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Jealousy and Sexual DifferenceAuthor(s): Toril MoiReviewed work(s):Source:
Feminist Review,
No. 11, Sexuality (Summer, 1982), pp. 53-68Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 26/02/2013 05:48
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Jealousy is one of those affective states,like grief, that may be described as normal.If anyone appears to be without it, theinference is justified that it has undergonesevere repression and consequentlyplays all the greater part in his unconsciousmental life. ( Freud, SEVol. 18:2 2 3 )Jealousy is a notoriously dangerouspassion and constitutes a well-recognisedmotive for crimes of violence,particularlyof a gynocidal nature. (Shepherd,1961 )Jealousy, then, is perfectly normal, andmurder and madness follow in its wake. It isstriking that such a fascinating phenomenonhas not given rise to a plethora of learnedinvestigations. During the past few decades,jealous feelings have become hopelesslyunfashionable, and this is probably thereason for the conspicuous absence of recentresearch on the subject. But even earliergenerations of theorists, less hostile to theidea of being jealous, did not explore thesubject to any great extent.
Which is ieJealous Sex?
Most authors who have written on jealousyare extremely interested in the question ofsexual difference. They declare either thatwomen are more jealous than men, or thatmen are more jealous, or manage tosuggest that both sexes are more jealous. Anexample of the latter, somewhatcontradictory, position can be found in Arnold L.Gesell's still relevant 1906 article onjealousy. He starts by tracing jealousy back to theinstinct for possession in animals, andemphasizes, with Darwin, that in sexual rivalryjealousy 'is largely confined to the male'.This male instinct is still the basis for humanjealousy:However complex, in its higher states,human jealousy may be, it will always befound to bear the 'stamp of its lowlyorigin' and will become morecomprehensible in the light of itspedigree. (ibid: 452 )But when actually discussing sexualdifference in human jealousy, Gesell states ratherlamely that. the question of
sex difference
incriminal and normal jealousy is very complexand delicate. The weight of quotable(male ) authority s to the effect that womenare more susceptible to jealousy. (ibid:483)
FemSnfstReviewNo ll,June 1982
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I takeit thatthebrackets around'male'indicateGesell's ownuneasiness withthisconclusion.Mostauthors are notquite asconfusedas Gesell.If we askthemwhich sextheythinkis themore jealous,they willgive aclearanswer. It ishoweverstriking thattheanswerseemsto bedirectlyrelated totheprofessionalinterests oftheauthor.Sociologists andsocialanthropologists tendto believethatjealousy is amalepassion,butthey vary intheirreasons forthis belief.Theirearliestrepresentative isDarwin,whothoughtthatjealousy,being aninborninstinct,preventedpromiscuousintercourse inprimitivetribes. Thisprompted him todraw thefollowingpicture oflifeinprimitivesociety:Therefore,lookingfar back inthestream of time,andjudging fromthe socialhabits ofman as henow exists,the mostprobableview isthat heaboriginallyivedinsmallcommunities, eachwith a singlewife, orifpowerful withseveral,whomhejealouslyguardedagainstall othermen.(Quoted inWestermarck,1901:117)ForDarwin,wivesobviously donot belongto therace of'man', andthereforeonlymenare jealous.EdwardWestermarck, whoshowsclearDarwinianleanings inhis studyofmarriagepractices in agreatnumber ofhumansocieties,concludes that'jealousyisnotexclusivelyamasculinepassion,although it isgenerallymorepowerful inmenthan inwomen.'(ibid:496)Westermarcknotes thatwives aregenerallyconsideredthehusband'sproperty,and seesmalejealousy as thenormalexpression oftheinstinctforpossession.Sincewomen(wives)cannot owntheirhusband, theycannotbejealouseither.In mostsocieties,adulteryis seen asaviolation ofthehusband'sproperty rights,and thepunishment forsuch acrime issevere: 'Mostcommonly,
This content downloaded on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:48:24 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

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