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source: the book of B Malinowski, "sexual life of the savages of the western north of Mélanésie, ethnographic description of the steps in love, the marriage and the life of family of the natives of the islands Trobriand (New Guinea)".

to order the book :sexual life of the savages


Tacit had already founded the design of "noble" the savage who lived in the forests of Germanie primitive. At the XVIII2nd century, the French explorers and missionaries are filled with enthusiasm for "the primitive man" when they discover Americas and Oceania and the m?urs and odd but so gracious and fantastic habits their inhabitants. Diderot wrote the "Supplement with the voyage of Bougainville" to show its contemporaries at which point Tahitiens were higher to them compared to sexual morals. Bacon considered that the sexual questions constitute half of knowledge. Freud  launched the study of the sexual instinct and its demonstrations through the rites and the habits. A long time Freud estimated that the repression of sexuality in the patriarchal company constitutes the base of the social order. It was necessary that Malinowski shows to him that in primitive companies and matriarcales, sexuality was used as base with the organization of the communities so that a few years before its death, Freud, to London where Malinowski had accomodated it, reconsiders on its ideas of sexual repression, the role of Thanatos and sticks to a more positive vision of our human existence.


introduction: (extracted the book)

Sexuality implies the love and the steps in love, it becomes the core of institutions as worthy as the marriage and the family; she inspires art and constitutes the source of her incantations and magics. She dominates, in fact, almost all the aspects of the culture. Sexuality, in its broadest direction, is rather a sociological and cultural force that a simple carnal relationship between two individuals.


The natives treat sexuality not only like one source of pleasure but like a serious and even crowned thing. In addition, their habits and ideas are not likely to strip the sexuality of its capacity to transform the rough material facts into admirable spiritual experiments, to surround of a romantic aureole of love what there is of a little too technical in the steps in love. The institutions of Tobriandais are made to make it possible brutal passion to purify and become a love which lasts as much as the life, to penetrate itself of personal affinities, to strengthen itself thanks to the multiple bonds and attachments which create the presence of the children, the anguishes and the hopes common, the goals and the interests whose the life is composed of family.


some bonds and photographs of the Trobriand islands and Bronislaw Malinowski oceaniahistory/


Trobriand Islanders C. 1925.

 Bronislaw Malinowski



basic rules

filiation among inhabitants of the Trobriand islands is matrilinéaire: the social descent, relationship and relations have as a starting point the mother. They have as an idea that the mother would be only and single author of the body of the child, the father not contributing of nothing to its formation. That does not prevent them from having ones well established institution of the marriage. The social role of the father is secondary compared to that of the brother of the mother who goes down to him from the same mother (grandmother). The life of a native of the Trobriand islands proceeds thus under a double influence: that of the family of its mother from which it draws the heritage and the capacity and that of her father which raises it and nourishes it. There is no balance between the influence of the paternal love and the principle matriarcal what creates tensions.

The village is of form concentric with two rings: the interior ring is composed of house-attics in which harvests are, the external ring includes/understands the dwelling houses. In the center are the ground of dances, the cemetery, the hut of the chief and his house-attic. The central arena is the place of the life and the public festivals. The street which separates the two rings from buildings is the place of the everyday life and domestic, it belongs to the women whereas the central place is the place of the men.


The women at the time of the marriage will live in the village of their husband and the children become adult must go to live in the village of their mother except if their father has sufficient influence to keep them with him. This rule is the principal source of conflict because the fathers try to keep near them their favorite children. A solution lies in the marriage between cousins, from where sexual taboos and prohibitions of the inceste to eliminate it.

the administration of the daily activities rest on the principles of the equality and the independence of the functions: the man is it Master because it is in its own village and the house belongs to him but the woman (and her brother) are the legal chief of the family. The husband shares with the woman the care to give the children. He cherishes and walks the child, cleans it and washes it, nourishes it. To carry the child on the arms or to hold it on the knees constitutes the role and the duty especially reserved for the father. Thus we discover in the intimacy of the life domesticates another aspect of the interesting and complicated fight between social and emotional paternity, on the one hand, and the maternal right, legally, explicitly recognized, other.

The personal property is very important; husband and woman have each right of personal property on certain objects and each one must take care of the maintenance of its objects. The woman should not be regarded as a housewife with the European direction of the word. The real goods are the property of the men but at the time of the heritage, there are arrangements. The hardest work is the responsibility of the men, certain handling are made together, ex: preparation of certain ornaments in shells.

