[Editors Note: Because there are over 300 distinct indigenous ethnic groups in Indonesia, the authors of Part 1 of this chapter focus mainly on urban and village Indonesians, for whom some data are available. Here, in Part 2, Ramsey Elkholy, a sociocultural anthropologist, expands on this picture of sexuality among modern urban and village Indonesians with insights from his field work with the indigenous Orang Rimba hunter-gatherer forest people of Sumatra, Indonesia. For additional insights into the sexual attitudes and behavior among other indigenous peoples, the reader is referred to the sections on the aboriginal people of Australia and Brazil, Canadas First Nation People, the indigenous people of French Polynesia and on Papua New Guinea. (Robert T. Francoeur)].
The Orang Rimba are an indigenous minority population inhabiting the primary and secondary lowland forests of south-central Sumatra, the largest and most western of the Indonesian islands just south of Malasia. Kubu is the most commonly used exonym by local villagers and the general Indonesian populace, and it is the most common referent found in the anthropological literature (see Van Dongen 1906; Loeb 1942; LeBar 1972; Sandbukt 1984, 1988a, b; Persoon 1989; Suetomo 1992 ). However, it is a title they resent being designated by, as it is a pejorative term connoting savage or primitive.
They practice a nomadic or semi-nomadic form of hunting and gathering economy, occasionally supplemented with basic slash and burn (swidden) agriculture. Precise population figures are difficult to obtain, but 2,600 to 3,000 are realistic estimates, with the large majority living in Jambi Province, and nearly one third of the total population concentrated in the Tembesi-Tabir interfluve, where slash and burn agriculture has intensified in recent decades, thus leading to higher birthrates. Significant numbers are also found in South Sumatra Province, while remnant populations and new migrants can also be found in West Sumatra and the Riau Provinces.
Group sizes range from small nuclear domestic units to larger swiddening (slash and burn) camps, which can reach one hundred or more persons (Sandbukt 1988a). In cases where residential groups consist of nuclear family dwellings, it is common for two or more kin-related families to consolidate their efforts by sharing game and other wild foods to compensate for their small group sizes. In recent decades, some groups have adopted a more sedentary life, shifting their economic orientation towards subsistence horticulture and rubber tree cultivation and tapping. This has led to higher birthrates among women, but infant mortality remains high, particularly in areas where deforestation has occurred, where they are coping with the transition to sedentism without proper health care and hygienic education.
For centuries, the Orang Rimba have avoided sustained contact with neighboring agricultural peasantries, preferring to trade only with a select few trusted villagers. Various historical accounts report that in certain areas they had practiced a form of silent trade whereby forest products were placed on the fringes of the forest to be collected by villagers, who would exchange these products with needed goods, such as salt and metal for spear heads and machetes, by placing them in the same spot - both sides never meeting face to face (Boers 1838; Forbes 1885). This form of barter may have been replaced, in some cases, with face-to-face encounters with a Malay intermediary known as jenang or bapak semang. He was seen as a guarantor of their autonomy, and the forest products they forfeited to him (e.g., rattan, damar, dragons blood, and honey) were often of much greater value than the goods received (e.g., salt, tobacco, metal tools, and clothing), which were to be seen as gifts rather than direct equivalents of the goods offered (Sandbukt 1988b:112-13). This system lasted until recent years and still persists in some areas, but in a less paternalistic and strictly economic form.
Such extreme xenophobia may have been a response to the fears of slave raiding in past times. According to Sandbukt (1988a:111) and Marsden (1811:41), slave raiding on the inter-local level was a real and serious threat to the Orang Rimba until only a few generations ago. Such dangers may have increased with the spread of Islam from the fourteenth century onwards. In the Islamic faith, it is forbidden to enslave other Muslims. The non-Muslim indigenous populations of the interior, such as the Orang Rimba, were, therefore, obvious targets for slave raids and other forms of persecution (cf. Denatan et al. 1997).
Their long history of avoidance of the outside world is deeply rooted in an ideology, passed down from their ancestors, that envisages the bifurcation of humanity into two types: Malays - who live in permanent villages and follow the dictates of Islam; and the Orang Rimba - who live in the forest and follow the traditions and customs of their ancestors (see Sandbukt 1984). This distinction is the inspiration and guiding principle of their lives, and any crossing or confusing of these two domains would be seen as a breach of the sacred mode of life passed down from their ancestors. The Orang Rimba identify all that is sacred with the forest and, concomitantly, view many of the Islamic customs practiced by their sedentary village-dwelling neighbors as somehow impure and, therefore, taboo. Commensality practices perfectly illustrate this, in which two groups can reside in the same area without competing, because they have independent or different values and customs. The foods commonly eaten by Muslim villagers, such as goats, cows, buffaloes, and chickens, are foods that are forbidden to the Orang Rimba, whereas certain forest game, such as wild boar, turtle, and snake, foods quite common to the Orang Rimba, are taboo to the Muslim villagers.
The Orang Rimba integrate and associate religion, the supernatural, notions of well being, subsistence practice, and survival in general with their forest environment. Richly imbued with nurturing and life-giving qualities, their forest world is viewed as a pantheistic totality where a wide variety of deities reside under the auspices of a benevolent and omnipotent Godhead (Behelo). Forest deities are contacted regularly by experienced shamans who, while in trance, are endowed with the special ability to see and communicate with these otherwise invisible beings. Such sacred communication insures protection from physical and supernatural dangers and promotes success in hunting and the general well being of the group. It also serves to maintain and regenerate the delicate dialectical balance between themselves and the forest, and the sacred mode of life practiced therein.
