FORCED COITUS IN MARRIAGE
To determine the degree of association of sex and aggression in
Rungus society, we will now explore the questions as to whether
or not forced coitus exists in marriage and whether or not it is
recognized as such in the Rungus conceptual system. Does a husband
force his wife to have coitus against her will, or does he give
her the choice to refuse coitus? If forced intercourse occurs, is
it recognized as having happened or is it an unmarked event? And
if it is recognized as having happened, at what level is the response?
Is it handled at the level of interpersonal relations or at the
level of community sanctions? That is, does the jural system recognize
the right of a spouse to refuse to have coitus?
It is stated that a wife may refuse intercourse at any time, and
her wishes will be accepted. It is expected that women will want
to refrain from intercourse during their menstrual period, if they
are sick, or after giving birth. However, a husband will get angry
if he is frequently refused by his wife, and this will be the cause
of disputes and divorce. Specifically, one informant stated that
if a man's wife no longer wants intercourse, the man just gets up
A man may also show no interest in intercourse. But if lack of
interest in intercourse on the part of either spouse continues,
it is suspected by the other that he or she is having an affair.
However, it is known that there are men who will tabpa'an, "hold
on to", "grab hold of" their wives to induce intercourse,
but this is a rare occurrence. It is important to note that tabpa'an
is also used in jural cases where a woman is grabbed hold of by
a man, a fineable offense, or is induced to have intercourse, again
a finable offense. But in the case of a wife, there are no jural
sanctions against such behavior. That is, a wife induced to have
intercourse against her will, if it occurs, does not bring it up
before the village moot. I say if it occurs, for we have no cases
of intercourse in such instances being consummated. In time, one
informant said, this kind of behavior would be a source of arguments
between the man and his wife, and, if she hadn't already, she would
return to her parents' household (lumaping). And she will stay there
until the matter is resolved satisfactorily. And a husband to get
her to come back would have to give a small piece of brassware to
There was a case of this about 1972 in a neighboring village. Two
weeks after his wife gave birth, the husband wanted to have intercourse.
The term used in the narration of this case was mongizut, "to
induce intercourse", "to get her to fuck", a term
that may be substituted for tabpa'an. The usual waiting period is
about three months, which is the time when the child begins to smile,
or until the wife is no longer is sore. However, this husband tried
to pressure his wife into it, so she left for her father's house.
She wouldn't come back until her father made her husband promise
not to try this again, and if he did, the father said he would bring
about a divorce.
Is There Forced Coitus in Those Cases Where the Bride Does
Not Accept Her Husband?
Under certain conditions a bride will engage in behavior that is
termed amu tumutun and which I have referred to as "the reluctant
bride" pattern of behavior. The bride may refuse to acknowledge
her husband's existence in her family's longhouse apartment. She
may refuse to feed him, sleep near him, or go to the fields with
him alone. If the husband makes advances, she may hit at him with
her arm brass. Not only does she refuse to have intercourse with
him, she also refuses to engage in the usual domestic tasks of a
housewife. In other words she in essence shuns him (see L. W. R.
Appell in this volume for a fuller description of this behavior).
The explanations given for this are: the spouse selected by the
bride's parents is not acceptable; the bride is "ashamed",
"embarrassed" at publicly performing the role of wife,
which implies coitus, before her parents and other members of the
longhouse; she may be afraid of engaging in coitus, particularly
if she is very young; and finally if she does not show a certain
amount of reticence it would indicate that she lacked character
and wanted to have intercourse. At these times, does her husband
use force to engage in coitus?
This is a difficult question to get reliable data on. In some instances
a husband who is shunned will finally divorce his wife. In rare
instances, a husband will threaten or attempt suicide. Frequently,
the relatives of the bride will engage in activities to bring about
a marital union, to pressure the bride into accepting the sexual
advances of her husband.11 For instance, one bride during the daytime
would sew up the bottom of her sleeping robe to prevent her husband
from intercourse, while her sisters undid it when her back was turned.
From one informant we learned that even though she was engaging
in coitus with her husband shortly after marriage, she nevertheless
displayed amu tumutun behavior in front of her parents because she
was "ashamed" of having her parents think she was engaging
in sexual activities. In another instance, a woman who displayed
this behavior for six months nevertheless had become pregnant.
So we have to deal with the unresolvable problem of disentangling
public from private behavior.
Sometimes the shunned spouse will resort to love magic to bring
about coitus with the reluctant spouse. However, there are no forms
of magic, as there are among the Gusii of Africa (LeVine 1959:968),
that a bride might use to hinder or bring about the failure of her
husband's sexual competence.
It is not entirely clear in each case of rejection of the husband
whether these behaviors of the bride represent deep-seated feelings
or whether they are only a presentation of the social self to the
longhouse community, a public display of how a proper young woman
should feel about the possibility of sexual relations. Whatever
the case, we have no evidence that a woman in any instance was forced
to have intercourse. She was always able to refuse her husband's
However, in one unusual, ambiguous case of a bride rejecting her
husband, her husband complained that he had only been able to have
coitus with his wife by deceit or cunning. When he would try otherwise,
she would be angry with him. So he would wait till she was asleep.
Then he would quickly pull up her skirt and have coitus. One wonders
if this could have occurred without some acquiescence on the part
of the bride. And in this particular case her shunning her husband
may have been brought about more by his past behavior rather than
any ambivalent feelings towards fulfilling the role of wife. Prior
to initiating bride-price negotiations for her, he had been involved
in a case of alleged fornication with another woman, and it was
said that his wife was still angry about this. Also, she may have
had a certain reluctance to get involved physically with him because
of this. He would have been ritually "hot", if he actually
had engaged in fornication. Only the public sacrifice of a pig could
nullify the ritual consequences of his act. And if he were hot,
this disability would have endangered the health of his wife and
any children (see L. W. R. Appell in this volume for a discussion
of the consequences of the ritual heat arising from illicit intercourse).
Their marriage occurred in 1962, and the shunning of her husband
went on for a couple of months. But by 1986 they had nine children.
It is important to note that if a husband mistreats his wife, causes
bruises or hurts her, she has recourse to her father who will sue
his son-in-law. A husband is not allowed to beat, hurt, or injure
Finally, the reluctant bride behavior only occurs with women on
a first marriage. Remarriages as a result of being widowed or divorced
do not involve any such behavior on the part of women.