statements of what should be done, and what is really done, which is often just as institutionalized in practice. This is so even when elders of the tribe are ritually required to supervise first intercourse, a fairly wide-spread practice in many parts of the world.

For example, in Samoa, a few girls of the families of highest rank (including the girl who bears the title of tawpou, a titular village princess) were expected to be married in state, as virgins. The official chief orator of the bridegroom's household takes the tokens of virginity before the marriage is consummated, and a white sheet of bark cloth or a fine white mat stained with blood is hung outside the house the day after the wedding. The official version of this ceremony is that the bride who was thus publicly tested and proved not to be a virgin was beaten to death. The actual practice seems to have been that the bride who was not a virgin took pains to confess sufficiently ahead of time so that a proper supply of chicken blood could be provided. If she was ever beaten to death, it was not for not being a virgin, but for not taking precautions against publicly shaming her relatives. The actual behavior is congruent with Samoan culture in a way in which the official proclaimed behavior is not (Mead, 1928, 1960).

Thus even positive statements given in detail by natives who claim to have been observers of or participants in occasions which the ethnographers cannot witness themselves must be viewed with great caution and subjected to the test of congruity with other aspects of the culture. This is especially true of such customs as bride capture, which may be described as a violent abduction of the bride as she screams for help, followed by a pitched battle between the kin of bride and groom, but which is in fact a carefully pre-arranged elopement in which the bride does a little ritual screaming (Bali, Bateson and Mead, 1942). As a field worker in areas where other westerners have lived, I have frequently had situations described to me in which the emotion attributed to the natives (fear, panic, horror, violence) turned out, when I had an opportunity to observe the same ceremony, to have been an emotion felt only by the western observer. The foreign observer may confuse his own and the native response, or, in the case of a bizarre occasion in which he is a participant, for example a postmortem cesarian in an open grave, he may be so horror stricken as to communicate his own feelings to the natives. As an interviewer he may convey by tone of voice expectations or anxieties which will influence the interview, or, through ignorance of the possibility of some nuance of behavior, pattern the response in such a way as to distort it. The respondent may relate events as they are theoretically supposed to have been, like a Victorian woman lamenting the fright she felt on her wedding night; the sexually impotent are notoriously good improvisors of nonexperienced ecstasies. Husbands and wives who have lived in close accord may collaborate in myths about their sexual relationship and repeat identical stories in good faith or, as careful check-ups have shown, two people who have participated in the same sexual event may relate wholly different stories, both of which cannot be accurate descriptions. Where a sexual experience has had a highly negative quality, extreme distortions may occur (Erickson, 1938).

No negative or absolute statements about practice can be made with safety. One can say, "No male member of the tribe questioned showed any recognition of female orgasm, and no word could he found for it; one woman described sex experience in such a way that it suggested that she had herself experienced orgasm, but she had no vocabulary for discussing it" (Arapesh, Mead, 1935). One may not say, "Oral stimulation invariably accompanied coitus among the Trukese" (Ford and Beach, 1951 ( , or "The sexual performance of the mature woman results regularly in complete and satisfactory orgasm" (Ford and Beach, 1951). (Italics mine.)

A skilled investigator can get a reliable account of the known sex behavior to which each individual in the tribe relates his own behavior (either negatively or positively) and can make an estimate of frequency and probably kinds of deviation in terms of the pattern of distribution of other kinds of behavior which it is possible for him to observe. At a generous estimate, there are perhaps two dozen field workers who have both the necessary skills to do work on sex behavior as such and who have done such work. Comparative discussions thus have a choice between treating reports by the skilled and unskilled as comparable — the method chosen by Ford and Beach (1951) and Ford (19451 — and placing the widespread material we can trust (for instance, the explicit formulation of a taboo forbidding intercourse during lactation ) with the few reliable studies which are available. The latter method would be equivalent to discussing nest building, knowing for many species of birds only that they build nests (with no details of the role of each sex, the stage in courtship when the nest was commenced, the conditions which would cause a mated pair to abandon the nest, etc.) and interpreting this sparse knowledge in the light of well described nest-building sequences for a few species. Although it would not be possible to extrapolate directly from the known detailed pattern to a species about which the details were unknown, it would be possible to construct hypotheses about the sorts of behavior one might expect to find in these other nest-building species (the way in which activities of the mating pair might be expected to have been triggered by internal stimuli, related to temperature and rainfall, etc.).

In what follows I shall attempt to provide a bridge between the specificity and detail of the Hampson and Hampson and the Money material and our own by discussing first the light cross cultural materials throw on psychologic sex gender and sex role assignment.^ Intrasocietal studies, such as those which compare the behavior of middle class and lower class members of our own society, or behavior characteristic of various periods of our own history will only be introduced for theoretic purposes, where the cross cultural materials suggest a different interpretation from that which has been placed on them. The discussion will be introduced with a description of the materials, i.e., the selected cultural patterns to which reference is made most frequently.

III. Materials (Selected Cultural Patterns)

An adequate treatment of the sex pattern of any human society, even the classless primitive society of a few hundred individuals, would involve a whole monograph. It

^In attempting to adjust existing cross cultural information on the patterning of sex behavior to the frame of reference provided by the Money and Hampson and Hampson chapters, two limitations must be borne in mind. These authors liave confined themselves to the discussion of sex beliavior as primarily copulatory behavior, with parental behavior subsumed as an aspect of psychologic sex, or learned sex role, and with early childhood experience bearing an acknowledged but unspecified relationship to later sexual functioning. Field workers who have attempted studies of primitive sex behavior have worked in a broader context; puberty rituals and pregnane}', birth and lactation behavior, at the least, have been specifically included within the studj' of sex behavior, and in most recent work the specific functions of types of child -rearing have also been included.

The second difficulty is that nowhere in primitive studies do we have determination of chromosomal, gonadal, and hormonal sex, or of somatotype constitutions of the individuals in the society whose sex behavior has been studied. Reports on transvestites can carry only impressionistic statements of mien and stance. The le\-els of hormonal functioning, the range of anatomic variation, and the specific characteristics of deviants cannot be provided. The single exception to these statements is the collection of somatotypes made on my last expedition among the Manus, in which the impressionistic impression of masculinity among the women is supported by analyses of the somatotypes (Tanner, Heath, Mead, Schwartz and Shargo, to be published; reference in Tanner and Inhelder, Vol. 3.)


must, furthermore, be realized that ^uch information about reproductive and other sexual behavior must always be placed in a setting — size and type of population, technologic level, available food supply, etc. For example, many observers have reported that premarital sex relations are permitted in societies where, when the actual situation has been examined, it was found that there Tnay be only one possible female mate for five unmarried young men, and that the actual practice of premarital love affairs is, in fact, a function of the size of the population (Goodenough, 1949). Age of marriage fluctuates with wars and depressions as do birth-rates; the survival of children and the spacing of children is closely related to the supply of food. It is only possible to indicate the range of subject matter about which it is necessary to have information before any statement can be made, and then to sketch in almost diagrammatically a few types of culture patterns for which this information is available, although it cannot all be given here.

Five illustrations have been selected for the following reasons. They are all based on modern work by field workers having a background of modern psychoanalytic and learning theory as well as training in modern American and British anthropologic methods. Two studies (the Siriono and the Lepchas ) were done by men alone and three (Arapesh, Manus, and Bali) by a husbandand-wife team, with the bulk of the work on child-rearing and sex being done by the wife. Economically, they cover a wide span from a nomadic hunting people, a tradingfishing people, a sedentary people depending on horticulture, to the elaborate cultures of the Lepchas and the Balinese. These latter cultures contrast, however, because in one, the Lepchas, the complexities of Tibetan and Indian culture have been superimposed upon, without penetrating into, the culture of a people whose character structure and attitudes toward personal relations are as simple as those of the Arapesh or the Siriono, whereas among the Balinese the simplest peasants partake of the complexities of the series of imported cultures. Thcmatically, Siriono culture is focused on getting food, and Balinese on plastic elaborations of the human body in the form of ai't and ceremonial. Specifically, as far as sex is concerned, the patterns vary from the ample indulgence provided by the system of potential spouses among Siriono and Lepchas, through the preference for affection and safety over passion displayed by the Arapesh, to the extreme prudery and devaluation of sex of the Manus, to the attenuation of sexual activity into a great variety of activities — art, gambling, trance — among the Balinese.

A. The Mountain Arapesh of New Guinea

The Mountain Arapesh, a primitive people inhabiting the Torricellis Mountains of New Guinea, practice burn-and-slash agriculture, do a limited amount of hunting, depend on trade with other tribes for most of their tools, utensils, and ornaments, and purchase an immunity from physical attack by their more aggressive inland neighbors l)y providing hospitality to plainsmen traveling to and from the beach. Politically, they are organized in clusters of small hamlets within a patrilineal clan structure. Activities arising from intermarriage, rites de passage, gift giving, and so forth, are organized among groups of individuals, these activities being instigated and organized by individuals who have had leadership roles thrust upon them and on whom the others then depend. Conditions of life are hard, food is scarce, the protein intake is very inadequate, and members of the tribe who live under primitive conditions exist well below their potential energy output as compared with those who have had better food and care while working on plantations. They speak a multiple-gender language, make little use of abstractions, and are content to admire and trade for the superior artistic and utilitarian products made by other peoples. Warfare is limited to skirmishes between hamlets or clusters of hamlets in occasional conflicts over the elopement or theft of a woman. Giving and receiving food, help in obtaining food, and protection against sorcery arising from thefts of partly eaten food (and other exuviae) are principal themes throughout the culture.

  • Based on field work done in 1932 (Mead, 1934b, 1935, 1938, 1947b, 19491>, c). The present tense refers to 1932.

From its earliest days, the Arapesh child experiences passive adaptation to the mother's body as it is carried in a string bag against her back or in a sling directly beneath the breast. It receives generous but increasingly unpredictable suckling, as mothers alternate day-long spells of relaxation, when their infants lie in their laps and are suckled almost continuously, with long journeys up and down steep hills carrying heavy loads suspended from their foreheads, when the infants are suspended in a sling beneath their breasts. If there are other lactating women in any small group, they will suckle the child while its mother is away ; after menstrual seclusion is resumed, fathers also take care of young children. Children are carried a great deal and are discouraged from too much activity. For example, creeping is discouraged until a child has several teeth, and children who have learned to carry loads may still be tucked into their mothers' carrying bags when they are tired.

Betrothal occurs w4ien the girl is five or six and the boy in early puberty, so that the girl may move into her future husband's household and he and his father and brothers may "grow" her. If age calculations have l)een faulty and the betrothed children are too close of an age, magic is resorted to in order to check the girl's growth; if this fails, she may be rebetrothed to some older boy in the betrothed's household, because premature sex activity is believed to stunt growth permanently. As feeding the child establishes parental rights to obedience, so feeding his future wife establishes for the bethrothed boy his right to exact obedience and service from his wife in later years. As soon as the first signs of puberty appear, boys and birls become guardians of their own growth, tabooing certain foods. The boys learn to let blood ceremonially from their penises, and following menarche (which is celebrated by a ceremony in which the betrothed pair ceremonially divides a yam, one-half of which the husband keeps until his wife is pregnant) the girls are taught to rub themselves with stinging nettles and to thrust a rolled stinging nettle into the vagina. These practices, believed to promote growth, are painful and seem to act effectively as deterrants of masturbation. During this period of pubertal growth, the antithesis between growth and sex is heavily emphasized ; after the girl has menstruated several times, her young husband may approach her, consummating the marriage privately without ceremony, but watching carefully to see if his hunting or gardening is affected, in which case he must postpone further sex relations longer. A young couple who have begun sex relations must protect their parents from any contact with their sexuality — as in giving them food from a fire by which they have had intercourse — just as their parents once protected them. The preferred sex activity is thus with a younger wife whom one has grown" and who has become almost like a member of the family, whereas seduction by stranger women is feared, because it is believed that they will steal some of a man's semen and use it to sorcerize him and, in any event, are bound to endanger him in every sort of way. Orgasm for women is not recognized, but close questioning indicates that an occasional woman seems to have had some climactic experience.

Male ceremonial, which centers about a cult of supernatural patrons (tamberans) into which adolescent boys are initiated in infrequently lield ceremonies for large groups or in small ceremonies for individuals, is an elaborate pantomine in which the men make the children (who before this have been made of the blood of the women) into their children, feeding them on blood drawn from the arms of the initiating group. In the initiatory enclosure, the initiates are fed, tended, and grown, the men enacting ceremonially the birth sequence, which they speak of as the "women's tamberan."^ Women, in addition to being excluded from these ceremonies for their own protection, must avoid sacred places presided over by serpent deities {niarsalai) ; menstruating women or men who have recently engaged in intercourse anger the marsalai and the yams; anything connected with marsalais endangers the pregnant woman, as also do yams. The entire ritual cycle® stresses a basic dichotomy between sex on the one hand and food and growth on the other.

"See Mead (1949b) for an analysis of these ceremonial elaborations of womb envy in New Guinea cultures.



Intercourse, before a cessation of the menses indicates the beginning of impregnation, is regarded as play, but once a pregnancy is indicated, the married pair has to copulate assiduously to build up the fetus from semen and blood. Once the child is regarded as established (indicated by discoloration of the breasts), intercourse is forbidden to the expectant mother; the father may still have relationships with another wife. There is no recognition of "life" in the fetus, which is believed to sleep peacefully until the moment of birth when it puts its hands by its sides and dives out.

Males are forbidden to witness birth ; the birth must take place over the edge of the village, which is situated on a hilltop, in the "bad place" also reserved for excretion, menstrual huts, and foraging pigs. The mother is attended by the woman who has most recently given birth, recency of experience being regarded as more important than age or skill. Only the mother, who sits during childbirth on a specially prepared bark basin, may touch the child and that with a protective leaf; if she picks up the child with her left hand, it will be lefthanded. The father stays within earshot, and when told the sex of the child he gives the signal to save it or to let it die by saying "Wash it" or "Do not wash it." In the case of female children, especially if there is already a young female child in the household, the decision may be made not to keep the child. This decision is viewed as protective in not putting too great a strain on mother and siblings. Also, girls are less preferred because "they will marry away, while a boy stays with his relatives always." When the afterbirth has been expelled and gathered up to be placed in a tree so that pigs will not eat it, the mother goes up to the village and lies down with the new infant placed at her breast. The next morning, father and mother are installed together in a house on the ground, for the birth contamination is still too great for the mother and child to enter the regular dwelling, which is raised on piles, and the father lies down beside the mother in a modified form of the observance technically called couvade. Ceremonies to ensure the safe growth of the child are performed. The father takes a long peeled rod, brought in by one of his brothers' wives (the official nurses of the child), and calls in some of their older children who are loitering about. He rubs the rod over their strong backs and then rubs it against the infant's back reciting a charm: "I give you vertebrae, one from a pig, one from a snake, one from a human being, one from a tree snake, one from a python, one from a viper, one from a child." He breaks the rod into six small pieces and hangs them in the house so that, should his foot break a twig as he walks about, the infant's back will not be hurt.

" The rituals are analyzed in detail in Mead (1940).



Child begetting is regarded as being just as exhausting for men as for women, in terms of the arduous copulation necessary to accomplish the initial impregnation and the work of feeding children after they are born. Until the child is weaned, the father is expected to sleep beside mother and child and abstain from intercourse with the child's mother and with his other wife or wives also. The child needs the protection of his father's presence to grow, and parents later in life will reproach children, whose behavior they deplore, by emphasizing how long they kept these protective taboos which are mentioned in the same breath with working sago, growing yams, and hunting to provide food for the child's later growth. There is a special ceremony for the reappearance of the menses, which adolescent boys think corresponds to the resumption of intercourse, but the taboo should be kept until the child can walk. Parents whose children are too closely spaced feel guilty before community gossip.

The incest taboo is phrased as "Your own mother, your own sister, your own pigs, your own yams which you have piled up, you may not eat." Those who have been in contact with birth, puberty, sex, or death are in a state from which they must protect themselves by taking great precautions about food. The ideal male personality, like the ideal female personality, is parental, cherishing, intent on growing things- — a young wife, a child, food — unaggressive, reluctant to take the initiative, responsive rather than initiating, a role into which both some males and some females find it difficult to fit. Aggression between males is handled by strong dependent attachments between little boys and older male relatives, whom they help with hunting and gardening, and by a very early retirement from competition of the young adult men who take over the role of looking for wives for younger male relatives with whom they might otherwise have competed. In social organization, in handling the occasional fights, in sex activity, the phrasing is always one of responsiveness, leading because one is asked to lead, helping another to build a house or dig a garden, throwing a spear because one's cousin has been wounded, responding to direct seduction from the strange woman. Attitudes strongly stressed in early childhood prevail through life. Habit patterns of dependency, responsiveness, and low aggression, and a preference for w^arm domestic contacts rather than for violent or passionate ones are developed early in life and are expressed in almost every facet of the culture. This degree of internal consistency can only be obtained in very small societies in a culture area like New Guinea, which has very low levels of political organization, a high amount of continuous trait diffusion, and a dependence for cultural integration on emotional consistency rather than on political forms.

