“Strength” and Sexuality: Sexual Avoidance and Masculinity in New Guinea and Amazonia

Paul Roscoe

in Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780520228511
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935815 | DOI:
“Strength” and Sexuality: Sexual Avoidance and Masculinity in New Guinea and Amazonia

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This chapter examines the correlation between sexual continence, abstinence, and separation on the one hand, and masculine aggressivity and strength on the other, in the Amazonian and Melanesian cultures. It argues that “sexual avoidances are part of the means by which males temporarily or more permanently constitute themselves as strong.” Furthermore, the chapter shows that the essence of masculinity includes not only strength and courage, but also a crucial element of “power and menace, of dangerous potency.” Markedly similar concepts of masculinity have been found both in New Guinea and throughout the Amazonian region, wherein aggression and self-assertive activities are associated with sexual taboos. Finally, the chapter deals with the concept of masculinity in a well-described ethnographic context suggesting the analytic association of aggression and sexual taboo that indicates the way in which men's cults may foster exclusiveness and gender separation.

Keywords: sexual continence; abstinence; sexual avoidance; masculinity; strength; sexual taboos; gender separation

Chapter.  13202 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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