Overview: Part I

Marriage is the socially recognized union of two or more people. Throughout the world, it is an effective method of regulating heterosexual intercourse by defining who is socially acceptable as a sexual partner and who is not. Following marriage, all people, other than one's spouse, are usually defined as off limits for sexual access. In this way, socially disruptive sexual competition is reduced. In male dominated societies, these sexual access restrictions often are more rigorously applied to wives than to husbands. Marriage also functions as a glue in the organization of society. It establishes social relationships that are the foundation for families and households. In many societies, it also is an important tool for creating economically and politically valuable links between families.

Marriage Partner Selection
Selecting a marriage partner is very much a culturally defined process. The rules governing selection vary widely from society to society and are often complex. How would you go about selecting a long-term mate? Where would you begin? What criteria would you use? Would you take the views and wishes of your relatives and friends into consideration? When we look around the world to see how other societies deal with these questions, it is clear that love and sexual compatibility are not always the basis for selecting a spouse. However, when romantic love is an important criterion, physical beauty is frequently a key factor. Age, health, body shape, and especially facial appearance are usually the focus. What is considered to be attractive varies considerably from culture to Padaung woman culture. For instance, if yougrew up in the Padaung tribal (Thailand) culture of Thailand, you probably would consider the woman shown on the right with heavy neck rings to be unusuallydesirable. It is clear that concepts of beauty are not universal. Some traditional societies of Africa and the South Pacific define large, plump bodies as being attractive, especially for women. Europeans and North Americans today usually define such a body shape as being unhealthy and even ugly. However, ideals of beauty change over time. The slender people shown in the photo on the left below may be an ideal today, but in 18th and19th century Europe, they

generally would not have been considered plump enough to be pretty. Renoir's sketch of a woman shown below on the right reflects this preference for plumper bodies.

Common North American and European Cultural ideal of beauty

19th century European preference for heavier female bodies (sketch by Auguste Renoir)

In China, round "moon-shaped" faces, like the one shown below on the left, have been considered exceptionally beautiful. In contrast, angular Northern European faces, like the one on the right below, have been viewed as being undesirable. Similarly, long-legged Europeans have often been stereotyped as being unattractively stork-like. The Chinese also have traditionally thought that large female feet are ugly. Prior to 1949, rich families sometimes bound the feet of their daughters tightly with clothwrappings so as to stunt their growth. This of course resulted in severe foot deformities that prevented them from walking normally. However, it made it much easier for them to marry a rich man since they were now more attractive. Over the last two decades, mainland China has rapidly industrialized and developed modern high-rise cities. They have also begun to emulate the life-styles of North America and Europe. This has resulted in a change in middle class concepts of beauty. Taller Chinese men and women are increasingly viewed as being more attractive and successful. Subsequently, there is a thriving business in surgery to increase leg length. It is also becoming popular for women to use makeup and even plastic surgery to acquire more European-like faces.

Comparison of traditional Chinese and European concepts of beauty


The Chinese are no more prejudiced about appearance than are people from other parts of the world. Ethnocentric values universally play an important part in our perceptions of beauty. However, some psychologists have suggested that in all societies the essence of beauty is a symmetrical face and body. For instance, having the same shape eyes equidistant from the center line of the face and at the same elevation on the head would be universally considered attractive. Individual cultural differences come into play in favoring particular shapes, sizes, and colors of eyes. It has been suggested that body asymmetry can indicate other hidden genetic abnormalities. If that is the case, preference for symmetry could have evolutionary advantages. Personality, education, wealth, and other individual characteristics also are important mate selection criteria in many societies. In fact, they may be far more important than physical beauty. In India, the parents of young middle class urban women seeking a husband commonly place an add in newspapers. These adds prominently mention the potential bride's college degrees, caste , and implied potential for paying a large dowry .

An arranged marriage in contemporary India

Television, cinema, and other largely Western dominated mass media have been responsible for spreading the notion of romantic love around the world. In previously more isolated nations, such as Nepal, the increasing stress on romantic love has been disruptive of traditional marriage practices in which two brothers marry the same women. The Western version of romantic love fosters the desire for exclusive emotional attachments which undermines marriages in which a spousemust be shared.

Passionate kissing in public (a Western image of romantic love that makes many people in the Middle East and East Asia very uncomfortable)

Arranged marriages have been common throughout the world. This is due to two principal considerations. First, a marriage unites two families, not just two people. All of a family's members become obligated by the marriage of one of its members. In addition, marriages can be valuable tools in creating alliances and, therefore, must be considered carefully and even negotiated. Secondly, mate selection is seen as being too important a decision to be left up to inexperienced young people, especially if they have had little contact with members of the opposite gender. Parents are presumed to have the