For the persistence and the existence even of the family, the man and the woman are essential also the natives allot they to the two sexes an importance and an equal value. When it speaks about its family, any man, with some clan which it belongs, emphasizes with pride, like a fact of great importance for its line, the number of its s?urs and their female children of sex. It is the woman who holds the privileges of the family but it is the man who exerts them. The idea of the row sticks to certain hereditary groups, of totemic nature. In all the concrete demonstrations of the row, traditional or social, the two sexes are placed on a foot of perfect equality. In the rich person mythology at the origin of the various under-clans, an woman-ancestor always appears beside the man (who is his brother) and there are even myths which make go up the origin of a line to a woman, without the assistance of a man. Another important demonstration of the row is represented by a complex system of taboos to which the man and the woman must subject themselves, ex: not to eat such food, not to drink such water, etc. If the woman marries a man of a lower row, it cannot transgress its taboos, ex: it will have its own food. The capacity of the chief rests on polygamy but the women do not enjoy the right of polyandry.

The woman being eliminated from the exercise of the capacity and the landed property and being private of many of other privileges, it follows that she cannot take share with the meetings of the tribe on the social life. On the other hand it has its word to say and takes an active share with a certain number of ceremony and festivals. This is more particularly true funeral ceremonies which are most important by their solemnity and their crowned character, as well as most imposing by their width and their setting in scene. Certain functions which precede the burial, in particular the dreadful habit of the cutting of the corpse, are achieved by men.

sexual life of the children:

the children enjoy in the Trobriand islands a freedom and a considerable independence. They are émancipés early of the supervision of the parents. Generally, when the parents flatter or thunder their children in their asking something, they are addressed to them as with the equal ones. Here one never addresses to a child a simple order implying waiting of a natural obedience. One of the effects of this freedom consists in the formation of small communities of children, independent groups which naturally include all the children as of the age of four or five years and in which they remain until puberty and this community in the community acts only in accordance with the decisions of its members and is often in an attitude of collective opposition to the elder ones.

Still all young people, the children start to include/understand the tribal traditions and habits and to conform to it. The freedom and the independence of the children also extend to the sexual field. Initially, the children intend much to speak about things referring to the sexual life the their elder ones and even often attend some of its demonstrations. At the house, no particular precaution is taken to prevent the children from attending in eyewitnesses the sexual relations of the parents. I often intended to speak in praise of a little boy or a small girl in these terms: "it is a good child: he never tells what occurs between the parents ". A small girl can accompany her father with fishing in the medium by naked men and listen to the discussions of the men. No embarrassment or shame settles provided that this small girl does not tell anything with her mother or the other girls. On the other hand a little boy has less of similar relations with his mother or its s?urs because there is the taboo of the inceste.

The children initiate the ones the others with the mysteries of the sexual life and that in a direct and practical way, and as of the most tender age. It is only the degree of their curiosity, their maturity or their temperament or sensuality which decide on their more or less great propensity with the sexual distractions. The sexual or, at least, sensual pleasure, constitutes, if not bases it, at least one of the elements of the childish distractions. One notes in the play of the children, an acute direction of the singular and the romantic one. The little boys seek animals, insects, rare flowers that they offer to the small girls, thus printing a certain esthetics with their early sensuality. Frequently the small republic is divided into two, the boys and the girls separate to play each one on their side.

 love life with adolescence

towards 12 to 14 years, a boy reaches a physical strength which accompanies sexual maturity and its mental development is sufficient so that it can take share in a specific and compartmental way to the economic activities of the elder ones. He receives a particular statute then and carries the pubic sheet. The small girl wore already the skirt out of fibre, it seeks from now on to make it increasingly elegant and decorated. A rupture partial of the family occurs with this phase. Brothers and s?urs must  separate under the terms of the taboo. The boys must leave the house of their parents in order not to obstruct them in their sexual life, they join a house of single people or widowers. The girls also go in a house inhabited by a widowed person. The teenagers form another small group of boys and girls. The group is divided into two sections corresponding to the sexes. Although they are more attached the ones to the others from the point of view in love, it is rare that a teenager or a teenager shows themselves together in public or full day. The two sexes arrange outings in the country and excursions and with the pleasure which they withdraw their reciprocal reports/ratios adds that which get of new experiments and the elegance of the framework. They also tie intersexuelles relations outside the community of which they form part. All the times that in a locality close one takes place to these ceremonial festivals which authorize a certain freedom of control and pace, young people or girls go there in band (never young people and girls at the same time, because these occasions to have fun are never offered for the two sexes at the same time).