B. The Manus of the Admiralty Islands

The Manus tribe," a grouj:) of about the same size as the Arapesh (about 2500 people ) lived in houses raised on stilts in the salt lagoons off the south coast of the Great Admiralty Island, northeast of New Guinea, and subsisted on fishing and trading. When first observed by Europeans, the Manus, like the Arapesh, had only stone tools, no systen. of writing, and no political forms capable of integrating more than about 200 people for any length of time. As among the Arapesh, trade was conducted in a framework of aflfinal ties within the community, and some manufactured objects were imported from other groups. Where the Arapesh were able to offer hospitality to travelers who would otherwise have been burdened down with food for the journey, the Manus contribution to the economy of some 13,000 iK'oi)le of the Admiralty Islands was a more active one. In their large ocean-going canoes they undertook many voyages, transl)orting the various specialized products of different groups from one island to another, combining fishing, which provided a surplus which they traded for raw products of garden and forest, with a middleman role through which they themselves were well supplied with every variety of tool, utensil, and ornament which the entire archipelago provided.


^411 descriptions as of 1928-29 (Mead, 1930, 1934b, 1949h; Fortune, 1935). Later field work. 1953 (Mead, 1956) not ineluded, but because of the great transformation since 1946 I have used the ])ast tense here.



Where Arapesh family life emphasized warmth and diftuseness of response to all relatives, ]\Ianus life, which also included early betrothal, sharply differentiated among four classes of persons: relatives with whom one was at ease, relatives with with wdiom joking and license were permitted, affinal relatives to whom one owed respect and in some cases complete avoidance of any contact, and sex partners — husband and wife, and captors and war captive prostitutes, both of which were relationships involving disrespect and hostility. Children grew up in a world in which time and space, number and ciuantity, categories and classification were important, speaking a bare and accurate language, learning to climb, swim, handle fire, report accurately on past events, and respond with precision and initiative to the natural world.

From the moment of betrothal, little girls of seven or eight or sometimes a little older were subjected to rigorous supervision, wrapping themselves in raincapes to hide their faces from their betrothed or their future male relatives-in-law, giving up the gay excursions with their fisherman fathers, who took them about with them into men's groups until their betrothal shut them off in an avoidance enforced by shame. Boys at a slightly older age were also bound by these same taboos, but where the taboos operated to segregate a girl who had been active and attached to her father, they simply served to keep the boys more away from women's groups and more intensely occupied in their own world, wliich before marriage included one-sex groups only, unless a war-captured prostitute was in the village.^ For the girl, the long, dull, incessantly chaperoned period between betrothal, which ended her childhood, and marriage was broken by one bright event, menarche, which men believetl to be the only time a woman menstruated without having had intercourse. All the girls of the same age stayed with the just-nubile girl for a month, and the house party ended with a ceremonial in which she was blessed by a paternal aunt, so:

May fire be to her hand,

May she kindle forehandodly the fire of

her mother-in-law, In the house of the noble one who receives

the exchange, May she blow the house fire, Providing well for the funeral feast, the

marriage feast, the birth feast, She shall make the fire swiftly, Her eyes shall see clearly by its liglit.

Then the group of girls, dressed in skirts of money which would also be used for bridal costumes and marriage ceremonies, paraded the village, leaving fire and food on the doorstep of the nubile girl's relatives.

The boy's parallel ceremony was individual. At puberty his ears were pierced and he went through a period of ritual seclusion, when an older paternal relative pronounced a charm over him, so:

The mouth turn toward shell money The shell money is not plentiful Let the taro turn the mouth toward it, Toward plentifulness. Toward greatness.

Let it become the making of great economic

transactions. Let him overhaul and outstrip the others.

May he become rich in dog's teetli,

Attaining many

Toward the attainment of much shell money . . .

Thus the attainment of sexual pul)crty became the occasion for stressing the principal value of the society, the industrious pursuit of wealth which was to be used continuously in transactions. The boy's charm goes on:

Let him become rich,

Let him walk within the house, virtuou.sly,

® This practice was forbidden by government in 1928 but was still vividiv remembered.


He must not walk upon the center board

of the house floor. He must call out for an invitation (to enter) He must call out announcing his arrival to

women. That they may stand up to receive him.

Absolute circumspection of sexual behavior at all times from youth to age was demanded of women under all circumstances and of men except where women from another tribe were involved. Sometimes a captured woman was kept as a prostitute. In this case, the men had to take the prostitute, who was regarded as the property of her captor who hired her services to others, with them wherever they went, lest the women of the village kill her.

Each house was presided over by the ghost of the most recently dead male member who prospered the fishing and the trade and protected the health of his household members as long as they practiced impeccable moral behavior (which included even refraining from gossip about sexual matters) and worked with unflagging industry. Illness, which most frequently took the form of malaria, was regarded as a punishment for some moral defection or economic omission, often very slight, which must be confessed and atoned for by more hard work. People were active, nervous, and driving and lived under great tension. Men died before their eldest sons had children; women were as active and tense as men, playing a vigorous role in economic affairs.

The society grouped together its principal preoccupations, sexual morality for its female members and incessant wealth-getting activities. Several years after puberty, depending almost entirely on the financial exigencies of the older men who were financing the marriage exchanges, the young couple were married. The ceremonies were elaborate and were focused on bringing the over-adorned, property-laden bride into the household of her hostile female relativesin-law. The bridegroom, overcome with shame, fied from the scene. Consummation of the marriage was expected to take the form of rape, the hymenal bleeding being regarded as first menstruation, whereas menarche was regarded by the men as a ruptured vein. Women were so carefully schooled in shame that they did not know that the men did not know that they menstruatcd between menarche and marriage. Before a child was born, the married pair were uneasy and uncomfortable. They seldom talked together, they never ate together. The young man felt abased by his position of servitude to his financial backer ; the young wife lived miserably under the eyes of her mother-in-law. Both turned toward their own relatives, from whom they expected affection and support. Often the 3'oung wife ran away. When she became pregnant she might not tell her husband but instead told her own kindred, who prepared the first of the birth exchange feasts and brought it to the door. When her child was born, she was under the care of her brother in either his house or hers, and the husband was banished from the scene for a month or more. When later children were born, the "knee baby" became permanently attached to the father, with whom it stayed. The mother was granted a month's respite, alone with her child, whom she might care for all day. Then, amid bickering and economic calculating, she was returned to her husband. The infant was not taken out of the house until it could hold on to its carrier; from this time on the father began to take the child aw^ay from the mother. He presided officiously over the way his child, the child of his spirits (although biologic paternity was recognized, it w^as not regarded as important), was fed, insisting on the milk itself rather than the suckling. In an ideal marriage, husband and wife were ecjually matched in intelligence, having engaged in common economic enterprises, and had two children, one to sleep with the father, the other with the mother. Early ciiildhood training focused on control and assertiveness; the child was taught to hold on to the back of the adult's neck, even when the adult fell, to climb, swim, and rigorously control its sphincters. Sexual taboos centered about the heterosexual activities of the women; other forms of sex activity, masturbation and one-sex play, were shrouded in shame but were not sinful. In women's gossip, intercourse was described as acutely painful until after the first child was born, and then the most that a woman hoped for was sufficient lubrication so that intercourse would not be too painful.

The Manus had succeeded in building and maintaining a culture with a high standard of living. They were well fed, enjoying the fruits of the toil of all their neighbors ; they disciplined each generation by breaking the mother-child tie early, and they insisted on physical adequacy, but gave little place to the pleasures or the graces of life. Finery was worn at puberty and marriage ceremonies and at ceremonies after birth, but as a daily costume only for mourning. The highest expression of affection was between brother and sister: "She works hard for him, he brings food to her, she weeps for him when he dies." Congruently enough, we found in Manus an early death age for males, frequent enuresis in children, prostitution, and hoboes — men who refused to conform to the exactions of this grim, efficient society.


C. The Siriono of Eastern Bolivia

The Siriono are a very primitive, seminomadic people of Eastern Bolivia, who live a rigorous and deprived life under extreme environmental conditions. They live in bands within wdiich extended families act as the effective economic unit, whereas the band (a group of something less than a hundred people) provides an almost closed social milieu within which young people find mates. Their marriage system is one in which all mother's brothers' daughters and other women in the same classificatory relationship are potential wives. The band, from which small nuclear families or large extended families occasionally wander away for days or weeks, camps together in one large, badly built lean-to constructed around tree trunks. Hammocks are suspended from the trees, and each family has its own space between the hammocks for building a fire. The Siriono are primarily hunters, although they also do considerable food collecting and practice a little supplementary agriculture in temporary camping sites which provide some food, for which they do not have adequate storage arrangements. As the group is almost continuously on the move wandering in search of game, with 4- or 5-day halts, there is little possibility of accumulating food, even though both sexes carry loads of 60 or 70 pounds. Fire is carried from camp to camp, but they have lost the art of fire-making and will undergo extreme hunger rather than eat raw food. Each man hunts for his own family and his extended family, within a pattern of continued importunity from others which leads to many types of avoidance of food-giving, leaving game in the bush, hiding food, eating surreptitiously at night.

"Based on f\rU\ work done in 1940-41 bv Holmberg (1950).



The rhythm of life is determined by the seasons. During the very wet season the group remains stationary and eats little meat, depending for food on the ripening of small garden plots. When wild honey is available it is used for making a mead which is the basis of the 10 or 12 drinking parties a year that provide the only amusement and usually end in a brawl. Life is so organized that men hunt only when they have no meat; as soon as they find meat, they substitute rest in camp for the arduous 15- to 20-mile trek through the insect-ridden, thorn-infested jungle. Although the people wear no clothes, cotton is grown for thread and string, and feathers and animal teeth are used extensively as ornaments. The only weapon is a bow and arrow, the bow being the longest in the world, and the principal tool is a sharpened digging stick. Crude pots are made, one usually sufficing for each family. There is continual in-group quarreling and aggression, but no warfare among the bands, who respect one another's territory and occasionally intermarry, a practice which is discouraged by uxorilocal residence, because a man who marries into another band goes away to live and hunt for his parents-in-law. The religious system consists of an unsystematic set of food taboos (most of which are violated whenever conditions become too rigorous), the separation of age from youth, automatic supernatural penalties for breaking the incest prohibition, which includes all the women in the band except the group of potential spouses, vague fears of the spirits of people who have been evil and difficult during their lives, and a vague hope that the spirits of the good relatives, of whom their preserved skulls are representative, may be somewhat helpful. Political organization is limited to the institution of a single hereditary leader, who should excel the others, who has the right to the center of the house, and who may, if he personally commands respect, be accorded a few other privileges. Property is limited to those things which an individual has made or collected. There is little inheritance, because intimate belongings are destroyed at death.

Hunting is the central economic theme. The camp is moved in relation to hunting grounds; gardens are planted to sustain hunting parties; prestige is based on hunting ability ; a good hunter may have several wives ; meat is valued above any other food ; and a man who is angry works off' his anger by going hunting. The Siriono have a detailed knowledge of the wild life of the forest, including a specialized skill in imitating bird and animal cries, the cry of the young for its mother or a creature for its mate, to bring the quarry within arrow shot. On the hunt they communicate with each other by a sort of codified whistling.

Essentially a forest people, they eke out a living which never fails entirely because of some poorly nutritious foods which are ubiquitous, but they lead a poor, hardworking, miserable life and they are frequently hungry and never sure of the next week's meals. The rain pours through their wretched shelters, thorns scratch and tear at their naked bodies, little children have to walk long distances, and the sick and dying must be abandoned, their bones left for the vultures to pick. Small children very early undergo the cares and pains of life, and even before puberty both boys and girls assume the full burdens of adulthood.

In contrast to their low level of technology and poor provision for food and shelter, sex expression is well provided for. As a man has access both before and after marriage to all of his potential wives, among whom are included his wives' sisters and his brothers' wives, there is little difficulty in finding a sex partner, even though there may occasionally be no appropriate woman for a wife. Children are betrothed early and sex relations begin before marriage. Girls are eligible for sex relations as soon as a special ceremony (which may occur before the actual occurrence of menarche) has been performed. Marriage, the decision of the betrothed pair to set up housekeeping, is marked by no ceremonial whatsoever except the moving of the young husband's hammock from his parents' hammock space to that of his parents-in-law.

Some time later, after the wife has borne a child, both partners are eligible to participate in a ceremony of mutual ritual bloodletting, believed to have a rejuvenative effect. At this ceremony the old blood is let out through a series of punctures made in the flesh of the arms; there is much drinking, old pots are thrown away, ritual food taboos are observed, and hunting is facilitated, it is said, because the animals come near the house to watch the men decked out in feathers and red paint and to hear them sing. This is the only important ceremony in the lives of the Siriono.

During menstruation, women go about the house as usual and can cook, but intercourse is not practiced. Cessation of the menses is recognized as a sign of pregnancy, although swelling of the breasts is believed to be a more reliable sign ; morning sickness is not recognized. The relationship between intercourse and pregnancy is recognized, and in the postbirth ceremonial the potential husbands with whom the mother has had relations are decorated together with the husband who will acknowledge his social paternity by cutting the umbilical cord of the child. During pregnancy, the mother observes a number of food taboos, and the father is more strict in tabooing foods reserved for the aged. Intercourse, continued right up to delivery, is believed to stimulate the growth of the child, which is said from the time of conception to be a miniature replica of an infant. When labor begins, the father goes hunting to discover the name of the child, which is named after his first quarry. The mother gives birth alone, in a hammock beneath which she has placed ashes and soft earth onto which the child can fall. Inmates of the house of all ages, but mostly women, gather about and gossip but give no help. The cutting of the cord awaits the father's return. The mother gathers up blood and afterbirth, bathes the baby, gives it the breast, and sits for some hours on the ground before re-entering the hammock. Both father and mother then observe various ritual taboos for three days. On the day after birth each parent in turn stands wearing a newly woven baby sling and is scarified and painted. On this day the infant's forehead is depilated and its eyebrows are removed, an excruciatingly painful event which will be repeated at intervals all its life. On the second day, the parents are decorated with feathers. The couvade is ended when the family (including other children and co-wives) takes a short ceremonial journey into the forest to gather firewood and on the return trip sprinkles ashes and water on the trail.

Infancy is said to be the only secure, unhungry period through which a Siriono passes. With their inadequate techniques, it is only the breast-fed infant, supported in a sling, small enough to be protected from the forest, which can be given any sort of security or freedom from hunger. No fuss is made about toilet training. Small children are permitted to urinate in the house; not until they are about three do they learn to go outside the house by themselves, and then the mother accompanies them and wipes them until they are five or six. (Adults retire to some distance in the daytime, but excrete just outside the shelter at night, avoiding the frightening, insect-ridden, dangerous forest.)

Darkness draws a dividing line between public and private behavior in other respects as well. Except in the dark of night, intercourse takes place in the forest. People eat at night so as to prevent others from seeing them and so as to avoid the hungry importunities of the group which forms around anyone who has food, composed of the continuously hungry children who beg for tidbits and of the old begging for enough food to sustain a few more days of life. Food is a continual preoccupation. People quarrel over food and dream about food, women are seduced by food and rewarded by presents of food, and wives object to their husbands' amours because they divert food from the family larder. A man leaves the shelter pursued by admonitions to bring back food, and returns successful to be greeted warmly and after eating to enjoy a bath and sex intercourse or, if unsuccessful, to be scolded for his failure.

All close relationships except those of parents toward a young infant are heavily tinged with aggression interspersed with grooming. Mothers groom their children, hunt for ticks, phick out thorns; lovers spend hours together in mutual grooming combined with scratching and pinching, poking fingers into each others' eyes, gluing feathers on each others' hair, and painting each other with red paint. This pattern of aggression runs all through. Children are allowed to strike and abuse their parents; older children poke at the eyes and pinch the genitals of younger children, and this practice is repeated with the dying to ascertain whether they are really dead. In the small boys' play groups, in which they are practicing hunting skills, severe wounds are sometimes dealt each other.

The whole pattern of life is very much what one might expect if a society were constructed by a group of hungry, neglected, undisciplined, just-adolescent children. The alliances which do exist are based on necessity; reciprocity must always be enforced; all members of the group not immediately concerned in an event act as unhelpful, greedy, and jeering spectators. These attitudes are exemplified in the drinking party at which the uninvited cluster about the edges waiting until the participants get so drunk that a drink can be stolen, while the women squat about waiting for the inevitable wounds, meanwhile gloating over the brawling, or in the plight of an unmarried man lost near camp at nightfall for whom no one would venture out. Yet, like the refugee children who have grown up in concentration camps, they are capable of forming alliances, of observing minimal ties of loyalty to sex partner and child, and of protecting and even indulging young children. Considering their desperately depriving environment, their poor technology and low elaboration of life, and their early demands on adolescent children, the rules governing sex behavior are such as to preserve the cohesion of the group and yet allow a large amount of permitted gratification, which Holmberg believes serves as a cushion against the frustration involved in their precarious food situation. Satisfactory and easy sex relations may also account for durability of the ties between parents and children and between siblings, who in adult


hood share spouses with relative lack of conflict. The extremely early access to women may account in part for the lack of responsible effort and the fact that they have fled from neighboring tribes rather than learned from them.