experience needed to help their children find a mate who is appropriate for them. In some nations, the legal system encourages arranged marriages. In Pakistan, for instance, the law prohibits women from marrying without parental consent. This is based on Islamic teachings in the Koran that require fathers to protect their daughters. This obligation has been interpreted as advocating arranged marriages. Specifically, it is seen as a father's duty to find suitable husbands for his daughters, however, he should not force them into unwanted marriages. It is common for people today in the Western World to strongly reject the idea of arranged marriages and to consider them to be barbaric infringements on the "universal human rights" of young adults and especially of women. However, it is useful to suspend our own ethnocentric views on this matter in order to understand why arranged marriages continue to be popular in some societies. In addition to being integral parts of their cultural traditions, arranged marriages are usually seen as being better for the young people getting married and for the community in general because they are thought to result in lasting marriages, and they bring families together. In contrast, basing marriage selection on romantic love alone is often a socially isolating process. The intense romantic focus on one other individual can separate people from their families and friends. It is common for newly married couples in the Western World to set up their own independent household which may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from family members. This life apart is an appalling prospect for people in traditional societies that practice arranged marriages. It is also an ethnocentric projection to see arranged marriages as being inevitably loveless. In societies that have them, married couples often become loving life-partners. Their marriages set them on a path of discovery to love. In the West, marriage is usually at the end of this path. In both cases, the destination is the same.

Restrictions to Sexual Access


No society allows a person to have complete sexual access to everyone who might be a potential sexual partner. There are always social and legal restraints. In male dominated societies, women are usually expected to be virgins before marriage. They are also expected to mate only with their husbands. There often is an expectation that a woman will remain celibate after her husband dies, regardless of her age. These same rules rarely apply to men. Such a double standard has been a traditional cultural pattern in rural Greece, Italy, and a number of other countries around the Mediterranean Basin. At the other extreme, are societies like the Muria Tribe of Central India. At the age of six, boys and girls traditionally are placed together into a village dormitory by their parents. Through their early teen years, they are encouraged to carry out sexual liaisons with each other to provide them with experiences that will help in selecting compatible marital partners later in life. All societies, including the Muria, have incest taboos . These are rules prohibiting sexual intercourse with close relatives. While the definition of who is included in this prohibition varies throughout the world, it generally at least includes members of one's nuclear family , such as parents, brothers, and sisters. Commonly, the taboo extends to grandparents, some cousins, uncles, aunts, and may even include more distant relatives. Societies that have rigid class stratification tend to be more restrictive in terms of sexual experimentation before marriage. As social inequality between the classesincreases in such societies, parents become more concerned with preventing their children from marrying "beneath them." Premarital sexual permissiveness is generally prohibited because it might lead to such undesirable attachments. Likewise, the idea of romantic love before marriage is discouraged. However, there are ways of getting around such restrictions in all societies. These include secret liaisons and elopements. Shakespeare's dramatic story of Romeo and Juliet describes just such a case. The two young lovers were forbidden to have contact by their families but they contrived to meet in secret anyway.


Overview: Part II
Actual mating patterns may be different from the cultural ideal. For instance, in the more traditional regions of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, men generally strive to be machos-- that is, confident, strong, dignified, brave men. Machos should be overtly masculine and sexually active. They are expected to have a wife with many children and possibly one or more mistresses. Men are usually assumed to be adulterous by nature. Women, in contrast, are expected to be passive in responding to the demands of their husbands and to have sexual intercourse only with them and only when they are married. They are to emulate the Virgin Mary in being chaste. As a result, this female counterpart to machismo has been referred to as marianismo (from Maria or Mary).

Spanish ideals of machismo and marianismo

In reality, both men and women deviate from these ideals. However, women are usually more often punished for it. Especially when there is a pregnancy outside of wedlock. Androgynous men may only suffer ridicule for their failure to achieve the difficult goals of machismo. This sort of double standard over sexual fidelity is common in male dominated cultures. All societies have rules to regulate marriage partner selection. Even when individuals are left free to make their own choices, there are still rules that limit and narrow the range of potential marital partners. These rules can be explicit or implicit. In North America, the important social constraints are mostly implicit. Family and friends usually encourage marriage within the same social class, religion, and ethnic/racial group. Explicit rules are in the form of formal laws. Typically in North America, these only require that a mate be of the opposite gender, over the age of consent, willing, alive, and not a close family member.

In small-scale societies, most people are expected to get married. Unmarried adults are usually pitied if they are women and distrusted if they are men. Cities in large-scale societies are more likely to provide an acceptable status for unmarried adults. Such societies are also likely to be somewhat more single, independent women tolerant of deviant dress and uncommon life styles. in Europe For instance, the two young urban European women shown here have the freedom to remain unmarried as well as socially and financially independent. Marriage in all societies involves acceptance of an agreement, either written or verbal. Most often, this includes four categories of privileges, rights, and obligations of the marrying couple:
1) 2) 3) 4) agreeing to exclusive sexual access having and caring for children accepting a sexual division of labor agreeing to extend kinship bonds to your spouse's relatives

The right to have children is not the same as sexual access, though it may initially seem so. It means the right to socially recognized descendants. In many cultures, biological paternity is often less important than socially acknowledged paternity. In any case, the prolonged dependency of human children requires a long term agreement to share in their upbringing. The acceptance of a division of labor based primarily on gender involves sharing the fruits of each other's work. In most societies, this results in women performing the routine domestic household tasks such as cleaning and food preparation as well as child rearing. Men are usually responsible for the periodic household tasks requiring upper body strength and for work outside of the home. This traditional division of labor has been popularly interpreted in the Western World as exploitation of women. However, that may be a hasty conclusion. Likewise, it would be equally premature to see it as exploitation of men. In depth, objective studies of marriage and family life in other cultures often show that the reality is far more complex with mutual benefits derived by both men and women. The agreement to an extension of kinship bonds is a right to have long term social ties with in-laws that can provide security against economic and social misfortune. In small-scale societies, marriage is usually the best means of securing and assuring alliances between unrelated families.