Despite their rich and complex system of beliefs, they are, nonetheless, considered pagan savages or infidels by their Muslim agriculturist neighbors. Moreover, these encompassing agricultural peasantries, along with a continual influx of transmigrants from Java, continue to clear Orang Rimban forestland for their slash and burn fields. More threatening still to Orang Rimban environments are the large-scale logging operations that continue in both South Sumatra and Jambi Provinces. These days many groups camp on the side of logging roads in order to gain easier access to outer-market goods and services. Exchange contacts have also increased and diversified as a consequence of their broadening knowledge of the outside mercantile economy, and they no longer accept the paternalistic relationships with Malay intermediaries whereby gifts are received for their labor and forests products. Although they are enjoying greater access to the wider market economy, which has provided them with unprecedented opportunities to amass personal wealth (usually measured in sheets of cloth, gold, currency, and outer-market goods), there are few, if any, Orang Rimba environments that are not somehow threatened by the forces of encroaching development.
Aside from the destruction of their forests, the Orang Rimba have been under increasing pressures from central and local governments to assimilate. In the 1960s, the Department of Social Affairs (Depsos) initiated an assimilation campaign in an attempt to settle the Orang Rimba permanently in Malay-style villages and encourage them to practice subsistence agriculture. In coordination with Indonesias Department of Religion (Dinas Agama), and occasionally through missionaries - sometimes foreign - attempts have been undertaken with varying degrees of success to convert them to Islam, the nations predominant religion. Christian missionaries have also played an active role in persuading the Orang Rimba to abandon their traditional mode of life in the forest and assimilate to Malay ways, which involves taking up permanent residence in or near one of the nearby villages. Since Indonesias independence in 1945, most villages have established Government-sponsored primary schools, where Pencasilan national philosophy and modern Indonesian is taught. This has promoted a sense of nationalism and broader regional awareness that is largely absent among the Orang Rimba, who by and large still remain separate geographically and culturally, and continue to see the world from a purely provincial or local perspective.
While the pressures of deforestation and development are causing rapid social changes and challenging the resiliency of their traditional way of life, domestic practices, including gender roles and relations, have remained relatively unaffected, aside from higher incidence of male defection to local villages where intermarriage is sought. No known precedence has been set for villager males marrying into forest-dwelling Orang Rimban camps. As such, these groups remain ideal contexts for studying traditional internal social dynamics. However, the Orang Rimbas well-established history of avoidance behavior had, in the past, undermined many attempts at conducting in-depth anthropological investigation, particularly regarding sensitive matters such as gender and sexuality, which require intimate contact on the domestic level and access to women by researchers. The information reported here is based on a field study of close to two years, when the author lived among the Orang Rimba on the domestic level. The demands of local customs necessarily restricted the authors access to Orang Rimban women.
The Orang Rimba use kinship categories as the basic societal building blocks of their social organization. Kinship ties determine residential arrangements, distribution of resources, and key social alignments, in effect producing and reproducing their ideational ties and wider social order. Populations who may be separated by hundreds of kilometers will maintain contacts with their near and distant kin, either directly or through intermediaries. Through these kinship networks, one enduring cultural type - however dispersed - may be said to exist. Gender relations are equally conditioned and affected by kinship relations and, therefore, kinship affiliation plays a fundamental role in shaping Orang Rimban social values and general modes of behavior.
Post-marital residence is uxorilocal. A male will marry-in to his spouses group and, after an unspecified period of bride-service to his father-in-law, he will remain under his authority and be expected to provide his labor power and moral support indefinitely. He will eventually replace his father in-laws position, either by usurping his power when he is physically unfit or too old to make important decisions (e.g., resolving disputes, representing the group and their needs to outsiders, etc.), or when he finally dies. Marriage is normally a strenuous affair for in-marrying males as well as for both families involved. Most family members, fathers and brothers in particular, will fiercely resist any attempts by an outsider male to marry into the family. The outsider male must first gain the familys trust, and the suitors bride-service is aimed at achieving this end. Cross-cousin marriage is preferred over unions with non- or distant kin, as trust has already been established through previous consanguinal relations between siblings.
An Orang Rimban man will commonly exhibit macho-like characteristics, asserting a dont fool with me status to other men. Such a disposition is largely because of the ever-present need to claim ones rights to women, particularly spouses, but also female children of marriageable age who are increasingly coming under the eyes of amorous young bachelors. While a males masculinity is often exaggerated in manner, he may be openly affectionate and nurturing towards his young children, particularly infants. Men will also display affection openly by embracing and weeping upon uniting with long-separated male relatives. Group weeping (bubughatongpon) in cases where long-separated parties unite is also common, as well as in the event of death, in which case weeping may continue sporadically for weeks on end. Embracing, however, is restricted to the same sex, and it is more common that a woman will bow her head and sniff the hand of a male relative, which signifies respect during such greetings and farewells.
Traditionally, the role of an Orang Rimban man is that of the hunter, the provider of meat and the protector of women and children. A womans role is twofold, that of the gatherer of wild food, which includes digging edible tubers, and that of the nurturer of the young. While Orang Rimban society appears to be male-dominated in most respects, women often enjoy considerable autonomy and hold considerable political sway over their spouses, particularly when their fathers and male siblings are nearby, where they can voice their complaints and thereby summon their support (see Sandbukt 1988a).
Domestic space is delineated by the male and female domains in their split-level shelters. The upper level is the male domain, where visiting men are welcome to sit, smoke tobacco, and pass the time of day; the lower level is strictly for women and children. The lower level physically marks off a boundary from the rest of the shelter and is strictly off limits to all adult males except for a womans spouse.
These days, collecting forest product for external exchange is increasing, as the Orang Rimbas ever-growing dependency on outer-market goods, such as cigarettes, coffee, sugar, and rice increases. It is now more common for women to frequent village shops to buy supplies and to sell their forest products. In some areas, however, women are still fiercely protected from the perceived dangers of the outer world and are forbidden to enter the village without male accompaniment. In more rare cases, where traditions still strongly prohibits contact with outsiders, women are forbidden from entering the village altogether.
