A reader sent me a link to an article from this month’s the Atlantic, “Where Masturbation and Homosexuality Do Not Exist” about a couple of tribes in Africa who view sex as an exclusively procreative exercise and consequently do not masturbate or engage in homosexual acts. Or so they claim. From the article:
In both cultures, men and women view sexual intercourse as a kind of “work of the night.” The purpose of this work is the production of children — a critical matter in an area with a very high infant mortality rate. Semen is understood by the Aka and Ngandu to be necessary not only to conception, but also to fetal development. A woman who is already pregnant will see having intercourse as contributing to the health of her fetus.
As you might have guessed, I’m more than a little skeptical of the claims, as this blog often considers issues of masturbation and homosexuality, as evidenced by the posts Where Would You Masturbate in Public? and What a Pathetic Lesbian I Would Be. If I were a member of the Aka or Ngandu tribes, I would find myself with precious little to write about, since they claim to not be diddling themselves or buggering each other.
But as I said, I don’t believe it. For one thing, I’m suspicious of all research and researchers, because there is always an agenda. The agenda isn’t necessarily nefarious, with little nerds and nerdettes in glasses and white lab coats plotting world domination. Rather they’re mostly motivated by getting funding for their work, so that maybe they can stop eating SpaghettiOs® out of the can over the washroom sink and dream about a nice dinner out once in a while at, let’s say, an Applebee’s. The question “What outrageous claim can I make about my research that might interest someone in funding it?” dominates their thinking, and I can say that the hypothesis that masturbation and homosexuality are not “natural” to the human condition would open up a lot of deep pockets here in the US, and possibly elsewhere in the world (I’m looking at you, Pope Benedict XVI).
One last thing about this homosexual stuff: a modern anthropologist dropped into ancient Greece would
find that the men of that civilization did not consider themselves to be “homosexual” and yet young Hermolycus could not bend over to pick up a dropped drachma in the street without covering his backside with both hands. The ancient Greek understanding of homosexuality and our 21st century understanding of homosexuality just are not the same, and that may be what is going on here with the Aka and Ngandu tribes.
Anyway, what strikes me as most bizarre about the Aka and Ngandu is not the part about not masturbating or being attracted to members of their own sex. No, what strikes me as most bizarre, being a First World woman, is that they fervently hope conception takes place when they have sex! That goes against everything I’ve ever been taught and believe in! Let’s imagine a sex researcher from the Aka or Ngandu tribes who decides to come to suburban Philadelphia to observe and document American culture and societal norms.
Me: So I take this pill to make sure I don’t get pregnant. And there are some women who wear patches on their skin, and that keeps them from getting knocked up. Oh yeah, and men use these things we call rubbers–
Aka/Ngandu Anthropologist: Let me see if I understand you. You have sex and then you do all of these things to ensure you don’t have a baby?
Me: That’s right.
Aka/Ngandu: I don’t mean to disrespect you or your people, but do you even understand the point of having sex?
Me: Of course I do! It’s to get him to stay with me forever, and never, ever look at another woman. And orgasms.
Aka/Ngandu Anthropologist: No, I’m afraid that’s not correct. You see, sex is the method through which humans combine our DNA and reproduce, thus ensuring the continuation of our species. Reproduction is the most basic biological urge, and your native customs and practices strike me as, well, abberant!
Me: Oh, that can’t be right. It has to be about more than just reproduction, because otherwise how do you explain jacking off and lesbians?
Aka/Ngandu Anthropologist: (head explodes) Whaaaaat???!!!??
On that note, let me end this post by sending out early birthday wishes to the great American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, born here in my adopted hometown, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on December 14, 1901. Happy Birthday, Margaret.
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