Limiting the Number of Births
Despite the common desire to have children, most societies try to limit or at least space births to allow those babies that are here to survive and have economic advantages. Common methods of preventing pregnancy even in small isolated societies with low levels of technology include:
1) not allowing adolescents to marry (especially boys) 2) using magic (ritual acts, protective jewelry, etc.) practicing abortion (chemical or surgical) 3) adhering to a post partum sex taboo (prohibition against husbands 4) and wives having sexual intercourse for a period of time following the birth of a child)

Post partum sex taboos are surprisingly long in some societies. Among the Indians of the North American Plains husbands and wives traditionally were expected to abstain from sexual intercourse for up to four years after each birth. Among the Dani and some neighboring societies in New Guinea, the abstention was for five years.

Mother and child in New Guinea

North American and European cultures also advocate post partum sex taboos "for the health of the mother." Regardless of the rationale, however, the net effect is the same. Births are spaced farther apart. In societies with long post partum sex taboos, it is common for husbands to be relatively free to have sex with other women or men during the required period of marital sexual prohibition. This is not the case in Europe and North America today.
North American couple


As a last resort, population may be controlled by infanticide (that is, killing young children). In the past, the Inuit , or Eskimo , of the North American polar regions were occasionally forced by winter starvation to kill the individual within the family who had the least potential for bringing in food. That was usually the youngest daughter. She died so that the others could live. The Inuit took no pleasure in killing their baby girls. They also were well aware that this selective female infanticide had long term negative effects in their society. It ultimately reduced the number of marriageable women, resulting in increased competition among men for mates. This has been suggested as a leading cause of relatively high murder rates for Inuit men in earlier times. Infanticide in response to severe economic hardships has not been unique to the Inuit. However, no society considers it to be a desirable practice. It occurs where circumstances leave desperate parents with little alternative. Female infanticide reportedly also has occurred in the People's Republic of China in response to the official one child per family policyinstituted in 1979 and to the high cultural value placed on male offspring. Many female fetuses allegedly "Surplus" men lost in warfare have been selectively aborted and female newborn infants have been killed secretly or abandoned so that parents can have another chance at producing a male heir. The net effect of this for China now is a relative scarcity of marriageable women, which allows them to demand more from prospective husbands. Another consequence has been a high number of Chinese girl infants that are adopted by North Americans and people in other Western nations. Warfare also can have a limiting effect on birth frequency. The removal of men in their breeding years from society can reduce the number of pregnancies, especially if monogamy is the rule and extramarital sexual intercourse is rare. Warfare also has the harsh effect of killing "surplus people." However, it is doubtful that any society went to war with birth control and population reduction as an intended goal.


Marriage Rules: Part I
There are two universal categories of marriage partner selection restrictions. They are referred to by anthropologists as exogamy and endogamy rules. Exogamy rules require that marriage be outside of some defined social group, such as one's own family. In contrast, endogamy rules require that it be within some larger group, such as the local community. In other words, rules of exogamy tell you who you cannot marry, while rules of endogamy specify who would be acceptable and preferred as a marriage partner. Both of these types of rules operate at the same time.

Social distance is the key factor in this determination. Incest taboos exclude close relatives (the exogamous group). Beyond that group are more distant relatives, friends, and associates (the endogamous group) with whom marriage is usually desirable. More distant still are all outsiders or aliens with whom marriage and sexual relations are by and large either

Traditional wedding in Punjab, India

discouraged or forbidden. In North America, the exogamous group includes an individual's siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and sometimes cousins. There often

are explicit incest laws prohibiting marriage or mating with these relatives. The endogamous group generally consists of the members of an individual's ethnic/racial, religious, socio-economic and/or age groups. The North American endogamy rules, which encourage marriage within these groups, are usually in the form of implicit social pressure by friends and relatives. These rules may remain unstated below the surface until an individual tries to deviate from them. About 30% of all cultures define some cousins as preferred mates. In other words, the endogamous group includes relatives outside of the nuclear family but not more distant than cousins. In the rural areas of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, it is not unusual to find that a third of marriages are with first cousins. The rate is even higher in some Middle Eastern nations. Roughly half of the marriages are with first cousins in much of the Arabian Peninsula, especially in the south. Among the Bedouin Arabs , for instance, marriage partner preference is specifically for a patrilateral parallel cousin (father's brother's child). To understand this preference, it is first necessary to know that Bedouins traditionally determine kinship patrilineally --that is, only from males to their offspring. The red people in the diagram are all related patrilineally.

Bedouins make a distinction between cousins who are members of the patrilineal extended family (parallel cousins) and those who are not (cross cousins). By marrying his patrilateral parallel cousin (father's brother's daughter), ego is marrying the closest female relative other than his mother, aunt, and sister.


