QUESTIONS OF INTERACTIONISM AND BIOSOCIAL ENERGETICS
The Rungus individuate the drives of sex and aggression to such
a degree that any interlinkage is minimal. As a result sexual aggression,
including rape, does not occur behaviorally.
In the analysis of this I have addressed the problem of how sociocultural
factors have shaped biological drives. There is another side to
this interactionism that I briefly touched on earlier.18 Has this
shaping had in turn any attendant biological consequences? I will
now return to this problem with the caution that the contrasting
concepts of environment and hereditary or culture and biology are
not natural categories but are constructed ones that may only partially
map the reality that we are attempting to discover.
In analyzing the biological consequences of sociocultural behavior
two distinctions have to be made. There is the interactionism in
which the environment has a critical influence on developmental
processes during sensitive phases. This may result in the developmental
sequence being interrupted; or being facilitated so that development
proceeds onto the next phase; or being transformed so that a new
sequence of development follows. I shall refer to this as developmental
There is also the interactionism in which all sociocultural processes
require the expenditure of physical and psychological energy. This
I have termed "biosocial energetics" (G. N. Appell 1984).
A human population uses its sociocultural system as a means of adaptation
to its environment. Physical and psychological energies are expended
in responding to the energetic requirements that arise from adaptation
demands. And these responses are molded by each sociocultural system,
so that the expenditure of energies is channeled through its own
unique organization. But the very organization of the sociocultural
system also has its own built-in requirements for energy expenditure
to maintain it, and these also have adaptational consequences. A
measure of the effectiveness of any sociocultural system in meeting
both these external and internal demands for adaptation is the degree
to which health impairments or enhancements result, as these are
in part the product of the overload or the efficient management
of adaptation demands (see G. N. Appell 1984, 1986).19
To return to the problems posed by the Rungus data, does the segregation
of the drives of sex and aggression have any explanation in terms
of developmental interactionism? Are there any child-rearing behaviors
that might interact with a particularly sensitive period for the
individuation of these drives and thus facilitate this individuation?
There is not enough evidence as yet to determine if there exists
such a sensitive period in child development. And as we have noted,
there appear to be no major child-rearing techniques that have relevance
here, unless it is the permissive toilet training, which is not
particularly unique, the process of weaning that occurs with the
arrival of a subsequent sibling in which the father substitutes
as the primary care-giver for this period, or the long-term physical
contact between child and parent that arises from regularly carrying
the child in a sarong close to the parent's body during the child's
first two to four years. I am speculating here to stimulate research.
I have also examined the biosocial energetics of this drive differentiation
to determine what consequences there might be to various behavioral
domains and the biology of the population. That is, what are the
biosocial costs of this segregation of drives? And can we measure
the demands for adaptation that this requires? To further this inquiry
and deal with the issue of the biological roots for sexual aggression,
I made the distinction between strong and weak biological factors.
This distinction is analytically a blunt instrument. But it permits
us to pose certain questions. We would expect that the sociocultural
modification of behavior with a strong biological component would
involve greater psychological, social, and physical costs. That
is, there would be greater demands for adaptation requiring greater
biosocial energies to be expended. And the greater the modification,
the greater the costs. These costs of adaptation by the society
can again be measured by the level of health impairments, psychological,
physical, and behavioral.
On the other hand, we would expect that the sociocultural shaping
of behavior which has a weak biological component would not involve
the same level of energetic costs, and these may not even be significant
enough to measure.
Thus, if there are strong biological roots for the interlinkage
of sex and aggression, as many have argued, there should be some
biosocial energetic costs to the Rungus population as a result of
the separation of these drives, some distinctive level of impairment.
But we have not yet discovered any. Biologically, the Rungus population
does not express any obvious stresses from the energetics involved
in segregating these drives either in reproductive capacity or in
other physical, behavioral, or psychological impairments. Nor do
the cultural projective systems indicate that there are any significant
costs in the development of defensive mechanisms as a result of
this. This lends considerable substance to the claim that sexual
aggression is primarily a product of sociocultural factors. But
our conclusions may be an artifact of our ethnographic methods,
and further field investigation of this issue would be welcome.
Thus, the only explanation that we have been able to advance to
date for ensuring this segregation of the drives of sex and aggression
is the overall pattern of jural sanctions, rules of etiquette, and
the background belief system. That is, models for and of behavior.
Obviously, child rearing must play a large part in this, but we
have found nothing particularly distinctive in Rungus child rearing
to indicate what this might be.
These conclusions thus suggest several things. First, the enculturative
costs of ensuring the segregation of the drives of sex and aggression
may not be high. And the biosocial costs of maintaining the segregation
of these drives may also not be high. On the other hand, the enculturative
costs in creating the interlinkage of the drives of sex and aggression
may be high, and certainly the biosocial costs from the consequences
of this interlinkage appear to be high in other societies.
To get a better grasp on these problems we need detailed studies
of child rearing among the Rungus and other societies of Borneo.
For there are other Bornean societies, such as the Iban (see Sutlive
in the Introduction), in which rape appears to be unknown but which
vary significantly in terms of the expression of the aggressive
drive. And there are societies with a different cultural ecology,
such as the foraging Penan, who also exhibit no sexual aggression
(Peter Brosius, personal communication). Thus, research on the societies
of Borneo offers a unique opportunity to cleanse many of the anthropological
generalizations about society and human nature that are culturally
contaminated from the presuppositions of our own cultural system
and from cross-cultural research that is not yet truly cross-cultural.