D. The Balinese

Bali is not a primitive society, but a complex traditional culture, with courts and kings, writing, money, and iron tools, the potter's wheel, and animal-drawn plows. Before the conquest of Bali by the Netherlands, a conquest which lasted until Bali became part of Indonesia, the Balinese numbered less than a million people. The economy was based on rice agriculture, and the rice diet was supplemented by fish, vegetables, and a limited amount of meat as garnish. Successive waves of religious influence from Hinduism and Buddhism, economic influence from China, and political conquest by Java had swept over an island with a basically Indonesian population speaking a Malay language. A caste system derivative from India was superimposed on the great bulk of the population who' were regarded as casteless rather than outcast people. The society was highly organized in villages with traditional law, peculiar to each village and centuries old. The court of the rajahs and the religious palace and judicial courts connected with the rajahs exacted various forms of tribute from l^easants who were regarded as related to them, but on the whole each village maintained its own equilibrium within a continuous impersonal contact, organized around large markets, traveling theatrical companies and religious officiants of all types, and intervillage gambling centering around cockfighting. The arts, especially orchestral music, the dance, and the theatre, were highly developed; religious ceremonial involved the construction of thousands of beautiful perishable objects from flour, leaves, and flowers. The people moved with a relaxed, dream-like quality most of the time and filled their hours with almost incessant, unhurried activity of some sort, seldom acknowledging or showing any fatigue. Religious trance was highly developed and appears to provide an alternative form of expression to excellence in one of the arts; individuals or villages specialized in trance or in painting, sculpture, or music. \Mthin an intricate pattern of festival and religious observance, every member of the society was involved in varieties of artistic and ritual experience.


"' Based on fi(>ld work by Grcgoiy Batc.^on, Jano Belo, Colin McPhee, and myself, done prineipally in the 1930's. For a comprehensive bibliography, see Mead (1949b), p. 427 ei seq.


There is so much variation in Bali between village and village and between caste and caste, that it will be possible only to indicate a few widespread emphases and themes. ^^ The Balinese infant is carried all its waking hours by mother, father, child nurse, amused female relative, or neighbor. Secured high on the hip by a cloth sling or supported by an arm which functions like a sling, the child learns to move with a flexible, relaxed rhythm, adjusting to the activities of its carrier, who may be pounding rice, making offerings, or (if the carrier is a child) playing a vigorous running game or having a temper tantrum. Before the child can walk, its hands are manipulated into ritual and dance positions; before it can talk, elaborate courtesy phrases are uttered in its name. It is treated as a delightful animate toy to be teased, provoked into smiles or tears, frightened into a return from any venture far from its protectors by terrible unreal threats. At 7 months the child, although already showing some signs of withdrawal, is a gay little monarch who is spoiled (as are also rajahs and gods) by its attendants, who carry it high where it can see all that goes on, who participates in every audience and who on its own volition leans over to take the full breast of its mother or some other nursing woman, or the dry breast of a young girl, an old grandmother occasionally, or its father.


"I h;i\-p iis-ed the past tonsp for tlios(> practices which were becoming obsolete in 1936-1939 and where changes have occurred, accompanying the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia.


As the child reaches 2 or 3, the constant teasing and stimulation, which is never allowed to come to a real climax because the mother turns away from the child's rage or ardor, is met by increasing unresponsiveness. The latter, accompanied by tempestuous misery at the birth of a new baby, is muted only by the number of times in which sibling rivalry has been theatrically enacted with borrowed babies. As third child from the bottom, the 5- or 6-year old becomes a child nurse, watching a new baby, its own charge, dispossess the younger child who disi)ossessed it. Little girls continue on into puberty as child nurses, combining play and work and slightly antagonistic encounters with the gangs of little boys, who are sent off to the fields, each with a machete and a cow or water buffalo to care for, and who occasionally turn up at ceremonies or theatricals, wild, dirty, and unkempt, until one by one, as puberty sets in, they begin to join the older unmarried youtlis and seek out girls for themselves. Children of both sexes have experienced much genital play from adults; little boys conduct contests in urinating in the middle of the village street. In the theatrical performances, children see child-birth, played by male actors, in which the newborn is killed by witches, but children actually exposed to childbirth go sound asleep out of fear, as do the Balinese in other experiences of strain, such as waiting for a sentence from a court, a decision of a purchaser, etc.

Young adolescents of both sexes are highly sophisticated about sex, knowing the jokes, the innuendo, the gay plots of the theatre in which the prince in the end is tricked and must marry the ugly sister who looks like a mother or a mother-in-law. Love affairs are conducted by exchanges of glances, and both for adolescents and in later amorous encounters, the moment of highest excitement is the first glance, when "they look at each other like two fighting cocks." The strange is more exciting than the familiar. Weddings are punctuated with elaborate jokes about the expected indifference and therefore impotence of the bridegroom.

Among the high c.istes hausp-arranged marriages were occasions of great ceremony ; the bride might be wrapped as a corpse, laid out in an inner room with a group of women around her while she lay for hours as if dead. Once her noble husband, as he cut open the white cloth, gave her a present of land or jewels, as he saw each part cf her body for the first time. The courts were organized elaborately with many wives, the newest and most beautiful just pubescent little girl dancers, and with a variety of homoerotic and substitutive practices. Court and theatre alike provided spectacles of great secondary elaboration of sex. In the villages the young people eluded their elders, who were divided into two groups, the serious and the naughty, vicariously permissive; parents attempted to plan the appropriate marriage, between the children of brothers, so that property was kept in the family; all but the most submissive usually arranged their own marriages, the girls concealing menstruation as long as possible for fear of being married off. Many marriages followed pregnancies, ritualized by postconsummation ceremonies, the most complicated of which might be postponed for years.

After marriage, husband and wife lived lives of graceful avoidance, one attending a feast or ceremony, the other staying at home, one on the farm, one in the village. Eating together is not extensively practiced except at large feasts in which everyone is very embarrassed; the streets of even small villages are filled with vendors' stalls where old and young go for snacks. The people enjoy groups, the crowded streets, the audience at a play, the great crowds at a cremation where ceremonies which take months to prepare, attempt, always in vain, finally to get rid of the earthly body, itself merely a temporary dwelling for a reincarnated spirit. Burial and cremation ceremonies stress the preoccupation with the body, as do trance and the high development of the plastic arts.

Bali may be regarded as a society in which individuals' responses to their own bodies have been highly developed whereas their relationships to others have been muted during childhood, so that the theatrical enactment is preferred to actuality ; both old bachelors and old maids are found, and all sorts of social and religious penalties are directed against the unmarried, the barren, and the parents of girls only. It was a culture in which excessive early sexual preoccupation was met by a series of symbolic forms of expression which seemed adequate enough to preserve most of the population in a balanced contentment, gay, impersonal, artistically creative.

The worst oath was the word leprosy which was terribly feared, particularly because young girls in the first stages were regarded as having particularly beautiful skin ; the worst ceremonial crimes ( for there is no sin in our sense of the word) were zoolagnia, incest ( widely interpreted ) , bearing twins of opposite sex, and sex relations with a woman of higher caste. From such events the community had to be purified by prolonged ceremonial, and the offenders were banished to lands of punishment, with ceremonial and without expressions of anger. The very infrequent crimes were either theft — and a thief caught red-handed was killed at once, after the entire political community was summoned — or murder, usually committed after running amok or without any premeditation at all. An existence of mutual nonresponsiveness, dependence on ritual and calendrical rhythm, was thus occasionally punctuated by sudden unexplained small acts of violence. When the Dutch troops came to take over the southern part of the island, the rajah and his entire court went out to be shot down by the Dutch guns, and when the Dutch soldier's hands paused before the carnage, they turned their krisses against themselves. In groups, where they can sleep in close contact or sit leaning against each other, the Balinese can go great distances from their villages, or even from Bali, but an individual taken away alone becomes frightened and ill. Individuals when tested showed many schizoid elements, yet they functioned as members of their communities, planting their rice fields, painting, carving, acting, officiating, within a view of life in which virgin children and old people are closest to heaven, those of reproductive age farthest away.

E. The Lepchas of Sikkim

  • Based on field work done in 1937 by Geoffrey Gorer (1938). Present tense as of 1937, present conditions unknown.


The Lepchas are a Mongoloid people who once inhabited the greater part of Sikkim and are now limited in any pure form to a few small communities on very rough and precipitous land reserved and governed by officials responsible to the Maharajah. They are exi^loited by Indian money lenders and are increasingly dependent on imported objects such as cloth. From an examination of some historic sources and of the three parallel religions which exist side by side, it is conjectured that the Lepchas once lived isolated lives as hunters and food gatherers with a little primitive agriculture; they were harassed by slave raiders and only settled into larger communities when the area was l)acified. Growing cardamum seed for trade is a recent adjustment to the money lenders who exploit their willingness to replace with imported goods products based on difficult handicrafts.


An external analysis of Lepcha culture would describe it as very complex. Money is used; the lamas (Mahayana Buddhists) learn to read the sacred texts; there is a variety of domestic animals, oxen, goats, pigs, and hens; oxen are used for plowing; houses are built on stone supports and have a somewhat complicated architecture; people wear tailored clothing, in the main similar for both sexes; the customary paraphernalia of peasants in the Far East who live in relation with higher authorities is present, a courtesy language, taxation, centrally deputized power to preserve law and order, and so forth.

Although the activities which would classify the Lepchas as members of a complex culture take up a great deal of time in an endless round of recurrent lamaistic feasts, rites de passage, and hard and continuous agricultural work, on inspection the Lepchas prove to be a very simple people who have preserved the attitudes and behavior patterns appropriate to a much less complicated way of life. Remnants of hunting behavior, with a bow and poisoned arrows, still exist. Two religious cults are practiced parallel to lamaism; the beliefs are often conti'adictory, and where the contrast is too great parallel practices develop; in the conflicting beliefs between a life after death which is a better version of this life and the lamaistic belief in reincarnation, lamas and nuns are treated in one way at death, laymen in another. For both the lamas and the practitioners of the earlier cult, ritual is rigidly in the hands of professionals, leaving the rest of the population free to feast and gossip while ceremonial goes on.

The model on which Lepcha expectations about human relationships are built is the 4-generation household containing some 16 or more members. A man who has slowly attained self-assurance and authority presides over the household, and young men who are themselves diffident and dependent work for it. The young daughters-in-law, who come from outside the community in most cases, are the most put upon and unhappy, and young children are treated kindly but ambivalently as a present expense and burden and a possible dangerous menace in case they die in childhood. Within such a household and within a group of such households, which form a community of houses scattered over the mountainsides and ceremonially focused on a monastery, competition is muted. Young men have sexual access to wives of their elder brothers and of the father's younger brothers, whereas elder brothers have to observe the strictest incest taboo toward their younger brothers' wives, so that within the family the extremes of permission and taboo are present. Marriages are arranged by gobetweens. Childhood, seen as the period when children are learning to work, is followed by a period of sexual freedom except within incest relationships (counted to 9 generations on the father's side and 4 on the mother's) and by an early betrothal for a marriage in which both partners may be unwilling but into which, after 2 or 3 years of difficulty, they are expected to settle down after the first child is born. The birth of the first child results in a name change for the group, the parents and grandparents assuming the name of "the parent of X," "the grandparent of X," and so forth. Cooperative work under the leadership of the housefather, within the household presided over by the housemother, is expected to provide enough materials for a continuously generous diet of food and drink (a beer brewed from rice or millet) , enough for abundant sacrifices to the gods and frequent hearty feasting. At the feasts, enormous amounts of food and drink are consumed, people become loud mouthed and gaily obscene, but quarreling is guarded against.


This model for a hai)py life is seriously interfered with by the very high sterility rate and the uneven death rate, so that families are small rather than large, young boys may be left responsible for 4 or 5 dependent women or children, or old men or women be left with no one to care for them in their old age. The poverty and burden of hard work which accompanies such inequalities, natural disasters, particularly rain and hail, and finally death, to which their response is a series of ceremonies to get rid of the dead as thoroughly as possible, are the principal blemishes on a way of life which otherwise demands little except food, drink, sex, and warm unintense friendliness and tolerant respect from others, all of which the cultural arrangements are adequate to supply.

Sex relations with one's betrothed and with other permitted persons usually begin right after betrothal, around the age of 12. Menstruation is believed to follow intercourse, and intercourse with a l)etrothe(l spouse is believed to settle the marriage down. In response to this belief, young girls sometimes resist consummating the marriage for several years, in spite of scolding, shaming, and bludgeoning from their elders. The Lepchas regard sex as comparable to eating, regrets aging which mean diminished appetites, and report remarkable potency in their sex relationships in which there is little foreplay and no romance beyond the excitement of an accidental encounter. After children are born, adultery — that is, copulation with other than potential spouses, which now include wife's younger sisters, real and classificatory — is forbidden as it might endanger the lives of the children.

The child is believed to be constituted initially of semen and vaginal lubricant (which is regarded as the counterpart of semen) ; blood plays no role except to indicate pregnancy. Intercourse is regarded as beneficial and is continued right up to delivery ( and resumed very shortly afterward). At a later period in gestation, the child is believed to absorb food through a sort of nipple in the womb, and its growth is not believed to deplete the mother. After the fifth month it is believed to be completely formed even to hair, and from then on the parents must observe an elaborate set of taboos, notably precautions connected with various work activities. The sex of the child in the womb can be changed by an exchange arranged with another pregnant woman. For the birth itself, only strong millet beer is prepared. The birth takes place in the outer room of the two-room house, the living room-kitchen, and all members of the family may be present, but no strangers. Any relative may assist the woman by squatting behind her and pressing on her breasts and belly. Anyone who knows how may cut the cord. For 3 days after birth the child is treated as if it were still in the womb. The stillborn and infants who die are immediately reincarnated as devils who attack other children. When it is necessary to wean a recalcitrant older child because a younger sibling is born, the breast is smeared with the excreta of the new infant. The older child is told that the new infant is a devil.

Young children under 3, wearing no other clothing than the shawl in which they are loosely wrapped, are carried on the back. Cliildren under 3 are carried a great deal of the time. Toilet training begins at 3 months when infants are taken out to the balcony, but the disgust level is very low and very little effort is put into actually training them. The children are passive, unrestless. pliant. When a child is somewhere between 3 and 5, the mother gives it a little haversack which is kept continually filled with food and from which the child learns to share food with others. This early generosity is in accord with the whole emphasis of the society on giving, sharing, making presents, giving feasts. Sex play is active and open during childhood, but masturbating after puberty is denied.

From the age of 6 or 7 both boys and girls are expected to share in the work of the household, girls somewhat more than boys, and by puberty they are expected to be able to assume an adult's work burden, although genuine maturity, ability to take responsibility and initiative, lack of diffidence and shyness are not expected vmtil a man is about 30. Women mature somewhat earlier under the greater pressure of adjusting themselves to strangers. Respect is accorded to age and to the representatives of external political authority, but among themselvcis they are extremely egalitarian and even-handed. Shame is the major sanction, and individuals shamed by adverse comment may commit suicide. Talk is the major pleasure, and continual conversation, joking, sexual punning, and story telling take the jilace of art and intellectual activity of any other sort.

A timid, generous, friendly people, the Lepchas have preserved the habits suitable for survival in an earlier environment in a way which ensures their eventual disappearance in a present environment with which they are quite unfitted to compete. They are, however, somewhat protected by the fact that the Maharajah of Sikkim has made the mountainous area of Zongu a Lepcha preserve in which only people of pure Lepcha blood can own land. While this law is enforced, a small group of perhaps 2000 can continue their way of life.

IV. Psychologic Sex Gender and Sex Role Assignment

All known human societies recognize the anatomic and functional differences between males and females in intricate and complex ways; through insistence on small nuances of behavior in posture, stance, gait, through language, ornamentation and dress, division of labor, legal social status, religious role, etc. In all known societies sexual dimorphism is treated as a major differentiating factor of any human being, of the same order as difference in age, the other universal of the same kind. However, where in contemorary America only two approved sex roles are offered to children, in many societies there are more. The commonest sex careers may be classified as:

1. Married female who will bear children and care for her children.

2. Married male who will Iieget and i^rovide for his children.

3. Adult male who will not marry or beget children but who will exercise some l^rescribed social function, involving various forms of celibacy, sexual abstinence, renunciation of procreation, specialized forms of ceremonial sexual license, or exemption from social restrictions placed on other men.

4. Adult female who will neither marry nor bear children and who will have a recognized status in a religious context or in society (nuns, temple prostitutes, spinsters, etc.).

5. Persons whose special, nonprocreative ceremonial role is important, roles in which various forms of transvestism and adoption of the behavior of the opposite sex are expected, so that the external genital morphology is either ignored or denied, e.g., shamans, etc.