Marrying a patrilateral parallel cousin potentially strengthens extended family solidarity and reduces obligations beyond the family. This Bedouin marriage preference ultimately means that the family tends to be a relatively closed, isolated group. Alliances between different extended families are inhibited. In reality, however, genealogies are not all straight-jackets within which the Bedouins are constrained. They can be creatively manipulated or altered as social and political circumstances require.

Bedouin men in Jordan

Among the Yanomamö Indians of Brazil and Venezuela, the cultural preference is to unite different patrilineal lineages by exchanges of women. This begins by two men marrying each other's sisters, thereby creating a kinship bond between the men. The alliance is continued by men in subsequent generations marrying their cross cousins (father's sister's daughters) as shown below. The yellow and red extended families are linked anew each generation.

A Yanomamö village

Due to Yanomamö intermarriages in previous generations, ego's wife is not only his father's sister's daughter but also is likely to be his mother's brother's daughter. Study the diagram above to assure yourself that this could be the case. Since one's spouse is often related on both sides of the family, it is essentially a bilateral cross cousin marriage pattern. The net result is reinforcement each generation of ties between paired lineages that assures dependable allies in the frequent Yanomomö intervillage raiding and internal village squabbles.

Number of Spouses Permitted


How many spouses an individual is allowed to have varies from culture to culture. The rule that is familiar to North Americans and Europeans is monogamy--that is, one man married to one woman. While this is now by far the most common form of marriage around the world, it is, in a sense, the least preferred. In a sample of 850 societies, less than 20% preferred monogamy over other marriage patterns. In North America and most other large-scale industrial societies where remarriage is permitted after divorce or death of a spouse, there often isserial monogamy--that is, marriage to multiple spouses, but only one at a time. However, in Greek villages, women traditionally have been socially prohibited from marrying again after the A Greek coffee house death of their husbands. On becoming widows, (traditional male bastion in conservative villages) they are thought to rapidly go through menopausemaking them less desirable as potential wives for most men. Widows take on a somewhat sexually neutral status and, therefore, are free for the first time in their lives to go into male places, such as coffee houses. However, they must wear black clothes to indicate their widow status for the rest of their lives. Greek men who become widowers are not similarly restricted and stigmatized as being gender neutral. Polygamy , the marriage of more than one spouse at a time, has been popular on all continents except Europe. Surprisingly, it is often popular even among women in some societies. When most people think of polygamy, they assume that it is a pattern in which a number of women share the same husband. This relatively common form of polygamy is known as polygyny . However, a rarer form, known as polyandry , occurs when several husbands share the same wife. Both forms of polygamy have advantages and disadvantages over monogamy in their particular cultural settings. Polygyny is most common today in Moslem nations, among cattle herding societies of East Africa, and in the remnants of the old kingdoms of West Africa. The rationale for a man to have more than one wife is usually a combination of more sexual partners, more children, and, above all, increased social prestige. However, the European belief that polygyny is nothing more than the exploitation of

Polygynous family in Nigeria


women and that wives in a polygynous household are weak is somewhat of an ethnocentric projection that does not fit the reality in all societies. Among the Turkana of Kenya, for instance, a wife generally considers it an economic advantage for her family to have additional co-wives since the women help each other in doing domestic chores and in caring for their animals. The co-wives may also help their husband find a new bride. They interview young women with a goal of finding one who will be compatible with them and hard working. Their husband usually must have their approval before going ahead with the wedding. For him, an additional wife also has disadvantages. The co-wives may get together, gang-up on him, and force him to do things that he does not want to do. However, he achieves a higher social status by having more wives. Polyandry is found in some isolated rural regions of India, Sri Lanka, and especially Nepal, and Tibet. Usually, it isfraternal polyandry --that is, two brothers married to the same woman. This reduces the problem of determining what family their children belong to since both potential fathers have the same parents. The younger brother typically marries the shared wife when he is in his early teens but often does not have sexual relations with her for years. Her initial relationship with him is often something between a mother and a wife. Polyandry has distinct economic advantages for these small-scale agricultural societies. It keeps the family farm in one piece. It allows one of the husbands to be away from the farm working for months to years at a time without disrupting the family. It also provides economic security for the wife when one of her husbands dies. However, it places an increased domestic work load on her. In recent years, the introduction of the notion of romantic love has begun to be disruptive in polyandrous marriages due to growing demands for exclusive bonds with the wife by each husband. However, occasional female infanticide resulting from the high priority placed on having a male child very likely will make polyandry a practical solution for the near future.


Marriage Rules: Part II
Monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry all have inherent though different types of problems for family members. Not surprisingly, husband and wife disagreements are common with monogamy. Parent-child rivalry for the attention of the other parent is typical also. With polygyny, jealousy between co-wives over perceived unequal attention from their shared husband is common. However, this is often avoided, or at least reduced, by giving each wife a separate house and a ranked status. The first wife is usually in a commanding position. Rivalry is also reduced by sororal polygyny , which is sisters marrying the same man. The assumption is that sisters will be more likely to amicably share a husband. The most disruptive rivalry in a polygynous family is often between the children, especially if there is something important to inherit, such as a royal title or wealth. This also results in rivalry between the mothers. The typical way of avoiding this situation is to formally define the eldest son or daughter of the senior wife as the heir apparent. With traditional polyandry, the most common source of friction is rivalry between the fathers and their children for the attention of their wife/mother. This causes tension for the already heavily burdened wife.