Labor power is a central concern in Orang Rimban society, and every member, if able, is expected to contribute to the well being of the group. Even child labor is utilized to its fullest extent. As soon as children can walk, they learn, mostly through imitation, the tasks appropriate to their gender. Girls will look after their younger siblings, fetch water, cook, weave sleeping mats, collect firewood, help clear swiddens, and other household chores. Boys will also help clear swiddens and follow older boys and adult males on fishing and hunting excursions.
Young girls will be expected to take care of and nurture younger siblings, and it is not uncommon for a 7-year-old to spend an entire afternoon looking after younger siblings while her mother is out collecting forest products. On other occasions, they may accompany her on short excursions to dig for edible tubers. At this age, a girl will mix freely with boys, but as she approaches menarche her domestic responsibilities will increase along with her increasing awareness of her sexuality. She will already understand and adhere to the social sanctions regarding excessive contact with males. When she reaches her menarche, and for the remainder of her pre-marriage years, the only men she will interact with will be her male siblings and father. It is not uncommon, however, for an adolescent or young-adult girl to eschew intimate contact even with her male family members who, following the same code of conduct, may speak to her only when necessary.
Female children are particularly coveted and prized. Aside from helping with household chores, such as cooking, collecting firewood and water, nurturing younger siblings, and various other domestic tasks, they will someday fetch a bride-price or fine, often paid in sheets of cloth. In more recent times, gold and currency have also been used. Female children are also valued for the subsequent labor-power of an in-marrying male they will bring. More pressure to be self-sufficient is brought to bear on boys, and they will be encouraged to collect forest products or go fishing at the early age of 7 or 8. As they approach their adolescent years, they will accompany men on hunting excursions and increase their proficiency in forest-product collecting. They will commonly give their earnings to their mother for safekeeping or for the groups immediate needs. The logic behind expecting young boys to produce and contribute to the camps subsistence base lies not only in their inherent abilities, but also in the recognition that they will provide their labor power during their growing years, but eventually will leave the camp to marry-in to another group. Moreover, they will need such survival skills in order to seek a wife and support a family someday.
Obedience to adults, particularly fathers, is an enduring characteristic of Orang Rimban family life. Unlike most of the worlds egalitarian hunting and gathering societies, where children enjoy great personal autonomy and are expected to respect but not necessarily obey their parents (Denatan et al. 1997), Orang Rimban children are highly disciplined and are expected to both respect and obey their elders. A child that does not obey a parent is referred to as evil (jahat) and, in extreme circumstances, may be subject to physical punishment. This is more common among same-sex parent-child relations. For example, a father will not beat his daughter, and a mother will rarely, if ever, beat her son. More commonly, however, children are scolded verbally to invoke a sense of shame that is expecially felt when their behavior is called into question publicly before the scrutiny of the camp.
As mentioned above, most of the worlds hunting and gathering peoples are egalitarian in their social organization. The Orang Rimba are an exception in this regard, in that competition between men based on unequal access to women creates distinct inequalities between men. As a result, disputes commonly arise between men over their rights to women. Out of the need to protect ones claims to women, fathers over daughters and husbands over wives, the Orang Rimba have developed strong notions of law and social order. A males voice is often oratorical and loud, and their strong sense of law and moral propriety is revealed in the content and character of their speech. In some areas, they have assimilated to an archaic Malay hierarchy, one which the Malays themselves no longer ascribe to, where various ranks preside under the authority of a high-ranking headman (tumenggung). These hierarchies most likely served as a mechanism through which they could be governed, however loosely, by the wider rural society, and to extract valuable forest products for external exchange. But they also serve as a legal mechanism through which serious disputes can be resolved. Incumbents are elected to office by their own kinsmen after demonstrating their mastery of formal adat customary law, which is exhibited through a public recital of its precepts. In areas where the Orang Rimba have not assimilated to this hierarchy, marked inequalities between men still persist, mainly as a consequence of uxorilocal post-marital residence and the requisite subordination of in-marrying males to their father-in-laws.
A deep mistrust between distant or non-kin males regarding access to women is a pervasive characteristic of Orang Rimban social relations. Women are fiercely protected from outsiders, and restrictive taboos on interaction with women by non-kin males are strictly adhered to by all but the southernmost groups. Local residential camps, therefore, are usually comprised of only close kin. Groups with distant or no kinship ties, although cooperating occasionally, perhaps by sharing game or storing foodstuffs for one another, will occasionally suspect each other of wrong doings. The nuclear or extended family, therefore, is the core and basic building block of Orang Rimban social life. Constituting their domestic sphere, it is the fulcrum from which all notions of self and collectivity, as well as relations with others, emanate.
Women are normally regarded as legal minors (Sandbukt 1988a, b); but while women are normally subordinate to either their spouse or male relatives, they do often enjoy considerable autonomy within the domestic context, holding considerable influence in private family matters and in the unconditional loyalty they receive from their children. In legal matters, however, in cases of dispute or whenever personal rights are called into question, women are always subordinate either to their male consanguines or affines. Adultery, wife stealing, and excessive intimacy with an unwed girl (gadis) are the most serious breaches of Orang Rimban customary law, and severe punishments may be administered by a headman when such transgressions occur. In cases when a headman is not present, a male litigant, perhaps a father or male spouse, will demand payment of a fine outright, as compensation from the accused male. Such fines are commonly paid in cloth, gold, and cash currency. When disputes cannot be effectively resolved by the two parties concerned, a headman or local villager, perhaps a village headman, will be summoned to mediate. In most cases, the woman involved will not be held accountable. Her actions are more often viewed as a subconscious response to the male offenders sorcery or love magic. Full responsibility, therefore, is brought to bear on the actions of men, while strict behavioral constraints are adhered to by both sexes in order to temper suspicions and prevent such transgressions from occurring.
