سكان الموسو ليس لديهم في لغتهم كلمات مثل الحرب القتل الاغتصاب. كما ليس لديهم كلمة اب. سكان هذه المنطقة البالغ عددهم 56 الف شخص والتي تقع في الصين ليس لديهم زواج. هم يتشاركون كل شيء الغذاء والجنس. و الرجال جميعا يعتنون بجميع الاطفال على اساس انهم اطفالهم جميعا. وجميع النساء يعتنون بجميع الاطفال وليست الام لوحدها. اذا ابدا احد الرجال غيرة تجاه فتاة ما فانه يلحق العار بنفسه. النساء في هذا المجتمع يتمتعون كما الرجال بكامل الحرية والاستقلالية ولهن قوة واحترام كبير في المجتمع. مما يعتبره البعض اخر مجمع امومي في العالم …
In the mountains around Lugu Lake, near the border between China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, live about 56,000 people who enjoy a family system that has perplexed and fascinated travelers and scholars for centuries. The Mosuo revere Lugu Lake as the Mother Goddess, while the mountain towering over it, Ganmo, is respected as the Goddess of Love. Their language is rendered in Dongba, the sole pictographic language still used in the world today. They have no words for murder, war, or rape. The Mosuo’s relaxed and respectful tranquility is accompanied by a nearly absolute sexual freedom and autonomy for both men and women.
In 1265, Marco Polo passed through the Mosuo region and later recalled their unashamed sexuality, writing, “They do not consider it objectionable for a foreigner, or any other man, to have his way with their wives, daughters, sisters, or any other women in their home. They consider it a great benefit, in fact, saying that their gods and idols will be disposed in their favor and offer them material goods in great abundance. This is why they are so generous with their women toward foreigners.” “Many times,” wrote Polo, with a wink and a nudge, “a foreigner has wallowed in bed for three or four days with a poor sap’s wife.” Macho Italian that he was, Polo completely misread the situation. He misinterpreted the women’s sexual availability as a commodity controlled by the men, when in fact, the most striking feature of the Mosuo system is the fiercely defended sexual autonomy of all adults, women as well as men.
The Mosuo refer to their arrangement as sese, meaning “walking.” True to form, most anthropologists miss the point by referring to the Mosuo system as “walking marriage,” and including the Mosuo on their all-encompassing lists of cultures that practice “marriage.” The Mosuo themselves disagree with this depiction of their system. “By any stretch of the imagination, sese are not marriages,” says Yang Erche Namu, a Mosuo woman who published a memoir about her childhood along the shores of Mother Lake. “All sese are of the visiting kind, and none involves the exchange of vows, property, the care of children, or expectations of fidelity.”
The Mosuo language has no word for husband or wife, preferring the word azhu, meaning “friend.” The Mosuo are a matrilineal, agricultural people, passing property and family name from mother to daughter(s), so the household revolves around the women. When a girl reaches maturity at about thirteen or fourteen, she receives her own bedroom that opens both to the inner courtyard of the house and to the street through a private door. A Mosuo girl has complete autonomy as to who steps through this private door into her babahuago (flower room). The only strict rule is that her guest must be gone by sunrise. She can have a different lover the following night—or later that same night—if she chooses. There is no expectation of commitment, and any child she conceives is raised in her mother’s house, with the help of the girl’s brothers and the rest of the community.
Recalling her childhood, Yang Erche Namu echoes Malidoma Patrice Somé’s description of his African childhood, explaining, “We children could roam at our own will and visit from house to house and village to village without our mothers’ ever fearing for our safety. Every adult was responsible for every child, and every child in turn was respectful of every adult.” Among the Mosuo, a man’s sisters’ children are considered his paternal responsibility—not those who may (or may not) be the fruit of his own nocturnal visits to various flower rooms. Here we see another society in which male parental investment is unrelated to biological paternity. In the Mosuo language, the word Awu translates to both father and uncle. “In place of one father, Mosuo children have many uncles who take care of them. In a way,” writes Yang Erche Namu, “we also have many mothers, because we call our aunts by the name azhe Ami, which means ‘little mother.’” In a twist that should send many mainstream theorists into a tailspin, sexual relations are kept strictly separate from Mosuo family relations. At night, Mosuo men are expected to sleep with their lovers. If not, they sleep in one of the outer buildings, never in the main house with their sisters.
