Thursday, April 12, 2007

Circumcision and Pre-colonial Sexual Politics

When I should be finishing my paper on Argentina, I've been reading up on Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas from Gutenberg. I slept through pretty much most of my Kasaysayan I class under (god bless his soul) Prof. Asuncion ("Its prIHvee not prAYvee"), so this bit to me is interesting.

Since its that time of the year for boys back home, here's a fun excerpt from the appendix on British captain Thomas Cavendish. Some notes on the weird spelling. U means V and UU means W.

Steering a general southwest course they reached the Strait of Magellan January 6, 1587...

Euery man and manchild among them, hath a nayle of Tynne thrust quite through the head of his priuie part, being split in the lower ende, and riuetted, and on the head of the nayle is as it were a Crowne: which is driuen through their priuities when they be yong, and the place groweth vp ag tine [sic], without any great paine to the child: and they take this nayle out and in as occasion serueth; and for the truth thereof, we our selues haue taken one of these nayles from a Sonne of one of the Kings, which was of the age of tenne yeeres, who did weare the same in his priuy member. This custome was granted at the request of the women of the Country, who finding their men to be giuen to the fovvle sinne of Sodomie, desired fome remedie against that mischiefe, and obtained this before named of the Magistrates. Moreouer all the males are circumcised, hauing the fore skinne of their flesh cut avvay. These people vvholly vvorshippe the Deuill, and oftentimes haue conference vvith him, vvhich appeareth vnto them in moft vgly and monstrous shape.
And more from Morga himself:

They are not very chaste, either single or married women; while their husbands, fathers, or brothers are not very jealous or anxious about it. Both men and women are so selfish and greedy that, if they are paid, they are easily won over. When the husband finds his wife in adultery, the is smoothed and pacified without any trouble--although, since they have known Spaniards, some of those who assume to be more enlightened among them have sometimes killed the adulterers.

Adulteries were not punishable corporally. If the adulterer paid the aggrieved party the amount adjudged by the old men and agreed upon by them, then the injury was pardoned, and the husband was appeased and retained his honor. He would still live with his wife and there would be no further talk about the matter.

Concubinage, rape, and incest, were not regarded at all, unless committed by a timagua on the person of a woman chief. It was a quite ordinary practice for a married man to have lived a long time in concubinage with the sister of his wife. Even before having communication with his wife he could have had access for a long time to his mother-in-law, especially if the bride were very young, and until she were of sufficient age. This was done in sight of all the relatives.

Single men are called bagontaos, [327] and girls of marriageable age, dalagas. Both classes are people of little restraint, and from early childhood they have communication with one another, and mingle with facility and little secrecy, and without this being regarded among the natives as a cause for anger. Neither do the parents, brothers, or relatives, show any anger, especially if there is any material interest in it, and but little is sufficient with each and all.

As long as these natives lived in their paganism, it was not known that they had fallen into the abominable sin against nature. But after the Spaniards had entered their country, through communication with them--and still more, through that with the Sangleys, who have come from China, and are much given to that vice--it has been communicated to them somewhat, both to men and to women. In this matter it has been necessary to take action.

Some of these traditions persist today. For all intents and purposes we are a matriarchal society. And our gays, although still ostracised in many ways, have a bit more freedom to act as outlandishly or as demurely as they like. For a 'freedom loving' country such as Australia, and such a multinational campus as mine, I've yet to see overt display of 'gayness' in public.

On adultery, I wonder why wives sleeping with as many other partners as their husbands didn't quite make it through three centuries of Catholicism?

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