The Primitive Mind and Modern Man

Indexed in: Scopus, EBSCO

This book is in the field of cultural anthropology and transcultural psychology, and is intended for college courses in anthropology and psychology, and general readership. The book focuses on ...
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The Treatment and the Role of Women in Primitive Cultures

Pp. 246-254 (9)

John Alan Cohan


Women are treated in diverse ways across cultures, and diverse attitudes about such things as promiscuity, adultery, and rape. The low status of women is somewhat pervasive, but in many cultures women enjoy a high status. For example, In Borneo, medicine women are highly regarded so that male shamans deliberately assume female habits and costumes, and are treated like women and do women’s work. There are many avoidance taboos associated with women-from the avoidance of menstruating women, to the avoidance of sexual contact with women during pregnancy or prior to certain rituals or expeditions. Sexually promiscuous unmarried women are known in Normanby Island of Papua. In contrast, modesty in women’s behavior is emphasized in many Muslim cultures in which the lust of women is thought to be greater than men. Among French-Moslem people who live in Southern Algeria, the men, not women, wear veils. In many cultures such as the Nivkh, it was fairly common for men to engage in seduction and rape. In some cultures it was customary for brothers to share their wives. For centuries in India and among Native Americans Suttee was customaryimmolation of widows on the funeral pyre of their husbands. The custom of the levirate prevails in many cultures today, requiring a widow to marry one of her deceased husband’s brothers. Today, honor killings are a cultural practice, mainly in the Middle East but also a worldwide phenomenon, in which family members will attack a female relative-by stoning, stabbing, beating or shooting, in order to kill her for bringing dishonor to her family or clan. A related aspect of honor killings pertains to the common practice for women or girls who are rape victims to be killed by relatives.


Western State Law School USA.