Premarital Sex: What’s Marriage? What’s Sex?
Student No. 23410095
ANTH 100 Section 002
March 15, 2010
The anthropological question I wish to answer in my comparative media essay is “How is premarital sex viewed across cultures?” Through analysis of three different communities, the Taiwanese, the American Samoa, and the !Kung, I have come to the conclusion that views on premarital sex vary based on cultural definitions of marriage and sex. Different cultures define marriage and sex differently, and thus the views on premarital sex vary accordingly.
In Nicole J. Grant’s “From Margaret Mead’s Field Notes: What Counted as ‘Sex’ in Samoa?”, the author supports Margaret Mead’s claims of sexual freedom for adolescent girls in Samoa. Grant argues that the key to understanding how adolescent girls in Samoa were sexually active yet not getting pregnant lies in the cultural definition of sex (Grant 1995: 679). Sex, in Samoa, is defined more in terms of oral and manual sex rather than sexual intercourse. Therefore it is possible for young girls to engage in “sex” (oral and manual) without getting pregnant. Negative sanctions are thus placed on intercourse, rather than premarital sex, as only intercourse can lead to pregnancy and illegitimacy. Boys are expected to engage in sexual intercourse only with menopausal women as those who impregnated girls are considered “very bad” (Grant 1995: 679). This expectation serves as an institutionalized protection of young girls from pregnancy (Grant 1995: 681). Another cultural norm serving as a protection against pregnancy is the masculinisation of non-procreative sex. The ability to engage in sexual relations with multiple partners without the result of procreation was valued by the Samoans as masculine behaviour. In order to be a masculine “adept lover” meant a man had to know how to have sex without intercourse (Grant 1995: 680). Instead, sexually monogamous relationships are viewed unfavourably...
Cited: Chang, Jui-Shan
1996 What Do Education and Work Mean? Education, Nonfamilial Work/Living
Experiences and Premarital Sex for Women in Taiwan. Journal of Comparative Family Studies Spring 1996 27(1): 13-40
Grant, Nicole J.
1995 From Margaret Mead’s Field Notes: What Counted as “Sex” in Samoa?. American
Anthropologist 97(4): 678-682
1981 Nisa, the Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
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