Is the strong cultural focus on sex as a reproductive tool the reason masturbation and homosexual practices seem to be virtually unknown among the Aka and Ngandu? That isn't clear. But the Hewletts did find that their informants -- whom they knew well from years of field work -- "were not aware of these practices, did not have terms for them," and, in the case of the Aka, had a hard time even understanding about what the researchers were asking when they asked about homosexual behaviors. The Ngandu "were familiar with the concept" of homosexual behavior, "but no word existed for it and they said they did not know of any such relationships in or around the village. Men who had traveled to the capital, Bangui, said it existed in the city and was called 'PD' (French for par derriere or from behind)."Jesse Bering covers similar ground (with different details) in Slate - Does homosexuality exist in every human society?
... The finding with regard to homosexuality is perhaps not that surprising. As the Hewletts note, other researchers have documented cultures where homosexuality appears not to exist. If homosexual orientation has a genetic component to it -- and there is increasing evidence that it does, in many cases -- then it would not be surprising that this complex human trait (one that involves non-procreative efforts) would be found in some populations but not others.
Moreoever, sexual behavior -- whether homosexual, heterosexual, or any other type -- is never simply genetically determined in humans. Humans are born with sexual potentials that will manifest differently in different cultural settings. So, about heterosexuality, the Hewletts note that Western cultures' valuing of sleeping through the night probably limits Western heterosexual couples' interest in having sex multiple times between dusk and dawn. In our culture, the work we have to do by day may overtake "the work of the night."
It's also worth noting that Western science specifically distinguishes between three components of sexuality: desire, behavior, and identity. While the Hewletts' research suggests that homosexual behavior and identity are foreign to the Aka and Ngandu, it's entirely possible that homosexual desire does exist in these groups, at least for some of their members (so to speak). A culture that recognizes such desires -- and especially a culture that does not condemn them -- and especially one that involves large groups where homosexually-inclined people can find each other -- is the type where such desires will become openly apparent.
Short abstract: Broad claims about human psychology and behavior based on narrow samples from Western societies are regularly published in leading journals. Are such species‐generalizing claims justified? This review suggests not only that substantial variability in experimental results emerges across populations in basic domains, but that standard subjects are in fact rather unusual compared with the rest of the species—frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, categorization, spatial cognition, memory, moral reasoning and self‐concepts. This review (1) indicates caution in addressing questions of human nature based on this thin slice of humanity, and (2) suggests that understanding human psychology will require tapping broader subject pools. We close by proposing ways to address these challenges.*Toronto Star - Why we're the weirdest people in the world
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