The legal status of children is called into question when a parent dies. For example, in instances when a mother has died, her brother, rather than her spouse, will claim legal custody of the children, as is prescribed by traditional adat law. This often leads to a dire situation for fathers, who are pressed to either run off with their children or mount a defense against their brother(s)-in-law for custody. Life-long discord between men often results out of such situations, leading to disputes that may never be effectively resolved. Legally, however, a widowed male will be required to join the group of a brother-in-law and remain subordinate to him. A man who loses a spouse, therefore, also loses a degree of autonomy over his children and himself if he wishes to remain with his children without fleeing the area.
In cases when a father dies, men, particularly those wishing to acquire a second wife, will often assert their claim to the widowed woman. In such instances, a woman can be taken against her will if her male relatives are unable to ward off such men. This happens when the male siblings are too young or simply unable to effectively assert themselves. Having a second wife increases a mans prestige and contributes greatly to the labor force, particularly because child-labor is also utilized. Moreover, female children will one day fetch bride-service and the requisite subordination of any in-marrying male. Orang Rimban life, therefore, is highly political, and power relations between men very much hinge on their ability, or inability, to claim and maintain their rights over women and children.
In many cases, women are enjoying greater autonomy these days as contact with neighboring village populations increases. They often travel to village markets to buy supplies unaccompanied by men. This would have been unheard of only a decade ago when women were still fiercely protected against the dangers of the outside world. In some areas, the Orang Rimba still maintain such taboos regarding excessive contact with outsiders. In all cases, however, a woman will not travel to the village unless accompanied by another woman or by children. Unwed and newly wed women are particularly restricted from excessive contact with outsiders, and they often do not leave the general vicinity of the camp unless they are deep in the forest. Boys, however, are free to travel as they desire, shifting their residence as personal whim dictates, often without announcement. Only when a male marries will he be obligated to other persons.
There is only one word in the Orang Rimbas lexicon that corresponds to the Western notion of love (sayang). While translating literally into the English notion of pity, it more accurately connotes empathy and endearment. Often asexual in its usage, it is most commonly used to describe feelings toward children and long-acquainted spouses, particularly where bonds have grown and strengthened throughout the years. Romantic love is a much less articulated notion, most probably because it commonly occurs among young persons and leads to tensions between the two families involved, who must negotiate a solution, such as marriage or payment of fines to the girls family in cases where excessive intimacy, which can consist of mere flirting, has occurred. Where marriage is consummated between first cousins, strong bonds may quickly develop through the pre-existing stable relationship between families, particularly in cases where the spouses have been acquainted since childhood.
While the complexion of any relationship is highly contingent on the individual personalities involved, the ability to bear children and perform adequately in household and subsistence-related activities is a necessary prerequisite for both sexes in order to allow a stable union to develop. Both sexes will seek an industrious mate, but in many cases their families will assist, or even determine, their childrens spouse, particularly in the case of females. In the female context, bearing and nurturing children, forest-product and tuber collecting, and general domestic efficiency are highly valued attributes. A barren woman is either divorced or relegated to the subordinate status of second wife. In the male context, good hunters and natural leaders who are brave in articulating the groups needs to outsiders, thereby politicking effectively, are sought out, and in some cases, are able to marry more than one wife.
Lust is considered a natural inclination among men, but is downplayed in women. Far from embracing a womans natural sexual desires, the Orang Rimba see women as innately vulnerable and, therefore, in need of protection against the predation and charms of men. Strict rules prohibiting male-female contact outside of marriage serve to combat or remedy a males natural proclivity to seek a female. Although sex is accepted as a human urge, its referent, mengawan, is rarely spoken in the presence of women. Sometimes a young mans desire for a woman will prompt him to run off with a girl without the consent of her father, particularly in cases where he either does not wish to perform bride-service, does not have the resources to pay a bride-price, or is simply unable to gain the trust and acceptance of the girls family (see Section 5B, Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, Adults, on Courtship and Marriage). Whatever the method of consummation, strong emotional dependencies will develop through the course of a lifetime, and the losing of a spouse is met with uncontrollable weeping that can last for weeks on end. (Keep in mind the hardships and loss of status experienced by widowed men and women discussed above.)
Among males, loincloths are worn that cover the genitalia while exposing the buttocks. Women wear wraparound skirts known as sarongs and often go bare-breasted, particularly if they are nurturing young children. No sense of embarrassment is felt by such bodily exposure, because domestic units are comprised of only close kin. However, while in the village to trade, Orang Rimba now adhere to village etiquette and wear Western-style trousers, Indonesian sarongs for women, and shirts. Back in their forest camps, however, they revert back to their traditional attire. Men these days, however, are increasingly wearing short pants, even while in their forest camps.
Since their introduction in recent decades, brassieres have been commonly worn by women, often with no shirt. In the past, women wore brassieres outside their shirts as decorative attire, ceasing only when local villagers explained the proper manner in which they are to be worn. Orang Rimban women, nonetheless, continue to wear only brassieres without shirts while in their forest camps to provide easy access for breast-feeding an infant.
Children will remain naked until they reach the age of 3 or 4. During these years, they will mix freely with few, if any, behavioral constraints relating to gender. At this early stage in a childs development, however, a boys sexuality will be exalted. This is best exemplified by the playful attention a boys genitalia receive from camp members. The foreskin of the penis is often squeezed and the residual odor on the fingertips is smelled with much fervor and delight by all, who will claim it smells sweet. A females genitalia, however, do not receive such attention; on the contrary, they are rarely, if ever, referred to. A male infant will also receive a kind of erotic nurturing from his mother, who will adore and kiss him by smelling or sniffing while breastfeeding, or massage his penis and anus with no inhibitions. Female children, however, do not receive such attention from either parent.
As children grow, maternal bonds weaken and they are encouraged to be independent, both economically and emotionally. They will increasingly seek the company of their age-mates, with whom they will play and venture into the forest to search for food and forest products. They will no longer be permitted to sleep with their mothers, not only in order to encourage independence, but also to discourage incestuous desires in the boys. By the time adolescence is reached, both sexes will be well versed in the particular modes of conduct appropriate to their gender. Boys avoid all contact with young unwed females, while the latter eschew contact with all men.