6. Adult males who assume female roles, including transvestism, where this adult sexual career is open only to males.

7. Adult females who assume male roles, including transvestism, where this adult sexual career is open only to females.

8. Sexually mutilated persons, where the mutilation may be congenital or socially produced {e.g., eunuchs) and where the sex behavior includes specific expectations of nonmarriage, nonparenthood, relaxation of taboos on ordinary relationships between the sexes, etc. (eunuchs, choir boys, etc.).

9. Prostitution, in which the adult individual maintains herself (or less frequently himself) economically by the exploitation of sex relationships with extramarital partners.

10. Zoolagnia, a social role combined with a sex preference for an animal (shepherd and sheep).

11. Age-determined sex roles, as where homoerotic behavior is expected of adolescents, or withdrawal from all sex relationships expected from older heads of households, etc., or license is expected before marriage and fidelity afterward, or chastity before marriage and indulgence after marriage, or where widows are expected neither to remarry nor to engage in any further sex relationships.

Any or all of these adult roles may occur in the same society, and the possibility of a child's choosing or being thrust into any of these roles will also be present wherever the role is widely recognized, whether or not the recognition is positively or negatively weighted. Preparation for a life of celibacy and religious devotion begins early in those societies where the monastic life is a common choice ; among those American Indians who recognized the berdache, or transvestite male, as a likely career, male children were watched and tested from an early age — were they going to be braves" or "live like women"? Once the choice was made, elaborate prescriptions of correct social behavior were available. But among a people where there is no recognition of any other possibility than 1, 2, and 11, the same sorts of indicators of possible cross sex identification which, among the Plains Indians would assure a boy's being classified and reared as a transvestite, will go unnoticed and uninstitutionalized. The fuller the social repertoire the more possible it is to carry a knowledge of the role in the absence of any person to fill it.

So, I witnessed a case in an American Indian tribe of a single young man who had been classified by the women as a berdache. At the time when his bodily candidacy was remarked, there was no living berdache in the tribe, but the women began watching this boy and once undressed him to see if he, whose behavior appeared to them as feminine, "really was a male." Having satisfied themselves as to his external sex morphology, they then pronounced him to be a berdache. He wore male exterior clothing but female underwear, was unmarried and was the butt of a good deal of teasing. His attempts to persuade the tribal prostitute to have sex relations were rebuffed with contempt. During our stay in the field, we were visited by a male friend who had been living an avowed homoerotic life in Japan, who was not transvestite but wdio had a complete repertoire of homosexual postures. Within an hour of his arrival, the single berdache in the tribe turned up and tried to make contact with him.

The American Indians provide our best material on the assignment of the various transvestite roles — male dressed as female among the Plains Indians, complex arrangements including two men living as a pseudomarried pair among the Mohave (Devereux, 1937) , a male role in which a man becomes a totally self-sufficient "household" capable of both male and female activities among the Navajo (Hill, 1935) and some Sioux (Mirsky, 1937). The best material on transvestism by both sexes as a function of specialized religious activity comes from Siberia (Czaplicka, 1914), although transvestite priests were also known in the Pueblos (Benedict, 1934).


The possibilities of a role may also be carried by a series of negative sanctions, in which the cultural expectation is that no one will become a spinster, a bachelor, a hermit, a transvestite, etc. Here the cultural teaching becomes not, "If you are so afraid of fighting, you will have to be a transvestite," but a flat imperative to all males, "Don't ever under any circumstances put yourself in a situation for anal attack by a male."

Among the latmul of New Guinea (Bateson, 1958; jVIead, 1949b), there were many words for sodomy used continually and indiscriminately by both males and females, but when little boys attempted to act out the indicated behavior, older children or adults immediately intervened, and the little boys were made to fight instead. The slightest successful attack on the exposed anus of any adult male would result in a riot in the men's house. Among the latmul, there then developed a possibility of both active and passive homosexual behavior, which, however, was not allowed to be acted out within the tribe. With the passive possibility heavily tabooed and the active given no expression, when the latmul young men were recruited for work on plantations they became notorious for their homosexual advances to young men of other tribes, including people like the Arapesh, among whom the possibility of homosexuality was unrecognized rather than tabooed, but whose learned passivity and receptivity made them appropriate partners.

The cues used in different societies in the assignment of any of these roles vary widely. Where bravery is the determining point, as among Plains Indians, a timid male child might be assigned a transvestite role, to which he would then adjust by identifying, not with either warriors or women, but with other transvestites. Preference for feminine occupation may provide a basis for role assignment or, on the other hand, carry no accompanying pressures except a mild amount of amusement (Samoa, Mead, 1928). Where men and w^omen are differentiated in areas involving possibilities of softness and harshness in clothing, tactile sensitivity in a male child may be the first cue which leads his parents, his peers, or himself to assign him to a feminine role. Where religious behavior provides the cues, "purity" in the face of a child of either sex may suggest the role of priest or nun rather than of a married adult. In those societies in which religious functions are marked by ecstatic trance behavior and transvestism for both sexes, early occurrence of states of catalepsy, disassociation, or hallucinatory experiences may trigger the sex role assignment.

The familiar situation in our own culture in which a parent, disappointed in the sex of a cliild, may assign the oj^posite role also occurs in other cultures. In Bali, sex-typed division of labor is very clear, but there is no opposition to the occasional man who wishes to weave or the woman who wishes to play a musical instrument. In 1936 there was one girl who cut her hair and fastened her sarong like a boy and played in a men's orchestra, who would have been identified in western, semitransvestite circles as probably homoerotic. But there was also a case of a father who, having 6 daughters and no sons, had formed an orchestra of his daughteis, who played well but conformed in all other respects to a female pattern.

In summary, it may be said that sex role assignment may be far more complex in other cultures than in our own, and it would be a mistake to build too much of a theoretic structure on contemporary American educational efforts to induct every child into an active and exclusively heterosexual role within the bonds of legal, monogamous unions ( see below, page 1474j .

The scattered evidence of the occurrence of individuals with the behavior patterns of the opposite sex in the absence of any patterned recognition of the possibility of a full homosexual role strongly suggests the presence of a rare constitutional factor less explicit than anomalies of the external genital morphology. It seems safe to assume that any behavior which can be institutionalized in a culture and regarded as a recurrent possible human choice has some hereditary base, and that when a society of any size is found in which there are no instances of the behavior, we may then regard such behavior as entirely cultural inventions. In very small tribal groui)s, the absence of terminology or recognition of any of the other roles described here, and the absence at the time of observation of any individuals with inverted behavior has to be treated with caution, as cultural loss in the absence of any individuals to fill a role may be very rapid (cf. the case quoted, above, page 1452, of the assignment of a berdache role when there was no living berdache and warfare within which the role had been meaningful had disappeared). Moreover, the possibility that knowledge of other sex roles may be carried for a long time in vocabulary, ritual, or drama nnist not be overlooked. In Bali in 1936 to 1938 there were young male and female dancers who, accompanied by an orchestra, traveled from village to village and were ceremonially courted by the men of the village, who danced with them. Since that period there has been increasing recognition in Indonesia that male behavior which is transvestite or homoerotic is disapproved in the western societies which supply the models for modernization. The male form of this dance called gandrung was disapproved in 1957. However, there were many cases in which girls were nowdancing in roles which had been exclusively male in 1936.

Comjiarably, among the latmul of the Sepik River (Bateson, 1958), elaborate transvestite ceremonies co-existed with the heavy taboo on any form of male passivity in actual sex relations; men dressed as women, and in ceremonies, a mother's brother, dressed in the bedraggled costume of an old woman, would rub his anus on the shin of his sister's son. Furthermore, the transvestism itself changed emphases; among the villages of Mindimbit, Palimbai, Kankanamun, the emphasis was on males, in their role as mother's brothers, dressing and acting like females, and in Tambunum the emphasis was on father's sisters making themselves splendid in male attire, to honor their brother's sons. Thus in a society in which there were actually very heavy penalties for homoerotic passive behavior, which effectively prevented all forms of active homoeroticism within the tribe, the possibilities of such behavior were carried by vocabulary, continuous watchful awareness, and complex and explicit rituals. Such material draws attention to the need for paying more attention to the fantasies and rituals of disturbed children and adults in our own culture, which l)v their use of traditional mythologic and religious symbols may throw light on the carriers within our very rich literary and folk tradition of the possibilities of behavior which is officially disapproved at the present time. See also Bettelheim's illuminating discussion (Bettelheim, 1954) of spontaneous rituals among disturbed adolescents which compare in detail with ceremonies reported from New Guinea and Australia and provide examples of womb or vulva envy of as great strength as the more familiar and often reported penis envy among girls in western society where the male role is heavily preferred for sociologic reasons (Brown, 1958).

Almost any item of human behavior may become involved in establishing a child's sex role, and similarly those items on which we depend, especially sex gender in third person pronouns and differentiation of names and clothing, may be completely absent. There are many peoples where male and female names are not differentiated and where there is no sex gender in the language. There are peoples where boys and girls are dressed exactly alike, and peoples where perhaps children go without clothing so that the anatomic differences between the sexes are conspicuous from infancy. There are peoples where males are permitted to be naked but girls must be covered, so that among the Manus, when asked to draw a boy and a girl, no genitals were drawn but girls were differentiated from naked boys by fiber aprons. Activity levels may vary, so that girls, boys, and women climb coconut trees, or girls, boys, and men go fishing. Where boys are classed with women until initiation, as in latmul, a strong tendency toward a female posture may be found in pre-adolescent boys and girls. Where girls are classed with men until betrothal, as in Manus (Mead, 1949b), a strong tendency toward male posture and behavior may be found in both boys and girls.

To explain adequately (]Mead, 1935, 1949b) the variety of behavior found, it may well be necessary to invoke all the forms now recognized, including constitutional type, which when culturally institutionalized may mean that a mesomorphic woman, for example, is thought of as masculine, or an endomorphic or ectomorphic male is thought of as feminine. Excessive emphasis on constitutional sex typing in small populations or in groups which recruit their members from outside, like monastic orders, the circus, the theatre, the merchant marine, may result over time in establishing what look like hereditary patterns of similarity or contrast between the men and women in a group, which is partly due to favored breeding or to continuous selection. A disregard of constitutional preference by sex may result in favoring a type with low sex contrast, so in Bali any exaggeration of secondary characteristics of either sex is disliked — pendulous breasts in women, hairiness in men are combined in the evil mien of the witch in the theatre. Balinese are typically ectomorphic, with little muscle development, narrow hips, small breasts in women, and slightly overdeveloped breasts in men.

To the extent that genetically determined constitutional type becomes involved in assignment of sex role and attainment of psychologic sex, the possibilities of varieties of spontaneous inversion of gender choice increase. This is conspicuous in American culture on the very simple variable of height. Tallness is a male characteristic, and small men and large women are likely to be regarded, and to regard themselves, as somehow less male and less female, than is the case with tall men and small women.

Historically there has been an increase in role inversion at periods of high civilization, in cities as opposed to rural areas (Westermarck, 1921). Although there may be as much casual homoerotic behavior l)etween adolescent boys, among sailors or other isolated groups of males or females, among the illiterate and those who share a meager tradition, and this may increase in prison, armies, etc., genuine role inversion, where ideas of love and passion and problems of identity enter in, seems to be characteristic of high levels of civilization. It is possible that much subtler aspects of constitutional sex typing enter in, and complicate a child's identification with the parent of the opposite sex, involving such matters as type of imagery, preferred sensory modalities, types of cognitive function, etc., which are not conspicuous as individual differences among primitive peoples or the lower economic groups in a complex society.


Where "logic" is regarded as male, and "intuition" as female, little girls with a capacity for logical thought may be pushed toward inversion as a pr-eference, for a socially perceived difference between expectations for men and women, or as an identification with a father whose mind corresponds to the cultural stereotype. The same thing may hapi^en to a boy who has a bent for music, in a society in which playing the piano is seen as feminine or in which his mother is the musical member of the family.

V. Intensity and Duration of Sex Activity

Experience with substitution therapy (chapter by Money) has provided many examples of the range of capacity for erotic behavior among castrated men or hysterectomized women. Cross-cultural material also presents examples of wide diversity in the way in which expectations of active erotic performance are institutionalized (Westermarck, 1921). Erotic activity may be seen as necessary or antithetical to the j)erformance of other activities, so harvest or warfare may be preceded by either increased or decreased or entirely forbidden erotic relationships between husbands and wives. This is paralleled by the contrasts among those peoples who believe that fasting and the use of emetics will help a runner in a race, compared with those who regard ^'training" as a matter of nutrition. Sex activity may be classified as the appropriate })reoccui:)ation almost to the exclusion of other interests (Truk, Goodenough, 1949) of people under 30, or as dangerous to the young, to be avoided until full adult stature is attained (Arapesh, Mead, 1935). Heterosexual desire may be regarded as spontaneously engendered and in need of curbing (Manus, Mead, 1930), or as uncertain and flickering and likely to fail altogether when the strangeness of the first encounter has been dispelled (Bali, Bateson and Mead, 1942) . Sex activity may be regarded as more appropriate to certain months of the year, in the winter among some Arctic peoples, or forbidden during special seasons, such as the salmon run among the Yurok Indians (Erikson, 1950). Among the Marind Anim (Wirz, 19221, where adolescents pass through a culturally institutionalized period of homoerotic behavior, the establishment


of heterosexual relationships is seen as so difficult that a ritual sacrifice, in which a copulating youth and maiden are ritually slain, is necessary to establish heterosexual behavior in the other young people of their age grade. Increased intercourse may be regarded as facilitative of gestation; a pair wherein the female is seen to have conceived have to work hard so there will be more deposits of semen essential to "feeding" the child. Or intercourse during pregnancy may be tabooed. Lactation taboos, which may even involve the nonlactating other wife in a ])olygamous marriage, are found in some societies. The most conspicuous imposition of taboo on all heterosexual relationships that has been reported is from the island of Mentawei (Loeb, 1928) where there were periods of ritual abstention sometimes as long as 12 years. Comparable periods of abstention have been reported for Chinese soldiers, or male Chinese abroad in communities without Chinese women, supported by a strong cultural belief that sex is debilitating.

Analysis of the great variety of ways in which men and women are enjoined to copulate, on certain occasions, in certain situations, at certain periods of the life cycle, will reveal how a culture may institutionalize an assumed greater sexual drive or an assumed lesser drive. With the expected range of individual variation, the men and women with greater intensity of libido will find a satisfactory social situation in one culture and a frustrating situation in tiie other. In many primitive cultures individual ability to conform to these rigidly established norms of tabooed or enjoined sex behavior is shared knowledge of the entire group, and although the man whose libido fails to meet them may be publicly identified, there will also be public knowledge that great variation does exist, that X is able to impregnate all three wives the same week, that Y's wives are always fighting among themselves because none of them has been visited for many days. The pressure on the individual of low libido, although public and personal, may still be more bearable than the anxiety experienced by men and women in modern societies where each individual is ignorant of the behavior of others and may classify himself as too high


1456


HORMONAL REGULATION OF BEHAVIOR


or too low in libido against some fanciful and unreal standard, or alternatively be tricked by the publication of statistics on reported erotic behavior to compare himself unrealistically against an average as if it were normative.

Certainly the cross-cultural behavior supports the position that culture can modify, in both directions, behavior the capacity for which is itself highly variable from individual to individual.

However, it is easier for females to conform to demands for more sexual activity than fits their own individual desires, and for men to abstain from sexual activity, than for males to simulate greater erotic feeling than is actually present. Whereas Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard (1953) have pointed out that females cannot simulate the tumescence of peripheral parts of the body, this inability to simulate is far less conspicuous than the males' inability to }H"oduce or to maintain an erection.

VI. Cognitive Rehearsal

In the use of a concept like cognitive rehearsal, or in the statement that parental behavior may be subsumed under the establishment of gender role. Money, Hampson and Hampson, in their chapters in this volume, rely on a shared knowledge of much of the ethnographic material of our own culture, on the ability of the reader to suj)ply concrete materials on child rearing, dress, sports, etc. When, however, material from other cultures is used, it becomes important to spell out in considerable detail the way in which handling and experience during infancy, type of relationship to members of both sexes of different ages, and enjoined relationship to the own body, become involved in the formation of the individual cognitive expectation of certain types of mature sex functioning.

