Re: rape/symbolism/dominance

Cliff Sloane (cesloane@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU)
Wed, 18 Jan 1995 18:58:34 -0600

On Tue, 17 Jan 1995, Ruby Rohrlich wrote:

> Rob: I posted an item a few days ago, which I'm glad to repeat, that an
> article by Peggy Sanday some years back reported on several "primitive"
> societies that don't have a word for rape and where there is no rape. As
> I remember, these were mainly gathering and hunting societies. Ruby Rohrlich
To Ruby and any others,

I think the lack of a concept of rape can cut both ways. It could mean
that there is no coercion, as you indicate. It could equally mean that
the exertion of power is so normal as to no longer merit a term.

This above speculation (and it is purely that!!) is based on some
observations on terminology about music. In Ga society (Ghana), there is
no separate term for music. In Hmong society, there is no separate term
for music.
HOWEVER, in Ga society, music is ubiquitous. There is no separate term
because music always bears the terminology of its function rather than
its sound. There is LOTS of music.
In Hmong society, there is no term for music because there is no clear
distinction between language and "song". All "music", whether played with
an instrument or sung, is really seen as poetry, not music. In other
words, it can be argued that it isn't really music (emically).
And bringing it all home, the word "polka" is not a music word (it's a
dance and a regional referent), but is used to describe music, costumes,
ballrooms and societies.

Thus, just knowing that there is no word for "rape" doesn't tell us