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Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic (3)

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, 10:35 WIB Last Updated 2023-09-12T03:29:55Z
ARUNGSEJARAH.COM - Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic (3), ARUNGSEJARAH.COM - Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic.
Prof. Nurul Ilmi Idrus, Ph.D

ARUNGSEJARAH.COM - Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic (3).

This dialogue illustrates that the woman’s point of view is taken into account in making a decision. Hence, Datu’ Palingé’ invites their siblings, first cousins and nephews/nieces (Bug.: massélingéreng sappo sisetta, anauréta) from the lower world, Toddang Toja, and the upper world, Boting Langi’, to discuss the plan, considering that only by all their agreement can the middle world of Alé Lino be occupied (pada élo’pi’, tapada taro tune’ ri Kawa’). The result of the meeting determines that Batara Guru from the upper world of Boting Langi’—the eldest son of Patoto’é and Datu’ Palingé’—should be the first inhabitant in the middle world of Alé Lino.  Wé Nyelli’ Timo’—Batara Guru’s first cousin and the eldest daughter of  Guru ri Selle’ and Sinau’ Toja—comes up from the lower world of Toddang Toja to be the wife of Batara Guru. The marriage between the son of the ruler of the upper world and the daughter of the ruler of the lower world results in the birth of Batara Lattu’ in the middle world.

Three elements are explicitly illustrated in this cosmic marriage: first, the ideal marriage occurs between first cousins (sapposiseng) of noble descent (assialang marola); second, marriage takes place between a man and woman of different worlds, but the same social location in order to consolidate their ‘white blood,’ a phrase that articulates Bugis concept of nobility;[5] finally, the birth of Batara Lattu’ (the son) indicates the significance of procreation, as a consequence of love and affection, in this instance between Wé Nyelli Timo’ and Batara Guru.

The initiative to reside in the middle world and the first dweller there (the husband, Batara Guru) came from the upper world, while the partner (Wé Nyelli’ Timo’) of the first dweller came from the lower world. These three levels of the world based on Bugis cosmology reflect the sexual position during intercourse. For example, when people talk about this, both men and women state that during sexual intercourse the husband should be on top of the wife; the would-be baby is in the middle because when the wife conceives, the resulting child’s position is in the middle between the prospective mother and father.

This top-husband and bottom-wife position, some feminists claim, leads one to make the opposition of the active versus passive partner in sexual intercourse. But this is not necessarily the case in Bugis culture, given that the wife can also be in the top position, though it is not encouraged. The former position has become the ‘ideal’ and the most common style of intercourse within marriage. Nevertheless, instead of analysing this position in terms of active and passive roles in sexual intercourse, one could argue that such a position is associated with local understandings of reproduction.

Indeed, Bugis express the belief that to conceive more easily, in addition to being on the bottom, the wife should also put a pillow under her buttocks in order better to retain the mixed procreative fluids, so that this fluid will not flow out of her vagina.  This practise is particularly advisable for those who have been married for some time and do not yet have children. Therefore, the idealism of husband-top-active and wife-bottom-passive is not just about an ideologically constructed sexual position in sexual intercourse within marriage, but it is also associated with fertility. As Connell argues that ‘[g]ender is social practice that constantly refers to bodies and what bodies do, it is not social practice reduced to the body’ (2000:27).

The importance of reproduction for the couple is expressed in teknonymous term of address. When the couple have children, the wife and the husband are called by the name of the first child. For example, Pak Bakri is known as father of Rapiah’s (Bug.:  ambo’na Rapiah) and Ibu Bakri as mother of Rapiah (emma’na Rapiah) (see Robinson 1985:51 and Millar 1983:485). This indicates that the couple have gained full acceptance for their union.

Given that women are supposed to be modest (malebbi’), it is considered ‘bad’ for a woman to initiate sexual intercourse. Thus it is common to hear that a wife who initiates sexual intercourse is considered to be a flirtatious wife (mangngure’) and is disapproved of; an ‘ideal wife’ is one who awaits her husband’s sexual initiative (Idrus 2001 and 2003). Such idealism is reflected in a lontara’that states:

There are four kinds of behaviour that a wife should have in order to be loved by her husband: First, if she hides her desire when facing her husband. Second, if she is always happy when facing her husband. Third, if she arouses her husband’s desire. Fourth, if she has a mutually balanced relationship with her husband. If she has already performed these four elements and she is still abandoned by her husband, it is considered her fate.

Eppa buangenna ampéna makkunraié nariélori rioroanéna: Maséuanna, dékko napateddéngngi napasunna makkunraié mangngolo rioroanéna. Ma’duanna, marajarioé rékko mangngoloi makkunraié rioroanéna. Matellunna, rékko paola élo’i makkunraié rioroanéna. Maeppa’na, rékko mappasilasai makkunraié rioroanéna. Narékko napogau’niro eppaé uangenna naritéaimopa rioroanéna inaritu toto oki pura onro.[6]

At first glance, there seems to be a contradiction between the first and the third requirements. On the one hand, a wife should hide her desire when facing her husband (Bug.: dékko[7] napateddengngi napasunna makkunraié mangngolo ri oroanéna); on the other, she should arouse her husband’s desire (rékko paola elo’i makkunraié rioroanéna). It is therefore implied in this sex-related lontara’ that even though a woman is not expected to initiate sexual intercourse, she is responsible for attracting her husband’s attention.

These expectations are impressed upon a prospective bride or new wife on a daily basis. For example, prior to marriage, the mother of a prospective bride advises her daughter to be modest (Bug.: malebbi’) or even to ’sell herself dear’ (Ind.: jual mahal) in bed in the sense that she should await her husband’s initiative and not show her own desire. Jual mahal literally means ‘to sell dear’, but carries the sense that she should show reluctance to grant a favour to her huband. Paradoxically, a mother also encourages her daugther to be attractive, so her husband will always be passionate towards her (Bug.: nasanging macinna oroanéna mitai). This is best illustrated in the epic La Galigo which describes how Batara Lattu’, the son of the ruler of the middle world, persuades his wife, Wé Datu Sengngeng, to enjoy their first night together (Salim and Fachruddin AE 2000).

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