SOCIOCULTURAL EXPLANATIONS FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT
Sanday (1986) has argued that societies which are rape free have
certain sociocultural characteristics. In such societies women are
respected and are influential members of the community, and the
relationship between the sexes is characterized by equality and
complementarity. The evidence presented by L. W. R. Appell in this
volume and the analysis here tend to support these hypotheses.16
Sanday (1986:85) goes on to argue that rape is a form of silencing
or concealing male vulnerability and maternal dependency. Rape is
part of a sociocultural script in which the expression of personhood
for males is directed by interpersonal violence and an ideology
of toughness. Thus, she writes (1986:90):
The various cultural transformations of the theme of male vulnerability
and fear of the feminine so far discussed suggest that a logical
question to ask of both rape-prone and rape-free societies concerns
the cultural mechanisms for resolving male vulnerability and alleviating
what may be a generically human potentiality for fearing entrapment
by the maternal.
Let us examine Rungus male behavior in the light of these propositions.
The personhood of the Rungus male is not constructed on the capacity
for interpersonal violence and an ideology of toughness. Headhunting
was never a major part of Rungus society. And raiding for property
ceased even before the arrival of the British in the late 1880s.
The personhood of the Rungus male is constructed on the skills of
farming, trading property, and oral argument at the village moots.17
Furthermore, we have not been able to find any evidence to suggest
that Rungus males are threatened in any noticeable degree by vulnerability
and attributes of the feminine, nor is there any evidence to indicate
that they have a fear of maternal dependency. Rungus men are deeply
involved in child rearing and the family. It is also believed that
to "make" a child intercourse must progress for up to
five months before the child is "completed". So they participate
more intimately in the act of maternity than in many other societies.
Furthermore, at birth the husband receives the child and cuts its
umbilical cord. The issue of male personhood being threatened by
participating in female activities does not exist.
How do the Rungus resolve the conflict over male toughness and
female vulnerability and maternal dependency? They don't. It is
not an issue, it is not a cultural construct, as far as we have
been able to ascertain.