Unusual Marriage Arrangements
Some societies are flexible in allowing unconventional marriage arrangements. The cattle herding Nuer tribe of southern Sudan are an example. A woman who is unable to have children is sometimes married as a "husband" to another woman who then is impregnated by a secret boyfriend. The barren woman becomes the socially recognized father and thereby adds members to her father's patrilineal kin group. The Nuer also have several forms of "ghost marriage." A man may marry a woman as a stand-in for his deceased brother. The children that are born of this union will be considered descendants of the dead man--the "ghost" is the socially recognized father. This allows the continuation of his family line and succession to an important social position. A Nuer woman of wealth may

marry a deceased man to keep her wealth and power. Married Nuer women traditionally have no significant wealth--it belongs to their husbands. With this form of "ghost marriage", there will be no living husband, though she may subsequently have children. She is, in effect, a widow who takes care of her husband's wealth and children until they are mature.

Second Marriage Preferences
Many societies have specific kinds of second marriage rules that anthropologists refer to as the levirate and the sororate . The levirate specifies that a widow should marry the brother of her deceased husband (as shown in the diagram below). The rationale for this rule is that it keeps the dead man's children and wealth within his family. It also maintains the existing bond between the two families. The levirate was named after Levi the son of Jacob in the Judeo-Christian Old Testament. It is a marriage rule that was common in Jewish society several thousand years ago and in other patrilineal societies that have polygyny.

A mirror image of the levirate is the sororate. It is a rule that a widower should marry the sister of his deceased wife (as shown in the diagram below). Both families usually encourage this remarriage because it continues the bond between them. Where polygyny exists, there may be a degree of sexual permissiveness between a husband and his wife's younger sister in anticipation of a presumed future marriage between them. This anticipatory sororate generally is found in societies in which sororal polygyny is popular. The older sister is likely to encourage this sexual relationship because she knows that her younger sister would be more likely to take care of her children if she dies than would a co-wife who is not related to her.

The Price of Marriage

The marriage process often involves a predetermined agreement to transfer wealth or to perform labor for one's in-laws. In the mostly monogamous societies of Europe and Asia, this traditionally has been in the form of a dowry, which is money or property given by the bride's family to the groom, ostensibly to establish a new household or estate. It is, in a sense, her share of the family inheritance. Dowries may be seriously negotiated, especially when the bride's family is wealthy. Until the early 20th century in Europe, rich families commonly hired lawyers do draw up formal marriage contracts that often specified the dowry details. The North American traditions of the "hope chest" and the bride's family paying for the wedding are survivals of a dowry system. In India today, the failure to pay all of an agreed upon dowry amount is considered an extremely serious problem. It places a newly married young woman in a difficult and dangerous position in the home that she shares with her husband's family. Hundreds of these brides die each year in what are euphemistically referred to as "kitchen accidents." In fact, some are killed by the husband, mother-in-law, or other members of his family who view the failure to pay the agreed upon dowry as being a breech of contract and the ruining of his life. The death of his "failed" wife allows him to marry again and to obtain the dowry that his family believes he deserves. Bride price (or wealth) is the reverse of a dowry. It involves the groom giving things of high value to the bride's father. Bride price is most common among polygynous, small-scale, patrilineal societies--especially in sub-Saharan Africa and among Native Americans. When European missionaries first encountered bride price, they misinterpreted it as being nothing more than a demeaning "bride purchase." It actually is a way of showing respect for the bride and her parents. At the same time, it is a compensation for the bride's family for the loss of her economic services. Very importantly, it is also a way of validating the groom's right to future offspring. In some societies, children are not "legitimate" if their father did not pay a bride price. It is more important than a marriage ceremony is establishing legitimacy. Often the bride price is large enough to require kinsmen to help the groom in making the payment. This is especially common among pastoralists societies, such as the cattle herders of East Africa who have traditionally paid bride price with cows. Among tribes like the Nuer, Turkana, and Masai, borrowing to make up the agreed upon bride price puts the groom in debt to his older male relatives for many years. The bride's father usually disburses the payment in turn as bride price for his sons and nephews. As a result, the community's wealth is circulated.

Masai mother and child

Among these tribes, the bride's family has a strong economic interest in keeping her marriage together because a divorce would require the return of the bride price, which often has already been given away to relatives. If there are children, however, the bride price usually does not have to be returned, but they belong to the groom's family. He keeps the children instead of the bride price. In a sense, the bride price becomes a payment for children and, therefore, has also been referred to as "progeny price" . In societies with little material wealth and social rules requiring sharing, it is rarely possible to accumulate a bride price. As a result, such societies often have bride service instead. The groom agrees to work for his in-laws for a set period of time. Among the Yanomamö and other lowland forest peoples of South America, this service may go on for years. Making it moredifficult is the fact that Yanomamö men are customarily prevented from speaking directly to their in-laws and must avoid them. In Melanesia , the Amazon Basin of South America, and scattered elsewhere among warlike peoples, there have been cultural patterns allowing marriage by capture as an alternative method of acquiring a wife. It has occurred usually when bride price could not be arranged or when women were in short supply. It is a mistake to assume that marriage by capture is always a forceful act on an unwilling woman. At times, it is merely a ritual or a cover for a prearranged elopement.