The teenagers meet in their house of single person or they arrange a corner in an house-attic with a comfortable bed. These arrangements are now all the more necessary as the relations in love, which had been hitherto only one play, became a passion. The love becomes impassioned, while remaining free. The relations were born from the plays and of the infantile intimacy, they know each other closely but these feelings ignite now during certain entertainments under the action enivrante of the music, of the moonlight, the cheerfulness and the clothes of festival of all the participants. Thus the young man and the girl are transfigured with the eyes one of the other. With time and the age, their intrigues last longer and the bonds which attach them the ones to the others make more solid and more permanent. One then sees being born and developing a personal preference which little by little made move back with the background all the other businesses in love. This preference can have its source either in a true sexual passion, or in an affinity of characters. Practical considerations are not long in intervening and, at a given time, the man starts to think of stabilizing by the marriage one of his connections. Under the normal conditions, any marriage is preceded one more or less long period of sexual life jointly. This constitutes a proof the depth of their attachment and degree of compatibility of their characters. This period of test allows the engaged couples and the family of the woman to make the material preparations of the marriage. During this period, no legal obligation falls neither on nor on the other part. The man and the woman can link themselves and separate at will. The partners do not have to give up their personal freedom completely yet. At the time of certain festivals which support the licence, been engaged separate, each one making with the other an inaccuracy with a partner of passage and that in any discretion. Apart from their night cohabitation, one and the other must always be shown together and spread out their connection as a public. Any deviation of this one must be decent, i.e. clandestine.

This preparation with the marriage finds its support on an extremely important institution: the house of single person of restricted use. In each one of these houses, a limited number of couples, two, three or four, can remain for one more or less long period in a quasi marital community. With the occasion, these houses can be used as shelter with younger couples wishing to spend one hour or two in an intimacy in love. The couples engaged in an intimate step, they must respect the other couples and there are thus no exchanges of partners. Other share, the couples are found there only for the night, making love discreetly without paying attention to the others. The day each one is occupied with its occupations in its house. In the Trobriand islands, a man and a woman about to marry should never take a joint meal. That seriously froisserait the susceptibility of a native, like his direction of the property. We blame a girl who shares the bed of a man; the native not less extremely addresses a blame to that which shares the meal of a man.

the marriage:

To give up sexual freedom has a counterpart well: a native of the Trobriand islands acquires all his rights in the social life only as from the day when it Marie. So there does not exist, among the ripe men, nonmarried people, except for the idiots, of the incurable invalids, the old widowers and the albinos. It is also true women. A widow who delays remarier to benefit from the sexual freedom granted to nonmarried people, ends up attracting on it public reprobation for lack of respect towards the uses of the tribe.

For the man, the marriage still has another very important reason: these are the economic advantages that it gets. The marriage comprises a considerable annual tribute of foodstuffs of first need which the family of the woman pours with the husband. Perhaps this obligation constitutes the most important factor of all the social mechanism of the islanders of Trobriand.

The choice to marry is primarily limited: the girls who form part of her same totemic class are eliminated for a young man. Then the endogamy authorizes the marriage only within the limits of a certain political territory. And in this territory still come to be added the limits of the clan.

The assent of the family of the woman rests on the father, the uncles and brothers, because of the taboo of the inceste, cannot occupy themselves of the businesses in love with the girl and it is thus the father who finds a dominating social role here, he acts as the spokesman of the mother who is the only person to know businesses in love and marriage with her daughter.

From the morning when the girl remained near its been engaged, it is regarded as being his wife, in the condition, of course, which the parents gave their assent. Without this one, the act constitutes only one simple attempt at marriage. The fact for the girl of having remained with the young man, to have shared with him a meal and to remain under its roof is equivalent to a legal marriage, with all the obligations which it comprises. This simple declaration of marriage is followed of an exchange of gifts. It is the family of the girl who inaugurates the exchange of gifts, thus meaning her assent with the marriage. The first gift is simple: food cooked in a basket offered by the father of the girl to the parents of the young man.