In placing sex behavior within the wider pattern of the total culture, a useful model is the community of all living generations, seen from two points of view (Mead, 1947a, 1949a). From the standpoint of the life cycle, the types of pre-adult behavior which are culturally facilitated may be seen as prefigurative of adult sexual roles, and the types of behavior found in old age after sex activity has ceased may be seen as post


figurative. Thus, both male and female infants learn in infancy something about the mother's breasts which will be part of the adult pattern of foreplay, tabooed foreplay, etc. And (depending on whether the earlier period has been styled as frightening, zestful, pleasant but effortful, mildly rewarding, or more tantalizing than satisfying) old age and cessation of sex activities may be regarded in such different ways as a surcease from unwanted demands, an unbearable deprivation, a well earned rest, the next step in an orderly progression, or something to be compensated for by continued vicarious participation in the ongoing sexual activities of junior members of the community. In this sense, the period following that of adult sex activity may be said to be postfigurative of the reproductive i)eriod. Seen longitudinally, any period is prefigurative of what comes after and postfigurative of what went before. However, this method of conceptualizing stages in the life cycle is applical)le only to the individual life cycle, seen in isolation. Actually the small child is exposed not only to its own responses of sucking, sphincter release and control, locomotion, etc., but to individuals of both sexes and all ages who are reacting to him and to each other in terms of their individual age-sex positions (Erikson, 1959). The child learns from slightly older children's openly expressed disapproval and disgust, as well as from the bitter, gossiping voice of his grandmother, how attitudes toward the body and sex relationships to other persons are patterned within that society. Each age learns from each other age. The child who is learning self-control and ways of meeting the requirements of modesty is constantly reminded by the immodesty and lack of self-control of a younger child. The old observe again every day the activities of maturity from which they are believed to have desisted, which they fervently regret, etc. In this sense, the behavior of any age group may be said to be cofigurative for the members of each other age group. For an understanding of sexual learning, which requires not only the formation, but also the maintenance of habits and attitudes, a systematic knowledge of the whole is necessary. For purposes of this type of discussion, sex will be discussed not as behavior leading


CULTURAL DETERMINANTS OF BEHAVIOR


1457


to orgasm or detumescence or some other index of termination of a genitally localized tension state, but as the entire manifestation during the whole life of those bodily states and acts of initiation and response which contribute to mating and reproduction by phvsicallv mature, child-rearing human beings.

It is also important to take into account the relationship between a cultural pattern and the individual differences among members of the society, whether these individual differences are to be attributed to differences in strength of drive, to differences in constitution (such as size, physical beauty, etc.) which are given social significance in various ways, or to differences in upbringing which may be variously attributed to factors such as birth order, age of parents, class, rank, or accidents such as being orphaned. We may compare here patterns of sex behavior with patterns of linguistic behavior; any natural language, in contrast to various artificial languages and codes, must be of such a nature that it can be used by every individual in a given society (Mead, 1958), except those severely handicapped in hearing or in ability to enunciate or learn. The requirements for the patterning of sex behavior are more complex. The culture must provide for the disciplining of sex behavior so that no behavior at any age, by either sex, disturbs the orderly functioning of the society to a point of social disruption. If males are reared to respond with sexual advances to naked females of any state of maturation, small female children must be disciplined into keeping their clothes on in the presence of males. If the courtship and marriage patterns are such that girls are expected to remain unaware of physiologic indices of sex desire until after first intercourse, then rigorous taboos on the manipulation of female children's genitals by adults, older children, or the female children themselves, must be instituted, (cf. the precaution taken in some Catholic countries to have girls clothed even when bathing). If the system of sex behavior depends on a theory that females do not menstruate except once, at menarche, unless they have had sexual intercourse, then some system (such as a cultivated sense of shame) which will ensure that no


woman ever discusses menstruation with men is necessary to preserve this belief (Manus, Mead, 1930). If individuals from wholly different cultural backgrounds are to mingle in a large city, police protection to prevent rape will be necessary as it would not be in a small homogeneous community in which rape is virtually impossible.

Secondly, if the society is to survive, the culture must provide for the disciplining of female receptivity, either by permitting females no opportunity for unconventional responsiveness or by inculcating standards of modesty and sexual ethics which prevent the majority of females from according sexual access to males to such a degree that they jeopardize the marriage arrangements through which males are persuaded to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. Correspondingly, the culture must channel male activity along socially approved lines, at the same time ensuring types of sexual potency, which will result in the types of reproductivity necessary for that society. ^^ Every human society must deal simultaneously with two problems: the need for reducing reproductivity in particular areas, as among unmarried women or in families larger than the economic arrangements will support, and ensuring or increasing reproductivity in other areas, as among certain classes in the population, etc. Stated in individual terms, females must be reared in such ways that they are receptive enough but not too receptive, men so that they are sexually neither too active nor too disinterested for reproductivity within authorized marriage arrangements. These problems may be met in various ways which then define gender roles and differentiation of gender roles: by balancing short periods of sexual license with long periods of marriage fidelity (Sumner and Keller, 1927),

^^ There seems to be no social mechanism which will ensure that a society will develop along lines that make for survival rather than extinction. Although members of the society may recognize the rate of reproductivity which they need, they may pursue some course which is socially suicidal, as, for example, regarding a land shortage as a shortage of people to work the land and so seek population growth when actually population restriction is indicated, or, as is often done by modern states, linking overpopulation and need for more land to a war economy which demands a higher birthrate.


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by setting aside certain portions of the population for lives of celibacy or prostitution (Parsons, 1913 j, or by permitting different types of sex activity to different ages (for example, requiring chastity from the unmarried girl but allowing a greater degree of freedom to the married woman (France, Metraux and Mead, 1954j, permitting young people to enjoy a great deal of premarital freedom but requiring fidelity after marriage (Dobu, Fortune, 1932), permitting unmarried young males to establish homosexual liaisons followed by periods of heterosexual pairing (Wirz, 1922), etc. Situations which vary to an extreme degree from the biologically expected serve to point uj) the requirements of patterning sex behavior under more usual conditions (c/. communities which have achieved either a temporary or a permanently abnormal sex ratio: the Mormons during the first generation of the sect, with the compensatory institution of polygamy; the Marquesans with their ratio of two males to one female, with tlie balancing institution of j^olyandry or secondary husbands (Linton, 1939) ).

In this connection it is necessary to point out that balance and compensation are only potentialities of human societies. We find societies which practice polygamy and female infanticide, as well as societies with the expected association between female infanticide and polyandry (Mead, 1937). We find societies with other incompatible sets of aspirations. The ^Mountain Arapcsh fears the more actively sexed Plains Arapesh woman, who is likely to be disruptive domestically ; but each small community desires to acquire as many women as possible, and so runaway Plains women are taken in (Mead, 1935) . The American man is reared to value the type of marital sex activity congruent with a high degree of receptivity in a woman who is trained to carry the inhibiting role in premarital contacts between the sexes (Mead, 1949b). This characteristic of American dating behavior in the 1930's and 1940's has now been complicated by the new convention of "going steady" in which Ehrmann (1959) reports a second reversal of courtship pattern among college students. On a date, which is exploratory and exploitive, the young American male initiates as intimate sex behavior as he can, and the


young American female refuses and temporizes; once, however, a steady relationship which is expected to end in marriage occurs, the male tends to discontinue his exploitive behavior and the female, with greater trust in the situation begins initiating greater intimacy, putting a new strain on the young male's ability to control his impulses.

Even sharper discrepancies and reversals may occur. So, in traditional Puerto Rican culture, the ideal male was expected to demonstrate his machismo by seducing many women, and all females were expected to be chaste and faithful leaving only the prostitute as an unsatisfactory testimony to male l)owers of attraction (Bonilla, 1958) .

Societies may develop such an intricate interlocking of practices and restrictions that any disturbance within the system produces extreme disorganization. For example, the Indian system of child marriage correlates with a lack of protection of young unmarried girls from the males of their own joint households, and any delay in the age of child marriage such as may be introduced by Christian practices may endanger the girl who is left unprotected in a home where the Western Christian teacher might feel she is safe. Or a system of sexual ethics may be so linked with the institution of the menstrual segregation tent and a taboo on sex relations during menstruation that the introduction of frame wooden houses and the abandonment of the traditional menstrual segregation may help i)recipitate the collapse of the entire system of tribal sexual ethics (Mead, 1932).

A great number of tlie nonindustrialized peoples of the world outside the high cultures of Europe and Asia and the Europeanized Americas regulate sex relationships by elaborate kinship arrangements in which women in certain categories are the preferred wives of men in certain related categories (Murdock, 1949). The preferred wife may be a mother's brother's daughter, or a daughter of any man belonging to the clan from which one's mother came, or a daughter of any man belonging to the clan from wdiich one's father's mother came, etc. These systems impose demographically unreal expectations on the normal population and may develop in several different direc


CULTURAL DETERMINANTS OF BEHAVIOR


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tions, e.g., more and more remote definitions of an appropriate mother's brother's daughter" may be permitted, other forms of marriage may be permitted to exist side by side (in turn producing new complications.) (latniul, Bateson, 1958), or the system may become completely unworkable, as in the jMundugumor requirement that a man marry his mother's father's mother's father's sister's son's daughter's son's daughter, and that he give his sister in exchange for this man's daughter (Mead, 1935). Among a people with a very low infant survival rate this reciuirement was so impossible to meet that everyone in the community was married incorrectly, witli correlated feelings of shame and delincjuency which contributed to the social breakdown of the society under culture contact conditions.

In most societies, especially in large complex modern nations, conditions are such that a very large number of individuals are l)repared during childhood and early youth for types of adult sex relations which are not those into which they actually enter in later life, thus reproducing on a large scale with great variations in individual cases the types of maladjustment which are found in a limited degree in every human society. The consulting rooms of modern psychiatrists have been so filled with such individuals that the contemporary climate of opinion in the western world has placed great emphasis on sexual maladjustment as a cause of maladjustment in general. But, although the change in scale and the much greater degree of complexity increase the difficulty of so rearing children of both sexes that they will function within the existing family system, all societies face to some degree the sociologic problem of adjusting the marriage system to the sex ratio, the age distribution, etc., of their population. These problems become acute either through a change in the social system (such as the migration of the males in search of work), or a great change in the sex ratio as the result of war, migration, or a sex differential in the death rate.

There is always, also, the parallel problem of maintaining a system of child rearing and a set of relevant and related practices in other fields sucli as the arts, religious


ceremonial, etc., which will ensure that the majority of individuals born into that society will be able to function within it, being sexually active where activity is called for and sexually inactive where such inactivity is expected and prescribed.

The problem of permitting the publication of literature likely to inflame the imagination of adolescent boys in a society which makes no provision for legitimate premarital sex activities is an example of a contemporary situation in which a legalized practice may be out of step with a legal prohibition (Mead, 1953).

In considering the detailed presentation which is to follow, it will be useful to keep in mind two antithetical tendencies which human beings display, the tendency toward specificity of responses so that a sex response is only possible under the most highly specialized and idiosyncratic conditions and the tendency toward generalization in which the capacity to respond sexually may be extended to every member of the opposite sex within a very wide age range, or may include both sexes and even animals. Thus zoolagnia may exclude all sexual response to human beings and even to other than the chosen type of animal and so represent a specialization, or it may be one item in a very large range of sexually interchangeable objects of sex desire. At the level of sexual practice, specialization leads to those idiosyncratic demands for rituals which are stimulating only for the actor and not for the partner. It is reported that brothels in large cities sometimes cater to these desires, which are so individual as to be unresolvable in ordinary heterosexual partnerships. At the level of sexual choice, the same capacity for specialization displays itself in the phenomenon which is described in English as "falling in love," a type of behavior which occurs to a limited degree in all societies: the obsessive concentration on one individual whether or not he or she is sociologically appropriate as a mate. Where a whole culture assumes such concentration on single individuals, it becomes necessary to generalize the mechanism involved. In England, a very large proportion of working-class men marry (believing they have fallen in love with her) the first girl thev ever coui't (Oorer, 1955) ; by another


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process of generalization, American youths are able to fall in love with a whole series of personally diverse but socially practicable tentative partners before a final selection is made (Mead, 1949b). The Lepchas of Sikkim assume that one will become permanently attached to a spouse if one sleeps with that spouse; young girls, married without any opportunity to exercise selection, may refuse to consununate a marriage for several years (Gorer, 1938).

Thus, in examining in different societies either the whole set of cognitive rehearsals within which individuals function and mature or the range of diverse behaviors around some particular period or stage (such as weaning or first intercourse), it is necessary to keep in mind the changes in cortical control and endociine functioning through which each individual passes and the extent to which an experience, in infancy or childhood, at first intercourse, or childbirth, is an appropriate prefiguration of some later activity or a fulfillment of some earlier learning or expectation. Throughout, we shall be dealing with the question of fit; whether the period at which first sex activity is socially permitted does or does not coincide with periods of endocrine reinforcement of sex drive, and what supplementary cultural practices there are to mediate these various degrees and types of exact or contrapuntal fit.

It is essential to bear in mind also that man is a domestic animal, displaying the characteristics of domestic animals. Man also shows a conspicuous absence of "races" with reproductive isolation and a corresponding lack of inherent or specifically imprinted species recognition patterns (Hartley, 1950). The cultural patterning of human behavior functions very much like inherent species recognition patterns, in that human beings learn that certain individuals are suitable mates and that others are to be rejected in terms of incest taboos or along caste, class, or other lines of social categorization. Small learned details of behavior, the way a spoon is held, the posture of the body, an accent, may be sufficient to warn a male and a female away from each other or to establish a situation in which a temporary or permanent sexual union is possible. Aristocracies, isolated


peasant groups, and primitive peoples often display a highly ritualized type of behavior, reminiscent in precision and style of the courtship and mating behavior of wild birds (Lorenz, 1950; Tanner and Inhelder, 1953), whereas the behavior of mixed, newly urbanized populations shows the lack of fine discriminations and the tendency toward promiscuous search and response which has been described in folk language as "barnyard morals."

Konrad Lorenz 's recent detailed small group studies of Greylag geese have revealed a series of anomalies not unlike what is found in highly degenerate rural communities or extreme slum conditions (Lorenz, 1959). When geese are reared in a constricted territory, all treat each other as nest mates, the responses which nest mates give each other are perpetuated into adulthood and the warning behavior which a strange male gives to another male, which indicates his maleness, is absent. Under these conditions homosexual male pairs are formed, in which the superiority of the male triumph ceremony, which occurs between mates and between nest mates, proves a greater attraction than the weaker female display. Also a male may mate with two females whom he cannot tell apart unless they are both together, and the females, inhibited in any display of appropriate aggression, cannot chase each other away.

These analogues between the malfunctioning of highly patterned inherited behavior, under conditions of crowding, and the breakdown of highly sanctioned human learned behavior are exceedingly revealing.

VII. Range of Patterning

We may first consider those aspects of human sex behavior which may be said to be based directly on the biologic nature of Homo sapiens. As all living peoples belong to a single species, a single recitation of the biologically given framework within which the most primitive and the most civilized operate is sufficient. At the present stage of research, there is no indication that any people on the earth today have an innate equipment superior or inferior to that of any other people, in ways which have implications for social learning.

In considering the sex behavior of Homo


CULTURAL DETERMINANTS OF BEHAVIOR


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sapiens, then, we may regard all living peoples, however primitive their civilizations, as one group, with allowance for the very minor influence of such physical differences among peoples as the degree of pendulousness of women's breasts, or the amount of male body hair. Whatever the culture. Homo sapiens is characterized by a very long period of infancy and by the extreme helplessness of the young at birth. Unlike the primates, a human infant is not able to attach himself to the mother and, unlike the other higher mammals, is not able to move about or to seek food for himself. This long period of dependence includes reliance on the parent for warmth, among those peoples whose knowledge of fire has enabled them to live in cold climates, and for shelter, where artificial shelter is a condition of life.

The prolonged period of dependence on the mother or mother surrogate for food, drink, locomotion, and protection has very definite implications for human development. Early Freudian theory emphasized a series of growth stages which are characterized by the zones, oral, anal, genital, which are at the center of the child's developing libido. Freud's early theory has been elaborated in a form suitable for cross-cultural use by Erikson (1950), who has delineated the stages in a child's growth on a diagram in which zones and modes appropriate to zones can be systematically handled. The designation of the mode, e.g., that of incorporation, or retention, makes it possible to include other sensory modalities in the discussion, in addition to the classical oral, anal, and genital ones, listening is incorporative, grasping is associated with the second oral stage of active incorporation, etc. This systematic treatment can be combined with Gesell-Ilg type of analysis by chronologic age into a scheme which makes it possible to compare culturally expected development, for males and females, in different cultures which select different developmental stages for emphasis (Mead, 1948).

Recent studies of institutionalized children whose physical needs were adequately met but who received no individualized human "mothering" suggest that the human organism needs such individualized care not only for survival but also for development of its a))ilities to learn to speak and to relate


itself to other people (Bowlby, 1951). The studies also suggest that during these periods there are stages or phases, critical periods in which deprivation has more drastic effects than at others. There is strongly suggestive evidence that during the stages of actual physical dependency which precede walking, the two stages of dependent lactation, certain types of learning occur, more like "imprinting" (in birds) than "conditioning," which have important consequences in the subsequent functioning of the individual as a human being (Tanner and Inhelder, 1953; see Hampson and Hampson, also). Until recent times, this dependency included breast feeding, and the only alternative to nursing by the real mother was nursing by another lactating woman.

The point in evolution at which the father was willing to take over the care of the second child (the "knee baby") when the mother became pregnant or after the birth of the younger infant is not known. In the primate societies for which we have any record, the males show protective behavior if the young are in danger. Human male care of females with young children has included some provision of food as well as protection in all societies of which we have any record, in contrast with primate societies in which the females and juveniles must fend for themselves (Carpenter. 1934, 1940).