NOTE: In contemporary Japan there is a system of traditional gift exchanges between the groom's and the bride's families that does not neatly fit the usual definition of a dowry or a bride price. They have essentially combined both patterns in a largely symbolic gift exchange. When a couple becomes engaged, the two sets of parents formally exchange betrothal gifts with each other, thereby reinforcing that the marriage will be a bond between the families rather than just the young couple. In the Tokyo region, these "yuino" gifts usually consist of nine items that are considered to be auspicious (e.g., abalone, dried bonito, dried kelp, etc.). During this ceremony, the groom also gives "yuinokin" (betrothal money) to his future bride's family. It is understood that this money is to be used in establishing a household for the newly wed couple. During the late 1990's this betrothal money averaged 878,000 yen (a little more than $7,300 U.S. dollars at the time). It is popular for urban Japanese couples to design their own wedding rituals and to incorporate North American traditions (e.g., white wedding dresses, tiered wedding cakes, etc.). It is also very popular to get married in Hawaii and other places outside of Japan. For more information about contemporary Japanese marriage traditions see "Marriages of Convenience" and "What is the Ideal Marriage."

Residence Rules
In most societies, newly married couples do not establish their own residence but instead become part of an existing household or compound occupied by relatives. Which relatives are favored is culturally prescribed. However, there are a few common patterns around the world including patrilocal , matrilocal , avunculocal , ambilocal , and neolocal residence. In order to understand the rationale for each of them, it is essential to know that the most important determining factor is the specific type of kinship system. Of secondary importance usually are economic concerns and personal factors. Patrilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the groom's father's house. This makes sense in a society that follows patrilineal descent (that is, when descent is measured only from males to their offspring, as in the case of the red people in the diagram below). This is because it allows the groom to remain near his male

relatives. Women do not remain in their natal household after marriage with this residence pattern. About 69% of the world's societies follow patrilocal residence, making it the most common.

Matrilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the bride's mother's house. This keeps women near their female relatives. Not surprisingly, this residence pattern is associated with matrilineal descent (that is, when descent is measured only from females to their offspring, as in the case of the green people below). Men leave their natal households when they marry. About 13% of the world's societies have matrilocal residence.

Avunculocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home near or in the groom's maternal uncle's house. This is associated with matrilineal descent. It occurs when men obtain statuses, jobs, or prerogatives from their nearest elder matrilineal male relative. Having a woman's son live near her brother allows the older man to more easily teach his nephew what he needs to know in order to assume his matrilineally inherited role. About 4% of the world's societies have avunculocal residence.

Ambilocal residence occurs when a newly married couple has the choice of living with or near the groom's or the bride's family. The couple may also live for a while with one set of parents and then move to live with the other. About 9% of the world's societies have ambilocal residence.


Neolocal residence occurs when a newly married couple establishes their home independent of both sets of relatives. While only about 5% of the world's societies follow this pattern, it is popular and common in urban North America today largely because it suits the cultural emphasis on independence. However, economic hardship at times makes neolocal residence a difficult goal to achieve, especially for young newlyweds. Elsewhere, neolocal residence is found in societies in which kinship is minimized or economic considerations require moving residence periodically. Employment in large corporations or the military often calls for frequent relocations, making it nearly impossible for extended families to remain together. There are several other rare residence patterns found scattered around the world. These include virilocal , uxorilocal , and natolocal residence. For those who wish to understand them as well, the glossary of this tutorial provides brief explanations. Regardless of the culturally preferred post-marital residence rules, at times there are unique personal circumstances which result in a deviation. In many societies, it is possible also to create a fictive kinship status to allow what would otherwise be unacceptable marriage and residence patterns.

Resident Family Size
Residence rules have a major effect on the form of family that lives together. Neolocality leads to independent households consisting of single nuclear families--that is, a man and a woman with their children (shown in the diagram below). This is a relatively small, two generation family.

All other common residence rules potentially result in the formation of larger family groups. These larger groups are most often in one of three general forms: an extended family, a joint family, or a polygamous family. Extended families consists of two or more nuclear families linked together by ties of descent (as shown below). They consist of living relatives from three or more generations.

Members of an extended family household usually share farming, animal herding, and domestic household tasks. Such families can be efficient collective work units. However, each generation, the number of family members tends to get larger, which inevitably puts a severe strain on Extended family in Samoa resources. This results in personal conflicts which cause the extended family and its household to divide into two or more independent families. This dynamic segmentation process usually repeats every few generations. Joint families consist of two or more relatives of the same generation living together with their respective spouses and children. Polygamous families potentially consist of all spouses and their children. This is difficult to diagram two-dimensionally, particularly when there are three or more wives in the case of polygynous families.

Residence rules and the size of family residential groups often change as the economy changes. In other words, family household type correlates with subsistence base. The following graph summarizes this relationship.