It is only at the time of next harvest that the young husbands will build their own house, until there, they live a honeymoon prolonged under the family roof. Then the husbands will not have to express any more as a public of dashes in love. The marriage rests on the compatibility of the characters and the personalities, rather than on sexual compatibility or the erotic seduction.

usual forms of sexual freedom

While being subjected to certain restrictions, each one enjoys a great sexual freedom and finds many possibilities of sexual experiments. Far from suffering from impossibility of satisfying his instinct, the native lays out for this purpose of a vast choice and multiple occasions which do not exhaust all the possibilities of adventures in love. There are two categories of occasions, those encouraged and which support the marriages, the others which are exemptions from current morals sexual and which are accomplished in the secrecy because they often comprise excesses orgiaques.

the plays of childhood and adolescence include/understand erotic elements which increase at the time of full moon. In the soft night light and comforting freshness, all the population invades the central place, the young people animate the plays, oldest of it are the spectators. These plays allow physical contacts, verbal declarations and the organization of appointment. After farandoles in which boys and girls are held by the hand, come the vertiginous rounds punctuated from songs who quickly become obscenes and are full with sexual allusions. Plays of group continue and they are based on imitations of animals or of use of objects and they songs include/understand. More important, the favorite play is that of the war. The players are divided into two equal camps mixing men and women (while respecting the taboo of the inceste between brother and sister). When a camp takes the top and manages to push back the other, the winners make undergo brutalities with the prisoners. Taken by the play, it happens that the players often subject at the close houses, the young trees and the domestic objects being in the vicinity, of the considerable damage. If this play allows the expression of the brute force and that of the address, from many players profit from it in purely erotic intentions and physical proximities allow intimacies which one does not obtain differently. The winners launch cries then throw themselves on overcome, seize some and of the couplings take place under the eyes of everyone. Late in the night, is held the set of hide-and-seek, the sexes are divided, men and women hiding alternatively. This play supports the appointments which are only preliminaries for other meetings. Also it is regarded as not very suitable for a married woman to play mask hides.

During the hot days of the calm season, young people and girls from go away on the beach, towards the splits and the arms of the sea where they are devoted to plays of bathe. The play which consists in being pushed reciprocally in water often comprises a fight body with body, and the bathes reveal the human body under a tempting and stimulative light. These plays are the starting point of intrigues in love.

The period of the harvest is one period of joy and social activity, of constant visits of community at community. Each village sends bands of young people and girls to carry food gifts. These visits support the conclusion of intrigues between people of different communities. After laying down it sun, boys and girls from there will have fun in other villages and return only late in the night. All these activities become more intense as one approaches full moon.

The other category of plays are referred to festivals which are contests of dances, songs, made gifts of chains of flowers or shells. They make it possible to the participants to be emphasized to see itself recognized merits and a place in the regard of people. It is the chief of the village which is responsible for these festivals. Until the arrival of the missionaries, there was a festival whose principal reason consisted of erotic caresses to which one was delivered in public, and that without any reserve. When a boy and a girl strongly smell themselves attracted one towards the other, this one is free to inflict with its in love with the considerable physical pains, by scratching it, by striking it and even by wounding it with a sharp instrument. The boy accepts them with good mood, because it sees there a testimony of the love which its beloved carries to him and a proof that she has temperament. To leave this festival covered of notches is a sign of virility and a proof of success. The ambition of a woman consists in wounding the most men possible; ambition of a man to receive as many notches as possible and to gather its reward near each one of its attackers. The sex act is accomplished in public, on the central place; married people took share with the orgy, the man and the woman acting without any reserve, even under the eyes one of the other, even under the glance of the brothers and sisters towards whom apply the taboo of the inceste.

The habit admits two kinds of occasional reports/ratios: after the taken care funeral one which immediately takes place after the death, people which came from the close villages set out again late in the night but it is of use which some girls remain to lay down with boys of the village where the death occurred. Their usual lovers do not oppose it and do not have to it to be opposed. In one remote time when the foreigner did not cause mistrust and that it was more chosen, one regarded then as a duty for a girl of the village to spend the night with him. It is to be supposed that hospitality, the curiosity and the charm of the innovation removed with this duty what it could have of painful.