Custom prohibits any talk of love or romantic relationships in the family home. Complete discretion is expected from everyone. While both men and women are free to do as they will, they’re expected to respect one another’s privacy. There’s no kissing and telling at Lugu Lake. The mechanics of the açia relationships, as they are referred to by Mosuo, are characterized by a sacred regard for each individual’s autonomy—whether man or woman.9 Cai Hua, a Chinese anthropologist and author of A Society without Fathers or Husbands, explains, “Not only do men and women have the freedom to foster as many açia relationships as they want and to end them as they please, but each person can have simultaneous relationships with several açia, whether it be during one night or over a longer period.” These relationships are discontinuous, lasting only as long as the two people are in each other’s presence. “Each visitor’s departure from the woman’s home is taken to be the end of their açia relationship,” according to Cai Hua. “There is no concept of açia that applies to the future. The açia relationship…only exists instantaneously and retrospectively,”
although a couple may repeat their visits as often as they wish. Particularly libidinous Mosuo women and men unashamedly report having had hundreds ofrelationships. Shame, from their perspective, would be the proper response to promises of or demands for fidelity. A vow of fidelity would be considered inappropriate—an attempt at negotiation or exchange. Openly expressed jealousy, for the Mosuo, is considered aggressive in its implied intrusion upon the sacred autonomy of another person, and is thus met with ridicule and shame. Sadly, hostility toward this free expression of female sexual autonomy is not limited to narrowminded anthropologists and thirteenth-century Italian explorers. Although the Mosuo have no history of trying to export their system or convincing anyone else of the superiority of their approach to love and sex, they have long suffered outside pressure to abandon their traditional beliefs, which outsiders seem to find threatening. Once the Chinese established full control of the area in 1956, government officials began making annual visits to lecture the people on the dangers of sexual freedom and convince them to switch to “normal” marriage. In a bit of dubious publicity reminiscent of Reefer Madness, Chinese government officials showed up one year with a portable generator and a film showing “actors dressed as Mosuo…who were in the last stages of syphilis, who had gone mad and lost most of their faces.” The audience response was not what the Chinese officials expected: their makeshift cinema was burned to the ground. But the officials didn’t give up. Yang Erche Namu recalls “meetings night after night where they harangued and criticized and interrogated…. [The Chinese officials] ambushed men on their way to their lovers’ houses, they dragged couples out of their beds and exposed people naked to their own relatives’ eyes.”
When even these heavy-handed tactics failed to convince the Mosuo to abandon their system, government officials insisted on bringing (if not demonstrating) “decency” to the Mosuo. They cut off essential deliveries of seed grain and children’s clothing. Finally, literally starved into submission, many Mosuo agreed to participate in government-sponsored marriage ceremonies, where each was given “a cup of tea, a cigarette, pieces of candy, and a paper certificate.” But the arm-twisting had little lasting effect. Travel writer Cynthia Barnes visited Lugu Lake in 2006 and found the Mosuo system still intact, though under pressure from Chinese tourists who, like Marco Polo 750 years earlier, mistake the sexual autonomy of Mosuo women for licentiousness.
“Although their lack of coyness draws the world’s attention to the Mosuo,” Barnes writes, “sex is not the center of their universe.” She continues:
I think of my parents’ bitter divorce, of childhood friends uprooted and destroyed because Mommy or Daddy decided to sleep with someone else. Lugu Lake, I think, is not so much a kingdom of women as a kingdom of family—albeit one blessedly free of politicians and preachers extolling “family values.” There’s no such thing as a “broken home,” no sociologists wringing their hands over “single mothers,” no economic devastation or shame and stigma when parents part. Sassy and confident, [a Mosuo girl will] grow up cherished in a circle of male and female relatives…. When she joins the dances and invites a boy into her flower room, it will be for love, or lust, or whatever people call it when they are operating on hormones and heavy breathing. She will not need that boy—or any other—to have a home, to make a “family.” She already knows that she will always have both. The Mosuo approach to love and sex may well finally be destroyed by the hordes of Han Chinese tourists who threaten to turn Lugu Lake into a theme-park version of Mosuo culture. But the Mosuo’s persistence in the face of decades—if not centuries—of extreme pressure to conform to what many scientists still insist is human nature stands as a proud, undeniable counter-example to the standard narrative.
Sex At Dawn