Both modern large-scale societies and hunting and gathering societies in marginal environments have a high degree of geographic mobility that is mandated by their economies. In the former case, jobs often

require periodic relocation to other parts of the country or the world. Among foragers in harsh environments such as deserts and arctic regions, there is usually a seasonal need to disperse the community when food sources become scarce. Both situations make it difficult for much more than nuclear families to stay together year round. In contrast, big families are economically advantageous among small-scale farmers and pastoralists because larger, permanent labor groups are needed to farm or tend herds of animals. Despite cultural preferences and the type of subsistence base, there may not be a father in a home due to divorce, death, or his abandonment of the family. As a result, amatricentric , or matrifocal , family household may exist. Such a household consists of a woman, her children, and sometimes her grandchildren as well. Matricentric family households have become common in North America during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Approximately 70% of African American children are now being raised in such families.

There are a smaller but growing number of family households in North America that do not have a mother in residence. These could be referred to as patricentric or patrifocal family households.

Homosexuality , or the sexual and/or emotional desire for others of the same gender as oneself, is found widely among the societies of the world. However, the social acceptance of it varies dramatically. In fact, the range in permissiveness and restrictiveness with regards to homosexual acts is at least as great as it is for heterosexual ones. In the United States, for instance, there has been a wide difference in legal restraints on sexuality from state to

state. Some states, like California, essentially have the same restrictions on both homosexuality and heterosexuality. That is, all sex acts that do not lead to bodily harm are legal as long as they are done with consenting adults in private. However, California shares the oldest age of consent (18) among the states. The youngest (13) is in New Mexico. Fourteen states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. military have criminalized "unnatural sex acts" or "crimes against nature"--that is, they have anti-sodomy laws. Sodomy is generally defined as anal or oral copulation with another person or animal. It is also sometimes defined in law more ambiguously as non-reproductive sex. Ten of these states extended anti-sodomy laws to heterosexual partners as well. There has been considerable variation in the possible penalty for this crime. In Louisiana, for instance, sodomy has been a felony that could result in a 5 year prison sentence, $2000 fine, and exclusion from public jobs such as teaching and the law. In Idaho, it theoretically could result in life in prison. However, few people are prosecuted under anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. In Arkansas, for instance, the current anti-sodomy law has been in existence since 1977, but there have not been any prosecutions based on it. In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law. This decision very likely will have the effect of nullifying all such laws in the country. These legal changes regarding homosexuality apparently reflect a growing acceptance, or at least tolerance, of it among the general public.
U. S. States With Anti-Sodomy Laws
(prior to the June 2003 Supreme Court ruling that very likely nullifies them)

(Data source: SodomyLaws website)

Elsewhere in the world, attitudes and legal consequences for homosexuality vary from wide acceptance in Western Europe to absolute rejection in some nations of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In sixteen nations, the

punishment for sodomy can be life in prison or even death. The most severe penalties are in the Islamic nations that adhere to traditional law based on interpretations of the Koran .
Severe Penalties for Homosexuality
Life in Prison Uganda Guyana Bangladesh Bhutan India Maldives Nepal Singapore Death Penalty Mauritania Nigeria Sudan Afghanistan Pakistan Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Yemen

(Data source: SodomyLaws website)

In considering this information, it is important to keep in mind that the existence of harsh legal consequences for homosexuality does not necessarily result in people being prosecuted. In Afghanistan, for instance, there is a widespread tradition of male homosexuality. Estimates of the number of Afghan men who engage in sex with teenage boys or other men at some time in their lives range from 18-50%. This unusually high frequency is quite surprising since Islamic law in Afghanistan mandates that sodomybe punished by being burned at the stake, pushed off of a cliff, or crushed under a toppled wall. In 1998, three homosexual men were executed in the city of Kandahar by the then ruling ultraconservative Taliban by having a tank push a brick wall over on them. There is a curious double standard in regards to anti-homosexual laws--they do not always apply to lesbians. This may be due to the fact that the existence of female homosexuality is less likely to be socially acknowledged or that it is considered acceptable behavior, at least in private. This double standard is most common in the South Pacific Islands, the non-Islamic nations of Africa, and some Caribbean Islands on which a high percentage of the population has Sub-Saharan African ancestral roots. Governments may even officially deny that any form of homosexuality occurs. This apparently has been the the case in Albania, Bangladesh, Congo, Lebanon, and Liberia.
Nations in Which Only Male Homosexuality is Criminalized
(Female Homosexual Acts are Apparently Ignored)


South Pacific



Central Asia

Southeast Europe Armenia Srbska

Indian Ocean

Cook Islands Fiji Kiribati Marshall Islands Niue Papua New Guinea Solomon Islands Tokelau Tonga Tuvalu

Botswana Ghana Mozambique Namibia Nigeria Tanzania Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe

Grenada Guyana Jamaica

Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan

Maldives Sri Lanka

(Data source: SodomyLaws website)

In 1991, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality as an illness from their classification of diseases. Contrary to common belief in Western Nations, laws criminalizing homosexuality are not universally disappearing around the world. In the 1990's, Nicaragua enacted a law making it a crime. However, in the same decade, 8nations and territories rescinded their antihomosexuality statutes (Bahamas, Belize, Chile, Hong Kong [China], Ireland, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine). In some societies, homosexuality has been socially accepted but limited to certain times and to certain individuals. For example, The Papago Indians of southern Arizona traditionally set aside nights during which any man could perform homosexual acts. Women could as well if they had the permission of their husbands. The Papago also had a socially accepted status for transvestite men. They wore women's clothing throughout the year and did women's chores. Unmarried men were allowed to visit them for homosexual acts.

