SEXUAL METAPHOR IN VERBAL AGGRESSION
One indicator of the degree to which the sexual and aggressive
drives are interlinked in any sociocultural system is the extent
to which sexual metaphors are used in verbal aggression.
In American usage metaphors of intercourse are constantly used
in expressing aggression, so that you can conclude that one of the
fundamental metaphors of American society is that SEXUAL INTERCOURSE
IS AGGRESSION. This is illustrated in the phrases "screw you",
"up yours", "fuck you" (see G. N. Appell 1987;
Beneke 1982). But aggression is often mapped in turn by sexual terms,
such as "I have been screwed!", "I feel like I have
been raped!", etc. (see G. N. Appell 1987). Thus, there is
a related metaphor in American society: AN AGGRESSIVE ACT MAY BE
That these metaphors are not human universals is demonstrated by
the use of abusive language among the Rungus. The concept of sexual
intercourse is not used as a metaphor for aggression.
Rungus Forms of Verbal Abuse
Verbal expressions of aggression among the Rungus involve the mention
of genitalia or the implication of death (see Table Two). These
fall under the general rubric of monginsasana, "to anger",
In mentioning genitalia some forms of verbal abuse can be very
aggressive. But these aggressive insults do not involve the concept
of sexual intercourse as an aggressive act.6
In addition to mentioning genitalia, there is the very rare gesture
in which a person extends his index finger downward and spits on
it. This is a reference to one's penis being short. This is also
a genitalia insult. There are no gestures which indicate sexual
intercourse as an aggressive act.
Reference to another's genitalia uttered in anger, intentionally
to insult, or to show disrespect are grounds for jural action. The
person insulted can bring the matter to the village moot, and compensation
for the insult is a piece of brassware. If the person so vilified
returns the insult, this obviates jural action. This form of insult
is classed as komolu'an, "to be shamed". It does not impute
any physical impairment as does the next form of insult.
In the case of death insult, there is the fear that it may come
to pass. To prevent this the person insulted can ask for a chicken
in payment. The chicken is then sacrificed with prayer to remove
the possibility of harm and the blood of the chicken is wiped on
the ankle of the person affected.
In both instances of death implication and genitalia insult the
abuse can be compounded and made more serious by including reference
to a wounding (see Table 2; see kotiguras below). Also, rather than
a statement of wounding or a threatened wounding, an individual
can symbolically act out the wounding. For example, an individual
may refer to a man's penis in anger while cutting a stick with a
bush knife. This commingling of threat and insult requires a larger
fine, involving both a chicken and brassware.
Terms for sexual intercourse occur in abusive language only in
one instance, mongizut do ondu, "(you) get women to fuck!",
"(you) induce women to fuck!" The sense of this phrase
might also be indicated by translating it with American slang terms:
"(you) lay women!", or "(you) make women!" There
are no other terms in American English to indicate sufficiently
the nature of this insult in which a man is imputed to be actively
engaged in seeking out women for fornication.
RUNGUS FORMS OF VERBAL ABUSE
|1. Mongimbuhal :
||"To insult by reference to genitalia"
Toli nu! :
||Ontolu nu! :
||Turoi nu! :
||Ondila nu! :
||Mongizut do ondu! :
||"(You) get women to fuck!"
||Kinisan turoi nu! :
||"(I will) tear your vagina!"b
||Govilon turoi nu! :
||"(I will) rip out your vagina!"b
|2. Mongolupu' :
||"To curse someone by saying or implying he is going to
Matai ko! :
|"You are going to die!"
||Akanon do rogon! :
||"You will be eaten by the spirits!"
||Mindakud do kazu om aratu! :
||"Climb a tree and fall!" (All the various forms
of death may be used.)
|3. Mongimbuhal om Moniguras :
||"To insult by reference to genitalia and cause the ritual
delict of a threatened wound"
Tibason toli nu! :
|"Your penis will be slashed!"
||Tibason ku toli nu! :
||"Your penis will be slashed by me!"
||(All variations of genitalia and methods of cutting
can be substituted.)
4. Mongolupu' om Moniguras :
|"To curse by mentioning death and to cause the ritual
delict of threatening to wound..,"
||Matai ko, tibason dikau! :
||"You are going to die, you will be slashed!"
a I have translated the Rungus terms for genitalia
with the standard American English terms, not slang terms,
as the same Rungus terms are used in standard Rungus as well
as in environments of verbal abuse, with but the exception
of mongizut (see text).
b We never heard of these two expletives during our original
field work but only discovered them in 1990. I was told that
these were old types of expletives and not recently devised.
The term govilon is hard to translate. It also refers to the
action of putting one's finger in another person's mouth and
tearing away at the corner of it when fighting or wrestling.
Flynn in his analysis of insults cross-culturally remarks (1976:4):
"In most cultures it is considered very insulting to accuse
someone of engaging in unacceptable or deviant sexual behavior.
The severity of the insult is usually related to the seriousness
of the norms against the particular kind of sexual behavior that
the insulted person is accused of." Thus, "You get women
to fuck!" is indeed a powerful insult, the furthest that Rungus
go in using intercourse as a form of insult. I shall be exploring
the context of this most deviant of sexual behaviors and its implications
to Rungus society in the rest of this study.
In conclusion, there is no form of insult involving the use of
sexual intercourse as a metaphor for physical aggression towards
another. This form of verbal aggression does not appear in the Rungus
cognitive world. Nor are terms of sexual intercourse used to devalue
another, with the one exception of "You get women to fuck!"
Finally, aggressive acts are not described using any metaphors of