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    Peer Reviewed

    Sexual ideology and experience in a Papua New Guinea society.

    Leavitt SC

    Social Science and Medicine. 1991; 33(8):897-907.

    The distinction and interrelation between sexual ideology and sexual experience in society, using ethnographical and anthropological data from the Bumbita Arapesh of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea, are explored. While anthropological data have been employed to study sexual ideologies and myth in varied cultures, comparatively little work has focused upon sexual realities in local contexts. Among the Bumbita Arapesh, yam horticulturalists who number approximately 3000 in 14 small villages, men are traditionally and publicly held as dominant over women in sexual relations. Both sexes hold men to be sexual conquerors of women, devoid of emotional attachment, intimacy, and concern for the woman. 60 private personal interviews with 10 adults, and traditional ethnographic questions, however, show the sexual reality between men and women to be quite different from that promulgated by sexual myth. Women, out of concerns over the health of their children and/or the desire to limit the number of offspring, regularly deny sex to their husbands. The prevailing reality for longterm couples is, therefore, one in which women exercise great control over the sexual behavior of their male partners. Women do, however, play more subservient roles in short-term, adolescent encounters, and during courtship for longterm relationships. Also, counter to ideology, males are often anxious in the period subsequent to committing to marriage and prior to its consummation. Concerned over the potential physical pain of sexual intercourse, and the trials of sex and marriage, young male teenagers prepare by ritualistically incising a small part of their foreskins. Ideology about sexual behavior is closely tied to gender definitions of men and women, with the intimate realities, emotions, and misgivings over competence suppressed by both sexes. In circular fashion, ideology influences experience, while experience animates ideology.
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