The female role and the male role in Rungus society are considered
equivalent, of equal value, symmetrical (see L. W. R. Appell in
this volume). Men are considered more dominant in political affairs,
trading, and village moots, and women more dominant in the knowledge
of rituals for health and fertility. Men are considered to be physically
more dominant than women, and women are considered to be less brave.
The value of the female role is represented in the bride-price that
must be paid. And she is protected by this from mistreatment by
her husband as all of it or the major part of it will have to be
returned if a wife leaves her husband before the birth of children.
None is returned, however, if she has children.
The male role is to initiate relations that lead to marriage. And
the role of the female in Rungus society is that publicly she is
to exhibit no knowledge of sexual matters before marriage, no matter
what her private knowledge may be, and that after marriage she must
continue to be publicly uninterested in sexual matters. But private
knowledge may be intimated by the behavior of females who exhibit
latah behavior (see A. A. Doolittle in this volume). And there are
ways by which a maiden can encourage attention. Women are expected
to be sexually attractive so that maidens do put considerable effort
into making themselves attractive. And it is expected of men to
try to make advances to women.
Sexual intercourse between individuals unmarried to each other
is highly prohibited, and this prohibition is supported by major
ritual sanctions. Violation can put the whole community into danger
and require both ritual fines and significant material compensation.
Furthermore, the structure of community relations and the behavior
of females inhibits such illicit intercourse. But it does occur,
and if the couple are unmarried they are put to marriage immediately.
Natural sex is not marked linguistically. But morphemes implying
that the subject of the verb is taking action when affixed to roots
referring to sexual intercourse are inappropriate to use with reference
to female behavior. This mirrors the cultural imperatives that the
female publicly does not put herself forward in matters of sexual
relations. Linguistically, there is also little evidence of sexual
aggression. Terms are not used that link sex and aggression or aggression
There is also no term that specifically refers to forced coitus
in which violence is used. The term that is used in such situations
is the same term that is used to refer to attempts at seduction
or to indicate that verbal pressure was applied to persuade a woman
This does not mean that the concept of violence in sexual intercourse
does not exist. But it is primarily in the phantasies of men and
in projective systems of men. And while men may have such phantasies
and stories of rape, both men and women agree that if a woman refuses
a proposition of intercourse her wishes will be respected. Woman,
however, try to avoid situations where they might be propositioned
by a man, and are concerned that they might be accosted by a man.
Women in general exhibit little knowledge of forced intercourse
or stories about this. However, there is the knowledge of what compensation
is expected if there were a case of intercourse being forced without
the woman's permission. And women know of ways to secure evidence
that they have been taken advantage of. But there were no actual
jural cases of this.
In the domain of social behavior, some of the illicit acts such
as touching a woman's breast, holding on to her (tabpa'an), grabbing
a woman's genitalia, do exhibit a certain amount of aggression,
particularly the latter. These are rare events. And there is little
evidence of sexual antagonism or aggression between men and women
either behaviorally, linguistically, or in the projective systems.
There is the story of forced intercourse at the water hole in which
the woman was either killed or had her hips dislocated. If this
represents a true historical account and not a legend, it is the
only instance of violence in coitus we have been able to collect.
There is also the story of a woman acceding to intercourse in order
to get evidence, by means of the man's headcloth, that he had been
accosting women. Again it is not clear if this is an actual case
or not. These stories may be cautionary tales only.
The one actual case we have is of a man accosting women when they
went to the water hole, catching hold of them to talk them into
intercourse. In this his intentions were eventually thwarted by
a strong maiden who carried him back to the longhouse. Thus, as
in the previous story, men were caught and fined. And in both these
stories there is no evidence that force was used to obtain coitus.
There are also instances in the projective system of animal behavior
in which the orang-utan is reputed to sexually attack women. But
then there is the myth of the female orang-utan who threatens to
drop a man out of her tree until he agrees to coitus.
It is reported that husbands may try to force intercourse with
their wives. But the wife can always return to the household of
her parents or other male relative. And there is no evidence that
violence is associated with such coitus.
In sum, women recognize the superior physical power of men. But
they do not perceive that their volition in matters of sexual intercourse
is ever taken away from them by force. Thus, it would appear that
the drives of sex and aggression are highly individuated in Rungus