13 October 2013

Grand Valley Dani Culture

In order to be a good psychologist we need to be able to understand not only our own culture, but also very different ways of living that the ones we have. Below I am going to explain the basic ideas of Dani culture, a really interesting society that will leave you astonished.

The Grand Valley Dani of Irian Jaya Indonesia has a very peculiar sexual life. Even the most curious anthropologist become amazed with the sexual practices that this culture has (even though they are accustomed to seeing the most strange things that you can imagine).
Dani culture is not interested in sex. They do not do much energetic activity and that has created a very low interest in having a complete sexual life. They have no interest in it. To go deeper into their sexuality, we can see that they have a really long postpartum abstinence, 5 years of not having any type of sex.  This surprising fact has been studied by many anthropologists, psychologists and other social sciences to understand why does Dani culture have this behavior. Saucier, which was a psychologist and anthropologist,  studied this phenomenon and he discovered that a very long postpartum abstinence was one year (something not common and difficult to maintain for monogamous couples) in general in societies. In order to know why Dani culture has this 5-year abstinence we need to know why it was introduced in the culture, and how it was maintained throughout the years, concluding that it was based on social structure.
Nowadays, Freudian assumptions about sexuality are day a day knowledge, they are seen as a reference of studies and ways of thinking, so things that differ from these are normally seen as something strange. The studies and assumptions made on the Dani culture are really difficult to demonstrate and they are not reliable as more proof is needed in order to show that the results are true. This investigation is based on what people say about their sexual lives, what they do or what they feel, but it is very difficult to know if what they are saying is true, as you cant be 100% sure of what someone else feels or does.
Furthermore, anthropologist want to discover the range of human sexual behaviour, and the Dani culture is going to help to do this as it will show if sexual behaviour is something innate or culturally learned. Now they are not only investigating the postpartum abstinence, but also many other trades that would help to discover more about sexual life in different cultures and in Dani’s one.
To prove that the Dani culture is telling the truth with its postpartum sexual abstinence, we can see two-mayor evidence. The first one is the social one.  Dani culture does not have much private life, everybody knows everything about everyone and keeping a secret is very difficult. Furthermore, no one talked about breaking the rule of abstinence, as no one broke it because it would have been a mayor issue that everyone would talk about and no one mentioned anything about it. Secondly, we can see that siblings are at least five years of age apart from each other, which again proves the point that they are telling the truth. To control the postpartum sexual abstinence there is no control or punishment, the only bad thing that could happen to them is a punishment from ghosts. Dani's citizens do not suffer stress, depression or pain because of the celibacy. 

There is also some interesting data to take into account.
Firstly, even though they don’t practice sexual activities much, they are able to maintain the population. Women do not have many children. Dani men talked about abortion, but there is not prove that it occurred. Furthermore, women talked about contraceptive plants, but again there was not enough evidence of it to prove its use. There is no infanticide.
Moreover, extramarital sex is really strange. If it happens it would cause a great deal of problems in society as it is not well seen. Furthermore, married couples can’t have sex until there is a ceremony for it and two years of marriage and living together have passed. Also, to get married is a very long process as weddings are held every four to six years.Homosexuality is not seen at all in the Dani culture, if two men sleep together it is not seen as something sexual. 
For more surprise, the Dani culture uses the penis gourd not for any sexual reasons, not even the different sizes and shapes of the penis have sexual connotations. The only example we can see of sexuality in Dani culture is in teenagers, which create songs with sexual content, drawings and string figures. These represent the only explicit sexuality in Dani culture. Conclusions have been made that Dani people are conservatives because their rules permit them to act in different and comfortable ways for them without changing their rules. Furthermore, they are really healthy people. Dani's civilization is not emotional. They don’t express lots of emotion, don’t get into conflicts and rarely show anger.
Freud said that everybody has an innate amount of sexual energy that must be wasted; it would be used in other forms if you do not use it. Following the rule, Dani culture must have a really high level of intellectual or ascetic achievements, but none of this happens in this society. Thanks to this, anthropologists came to the conclusion that the nature of human sexuality is determined by cultural and social circumstances and not Freudian ideas. Gagon and Simon made a study investigating the nature of human sexuality discovering places where there is lots of affection and nearly no sex and vice versa which challenges Freud’s conclusions.
Dani is a low energy system, in other words, they don’t do activities that require much energy, neither thinks a lot about complex things or use energy as other societies do. This does not mean that their level of life is worst, in fact they are healthy, happy, relaxed people with a high quality of life. Even at wartime they spend most of the time relaxed talking more than fighting. They do not even have much anger towards the enemy.

Finally, Dani’s way of behaving isn’t the normal one. There are two main factors of why this happens: environment and culture. The former shows that they do not have seasons, days or even months, which gives them a completely different way of life. The latter refers to Dani culture mixing with others, something that did not happen until 1954 that has made them have this interesting culture.  They do not have any stress, not even babies in their first years of life. We cannot prove that these factors are the ones that make Dani’s have this sexual life the only thing we can conclude is that Dani culture has a low level of sexual life.

1 comment:

  1. Qué estupendo blog, Elisa. Tiene un nombre magnífico y una muy bonita presentación.
    Además, me ha interesado mucho este post sobre los Dani, de los que no había oído hablar nunca.
    Lamento no tener mejor nivel de inglés para no perderme nada de lo que escribes.