A girl will cover her breasts during her adolescent years, exposing them once again only after marriage, when she will need to nurture her young. Expressions of female sexuality and displays of femininity are, therefore, systematically discouraged; and whereas only men are held legally responsible for their actions, heavy responsibility also rests on women to uphold ideals of purity and chastity, a task which often proves to be increasingly difficult as they come of age and become the temptation for acquisitive young bachelors or older males wishing to acquire a second wife. Should a woman fail in upholding these ideals, a sense of shame and embarrassment will be brought to bear on herself and her family.
The vast majority of Orang Rimba live in geographically isolated areas outside the main network of roads that connect most larger rural villages and towns and, therefore, have little or no access to formal schooling. Only those settled groups that are near roads have access to the primary schools found in nearby villages. Even in these cases, however, attendance is sporadic, as children are often required to help their families with subsistencerelated work and/or parents may be unwilling to permit children to attend for fear of enculturation into the village-world, where Malay customs and Pencasillan national philosophy are taught. (Recall the Orang Rimbas staunch opposition to village ways described in the opening section on Demographics.)
In some cases, however, the Indonesian Department of Health (Dinas Kesehatan) has sent health care workers to those Orang Rimban settlements that are accessible by road to hand out hygienic supplies and offer advice on contraception and family planning (see Section 9, Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning).
As camp life is normally public and informal in nature, unmediated by walls or strong notions of privacy, children are free to overhear whatever they may take an interest in. Young children may overhear or see the silhouettes of their parents making love in the same shelter should they awaken in the middle of the night. As married men will always be on alert for any undue attention or sexual overture towards their spouses, they will rarely discuss matters that are sexual in nature with other married men so as to avoid attracting such attention to her. However, boys and young men may discuss sex among themselves, outside the company of women. While uttering the word mengawan (sex) in the company of females is forbidden, young boys commonly discuss young girls, as well as their own sexuality, among their close age-mates. Masturbation and female anatomy may also be discussed, often playfully, by young males. Girls may have similar discussions, albeit in a less explicit manner.
Almost all sexual knowledge, therefore, is gained in the informal context of the camp, either through overhearing adults or through rehearsal with their same-sex age mates. Such rehearsal or play may occasionally lead to homosexual behavior among boys (see Section 6, Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Ambisexual Behaviors). While girls may overhear the discussions of older women and are well aware of the process of conception, they are generally less experienced in terms of pre-marital sexual exploration, because of the considerable pressures they are under to uphold ideals of chastity. It is therefore most probably the case that women learn the techniques of sexual intercourse only after marriage, following the lead of their spouse. This may simply involve assuming the bottom position, as the act of coitus is always performed in the missionary position.
As mentioned above, the genitalia of male infants and children are the object of much playful affection. As male children reach adolescence, and often in their pre-pubescent stage, they will begin to explore their own bodies and perhaps even the bodies of their male age-mates. Young boys who have developed intimate relations with one another are extremely uninhibited with their bodies in each others presence, and it is not uncommon for young boys to touch and comment on the dimensions, size, and general qualities of an age-mates penis. At the site where this author collected data for this report, pre-adolescent and adolescent boys were well aware of which boys could and could not ejaculate through masturbation. And while this was most commonly performed in private, they did not feel any sense of shame or embarrassment when detected by the author of this chapter or their peers.
Among adults, masturbation is looked upon as something natural to the male gender. Women, on the other hand, are expected to live up to the ideals of purity and loyalty to men, and are thus discouraged from showing any expression of sexual enjoyment outside of marriage. It is therefore unlikely that masturbation would occur with anything near the same frequency as found among males because of the behavioral restraints imposed upon them.
Orang Rimba do not practice any formal puberty rituals or rites of passage. However, when both genders have demonstrated a degree of self-reliance, which for boys includes proficiency in hunting and forest-product collecting - the former a skill required to perform adequate bride-service and eventually feed a family, and the latter as a means of cash income - they will be accorded relative degrees of respect by their elders. An indication that a child or adolescent has reached a level of self-sufficiency may be when she or he has a personal debt recorded in a villagers debit book. This implies that debts will be paid for products credited (e.g., rice, cigarettes, sugar, coffee, flashlight batteries, etc.) without the help of the young persons parents. In some rare cases, parents will wait until the child reaches this degree of sufficiency before giving a name.
Other indications that a child has come of age might be smoking cigarettes bought with their own earnings with other males, and for girls, covering the breasts with a sarong. This may occur well before menarche is reached, as the girls become increasingly aware of their sexuality and the appropriate modes of conduct incumbent on them. Marriage, however, is the decisive indication of adulthood, perhaps more so for men than women. A woman achieves the full respect accorded to womanhood when her first child is born.
As noted earlier, adolescents and pre-adults are required to adhere to strict taboos on touching or flirting with the opposite gender, and any act perceived as constituting excessive intimacy is grounds for adults to convene in order to discuss the matter and administer a fine to the accused. Because of such fear of punishment, pre-marital affairs of any sort are uncommon and always secretive. In almost all cases, the male will be blamed for corrupting the girl and he will be required to pay a fine (dendo), most commonly in cloth, currency, and occasionally gold. In cases where sex has occurred between the couple, they will be required to marry, but only after the male endures a frenzied beating by the girls younger siblings for the shame he has caused her family.
Any sort of premarital sexual activity, therefore, is very rare, as it is considered among the most serious of crimes in Orang Rimban society, and is punished accordingly. In most cases, men also have no sexual experience with a woman prior to marriage. These days, however, pre-adult males are in increasing contact with local villagers and, in one case that was reported to the author, young Orang Rimba men were beginning to seek the services of prostitutes for unattached sexual enjoyment.