Another tradition relates to forwardings carried out only or groups some to meet partners in another village. Make of night, they must preserve the secrecy if not the young people of the village defend themselves against the intruders. The boys can organize the these transfered just like girls can gather in group to go in a nearby village. Often the girls carry out these forwardings in reprisals against an excess of forwardings of boys coming from another village, they are avenged thus for their in love which too often visit the surrounding villages. If not they is because the men for a long time left to the fishing or in business trips and that they decided to be comforted elsewhere. It as happens that girls having made for them pretty garde-robe decide to show it with a public vaster as that of their village, it is then also an occasion to receive gifts in the other villages. These female forwardings are arranged in advance. If the boys penetrate of night in the village, the girls hide at the end of the afternoon in the thickets close to the village to make up itself and to arrange their toilets and the boys approach only on the signs the girls once that these last entonné the song which indicates that they are ready. Very quickly all the village is vis-a-vis with the group of the girls except the girls originating in the village who are sulky in front of the intrusion of the rivals but it is to them interdict to express other more aggressive attitudes. With the evening, the meeting begin with the exchange from gifts. The selected boy offers to the girl one present. By accepting the gift the girl shows that it accepts that the young man becomes his lover for the night. The couples are withdrawn in the jungle and in a clearing, they smoke, eat, sing, each couple with share. Time with other, one sees a young man and a girl to leave large band, without nobody paying attention there. There is no orgiaque excess at the time of these meetings but it is the occasion to tie intrigues in love which will be able to last a long time. The return of forwarding for the girls is very delicate and it happens that they are discovered with their arrival what gives place to payments of accounts. The culprits are insulted, beaten and sometimes violated in public: boys hold the girl while its legal "owner", has it by way of punishment.

In the south of the island exists a particular habit: the women work together with the fields and when they see a man of another village, they have the right to precipitate on him to subject it to sexual violences. In general, they take off their skirts to run all naked on the man, to undress it and to be able to make it ejaculate then they soil it at the point to make it vomit. They tear off the hair to him and the man is beaten so much that it can hardly any more rise and from to go away. This practice runs only during the period of weeding to the fields. It has very rare being and one speaks about it more by curiosity than like a practice regular and frequent but it makes it possible to dissuade the foreigners to come and the men of the village appreciate it because they are quiet in front of this absence of potential rivals. The other areas of the island find this habit barbarian and benefit from it to scorn people of the villages which maintain it. Its economic interest is however obvious: these women in fury dissuade any foreigner to go in the fields or their village, which protects undoubtedly the plantations when they are most vulnerable. This can represent a case where the sexual licence comes to help with the setting in safety of the economic goods most vital... while creating stories whose people except have fun... the poor victim which will have lived a sexual experiment which it will remember all the life (the women in question should also remember it).


The erotic plays organized during particular time are moments of exception: the body contacts which are licence there are all the more appreciated that they are prohibited in the ordinary circumstances. All the preliminary erotic approaches must be carried out under cover of the darkness. The sexual deviations are very badly seen and covered with ridiculous. By all their attitude with regard to sexual excesses, Trobriandais show the value which they attach to reserve and with dignity and which point they admire success, not in itself or for what it represents for the man, but because the man who has success in love does not need to resort to the active aggression. The moral command which orders not to violate, solicit or be devoted to contacts rests on the firm conviction that they are processes ashamed there, because true dignity consists in being wished, to conquer by the charm, the beauty, the magic. Aesthetic manners, morals and judgements are subordinated to the psychology of the steps in love and the conquest by the magic. One notes everywhere a disapproval of the direct request, rapacity, covetousness and, especially, the idea that it is a dishonour to be in the need, to live a life of deprivations and food shortage. On the contrary, the abundance and the richness, associated generosity, constitute a claim to fame.

The sex act respects an ethics: the adopted position allows each one of joint great freedom of movement to take an active part and equality in the exchange and the union. Trobriandais were horrified to see how the white men vautraient themselves on the body of the women and crushed them. A man ejaculates only one time that the woman knew a first orgasm and the act continues afterwards until satiety of the partners. The speed of the sex act of the white men make them pass for idiots or people without education, the white women are taken in pity, one feels sorry for them to be able to know the pleasures which the women trobriandaises know extremely well.

What we retain:


We will use these elements in the following stages of the diagram of decision-making to position alternatives and to measure the risks of these proposals

to order the book:sexual life of the savages

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a world without father nor husband, the Moso people in the south-west of China

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