Until the last decade it was possible to ascribe the willingness of the male to participate in his wife's pregnancy, delivery, and lactation care of the child entirely to learned behavior. However, experience during the last decade in the United States, when males have come to combine care of very young infants with increasing enthusiasm in exercising such care, suggests that there may be in human males a hitherto hardly tapped instinctive response to very young infants, which originally functioned only to ensure protection but now functions to ensure active participation. Previously, without invoking any theory of instinctive behavior, it was possible to account for the participation of the father in observation of pregnancy tal)oos, in the delivery, in lactation taboos, in the care of the knee


1462


HORMONAL REGULATION OF BEHAVIOR


baby while the wife was segregated with a new child, as learned behavior.

As long as the infant was dependent upon human milk for nutriment, there was in all societies a biologically given situation which differentiated male infancy from female infancy. The male spent the first prewalking period in the care of a member of the opposite sex, the female in the care of a member of the same sex. The invention of artificial infant feeding is a social interference with this biologically given but not biologically inevitable situation, the conseciuences of which we as yet know little about, because our social institutions still bear the stamp of the earlier condition.

It may then be said that the strongly grounded institution of infants being cared for by women, and during their early months by lactating women, is almost universal. Isolated case histories of children reared in institutions (Bowlby, 1951 ) and the adult responses of males reared by nurses of different racial or ethnic origin (Bollard, 1937) suggest that contact with a protecting female during this period may be crucial in setting up the later adult patterns of sexual preference and initiative.

The second stage of dependent lactation, when the child still has very limited mobility but has teeth capable of inflicting pain on his mother's breast, also provides recurrent situations in which attitudes toward pain and self-restraint, attack, and fear of retaliation can be set up. These, if carried over into the later development of sex behavior, could (in the case of aberrant individuals in a society which disapproves of such behavior) become the basis for sadomasochist perversions equivalent to a reproductive disability (Hutchinson, 1959). Alternatively, a culture may institutionalize the learning of this stage in a permitted repetitive foreplay style, in which scratching and biting are regarded as the appropriate precursors of sexual intercourse between man and wife (Mundugumor, Mead, 1935; Trobriands, Malinowski, 1929).

The prewalking stages, necessarily interpersonal, provide in the relationship between mother and child a prefiguration of adult sex behavior: interpersonal, in the relationship between nipple and mouth; complementary, in a "learning in reverse"


for the male who as an adult will have to substitute an intrusive initiatory act for an introceptive act; a direct learning for the female, whose adult sex response must also be introceptive (Mead, 1949b; Erikson, 1950). With mobility, the child's interest is shifted to control over the physical environment, to a variety of tasks which are noninterpersonal. Eating is no longer a direct physical relationship with another human l)eing, but a relationship between the self and a nutritive object, banana, bone, piece of taro root, which the mother gives. The child also learns control over the giving and withholding of his excretions. This period, itself universal, is utilized differently by different cultures. In some, it is the model of all human relationships: copulation is regarded as a necessary form of excretion of substances which would otherwise l)ile up inside the body (Manus, Mead, 1930; American, Mead, 1949b) ; patterns of sex behavior stress a close identification between reproductive and excretory functions and attendant and appropriate habits of thrift, self-control, withholding, etc., develop.

The third stage of human childhood is the one in which the child's behavior would seem to be leading directly to sexual maturity, if it is compared with the behavior of young primates. This is the age roughly from 4 to 6, when the young male engages in I'ough experimental play with age mates, is actively interested in phallic display and in the assertive intrusive manner and voice which re-inforce phallic display. The female child displays a high degree of sexual selfconsciousness in response to males, especially older males. A significant aspect of this early development is the tremendous discrepancy in size and degree of maturation between the small, sexually conscious male, who is ready to fight for an adult female (usually his mother) , and the adult male whose sexual rights he would invade. If evolution had proceeded in an even line, it might have been expected that human males would be mature by 8 or 9, ready to take on the demands of adult sexuality. Occasionally, in a primitive society, one finds traces of this behavior. Among the cannibalistic, head-hunting Mundugumor (Mead, 1935) , son and father are rivals for the sister


CULTURAL DETERMINANTS OF BEHAVIOR


1463


whom each wishes to exchange for a wife, and a small boy of 7, backed up by his mother, may defy his father if the father attemjits to exchange an older sister whom the little boy has been taught is his property. The spectacle of a child of this size defying a grown man serves to emphasize the weakness of the child whose size renders him wholly unfit for sexual competition with males whose protection and care he needs.

However, this continuous maturation toward sexual adequacy in both boys and girls is interrupted during the long period of childhood. The interruption gives children a chance to grow to a size where a capacity for procreation, rivalry with adult males, and responsibility within society is possible for the young males, and an appropriate size for intercourse, child bearing, and social responsibility is possible for young females. Whether one considers the level of society which could be maintained by children with the degree of social maturation it is possible to attain by the age of 6 or regards this as an artificial consideration, because in such a society learning would have been of a completely different kind, there is still a striking contrast between the level of social maturation possible at 6 and at 18. In some very simple societies, in submerged groups in slums, or in some exploited labor groups, small boys of 6 are virtually capable of doing all (except producing and providing for children) that is socially required of males as herders, fishermen, hunters, casual laborers, etc., although of course they lack the physical strength of adults. And under extreme conditions such as life among criminals or guerrillas or in concentration camps (Freud, 1955), children of this age develop an extraordinary maturity from which they are normally protected in an orderly society.

Again citing the headhunting, cannibalistic Mundugumor, the keen and open rivalry permitted between father and son is interestingly enough acompanied by a willingness to expose young children to the terrors and rigors of life as lone hostages in the villages of enemies who have become temporary allies. The child is expected to learn the language and the defenses of the enemy for later use in warfare.

■Much of the literature on sexual matura


tion in human beings, based as it is on complex urban cultures, stresses the gap between physical puberty and capacity for full social participation as a complication of human maturation and neglects this even more striking sexual precocity which is attained between 4 and 6 years of age. When early sexuality was recognized by Freud, students of sex in modern society developed a theory that the period between the end of early childhood and puberty was characterized by what has been called "latency," a recession of sexual interest and drive (Fries, 1958). During this period, the child's physical energy is consumed in rapid growth culminating in the prepubertal spurt, and his attention is concentrated on the acquisition of physical and social skills that will fit him to function in a human society. The observation that all manifestations of sexuality were heavily inhibited during this period in middle-class European males who had grown up in the last 50 years was generalized to the human race.

Psychoanalysis developed a theory that the psychodynamic mechanism that brings about repressed sexuality during these years of growth is interaction between parents and children over the child's rivalry with the parent of its own sex (the Oedipus conflict). There are sufficient clinical data from western society to suggest that repression is one way of resolving a situation which every human society must face but comparative studies show that it is not the only way (Mead, 1942). Nor does the comparative material lend any support to a theory that proposes a diminished drive during this period as explanatory. The evidence seems to suggest, rather, that unless interfered with by the society, children of both sexes can maintain some sexual interest relatively steadily until the great reinforcement which accompanies the physiologic changes of jniberty. The variations in behavior during this period, whether auto-erotic play is reported to disappear (Arapesh, Mead, 1935), or whether young males are treated as sexual playthings by older women (Kaingang, Henry, 1941), or whether children of the same age engage in experimental sex play together, including such adult activities as copulation, depends on the culture pattern (Trol)riand, Malinowski, 1929).


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One widespread solution of this delay in maturation is the relative isolation of small boys from the age of 6 to puberty from their parents and from female children of their own age. The boys play in gangs, and what sexual play exists will be with a same-sex partner or will take some form of group auto-eroticism and exhibitionism, often with a strong emphasis on horseplay and roughhouse (Manus, Bali, Samoa, Mead, 1949b). The separation of this group from the unattainable adult females, the dangerous adult male rivals, and the unsatisfactory and usually slightly more precocious females of the same age is frequently emphasized by the young males' unkemptness, their refusal to wash or observe social forms of etiquette (Bali, Bateson and Mead, 1942; Mead, 1949b). They form a slightly outlaw society within a society, which, significantly enough, is the very type of society in which very young males are able to function almost like adults (Balint, 1952). Another solution is the insistence that the adult male curb all expression of hostile rivalry toward the son or nephew, as among the Arapesh who move about in small family groups which often contain only one boy of this age (Mead, 1935). Sometimes two methods of control are found together, as in large latmul villages (Mead, 1939b I, where the small boys spend a good deal of time as a play group (away from the older men into whose activities they have not yet been initiated) mimicking social activities which involve sex play with slightly older girls. But also a certain constraint on a father's relationship to his son, particularly his oldest son, is imposed by elaborate etiquette. A father may not, for instance, take drinking water from the river forward of the place in the canoe where his small son is sitting. Among the Mundugumor (Mead, 1935), father and son do not belong to the same kinship "rope," nor does a boy belong to that of his maternal vmcle, and relations between own brothers are stiff and formal. ^^

Human societies, therefore, deal in a variety of ways with this "latency" period in boys: isolation into groups, stylized sex play, relationships to adults which are sat ^'The Mimdgugumor "rope" is a descent line with change of sex in each generation. See above.


isfying but are also designed to prevent competition, introduction of strong controls into the rivalry behavior of adult males or of systems of etiquette which prevent open conflict.

For females, the problem is rather different. The human female is unique among higher mammals in having a hymen (Ford and Beach, 1951 ) , and the hymen itself may be regarded as discouraging complete sex relations with immature males incapable of rupturing it or as making first intercourse for the female sufficiently conspicuous and recognizable so that social regulation is possible. There is the additional complication that the hymen is highly variable. In some females, it is unrecognizable; in many, it can be ruptured by physical exercise of various sorts; in a few, it is so tough that rupture can be accomplished only by a surgical operation. It is possible that this variation may actually have a survival value, the possible presence of a hymen that is thick and painful to rupture acting as a social deterrent on the precocious, at the same time that the relative ease of first intercourse, in most cases, prevents the establishment of too much fear in either sex.

Human societies have institutionalized the hymen in many ways. Some identify the bleeding of menstruation with the bleeding from the rupture of the hymen, so that menstruation is regarded as being due to intercourse (Manus, Mead, 1930; Lepcha, Gorer, 1938) . In societies wiiere sexuality is actively valued, older women may stretch the hymen and distend the labia of little girls, or train little girls to do so. Attempts at preservation of an intact hymen so that the tokens of virginity can be ceremonially taken at marriage or so that officiating relatives can verify the virginity is also widespread (Westermarck, 1921).

The existence of the hymen does, however, give a clue as to the functional value of prolonging the childhood period well beyond puberty, although there is a strong suggestion that a second, and possibly a secondary, control has been introduced in the form of a postpubertal female sterility (summarized in Montagu, 1957). Ability to conceive does not follow directly after the menarche, although many societies permit sex relations to begin, or even insist on marriage, as soon as the first menstruation lias taken place. Where no overt social interference occurs, young people, maturing at different rates, slowly detach themselves from the younger children's groups or from their association with much older people and l)egin to pair off. Given an upbringing in human society in which children are part of families based on sexual ties, the endocrine changes at puberty appear to provide the necessary triggering of individual activity into the expected pattern. Whether the endocrine changes would be sufficient to induce sex activity in human adolescents who had been reared w^ithout relationships to other human beings and without the explicit and articulate patterns of sex relationships which characterize all known societies, we have no way of estimating. In societies without any means of keeping track of age, adolescents may be permitted to set their own pace or may be subjected to initiation ceremonies which flagrantly disregard physiologic puberty; stressing chronologic age groups, as in modern x\merica, introduces an artificial standardization of behavior, grouping together the mature and the immature in expected social rituals such as dancing and dating (Mead, 1959). The imposition of such artificial patterns of social readiness and postponement may be presumed to be one of the factors making adult sex functioning a less uniform and reliable matter in the upper classes of complex societies.

In addition to extreme dependency and a prolongation of maturation in human beings, the disappearance of cycles of sexual readiness is a distinguishing aspect of human sexuality. Not only is there no rutting season and no period of heat, but the male is capable of sex relations at any time and the female is inversely receptive, displaying ( at least according to existing data from our own society, collated by Ford and Beach, 1951) the least desire at the time of ovulation and the greatest desire at the time of menstruation (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, 1953). These specialized human sex responses favor the establishment of family life. Until marriage the male is dependent on the willingness of the female to yield to his advances, so he may be refused at those periods when ^he is unreceptive. (This situation, together with the probable period of adolescent sterility following menarche, ]:)robably partly accounts for the low rate of illegitimacy in societies which permit a period of premarital freedom.) However, once the female has set up housekeeping with a male on whom she depends for food and whom she wishes to attach permanently to the care of her dependent children, then yielding to his advances in the absence of any positive inclination on her part is the logical outcome. As the human male is capable of penetration in the absence of any physiologic receptivity on the part of the female, her compliance involves no physiologic underwriting whatsoever, other than the absence of a vaginal spasm. There is no evidence that sexual pleasure on the part of the female is a necessary or even contributory factor in concejition (Ford and Beach, 1951).

A further distinctive characteristic of human sexuality is the capacity of some human females to attain orgasmic sexual pleasure, a manifestation which is absent, as far as observation can tell, among most other species. Elkan (1948, 1950) made an extensive survey of the literature on the subject and advanced the view that the capacity for female orgasm is unnecessary in any species in which the male has a mechanism for maintaining the female in a copulatory position until ejaculation is attained. In the case of human beings, the arms serve this purpose. Elkan also believes that the capacity for orgasm in females is a late evolutionary development, present only in some females. Ford and Beach (1951) suggested that the face-to-face position for sex intercourse, the most widespread position among human beings but an exceedingly aberrant one for primates, may be further responsible for a type of clitoral stimulation leading to female orgasm. Additional factors may be the projection on the female by the male of a demand that her feeling match his and the social invention of a large number of techniques for involving the more diffuse eroticism characteristic of the female. Some human societies regard the female climax as essential to the satisfactoriness of the sexual act; in others (Arapesh, Manus, Mead, 1939a, 1949b), female orgasm is unrecognized as a possibility.


Great stress may be laid on the maintenance of intromission without ejaculation for a very long period, with an attendant emphasis on erotic pleasure for the female rather than on climax, as in highly sophisticated Indian practice. All of the existing evidence suggests that female orgasm is not biologically given, but that it may occur under certain conditions, the most essential of which is the belief that orgasm is possible and desirable. There is a certain amount of evidence suggesting very great variability in the female sex in regard to this capacity, so it may be that societies will disallow the possibility of orgasmic response for all women, stylize vigorous response as appropriate for the prostitute but not for the respectable woman, or insist upon response from all women as a sign of affection or assent to male sex activity ( Elkan, 1948, 1950. See also Kinsey, Pomeroy, INIartin and Gebhard, 1953, Ch. 14).

Human cultures vary tremendously in the type of situation through which sex activity is initiated (Ford and Beach, 1951). Foreplay may be completely absent, opportunity being sufficient stimulus; the sight of the woman's bare genitals may be all the stimuhis needed, or there may be quite elaborate rituals to arouse the male. Initiation of sex activity may come from either sex, as among the latmul and Tchambuli, where the male is reared to respond very quickly to female taunts of lack of virility. On the other hand, complete passivity in the female may be demanded, and a passive, nonvirginal female may be so stimulating that if she wanders from her chaperones she may be punished by group rape if a group of men happens to encounter her (Mead, 1932). Preoccupation may center on arousing the female, in cultures where female sex enjoyment is valued. Or the prelude to sex activity may be symmetrical: "He holds her breasts, she holds his cheeks" (Arapesh, Mead, 1935). Similarly, the display elements in courtship and foreplay may all be masculine (headdresses, tattooing, scarification, and elaborate clothing being worn by the male) or all feminine; young people oif courtship age of both sexes may adorn themselves, or all display of any sort may be forbidden. Bodily preoccupation seems to be more common at iniberty than at any other age, and possibly there may be a specifically sexual basis for this greater interest at this stage ; however, it may be due to the greater self-consciousness engendered by bodily changes as much as to a desire to attract the opposite sex. At any rate, the impulses toward display are very heavily overlaid with cultural learning.

The phenomena of puberty are recognized in all cultures, but their significance is variously interpreted. Although menstruation may be interpreted as the result of intercourse, it may be seen as a form of excretion of "bad blood" (Arapesh, Mead, 1935; Wogeo, Hogbin, 1935). In some cases, this interpretation will be extended to male behavior, and males, having no "natural" way of getting rid of bad blood, will ritually cut their penises to let the bad blood out (Bettelheim, 1954) . Menstrual pain may be recognized or may be assimilated to the discomforts of segregation in a badly built hut, etc. In my Samoan sample of 30 girls (Mead, 1928, Table 1) 6 of 30 reported menstruating semimonthly, which is probably a very rare cultural recognition of staining at ovulation and mittelschmerz. There were no respondents reporting that tliey menstruated semimonthly among those who reported no dysmenorrhea. ]\Iale puberty signs may be institutionalized as signals for putting on clothes or for initiation, or they may be ignored in favor of social status defined by age grading. The phenomenon of wet dreams is one on which there is very little information in the literature, possibly because of the widespread practice of masturbation and frequency of premarital sexuality. (In a society like the Manus, where premarital intercourse was forbidden except with prostitutes captured from another people, prudery prevents good information on such matters.) The change in the form of a girl's breasts is frequently, but not necessarily, ascribed to the beginning of copulation.

