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Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic (4)

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, 09:23 WIB Last Updated 2023-09-12T03:29:42Z
ARUNGSEJARAH.COM - Marriage, Sexuality and Reproduction: The Myth and the Reality of La Galigo Epic (4), 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 (4).

BATARA Lattu’ moved up,                        
sat on the golden [wedding] throne
and embraced his wife.
Yet Wé Datu Sengngeng shrank
from the touch of the man whose renown she shared.
Batara Lattu’ said
‘Turn here, dear Highness,
and show me the full oval of your face [read mabbojo’]
if I may see your gaze turn on me,
sacred maid-servants by the thousand are yours to take.’[8]

Natarakka’na Batara Lattu’ ménré
macokkong ri méné’ lamming mpulawengngé
méssang ngi lusé’ makkunrainna.
Ala wedding ga Wé Datu’ Sengngeng
ritampa’ jari oroané sébirittana.
Kua adanna Batara Lattu’,
‘Giling ko mai, Anri Ponratu,
paleppangi a’ rupa mabboja
kupémmagga i turung rupanna,
muala mua bissu pattudang tebbanna sebbu’ (p.178).

[Other supporters too offer gifts until Wé Datu’ Sengngeng eventually relents and Batara Lattu’ wins his suit. He declares his wish to retire inside the bedroom.]

Wé Datu’ Sengngeng’s reluctance to welcome her husband is reflected in the statement ‘Yet Wé Datu’ Sengngeng shrank,’ indicating that she is ‘selling herself dear’ (Ind.: jual mahal) to her husband. ‘Sacred maid-servants by the thousand are yours to take’ reflects Batara Lattu’s effort to persuade his wife by offering her gifts.[9]Only after a long seduction did Wé Datu’ Sengngeng allow Batara Lattu’ to hold her hand and lead her to their wedding bedroom.

In parallel to the above, the expectations of the wife towards her husband are also described in the same manuscript:[10]

Behaviour that a wife expects from a husband: first, that he is obedient; second, that he is deeply affectionate to his wife; third, that he is kind-hearted; fourth, that he has a mutually balanced relationship with his wife.

Gau’ nalorié makkunraié: Maséuanna, mapatoé. Madduanna, rékko matellengngi oroané ri makkunraié. Matellunna, rékko malaboi oroané rimakkunraié. Maeppa’na, dékko mappasilasai oroané rimakkunrainna.

Regardless of the similarity of the fourth element of mutuality for the wife (Bug.: rékko mappasilasai makkunraié ri oroanéna) and for the husband (dékko mappasilasai oroané rimakkunrainna), the expectations of the husband and the wife in this manuscript are different from each other. While a husband’s expectations towards his wife are associated with her sexual attractiveness and availability, the wife’s expectations are related to her husband’s ability to fulfil appropriate roles in marriage. A wife’s expectations, as represented in this text, reflect the view that a wife is not expected to express intentions and interests associated with sex.

It is interesting to note, however, that the first behaviour expected by the wife of her husband is ‘one who is obedient’ (mapatoé). One may ask, what is the relationship between obedience (mapato) and sexual life? Is not the wife expected to be obedient? The usual comment related to male sexuality is that ‘a man is unable control his desire’ (oroané dé’na ullé tahangngi cinnana). This notion that men’s desire is uncontrollable is reflected in La Galigo (Salim and Fachruddin AE 2000). 

 Yet Wé Datu Sengngeng stayed silent;
she answered not a word
to the husband whose renown she shared.
Batara Lattu’ could not find a way to restrain desire;
he could not put away his keen anticipation as one might fold up a good cloth;      
he could not store up his desire to be with her as one might roll up a piece of silk;  
he was infatuated with his wife.
He could not hold in check
his saliva running like a stream
to which he chose to pay no attention.
Then La Rumpang Langi’ [Batara Lattu’] stood up
and embraced his wife,
he took her within the sarong,
then they went and entered the chamber,
they crept beneath the net,
they sprang on to the bed,
they lay together on the sleeping mat,
they lay sharing his wife’s golden cushion.[11]

Ala metté’ga Wé Datu’ Sengngeng,
ala mabbali ada sélappa’
lé oroané sébirittana.
Tenna bajé’ni perreng cinnana Batara Lattu’
leppi dusi’ i mecci’ kélo’na
lulung géssa i cinna béasa
pabongngo’é ngngi ri makkunrai.
Tennaullé ni paleppengi wi
diméng mallari solo’ élo’na,
téa na sia ripamaure’.
Natijjang ronnang La Rumpang Langi’
nasalikking ngi makkunrainna,
pangalai wi luangeng sampu’,
nalaoang ngi ronnang muttama ri goarié,
nasellukang ngi riulampué
naléccéngang ngi ri palakkaé,
nawellengang ngi ri baritué,
leu’ mangnguru’ talaja kati makkunrainna (p. 182 and 184).