NOTE: transvestitism, or the wearing of clothes and bodily adornment normally associated with the other gender, is not necessarily connected with homosexuality. It is important to understand the specific cultural patterns. In North America, for instance, some strictly heterosexual men are sexually

stimulated by putting on female clothes, especially undergarments. Likewise, many homosexual men do not wear such garb or even approve of it.

There is a double standard in regards to transvestitism, or cross dressing, in North America today. Women are permitted to wear overtly masculine clothing without social disapproval, especially in business and recreational settings. However, American men are much more restricted in their clothing choices. When it becomes known that a man wears dresses or other female garb, he is almost universally stigmatized and often labeled as a homosexual. This can have major negative effects on his career, social life, and even personal safety.

North American woman wearing traditionally "masculine" clothes

The anthropologically most well known transvestites who also often happened to be homosexuals were theberdache , or twoHeterosexual Plains Indian man spirited, men of the North American Great Plains Indian tribes. These men led the lives of women and had socially accepted statuses--they were valued members of their societies. Heterosexual Plains Indian men who were going on hunting or war expeditions generally held the view that sex with their wives or other women was polluting and depleting. In contrast, a two-spirited man did not pose these dangers. As a result, two-spirited men were regularly taken along to perform women's chores and to entertain. Some of them were renowned story tellers. The Hijras of India are another example of a culturally accepted (or at least tolerated) male transvestite status. These are men who dress as women but apparently are not often homosexual. Many Hijras even have their genital organs surgically removed to symbolize their transition to "womanhood." They are devotees of the Hindu mother goddess Bahuchara Mata. Through emasculation, they express their faith in her and become conduits for her power. The Hijras are difficult to label as to gender. They identify themselves

as "incomplete men", "incomplete women", or "inbetweens", but the Indian national census counts them as women. There are about 50,000 true Hijras today living mostly in North Indian urban centers. They work at many different kinds of jobs including construction. However, the largest percentage of them make their living by blessing babies and entertaining at parties. Some of the better Hijra musicians, dancers, and singers perform regularly in Indian films. Recently, a few of the Hijras have successfully run for public office, especially in Utar Pradesh State. In 2003, however, a court in Madhya Pradesh State ruled that a Hijra must give up his office as mayor of Katni because he is a male and this political office was reserved for women. There are 10's of thousands of other eunuchs and homosexuals in India who dress as women and falsely claim to be Hijras. Many of them make their living on the edges of society by prostitution or by extorting money for blessing children. Few people refuse to give them money for fear of being cursed.
Do you think that the people in these photos are real women or Hijras?

Click the button to see if you are correct.

The Etoro and some other societies of the Trans-Fly River region in southern New Guinea provide an extreme example of the social acceptance of male homosexuality. Apparently, all Etoro men engage in homosexual acts and most also marry and engage in heterosexual acts with their wives. However, heterosexual intercourse is prohibited for up to 260 days of the year and is forbidden in or near their houses and vegetable gardens. In contrast, homosexual relations are permitted at any time.

Jiwiki men in New Guinea


The Etoro believe that homosexual acts make crops flourish and boys strong. Etoro men and women mostly live apart so that social contact between them is generally limited and often hostile. Not surprisingly, their birth rates are low. To compensate for this problem and to avoid depopulation, they allegedly have stolen children from neighboring societies and raised them as their own. There is no clear explanation as to why societies are permissive or restrictive in regards to homosexuality. However, there are two interesting correlations. First, societies that strongly forbid abortion and infanticide are likely to be equally intolerant of homosexuality. Second, societies that have frequent severe food shortages are more likely to allow homosexuality. An implication is that homosexuality may be tolerated and even encouraged when there is severe population pressure. Heterosexual abstinence and other birth control methods would be expected to be common then also. That appears to have been the case with the Plains Indians and some New Guinea societies.

NOTE: It is not clear what leads one person to be homosexual and another to be heterosexual or bisexual. Both environmental and social factors have been proposed by psychologists and others engaged in researching this question. In reality, both kinds of factors may be involved to some degree. In addition, an individual may change sexual preference at different phases of his or her life. Anthony Bogaert's recent research at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada indicates that birth order within a family may be an important factor in male homosexuality. He found that the more biological older brothers a man has, the more likely he will be homosexual, and that it does not matter if he is raised with his older brothers. It may be that each succeeding pregnancy with a male child somehow causes a mother's immune system to respond to male fetuses in a way that changes their sex-related brain development. This same correlation between male birth order and homosexuality does not occur if older siblings are half-brothers, stepbrothers, or adopted brothers. (Science News Vol. 170 July 1, 2006)


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