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The Dobuans

( Originally Published 1957 )



A people in some respects comparable to that studied by Malinowski is described by Fortune in his report on the Dobuans of Melanesia. Here, again, there appears to be little need for sublimation. ". . . in Dobu as in the Trobriands there is complete freedom for sex intercourse before marriage, and this freedom is used freely." (17) Boys arrived at puberty have access to any girls willing to receive them. Compelled by custom to leave the parental home for sleeping purposes, the boy roams about at night until he finds a girl who will allow him to sleep with her. Repetition of such episodes with the same girl is avoided, however, since, if it occurs too often, marriage will be forced by the girl's parents. The boy avoids this by staying with a different girl each night. Entanglements are thus skirted until a "deeper attachment with one preferred girl" develops, and marriage is entered upon to ensure complete possession. Attachments may be strong enough to override parental disapproval and other obstructions. "These cases show," For-tune believes, "that there is much real love in Dobuan court-ship, even if there is little or no romanticism." (18) The amount of counterpressure a primitive fixation may overcome is illustrated from Fortune's data:

A case of marriage for love despite the cost was that of Obediah. He married within the prohibited degree, his cross-cousin. In her place, ... he had to live on the outskirts of the village, unable to enter it. Worse still she had a very inadequate stock of seed yams and an inconspicuous garden. In marrying her Obediah was marrying hunger. His kin refused their sanction, warning him of inevitable hunger. He outraged his own kin, who refused to give public recognition to the marriage. He could not enter the village of his wife's kin to speak to them, though he lived on the outskirts of their village from the beginning of his married life rather than with his own kin. He had only his wife, and she was an economic drag on him, and a source of real unmitigated hunger to gnaw him constantly. Yet he married her, and clove to her. One Sunday I know his kind fed Obediah, but with insult to accompany the food, such insult as is usually intolerable to a Dobuan native, insult directed against his wife and his marriage, and none the more tolerable in that it was merely true statement of fact.



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