Male desire is reflected in the statement that Batara Lattu could not control or manage his desire.  Such uncontrollable desire is reflected in a common Bugis saying that states men’s desire is ninety-nine, women’s desire is only one (Bug.: naia cinnana oroané asérai, naia cinnana makkunraié seddimi). Thus, in this sense, obedience (mapato) to the wife controls the husband’s desire. For example, when a husband wants to have sex with his wife and she hides her desire (napateddéngngi napasunna) or ‘sells herself dear’ (jual mahal), she controls her husband’s desire.


The La Galigo epic and other manuscripts associated with the conjugal, sexual relationship indicates the ideal activities between the couple during sexual intercourse which reflects the notion that the husband is active/aggressive and the wife is passive/obedient. This tendency is not just related to position in sexual intercourse based on a cosmological view, but also to the enactment of male bravery (warani) and female modesty (malebbi’) in social intercourse.

Despite the fact that Bugis values do not prohibit women from being sexually aggressive with their husbands, it is not encouraged, and it is not ‘appropriate’ for a wife to take an active role. I have never heard a mother encourage her daughter to initiate sex with her husband, but being attractive to her husband is always encouraged. On this matter, female elders play as an important part in teaching young women about how they should behave with their husbands. 

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

* Prof. Nurul Ilmi Idrus, Ph.D, Department of Anthropology, Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia


[1] A verse in the Qur’an (Al-Baqarah:19) states that Allah (God) created sky and earth and the shift between night and day are evidence of His power.

[2] Translated from an Indonesian version: ‘Dikarenakan keindahan and kebaikannya, bumi menjadi sangat dicintai. Langit mengawininya bukan karena kewajiban, melainkan juga untuk mendapatkan kenikmatan dan kesenangan’ (Murata 1992:197).

[3] Loosely translated by Campbell Macknight (7 April 2003).

[4] See footnote 3.

[5] Blood in this sense is associated with social location (Bug.: onro). That is women marry hypergamously and hence can increase  the proportion of ‘white blood’ in their descendants, ‘white blood’ being a marker of divine descent and hence high status.

[6] Lontara’ Pesanan-Pesanan Berlaki-Bini, MAK No. 74, p. 93-94 (Macknight microfilm 1972: reel 5).

[7] The word rékko and dékko, meaning ‘if’ or ‘that’, are used interchangeably in this lontara’.

[8] Loosely translated by Campbell Macknight (9 May 2003).

[9] Batara Lattu offered a number of presents to persuade his wife, and they were mentioned repeatedly in this prose, until Wé Datu Sengngeng was willing to sleep with him.

[10] See footnote 6.

[11] See footnote 8.



Connell, R.W.  2000       The Men and the Boys. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Idrus, Nurul Ilmi. 2001. “Marriage, Sex and Violence.” In Susan Blackburn (ed.), Love, Sex and Power: Women in Southeast Asia. Monash Asia Institute, Clayton, p. 43-56.

Idrus, Nurul Ilmi. 2003. “To Take Each Other”: Bugis Practices of Gender, Sexuality and Marriage. PhD Thesis, the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Millar, Susan B.  1983. “On Interpreting Gender in Bugis Society.” American Ethnologist, 10, August, p. 477-492.

Murata, Sachiko. 1998. The Tao of Islam. Penerbit Mizan, Bandung.

Robinson, Kathryn M. 1985. ”Modernisation and Mothering.” Prisma, 37, p. 47-56.

Salim, Muhammad and Fachruddin AE. 1995. I La Galigo. KITLV and Penerbit Djambatan, Jakarta (Volume I).

Salim, Muhammad and Fachruddin AE. 2000. La Galigo. Universitas Hasanuddin, Makassar (Volume II).

Unpublished Manuscript

Lontara’ Pesanan-Pesanan Berlaki-Bini. Photographed by Campbell Macknight (1972, Reel 5/No.74). Yayasan Kebudayaan Sulawesi Selatan (MAK), Microfilm, the Australian National University Library.

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