Conception may be regarded as occurring entirely independently of the male, except as he "opens the road," so that the actual children are "spirits" who enter the mother (Australia, Montagu, 1938; Trobriand, Malinowski, 1929), or less commonly the mother may be regarded as merely giving the egg laid by the father shelter during gestation (Rossel, Armstrong, 1928). The child may be thought of as the product of a heaven-sent soul and earth introduced by an angel at the time of intercourse (Palestine Arabs, Granqvist, 1947) , or it may be variously compounded of semen and vaginal fluid (latmul, IVIcad, 1935), or semen and blood. The semen may be seen as an irritant (Bali, Mead, 1939b) or as food for tlie fetus (Arapesh, Mead, 1935). The child may inherit entirely from its mother or different parts of itself from each parent — spirit from its father, flesh from its mother (Ashanti, Rattray, 1923), bone from its father, blood from its mother (Arapesh, Mead, 1935) — or the tie to the mother may depend entirely on the postdelivery tie established by breast feeding (Palestine Arabs, Granqvist, 1947). The regulation of sex activities during gestation has an equal variety; intercourse may be thought necessary for some weeks to build up the child (Arapesh, Mead, 1935), repeated intercourse may be believed to produce twins (Mundugumor, Mead, 1935), or all intercourse may be forbidden with the pregnant woman (latmul, Mead, 1935). A woman normally permitted to have sex relations with her husband's brothers may be confined to intercourse with her husband during pregnancy (Baganda, Roscoe, 1911). Recognition of "life" may be highly institutionalized, or there may be no recognition that the fetus moves at all before birth (Arapesh, Mead, 1935). Pregnancy cravings are very widely recognized. Morning sickness may be conventionalized as occurring only for the first 3 months, only for the first child, or as an unusual event which happens to only a few women. However it is viewed, although most women will conform to expectancy, a few women do not, thus providing some evidence for the physiologic basis for this response to pregnancy in some women.

Childbirth itself is so overlaid with ritual and social usage that no biologically given detail can be extricated from the mass of complex, often nonfunctional, behavior (Ford, 1945). The mother may be required to do everything herself, no hand but hers permitted to touch the newborn. Midwives with great experience may be allowed to give manual assistance or may be limited to magical practices. The father may be required to be present and to support his wife, or he may be forbidden to see her for weeks; he may be put to bed with her, or in her place. The infant may be put immediately to the mother's breast, or may be fed by a wet nurse or starved until all trace of colostrum has disappeared from the mother's milk. It may be smeared with clay or butter or oil, and its nose and eyes cleaned by the mouth or hand of the officiant midwife or with some material. The cord may be cut close or far, tied or left hanging; it may be expected to fall off (according to the sacred number of the particular tribe) on the fourth day or the fifth. The infant may be carried close in the mother's arms, or in a tray, bag, basket, cradle board, sling, swing, etc. Wherever we find human beings, at no matter how simple a level, all these matters have already been highly stylized and no simple biologically given pattern is discernible. Pain in childbirth is stressed and expected by some peoples, minimized by others. Legends in which men find women who hitherto have lived without men and teach the women the correct methods of childbirth are widespread. (A modern version of this plot detail is found in the "discovery" of natural childbirth in recent years by British physicians who are now indoctrinating women against the incorrect use of anesthetics (Read, 1953) .)

Every society deals with the problem of maintaining marriages; very few insist on monogamy for life after a single choice, as has been the custom in Europe for so many centuries. Premarital experimentation and divorce, permitted if there are no children, are both widespread, and there are many extensions of sexual access: brothers of husband, sisters of wife, members of an age grade, etc. In general, monogamy is the most persistent form of marriage : polygamy is usually patterned as a series of marriages so that a man must build a house or work a garden or construct a canoe for each wife as if she were a single wife. Polyandry is very rare and seems less adapted to the adequate care and production of children than polygamy, in which the wife with a young baby is often relieved of other conjugal and household duties by her co-wife.

The nature of the span of female reproductivity, l)eginning after menarche and ending at menopause with the possibility of many years of postmenopausal life, is again distinctively human; at least no instances have been reported for any primate species. Many societies recognize the postmenopausal period by giving old women the license of men, permitting them to hold male office or to use language and to make jokes which would be regarded as improper for women of child-bearing age. In some societies menopausal hemorrhages are recognized. The Samoans recognize menopausal psychic instability, but they could have learned of it from Europeans, since it was reported 100 years after the beginning of European contact. Diminution or augmentation of sex pleasure is variously expected. Occasionally, sexual pleasure is regarded as even greater for those past the child-bearing period (Jemez, Harper, n.d.) ; European culture has tended to equate the menopause with loss of capacity for sexual pleasure.

Menstruation may be an occasion for avoiding all sexual contact or an occasion for increased activity. The fear of menstruation as a period of supernatural danger to a man's capacity to hunt or fish or make war is widespread; sometimes, however, these powers are reversed, and only the blood of a menstruating woman can effect a cure of some dread disease. Taboos that keep women away from food preparation or require that they feed themselves with special precautions (Ford and Beach, 1951; Ploss, 1902) may be compared to the attempts in human society to keep the mouth and food separated from excretions of any sort, on the one hand, and to the feeling that it is necessary to protect individuals against absorbing through food the dangers associated with the mysterious ciualities of the body, especially those which involve any shedding of blood, on the other. Thus, it is not unusual to find such identifications as the use of similar protective devices for girls at first menstruation and boys at ear-piercing or scarification, and of women who die in childbirth and men who die in battle, whose blood together makes the red in the sunset. Finally, in any discussion of the cultural patterning of sex activity it is necessary to take into account the attitudes toward death, as these involve the relationships between body and soul and between the living and the dead. Birth, marriage, sex, and death may be identified in intes de passage (Van Gennep, 1909) through which each individual passes, or they may be treated as highly antithetical events, so that the pregnant woman must be protected from the newly married, the aging from the springing sexuality of the adolescent, the newly wed from the mourners. Each individual who participates in a ceremony for one event learns also something about another; that brides wear white and widows black or that both brides and widows wear black, that the bride must never see a corpse or that she must be wrapped like one and lie as if dead for hours, that no preparation must be completed for the newborn infant for fear it will cause its death, or that one of the first acts of a newly married pair is to make preparations for their funerals.

These parallel or contrasting treatments of moments of high emotion in human life are among the most important cofigurative methods by which human beings learn the pattern of sex behavior. The tie between the living and the dead spouse has received wide elaboration; long periods of mourning, especially for the widow, are enjoined in many societies; the widow may be slain on her husband's funeral pyre or she may be forbidden ever to marry again ; marriage with a widow may be surrounded with a great variety of precautions. Among the Arapesh, male potentiality for great anxiety about any other male who has shared the same woman was complicated into complex beliefs about avenging ghosts (Mead, 1935). Other solutions of the problem are found when the widow is married by a male of the social group of the dead man, so that the brother or cousin takes the dead husband's place. Clinical research on the response of individuals to grief has revealed the psychologic basis, ambivalence toward the dead (Cobb and Lindeman, 1943) and identification with the dead, for the extreme pathologic depressions sometimes found in modern societies where there is no longer a collective ritual within which the individual can act out the situation of bereavement.

Another problem which every known human society has met, the solution of which seems essential to the existence of society as we know it, is the problem of sexual attraction within the biologic family, between parents and children, and between brothers and sisters, which is dealt with by the universal incest taboo. Without the incest taboo, the family as we know it would be impossible. Daughters would succeed their mother in their father's affections, and brothers would fight their father and each other for the possession of their sisters. There seems to be no evidence for any biologic basis for the universal incest prohibition, and it has instead to be explained psychologically and sociologically as necessary for the protection of the family unit (Murdock, 1949; Seligman, 1929; Mead, 1949b; Spiro, 1958). Levi-Strauss (1949) identified the point at which the incest taboo came into existence with the beginning of culture as such, a figurative statement of its importance. A variety of practices around the world testifies to the close connection between incest prohibition and social order; brother-sister and occasionally father-daughter marriage may be permitted or even enjoined as a way of differentiating a royal or noble line from the bulk of the populace who must live by a rule which only the royal can break.

The various social devices used to enforce incest prohibitions may be proliferated, so that a community is divided in two, with one-half of one's age mates classified as sexually unavailable; sex relations with a first cousin twice removed may be treated as incest ; the relationships between brothers and sisters may be governed by strict codes of avoidance, coupled with myths which trace the origin of love magic to an incestuous relationship between brother and sister. E(|ually convincing evidence of the social cliaracter of the incest taboo can be found in the occurrence of incest, especially father-daughter incest, under conditions of social breakdown among outcast groups who live in slums or on the periphery of society. Sudden changes in patterns of living (for example, migration from a peasant village in Europe, in which there are strict social sanctions in which the entire community shares, to the anonymity of a large American city) may endanger adolescent daughters left alone with their fathers. Both the precautions which have been elaborated in human societies and the points of breadown suggest that the father-daughter relationship and the elder-brother and younger-sister relationship which mirrors it, are the key positions, congruent as they are with the attractiveness of the less mature female to the more mature male. The opposite peril, attraction between son and mother, although it seems to have less strength, is also a biologic potentiality. There has even been recorded a marriage system in which grandsons occasionally marry their grandmothers and have children by them (Baiga, Elwin, 1939J.

Whatever the arrangements, the universality of the incest taboo within the primary biologic family means that all human beings are reared to recognize forbidden as well as permitted sexual partners, and this experience of prohibition becomes a component (sometimes as incentive, sometimes as deterrent) in subsequent mating behavior. Where the prohibition has been unusually strongly enforced, all attraction to the opposite sex may be inhibited, or a type of promiscuous search for the unattainable incestuous object may be set up. But, always beside the range of forbidden acts, words, thought, which characterize the sex behavior of human beings, we must consider also the specifically forbidden objects, parent and sibling of the opposite sex. In many cultures, especially where all human relationships are highly conventionalized, the regulation of sexual attitudes includes a series of avoidances toward relatives-in-law who may in some way be identified with forbidden relatives, the most conspicuous of which is the taboo between a man and his motherin-law which functions to reduce rivalry between mother and daughter over the possible attractiveness of the young son-in-law. Thus, before the marriage of the female it is the attitudes of older males toward younger females which must be kept in check; after marriage, the focus shifts to the tension between the older woman and younger mature men between whom a relationship is both tempting and socially disrujitive of the marriages of the next generation. Various bizarre arrangements occur; for example, a man may marry a widow with a daugliter, and later, when the daughter comes of age, marry the daughter and turn his fornuM' wife into a mother-in-law to whom he may never speak again (Navajo, Reichard/ 1928) . In central Tibet (Prince Peter of Greece, 1948) , where polyandry is practiced, a group of brothers may share their father's young wife, their stepmother. These extreme variations all serve to emphasize the fact that, like the relationship between father-daughter, the motherson relationship, especially in its locus in the relationship of the older woman to the mature son, is one with which human societies have to come to terms. (Urbanization, combined with the development of societies containing many millions of individuals who are no longer held together throughout life in small closed systems, necessarily involves very different ways of handling the early prohibitions which are still maintained within the biologic family. Emotional maladjustment in individuals which accompanies faulty learning of culturally expected organization of emotion is undoubtedly one such adaptation (Bibring, 1953).)

I have discussed the various biologic checks on premature sexuality and reproduction, the hymen, the frequency of adolescent sterility, incest regulations, and the possible inverse relationship between female sexual desire and ovulation. With the development of a social recognition of physiologic paternity, the purposeful avoidance of pregnancy becomes possible. This has taken a variety of forms: postponement of marriage, which leaves the chronology of sex acts in the hands of the female; imposition of long periods of sexual abstinence for all males in the community (of which the 12-year-long periods, reported for Mentawei, are an extreme form (Loeb, 1928)); the imposition of specific taboos during the period of lactation, which may involve only the lactating wife or may extend to other wives also (Arapesh, Mead, 1935) ; devoting a part of the population of one or both sexes to a life of celibacy; the use of contraceptives designed to prevent conception while l)ermitting acts of copulation; alternative forms of attaining sex satisfaction and various measures of interrupting a pregnancy once initiated, by abortion or infanticide. Here again, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of there being insufficient biologic indicators to guide man in his search for a means of reducing population. Mutually incompatible institutions exist side by side, as in the cases of female infanticide and polygamy (Eskimo) or in the beliefs about the hygienic necessity for intercourse and beliefs about the hygienic desirability of spacing children (U. S. A.). It can only be concluded from present evidence that, in spite of the variety of biologic checks on fertility which render Homo sapiens relatively infertile, no sufficient automatic check^^ on the birth rate is provided biologically which is compatible with the specific resources of any human society.

So far, we have been concerned with those patterns of sex behavior which assure that men and women will marry and rear families and that their sex desires will not become so unmanageable as to disrupt this orderly process of reproduction and child care. But man, like other mammals (Carpenter, 1942), has capacities for types of sex behavior which do not lead to the formation of permanent unions and the production of children — for auto-eroticism, for sexual play with a partner of the same sex, and for adult forms of polymorphous perversity, in which the object of his sexual behavior is a matter of indifference to him (Mead, 1934a). The insistence in the clinical and experimental literature on animal behavior that special conditions are necessary if individuals are actively to prefer "perverse" behavior (behavior other than heterosexual behavior capable of producing offspring) must be placed in the whole context of human sex l)ehavior. There is no more reason to insist that sexual preference for own sex^^ is learned than that heterosexual behavior is learned. But most human societies are so constituted that it is heterosexual behavior that is learned. Beach (Ford and Beach, 1951) has presented persuasive arguments in favor of regarding same-sex behavior and

^°This statement is made with recognition of how complex any such automatic check would be.

^"The word homosexual is misleading because it fails to distinguish between sex activities involving a member of the same sex and a highly developed preference for love objects of the same sex, often involving disturbances in sex identification, transvestism, repugnance toward members of the opposite sex, obsessive and promiscuous pursuit of members of the same sex, etc. See Hampson and Hampson. also auto-erotic behavior as "natural" behavior rather than as substitutes for heterosexual behavior. If the term natural be taken to mean behavior of which all human beings are potentially capable, then one may also argue that the individual who is wholly incapable of a homosexual response has failed to develop one human potentiality.

In human societies, two trends in the handling of homosexuality may be discerned (Westermarck, 1908j. A society may focus on heterosexual behavior and treat all other sex behavior as so peripheral that it will not occur in a sufficiently large number of cases to disturb the social equilibrium, or it may stylize very strictly the age grade at which homosexual pairing is permitted ( ]\Iarind-Anim, Wirz, 1922), the role of the individual who makes a homosexual choice (Mohave, Devereux, 1937), etc. So periods of adolescent homosexuality may be institutionalized, and homosexuality may be expected among warriors or in certain occupational groups. The boy who fails to display the requisite male bravery may be cast as a transvestite, referred to as "she" and given a special role as story-teller to war parties or go-between in love affairs (Cheyenne, Grinnell, 1923) .

A fundamental difficulty, not unrelated to the problems which have been solved by the institution of incest, remains in the incompatibility of a libidinal relationship with competition and aggression among males. The anatomic complexity of the male ijody, with the analogy between anus and vagina, makes the problem of activityliassivity a recurrent one and one which may be intrinsically antithetical to a procreative heterosexual role. The fear in young males of attack by other stronger males, a danger which all societies have to meet in rigorous methods of protecting children and in incest rules, is met by young primates by presenting (Hamilton, 1914; Maslow, 1936a, b). A survey of the existing knowledge of human societies suggests that if male homosexual tendencies are to be tolerated or encouraged, then social institutions fully as rigorous as those governing incest are desirable, protecting the young from exploitation, prescribing certain types of loyalty, and modulating the competition for new partners which is such a frequent accom


paniment of socially unsanctioned male homosexuality. Female homosexuality is a reciprocal of male homosexuality; where male anatomy suggests, lacking the human face-to-face copulatory position, complementary attitudes, female anatomy dictates no choices as to activity, passivity, asymmetry, or complementariness and seems to lend itself much less to institutionalization as a counter-mores activity.

