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Intimacies: Love and Sex Across Cultures

Edited by William R. Jankowiak
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    No culture is ever completely successful or satisfied with its synthesis of romantic love, companionship, and sexual desire. Whether the setting is a busy metropolis or a quiet farming village, a tension always exists between a community's sexual habits and customs and what it believes to be the proper context for love. Even in Western societies, we prefer sexual passion to romance and companionship, and no study of any culture has shown that individuals regard passion and affection equally.

    The pursuit of love and sex has generated an infinite number of ambiguities and contradictions, yet every community hopes to find a resolution to this conflict either by joining, dividing, or stressing one act over the other. In this follow-up to Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?, William R. Jankowiak examines how different cultures rationalize the expression of passionate and comfort love and physical sex. He begins by mapping out the intricacies of the love/sex conundrum and the psychological dilemma of reconciling these competing forces. He then follows with essays on sex, love, and intimacy among Central African foragers and farmers; the love dyad in Lithuania; intimacy among the Lahu of Southwestern China; the interplay of love, sex, and marriage in the High Himalayas; verbalized experiences of love and sexuality in Indonesia; love work as it relates to sex work among prostitutes; intimacies and estrangements in the marital and extramarital relationships of Huli men; infidelity and masculinity in Southwestern Nigeria; and the ritual of sex and the rejuvenation of the love bond among married couples in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50876-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1. Desiring Sex, Longing for Love: A Tripartite Conundrum
    (pp. 1-36)
    William Jankowiak and Thomas Paladino

    No culture is ever completely successful, or satisfied, with its synthesis or reconciliation of passionate companion (or comfort) love and sexual desire. Whether in the technological metropolis or in a simple farming community, a tension exists between sexual mores and proscriptions governing the proper context for love. Western societies are not unique in their ambivalence. At various times sexual passion has been preferred to romance as well as companionship. No ethnographic study has reported that all passions and affections have been regarded as equally valuable. The official ideal, and thus the preferred idiom of conversation, is the sexual, the romantic,...

  5. 2. A Biocultural Approach to Sex, Love, and Intimacy in Central African Foragers and Farmers
    (pp. 37-64)
    Bonnie L. Hewlett and Barry S. Hewlett

    This chapter examines sex, love, and intimacy in married couples in two central African ethnic groups—Aka foragers and Ngandu farmers. New data on love and jealousy emerged during life history interviews, and we summarize that sexual behavior data here. Our research is designed to begin to bridge critical gaps in the understanding of the daily lives, loves, marital relations, and sexual experiences of foraging and farming men and women in relatively egalitarian small-scale societies. Most of what we know about sociosexual relations within the marital union is based upon research in highly stratified cultures and nation-states. We present ethnographic...

  6. 3. Self, Other, and the Love Dyad in Lithuania: Romantic Love as Fantasy and Reality (Or, When Culture Does and Doesn’t Matter)
    (pp. 65-94)
    Victor C. De Munck

    This chapter describes Lithuanian conceptions of love and how they work in reality. Romantic love is not an isolated cultural model but is always linked to other cultural concepts and practices; thus I describe how the Lithuanians whom I interviewed used, altered, or ignored notions of romantic love in their life (particularly, but not exclusively, in terms of sex and marriage choices).

    I also have two theoretical axes to grind. I assume that the Lithuanian normative model of romantic love and its relation to sex and marriage corresponds with—indeed, may be virtually identical to—a normative Western model of...

  7. 4. “With One Word and One Strength”: Intimacy Among the Lahu of Southwest China
    (pp. 95-121)
    Shanshan Du

    This excerpt of my conversation in 1996 with Cal Lad, a sixty-year-old man and one of my fictive Lahu relatives, vividly illustrates some general characteristics of the ideal intimacy as delineated by the traditions of the Lahu people of southwest China. While providing an ethnographic example of a culture-specific form of intimacy, the Lahu constructions of intimacy also challenge some widespread Western biases that are explicit or implicit in the study of romantic love.²

    The designation of romance as axiomatic and exclusive to the European cultural heritage, especially that of the modern era, remained unchallenged in academia until the turn...