Marriage is rarely consummated as a result of a womans personal preference. She may, however, be able to refuse a male suitor, depending on the nature of her relationship with her family and their own position on the matter. In most cases, however, daughters will acquiesce to the wishes of parents, their fathers in particular, as after many years of segregation from males outside the immediate family, they have developed no other ties with men, romantic or otherwise, and, therefore, may see marriage as an opportunity to progress to the next stage in their development. They would rather enjoy the accorded prestige and status of marriage, rather than remain a subordinate member in their cognatic family. In other cases, however, girls may be afraid and apprehensive of leaving the security of their parents guardianship to enter into a new and unfamiliar living arrangement with a man. This may be particularly true when girls are betrothed at an early age to a male that they are relatively unfamiliar with or do not have feelings for.
In many cases, marital unions will occur between first or second cousins, most preferably where their parents are siblings of opposite gender. It is considered a mild form of incest (sumbang) when persons descending from same-sex siblings marry. In such cases, the male suitor must pay a fine to the family of his bride. In cases where a womans family approves of the union, the father will fix a bride price, which will be paid to the father and, in some cases, be distributed to the brides male siblings as well.
Loyalty is the most important quality sought in a son in-law, and the latters bride service is aimed at gaining the trust of the brides family. During this period, which can last months or years, the male suitor is scrupulously tested for his honesty and generosity, which he demonstrates by sharing the spoils of his hunting and whatever other resources he acquires, such as coffee, cigarettes, and other products bought with his earnings from forest-product sales. He is also expected not to be proud (banga), which might be revealed through not showing proper respect to the bride-to-bes family or saying one thing and doing another. If he is unable to demonstrate proficiency in subsistence-related skills, including collecting forest products, the male suitor will be thought to be either insincere in his intentions of marriage or simply incompetent in his ability to support a family and, consequently, he will be deemed an unworthy candidate for marriage into the girls family.
In many cases, after being refused marriage by a womans father, and finding no other welcoming host families, a suitor is pressed to either run off with the girl or express his intentions of marriage to her in private, in an attempt to circumvent the authority of her disapproving family. In such cases, the union may take place, but only after he pays a fine and possibly endures a beating by the brides female family members and younger siblings for his unduly intimacy with the girl (Sandbukt 1988b:114-15). The bride may also be severely beaten by her mother for her defiance and the consequent shame she has brought upon her family.
Payment of a fine is preferred by the host family, as it does not carry implications of bride ownership as does the outright payment of a brideprice. This type of union, kawin lari (literally, marrying on the run), often brings a sense of embarrassment and shame to the family of the groom, but nonetheless occurs with at least the same frequency as arranged marriages. Elopement of this sort may also occur between first cousins where the brides family does not approve of the union. In one recorded case, a young man threatened to defect to a nearby village and enter Islam if his male cousin, whose father was deceased, thereby entrusting him by default with the authority to betroth his sister, refused to give her in marriage. This young man was competing with another cousin and with his own father, who wanted to take the girl as a second wife.
In extremely rare cases where marriage occurs between male villagers and Orang Rimban women, the couple will always take up residence in the village. As such, this sort of marital arrangement is deeply resented by the Orang Rimba, in terms of the loss of a female family member, the lost labor power of an in-marrying male, and perhaps most significantly, in the act of making the prohibited cultural crossing of forest and village domains. Consequently, the family will often break ties with the female defector.
In cases where a womans father is deceased and her siblings are either too young or unable to assert themselves with an older, more dominant male, the latter may bring enough pressure to bear on the situation that the girl will be taken by coercion and he may simply pay a compensatory fine to her male siblings. Having no father-in-law to provide bride-service for or be subordinate to in an uxorilocal residential arrangement, he may simply adopt the new wife to live in his own group. As such, this sort of marital arrangement is highly undesirable to the family of the bride and, concomitantly, is much sought after by Orang Rimban men, as it provides them with a high degree of personal autonomy that would not otherwise be achieved until the death of a father in-law.
In another instance, an adult male of approximately 24 years of age (Orang Rimba do not keep track of age or birth dates) violated the above courting and marriage customs on two separate occasions by expressing his intentions of marriage directly to the girl and, later, by approaching another girls father and not adequately performing the incumbent bride-service duties or producing the specified bride-price at a later date. In the former case, he was fined five grams of gold, whereas in the latter, he was required to pay sixty sheets of cloth to the offended father. This young adult male, having exhausted all internal options for marriage, eventually defected to a nearby village and adopted Islam, albeit superficially, in order to increase his mating selectivity in a new social environment. In such cases of defection to local villages, Orang Rimba are considered only marginal members of the wider rural society and are treated accordingly. During the time of this writing, the aforementioned male had yet to find a spouse, because of what local villagers claimed was the typical Muslim mans unwillingness to betroth a daughter to an Orang Rimban male for fear of causing shame to the family, or producing stupid offspring. This reasoning is based on the assumption that intelligence, or lack thereof, is hereditary, and the Orang Rimba are inherently inferior with limited intellectual capacities.
Among some groups, particularly in the southern areas, newlyweds will leave the group to camp alone for several days. In some cases, a week of prohibition on sexual intercourse is observed (pantangan), during which time parents of the bride will bring food to the couple, who are also not permitted to leave their shelter to engage in subsistence-related activities. In all cases, newlyweds will construct a shelter in which they will cohabit, signifying the commencement of their new marital arrangement. Consisting of tree stalks for scaffolding and tied with vine with logs sometimes overlain with bark for flooring, these temporary shelters are not built with walls and are customarily constructed by women. The birth of the first child symbolizes a stable union, while inability to produce a child is commonly seen as infecundity on the part of the woman and may be grounds for divorce.
A married male will be required to remain subordinate to his in-laws, continually sharing resources and providing moral support while residing in the same camp. Occasionally, the couple will reside in another camp should resource distributions necessitate, but are nonetheless always required to share any captured game and other resources. They are expected to return eventually to the camp of the brides family. This ensures the bride will have sufficient moral support while her family will reap the benefits of her spouses labor.