One protection against treating the young, male as a sexual object is to take steps to regulate, limit, or defeat altogether his sexual competition with older and stronger men. Initiation ceremonies which involve at first rigid exclusion from and then formal admission to the secrets of adult males, very frequently combined with acts of mutilation (knocking out of teeth, incision, subincision, and circumcision, scarification, and tattooing involving submission to painful attacks on the body) , are widespread human variants of the conflicts between the springing sexuality of the young male and the diminishing virility of his seniors (Hambly, 1926). Such conflicts may be handled instead by social divisions which cut across all ages: the more meditative may be inducted into a life of celibacy, so that curbs on the aggressiveness of the more virile are not necessary. Castration of slaves and captives so as to provide a supply of eunuchs also reduces a certain number of males to a noncompetitive status, as da caste and class arrangements by which the males of the lower status groups are denied access to the females of the upper status groups. All such patterns of behavior are learned. Whether the learning is so phrased that certain men choose a life of celibacy as higher or purer, encouraged by the social definition of sexual activity as low and animal-like, or whether they have such a choice thrust upon them by the class or caste group in power will make a difference in the way different roles are accepted and in the psychologic price men pay for denying impulses which they have been taught are natural and necessary or undesirable and unnecessary.

In summary, a survey of cultural patterns reveals intricate systems of learned behavior, within which the sexual capacities of the young child, the inappropriate sexual capacities of the older child, the reinforced sexuality of the adolescent, the slowly diminishing sexuality of the male, and the discontinuous zest of the premenopausal and postmenopausal female manifest themselves. It may be expected that detailed studies of the first years of life will reveal the particular mechanisms by which individuals in a given society are prepared for the sexual roles held appropriate by that society and will throw light on the differential efficiency of these various learning sequences.

VIII. The Study of Sex Behavior in Complex Modern Societies

There are a number of serious difficulties about the study of sex behavior in the United States at the present time. The behavior is diversified by class, ethnic group, region, and various special versions of the culture characteristic of religious groups, occupational groups, areas of cities, etc. A national sample does not necessarily allow for any of these variations in a way which provides enough background for estimating the cultural factor in the behavior of any given individual. National samples such as those used by Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin (1948 L and Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard (1953) were constructed like Gallup polls, with a very few variables — class, age, sex — although the mere listing of the variables which they took into account is impressive. To take only two of the categories which they list (page o» Whites, Negroes, other races," "various degrees of adherence to religious groups, or with no religion," the amount of variety which is subsumed under these phrasings is enormous. Yet, their aim was to build a national picture from these samples, so that the picture of American behavior, called the behavior of the human male and human female, was expected to have representativeness in the end. What we do find is that with the aid of the kind of sample they built they got substantially the same picture obtained by Hohman and Schaffner (1947) from their very much more cursory questioning about sex behavior, based on psychiatric screening for the draft in World War II. Their statistics, furthermore, agree verv well with materials collected in Northern Europe (Undeutsch, 1955) . We may well say that their data are reliable, in that another sample, constructed the same way, within the same narrow range of time, would give answers of the same general type, e.g., lower class behavior would show the same sort of contrast with middle and lowerclass-upward-mobile behavior, the lower class seeking immediate complete satisfaction early, the middle and the lower-upward-mobile classes relying more on various substitutive and delaying techniciues rather than full consummation.

The second complication is the question of historic period. All the available studies of the polling type — and, although Kinsey's interviews were complex and intricate, the assumptions back of them were still of the polling type, i.e., that 100 cases would stand for many thousands — emphasize that the responses change very rapidly in a country like the United States; behavior approved one year may be disapproved the next, and a large part of the adult population shifts its views accordingly. Kinsey's practice of using the memory of a 50-year-old man of what he did at 15, and the replies of a 16year-old boy of what he did at 15, makes no allowance for the changes in attitudes and values and the differential types of retrospective falsifications which are likely to occur — which makes the lumping of these sets of replies together inadmissible. The inadmissibility cannot be tested by simple statistical means; the results are undoubtedly reliable and adding 1000 more 50-year-old men and questioning them about their adolescent sex activities will not change the picture. They are quite reliable, but they may not, and in all probability do not, give an accurate picture of the past, but rather a picture of how 50-year-old men, living in the period of Kinsey's interviewing, would combine present-day standards and values, the experience of their own younger contemporaries and their children, into a stable and systematic but objectively false image of their own pasts.

With the tremendously rapid changes that are taking place, data for a national sample should be collected within a few months, and retrospective reports should be treated separately from reports on recent experience. There are a number of other criticisms of the Kinsey, Ponieroy and jVIartin sample, the number of male homosexual prostitutes in their lower class male sample, the inadequacy of the sampling of nonwhite groups, the differential effect of male inter\'iewers on males, and male interviewers on females, which need not concern us further here (see also Cochran, Mosteller and Tukey, 1955).

However, one of their findings, so widely quoted, that definitely needs reconsideration is their statement that the sexual enjoyment and activity of women increases as they grow older and that of men decreases. An examination of their data will show that all they require for a sexual act in their male sample is ejaculation, whereas from their female sample they require orgasm. If they had interviewed their male sample about the strength and completeness of the climax involved in coitus, instead of accepting any "outlet" as a unit of sex activity, their results would have been different, as they would have been equating male learning about sex and its possibilities with female learning about sex and its possibilities. It is only fair to add, however, that what they did here is the usual American male classification, in which quantitative frequency is treated as a surer sign of sexual adequacy than intensity and duration of coitus and depth of orgasm.^"

In addition to the Kinsey reports, we also have a number of other attempts to construct a picture of American sex behavior (Davis, 1929; Dickinson and Beam, 1931, etc.) based on questionnaires, interviews (Hamilton, 1929), various sorts of samples, for the most part of the middle class and well educated. All of these studies rely on premises which are essentially sociologic and quantitative in nature, and are concerned with problems of reliability. There is no consistent body of cultural or psychodynamic theory behind them.

In contrast, we have also very intensive studies by research workers and psychotherapists, deeply and narrowly grounded in psychodynamic theory, which seek by the study of a few cases to describe the characteristics of the population concerned and to add to a theory of human behavior

^'I am indebted to Ray Bird\vhist(>ll for pointing out this aspect of Kinsey's analysis.


(Erikson, 1951) on sex differentiation, in the Berkeley study, contrasted with the studies by Sears, Maccoby and Levin (1957) and Brown (1958) ; Davis (1926) who queried women on the cyclic character of desire, as compared with the Benedek and Rubenstein (1939) attempt to correlate intensive psychoanalytic therapy on 15 women with independent physiologic assays of ovulation; studies of the changing incidence of ulcer in male and female patients (Mittelman, Wolff and Scharf, 1942) ; psychiatric analysis of special groups, such as Deutsch's (1944) study of prepubertal girls; Levy's (1938-39) study of maternal over-protection; Alexander and Healy's Roots of Crime (1935). In these studies, sex behavior is only a small part of the whole psychodynamic process that is being explored, and the reports often lack any specific information on the categories which primarily interested Kinsey and his fellow investigators, on the details and incidence of specific erotic behaviors.

A third type of material centers around the (fuestion of social role where neither the details of erotic behavior nor the psychodynamic problems are considered, well exemplified by the work of Seward (1946), who at no point discussed childbirth, and mentioned menstruation only once to suggest that the fact that women menstruate is of no significance.

A final group of materials is of the type presented by Money and the Hampsons in which cases initially identified either through anomalies of structure, precocity or hermaphroditism, or behavior, e.g., practicing homosexuals, are explored for specific erotic patterns of behavior.

These various types of material can be used, as tiie Hamjisons and Money use them, as background for a theoretic point which they wish to make about the overweening importance of the sex of assignment and of gender role, but when we attempt to use them to give a picture of sex behavior in the United States in the last two decades, we are confronted at once with the need for a more integrated frame of reference than a mere patchwork summation of shallow national samples, small special samples, and pieces of research done from many different theoretic positions.


Such a study would start from a series of assumptions about the level at which it is possible to talk of American culture as a whole, and w^here class and regional breakdow^ns would have to be introduced (Mead, 1949b; Gorer, 1948). It is possible to construct a national picture of sex behavior, based on the mass media, existing laws and court decisions, practices in national institutions like the armed forces, the Federal agencies, supplemented by the statistical and detailed studies mentioned above. The statistical and detailed studies do not provide the basic data for a national paradigm, but the accuracy of the paradigm can be tested against them. At present the only models we have are those made by anthropologists, trained to extract over-all patterns from material on small, preliterate societies, who attempt to extract the same kind of pattern from the masses of available material on American behavior. In such an analysis the publications of the research workers on American sex behavior, and the responses of critics, reviewers, librarians (c/. Proceedings of American Social Hygiene Association, 1948; Geddes, 1954) become part of the data that the anthropologists use. The check on the accuracy of such an analysis must come from detailed studies, on the one hand, and consistent theoretic approaches, on the other.

With these provisos, I shall attempt a brief sketch of American sex behavior, as it has been developing over the period since World War I. It must be understood that this model refers to no single individual, but the most detailed analysis of any single individual should show a systematic relationship to the model. The case of an American Mennonite, or a Puerto Rican resident in New York, or a Moslem student's encounter with an American middle-class girl in a Southwestern College, although containing many elements of foreign cultural behavior, should nevertheless show a systematic relationship to the over-all patterns of recognized American sexual behavior at the present time.

In contemporary American national attitudes toward sex, sex behavior is regarded as necessary for complete mental and physical health during adulthood, and such behavior must be exercised within the married state. All departures from this mode — deferred marriage after maturity, a divorced or widow^ed state which is not remedied by another marriage, vows of religious celibacy, single-purposed devotion to some intellectual or artistic pursuit, sex relations with more than one partner (of either sex) , masturbation as an adult except under special circumstances such as among males isolated from w^omen when it is preferred to homosexual behavior — are regarded as either contributing to poor mental health or as a sign of poor mental health. Unmarried adults are poor risks in any enterprise requiring stability of character; even the astronauts must be married. Within the married state, some kind of normal regular sex life should exist, about which there is the widest possible difference of opinion as to what constitutes an appropriate number of sex contacts. As in American attitudes toward digestion, bad effects may be expected if body products bank up inside the body; they should pass through the body and out (c/. Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin's (1948) definition of sex outlets). Adolescents are in a difficult position because it is recognized that they are sexually mature, even though they are not psychologically or socially ready for marriage. While in school no social expectation of consummated sex relationships is permitted, although the same-aged boy in the army will be provided with adequate prophylactic information. Earlier and earlier marriage, within narrower social groups, where the future parents-in-law know each other, accompany an increasing parental condoning of premartial sex activities of young people who intend to marry.

Sex activity is good for one, just as sleep, recreation, exercise, food, and excretion are good for one. If indulged in as ends rather than as means they may be bad for one. So people sleep "to be fresh next day," exercise to reduce or keep up their muscle tone, and engage in sex activity, if single to keep themselves in good shape, and if married to "have a good personal relationship with the spouse." Sex engaged in for its own sake, as an end, is regarded as bad. All seeking of stimulation, through pornographic literature, bad company, strip tease burlesque, etc., is bad.

Good sex activity involves face-to-face intercourse and should end in satisfaction, seen as ejaculation for the male, and in satisfaction, seen as orgasm, real or feigned, for the female. Either partner may feel justified in self-reproach, or reproach of the other, if this does not occur. All variations on this full sex act of whatever sort, different position, various types of stimulation of other body parts, coitus interruptus as a contraceptive, are felt to be bad for one, resulting in nervousness and tension. They are also against the law in many states and acceptable causes for divorce.

To stabilize marriage, sex compatibility is not enough; there must also be children, either conceived within marriage, adopted, or produced by artificial insemination. However, inability to conceive is not regarded as a bar to marriage; childlessness is a socially remediable state.

Sex is "natural," but because of the extent to which it is still a taboo subject, it is hard to get enough information about it; one is never sure that the practice of oneself and one's marriage partner is "normal," and information on the subject should be sought from books, experts, lovelorn columns. Sex relations should occur between people who are as near as possible equals in class, race, education, only a few years apart, the male preferably slightly older, and all extreme differences in ages or experience which M'ould put one individual in a teaching position toward the other are disapproved. Technique is permissible if learned from books, but disapproved of as a sign of wide experience.

The old double standard in which a male was expected to sow his wild oats has almost disappeared, as has the double standard for class, although Ehrmann's study (Ehrmann, 1959) shows greater frequency of boys dating a girl of a lower class than of middle-class girls dating below their class level. Interest in technical virginity is also disappearing. In the 1940's a marriageable couple made "a clean breast" to each other and started with "a clean slate." Today, with the convention of early going steady, neither may have had any sex experience except with the other.

In practice, new double standards have developed. Boys are more protective and more likely to postpone full sex relations with a girl whom they plan to marry than with a casual date. Girls are less self-protective and rejecting with boys whom they plan to marry. As a result, other men's girls are treated with less chivalry, and elaborate protections have grown up against interfering between another man and his girl. Young people without specific heterosexual alliances of some sort are treated as potential sex partners, and unmarried and uncommitted people over 25 may be expected to meet each other's sex needs or run the risk of arousing a great deal of hostility.

Within this narrow and demanding set of formal standards and informal expectations, the anxiety about normality and fear of inversion or inadequacy are very great. The pressure on the young male to assume full sexual activities and accompanying social and psychologic responsibilities is extreme, and his probable adequacy a source of anxiety to his parents. Any anomaly of anatomy, physiology, stance, posture, gesture, voice, preference for any type of activity regarded as female, too strong and persistent friendships for other boys, or enthusiams for the company of older or younger males, anomalies of height — failing to grow fast enough being worse than being unusually tall— are lamented, and medical and psychiatric help is likely to be sought. The pressure is only a little less for girls, but whereas a generation ago it was the tomboy who was disapproved, today prepubertal girls are scrutinized for lack of positive female attractiveness rather than for too mucli virility. Sexual attractiveness is believed to be something which can be artificially enhanced by grooming, practice in social relations, drugs and medications, and various forms of psychologic devices. All these devices serve to offset the anxieties induced by the constant scrutiny of adults and peers. There is no general allowance for the existence of individuals who naturally have more or less libidinal attraction ; male successes are explained by the fact that the fortunate male wears a special hat, and the girls gather around; the less successful young male who fails to attract girls may attribute the failure to the fact that he did not comb his hair or put the right hair oil on it.

This attitude toward sex as something that can be manipulated is consonant with other attitudes toward the body as a machine which should work ; if it does not work it should be fixed, and people who fail to get it fixed, to "do something about it," are given neither sympathy nor quarter by the society.

Other bodily manifestations of glandular activity are treated in the same way. A child who fails to grow at the right rate should be given medication; dysmenorrhea as an excuse from a variety of fatiguing and irksome physical activities is no longer allowed—here medication and exercise are believed to remedy the condition; morning sickness during pregnancy is interpreted as either glandular imbalance, when medication is indicated, or psychologic rejection of the pregnancy, when psychotherapy or "change in one's attitude" is indicated. Delivery is likewise to be controlled, either by appropriate drugs or the spreading demand for "natural childbirth," manipulating the body and mind before birth, so that medication will not be needed. Breast feeding, which 25 years ago was disappearing, is now also something which the mother can prepare to do, or if her milk cannot be made adequate, then a controlled formula should be given to the baby while it is held as if it were being breast fed.

It can be seen from all this that early and absolute assignment of sex, continuous therapeutic interference with any anomalies which suggest incomplete or inappropriate sexual maturation, and substitution of therapy whenever a loss of endocrine functioning occurs, are all highly congruent with this contemporary emphasis on the importance of every individual being able to function in the same way. Not only this pressure to seem to conform, but the burden of nonconformity with the attendant sense of sin, or guilt, puts a heavy pressure on the very large proportion of Americans who deviate from the recognized patterns of temperament and behavior.


IX. References

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Young WC. Sex and internal secretions. (1961) 3rd Eda. Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore.
Section A Biologic Basis of Sex Cytologic and Genetic Basis of Sex | Role of Hormones in the Differentiation of Sex
Section B The Hypophysis and the Gonadotrophic Hormones in Relation to Reproduction Morphology of the Hypophysis Related to Its Function | Physiology of the Anterior Hypophysis in Relation to Reproduction
The Mammalian Testis | The Accessory Reproductive Glands of Mammals | The Mammalian Ovary | The Mammalian Female Reproductive Cycle and Its Controlling Mechanisms | Action of Estrogen and Progesterone on the Reproductive Tract of Lower Primates | The Mammary Gland and Lactation | Some Problems of the Metabolism and Mechanism of Action of Steroid Sex Hormones | Nutritional Effects on Endocrine Secretions
Section D Biology of Sperm and Ova, Fertilization, Implantation, the Placenta, and Pregnancy Biology of Spermatozoa | Biology of Eggs and Implantation | Histochemistry and Electron Microscopy of the Placenta | Gestation
Section E Physiology of Reproduction in Submammalian Vertebrates Endocrinology of Reproduction in Cold-blooded Vertebrates | Endocrinology of Reproduction in Birds
Section F Hormonal Regulation of Reproductive Behavior The Hormones and Mating Behavior | Gonadal Hormones and Social Behavior in Infrahuman Vertebrates | Gonadal Hormones and Parental Behavior in Birds and Infrahuman Mammals | Sex Hormones and Other Variables in Human Eroticism | The Ontogenesis of Sexual Behavior in Man | Cultural Determinants of Sexual Behavior


Reference: Young WC. Sex and internal secretions. (1961) 3rd Eda. Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore.


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