  8. 5. Interplay of Love, Sex, and Marriage in a Polyandrous Society in the High Himalayas of India
    (pp. 122-147)
    Geetanjali Tiwari

    This chapter explores love and marriage in the fraternally polyandrous society of Kinnaur. Using firsthand case studies, I demonstrate that marital satisfaction and stability can be achieved in fraternally polyandrous unions and that mature love relationships are not exclusive to dyads. The cases illustrate the diversity of marriages, the complex and sometimes fluid nature of plural relationships, and the open-mindedness of the people that practice them.

    I begin by briefly introducing polyandry and the Kinnauri perspective on sex, love, and marriage. Next I present the study area and the methods used for this research. The bulk of the chapter is...

  9. 6. Voiced Intimacies: Verbalized Experiences of Love and Sexuality in an Indonesian Society
    (pp. 148-173)
    Birgitt Röttger–Rössler

    The Makassar live in the south of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. They number about two million and are spread along the coast or in the mountainous regions of the interior.¹ Whereas the economy of the interior is based on wet rice cultivation, fishing and seaborne trade play a central role on the coast. Although the coastal regions were Islamized relatively early and the majority of the Makassar practice Islam, this religion has managed to establish itself only weakly in the highlands.² Makassar society is characterized by a strict hierarchic organization. The apex of the social pyramid is formed by...

  10. 7. Love Work in Sex Work (and After): Performing at Love
    (pp. 174-193)
    Denise Brennan

    This chapter explores the shifting meanings and practices of sex, marriage, and romantic love in a sex-tourist destination in the Dominican Republic.¹ I argue that in a place where sex and tourism are the main industries, what I call a sexscape, sex and love between foreigners and Dominicans take on new meanings and purposes. Of course “love” cannot be measured or proved in any setting. But what is of interest for this book is that practices that are assumed to indicate romantic love in many cross-cultural settings are suspected of having other purposes in this tourist setting. No relationship between...

  11. 8. “She Liked It Best When She Was on Top”: Intimacies and Estrangements in Huli Men’s Marital and Extramarital Relationships
    (pp. 194-223)
    Holly Wardlow

    Anthropologists and other scholars often invoke New Guinea to provide evidence of the myriad social, ethno-ontogenetic, and cosmological meanings that humans can confer on sexual practices, substances, parts, and relationships. Lest students assume that genital interactions are always about pleasure, pair bonding, or reproduction, ethnographic cases from New Guinea show that “sexual” practice can also be about ensuring proper masculine growth and development, revitalizing the body politic, or replenishing the fecundity of the earth (Herdt 1993; Knauft 1986, 1993; Kelly 1976). Indeed, the purposes of precolonial ritualized sexual practice in some New Guinea societies departed so markedly from naturalized Western...

  12. 9. Intimacy, Infidelity, and Masculinity in Southeastern Nigeria
    (pp. 224-244)
    Daniel Jordan Smith

    Marital infidelity is as ancient as marriage itself. Cultures vary in the degree to which they tolerate extramarital sex. Further, infidelity is highly gendered in both its moral and behavioral dimensions. In most societies it is more acceptable for married men than married women to engage in extramarital sex, and it is generally perceived that married men are also actually more likely to do so. Despite the prevalence of extramarital sex and the popular and moral preoccupation with infidelity in so many cultural contexts, remarkably little ethnographic research has examined the social organization of extramarital sexual relationships and elucidated the...

  13. 10. “I Have His Heart, Swinging Is Just Sex”: The Ritualization of Sex and the Rejuvenation of the Love Bond in an American Spouse Exchange Community
    (pp. 245-266)
    William Jankowiak and Laura Mixson

    Research into the foundations of enduring love has found that the intensity of a couple’s emotional intimacy is often diluted whenever sexual infidelity is tolerated, if not encouraged (Collins and Gregor 1995; also see Person 1988). These observations find support in Benjamin Zablocki’s comprehensive 1980 study of 120 communes that found a close relationship between the number of sex partners and an individual’s inability to sustain a love bond. He also found a solid correlation between the feeling of being in love and the number of sex partners: the higher the number of sex partners, the lower an individual’s feeling...

    (pp. 267-280)
    (pp. 281-284)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 285-290)