In time, a wifes loyalty will grow toward her husband, but she will also be expected to devote her loyalties to her blood relatives. Occasionally, tensions arise when nuptial and consanguiness obligations conflict, such as in cases where a woman complains to her father or brothers of maltreatment or insufficient food provided by her husband. In such cases, a husband will feel betrayed and may threaten to kill his wife. It should be noted, however, that homicide among the Orang Rimba is virtually unheard of, and such displays of anger more commonly serve as mere outlets for ones frustration and/or a strategy for dissuading a wife from further pursuing the matter.
Polygamy is a common conjugal arrangement and second wives are most commonly divorcees, orphans, or lack a father and/or other male consanguines. In the latter cases, a womans matrimonial value is decreased and she is also rendered a more vulnerable target because male support is lacking - a situation that males will capitalize on without exception. An upper limit of seven wives has been reported, while at one field site in this authors study, a man was cohabiting with five wives, the fifth wife being an adopted daughter. In most cases, however, monogamy is the most common arrangement.
When a second wife is taken, she must first endure a ritual beating by the first wife for the shame that has been caused to her that her husband would seek another spouse, and to assert her seniority in their new residential arrangement. The new wife is not permitted to strike back or retaliate at any time and she is expected to remain subordinate to the former indefinitely. Their shelters may stand as little as three feet from one another, and the husband normally alternates residence with no fixed pattern; his original wife, however, may be given preference. Should a first wife discover her spouse in the act of coitus or other intimate activity with a second wife, the latter may once again undergo a severe beating for arousing jealousies and her perceived insolence in displaying her affection.
Divorce is not uncommon but becomes increasingly rare after the first child is born. Divorce may be initiated by the family of the bride, often when a husband does not adequately provide for his wife and children, or does not share with or show the proper respect to his spouses consanguines, particularly her father, but also her mother and brothers.
If a woman wishes to remarry, she will be expected to wait at least two to three years in order to avoid being perceived as overly eager in her desire to form a union with another man. If she has been proven guilty of adultery in the past, she may be forever stigmatized and forbidden to remarry, in theory at least. If a woman remarries shortly following her divorce, she will be fined five hundred sheets of cloth by her ex-husband and may lose custody of her children. A man is expected to abstain from marriage for at east six months, and a lesser fine, perhaps twenty sheets of cloth, must be paid to the family of his first spouse in the event that he remarries too soon.
Wife stealing is a reported occurrence, and in such cases the woman in question may not be held liable (see Section 1B, Sociolegal Status of Males and Females). The stolen wifes family and spouse may prefer rather to accuse the male culprit of enticing or alluring the woman with sorcery or love magic. In one instance, a male was known to have stolen four wives, all on separate occasions. The putative punishment would have been severe fines or death by the spear of the womans male siblings or husband. In this case, purportedly, no male siblings or husbands were courageous enough to seek retribution, and the fearless offender, aside from being banished from the area, was said to only have endured a physical thrashing by the womens younger siblings. However, if it were perceived that the woman fled intentionally and was willingly cohabiting with another male, she would also be the subject of death threats made by her male siblings, father, and/or husband for her immoral conduct.
Immediately after marriage, a couple will take up residence in the same shelter, but in many cases, sexual activity will not commence until a much later date, when the girl overcomes her initial fear of sex with her new spouse and gradually adjusts to her new residential arrangement. Such a disposition is created by years of avoidance of males, which in many cases has instilled a deeply inculcated sense of embarrassment towards men as well as her own sexuality. This may be particularly true in cases where girls marry at an early age. A newly wed wife, therefore, may require up to two to three years before she is comfortable with engaging in sexual intercourse.
Occasionally, couples will reside a short distance apart from the rest of the group for the sole purpose of conception. This is particularly so in polygamous marital arrangements, in order to remain out of the purview of other spouses so as not to arouse jealousies. In most cases, because their simple temporary shelters do not contain walls, the couple will engage in sexual activity discretely during the night while others are sleeping or camped a safe distance away. Once children are born, the couple must engage in sexual activity only when children are sleeping, or during their infancy years when they are too young to be aware of their parents behavior. Recall the rule prohibiting children, once they reach the age of 5 or 6 from sleeping with their mothers. This also insures that a couple will have sufficient privacy to engage in sexual intercourse in the confines of the small family shelter.
In most cases, the male initiates sexual activity. His spouse will normally not refuse him, particularly in polygamous arrangements where time may be divided between wives. In cases where a male has been effectively subordinated to his in-laws, a woman may exercise her power to refuse him or voice her opinion regarding the matter. Also, where couples are first cousins, a considerable rapport may develop, thus creating an arrangement through which mutual compliance dictates their course of action regarding such matters.
Acts of fellatio and cunnilingus are unheard of within traditional modes of sexual intercourse. Coitus is always performed with the man on top and woman on bottom in the missionary position. As is the custom in most areas of the Indonesian archipelago, kissing is not performed with the lips but, rather, involves the smelling or sniffing of the nose and facial area. Incidentally, mothers and fathers also practice this behavior in their nurturing of infants and young children.
Male homosexual behavior has been reported in rare instances among adolescent boys and young adult males, whereas it is practically unheard of among married men. The actual form and nature such relationships take is unclear, and in most cases may amount to mere sex rehearsal or exploration. One case, however, has been reported first hand to the author by two married men of their engagement in anal intercourse during their adolescent years. After being detected by an adult, they were each fined twenty sheets of cloth and stigmatized for a brief period. As married adults with children, both men recounted the episode with humor and expressed no shame or embarrassment. While no cases are known of married men engaging in homosexual activity, informants claim that this may have occurred in previous generations. They could not recall actual incidents, but claimed that the men involved must have been punished severely, perhaps even killed by the male members of the wives families. (Recall that homicide is more commonly threatened and rarely actually occurs.)
