The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia

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The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia (pl. Życie seksualne dzikich w północno-zachodniej Melanezji) is a 1929 book by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski. It contains ethnographic data that proves that the Freudian Oedipus complex is not universal.

This important work is his second in the trilogy on the Trobrianders, with the other two being Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) and Coral Gardens and Their Magic (1935).[1]


In the preface Malinowski says that sexuality "dominates in fact almost every aspect of culture".[2][3]

Malinowski gives a detailed description of the social organisation of sexuality – social rites, partner choice, et al. – "tracing the Trobriand lifecycle from birth through puberty, marriage, and death".[1]

Children don't submit to a system of "domestic coercion" or "regular discipline" — they "enjoy considerable freedom and independence". The idea of a child being "beaten or otherwise punished in cold blood" by a parent is viewed as unnatural and immoral and when proposed by westerners (like the anthropologist) is "rejected with resentment". Things are asked "as from one equal to another; a simple command, implying the expectation of natural obedience, is never heard from parent to child in the Trobriands". The event of a person getting angry and striking another person "in an outburst of rage" sometimes happens but as often from parent to child as from child to parent.[4]

In further chapters, the parent-child relationship of the Trobrianders is described with details of their complex matrilineal relationship structure in which the biological parentage is ignored.


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