Despite the lack of information regarding incidence of female homosexuality, the sense of shame and ideals of purity regarding the female body and sexuality that are so deeply inculcated in a girl during her years of development and throughout her entire life may inhibit any actual lesbian activity from occurring, even if such desires should arise. However, while questioning men regarding the issue, they claimed that such conduct would not be seen as a serious offense, most probably because it does not threaten the delicate balance of power relations between men as do other forms of sexual misconduct, such as adultery.
In the small Orang Rimbal population of less than 4,000 persons, incidence of gender-conflicted persons is statistically rare. No cases have been reported of transvestite, transgenderist, or transsexual individuals. Even if such tendencies are harbored in individuals, they may never be realized because of the ever-present pressures to assimilate. Cases of specially gendered persons, such as hermaphrodite, hijra, berdache, xanith, or intersexual, are also unreported.
Child sex abuse has not been reported, but informants claim that such occurrences may occur between men and adopted daughters, but never between men and their natural-born children. Purportedly, an offender would be speared or liable to pay severe fines if detected. Pedophilia involving two males, although virtually unheard of, is not considered a serious offense, mainly because the male body is not seen as an object of purity to be coveted. Death, however, is the stated punishment if such an occurrence involved a young girl. Again, it should be emphasized that actual cases of homicide are extremely rare, and it is more commonly the case that only death threats are made, but never actualized in violent action.
Incest taboos are strictly adhered to, and there are no known cases of sibling or parent-child unions or sexual relations. Indirect forms may occur, but are subject to varying interpretations as to whether they constitute actual incest. For example, the above-mentioned instance where a male married an adopted daughter was not seen as constituting incest by the former; but his sons, who were raised with the girl and considered her a natural sister in every way, strongly disagreed. Despite their attempts to prevent the union from taking place, which included a report to the chief of a nearby Malay village, their father insisted he was not committing incest, as the girl was not related to him by blood.
Incidence of sexual harassment and rape is rare and always subject to interpretation by the parties involved. For example, in the above-mentioned cases where men elope with women in an attempt to bypass the authority of the latters disapproving family, the family of the girl may claim that the she was carried off against her wishes or while under duress. If the daughter agrees that this was the case - which may be in her best interest in instances where she fears punishment - her family may claim abduction, or even rape, if it can be established that sexual intercourse had occurred. In such instances, the male would be required to marry the girl and pay severe fines, as well as endure a beating by the girls younger siblings.
Other sorts of harassment initiated by men towards women will, almost without exception, be interpreted as sexual in nature. In one case observed by the author, an adolescent male was accused of following a girl in the forest while collecting forest products. During a series of meetings between both fathers, which lasted three days, the accused male claimed to have been coincidentally working in the same area of forest, while his father, knowing well that his son was attracted to the girl and was indeed following her, tried to settle amicably by suggesting the two marry. The father of the girl refused vehemently in typical Orang Rimban fashion, and the young male was fined twenty sheets of cloth for a kind of sexual harassment, even though physical contact, or even verbal communication between the two, did not occur.
Plant contraceptives and abortifacients are not used and infanticide is unheard of. A postpartum taboo on sexual intercourse is adhered to for several years after a child is born, in order to allow for a sufficient weaning period. During a swiddening cycle, taboos are more lax; hence, when groups revert back to nomadic foraging, a woman may have more children to feed than she can comfortably manage. Blood money (bangun) is paid to a womans parents if a child is thought to have died of milk deprivation caused by closely spaced pregnancies, which are thought to disrupt an infants weaning cycle (Sandbukt 1988a, b).
Most groups are inaccessible to the Indonesian Department of Healths regional and local offices, which deal primarily with neighboring rural village populations. Groups of Orang Rimba living in government-sponsored settlements, or who have settled on their own accord, may be visited by Department of Health nurses, workers, and, occasionally, government bureaucrats. Advice on infant care and family planning is given, and most recently, contraceptive injections have been offered, but widely refused, mainly because of mistrust and disapproval on the part of their spouses, who would prefer that the government not get involved in private family matters. Their visits are seen as mere formalities with distracted objectives. Such meetings involve little or no evaluation and are sporadic with no routine follow-up visits. During these courtesy calls, soap, combs, and other toiletries are handed out, which the Orang Rimba find insulting, along with biscuits and cigarettes! For this reason, the Orang Rimba, males in particular, may resent the efforts of representatives of the Department of Health, which they perceive as being insensitive to their true needs.
Not much is known about the incidence and types off sexually transmitted diseases among the Orang Rimba. Male informants can name at least three different classes of sickness attributed to sexual contact:
The Orang Rimba employ a limited range of plant remedies, mainly derived from bark, leaf, and root extracts. For venereal disease, however, only bamboo water is used. Normally for the treatment of koreng, pulp water is drunk directly from the fillings of a species of bamboo shoot (aee kurung bamboo).
Intermarriage with local village populations is rare, and in cases where intermarriages do occur, Orang Rimba will marry into the village rather than vice-versa. Their forest-dwelling populations, therefore, are somewhat pristine, from a genetic point of view. This, coupled with the very low incidence of sex outside of marriage, has rendered their populations relatively safe from the wide range of sexually transmittable diseases that may occur among the surrounding Indonesian populace. There are no reported cases of HIV or AIDS among forest- or village-dwelling Orang Rimba.
Male impotency is a sexual dysfunction that is rarely reported; but inability to conceive when males do not suffer from impotence may also be considered a form of sexual dysfunction, for which a female spouse will most commonly be blamed. In cases where the woman is known to be fertile, as in second marriages where she has produced offspring during her first marriage, she may seek a divorce on the grounds of her spouses infertility. In cases of male impotency, an aphrodisiac is used to induce penis erection. This remedy is a root extract from a species of plant locally referred to as penyega, and can be boiled and drunk with water, or eaten directly.
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