Friday, September 23, 2016

Back to the lesser known adventures of Captain Cook's crew

Remember back in February, I had a series of salacious posts about the 18th century sexual mores of the South Pacific, and the misadventures of Captain Cook's crew with respect to same?  No?  Well, I thought they were a fun read, and here's a link to the one about same sex stuff.

Anyway, here's another incident, this time from the Maori part of the voyage:
Joseph Banks, a scientist on board Cook’s ship the Endeavour, recorded that one of the sailors had been with a Māori family and had paid them to have sexual relations with a young woman. The ‘young woman’ who retired with him turned out to be a boy. He returned and complained and was given another ‘young woman’ who turned out to also be a boy. When he complained again the family laughed at him. Banks was not sure whether this was evidence of homosexuality, or sharp trading.
The website doesn't mention anything about the "gender inversion" males of other parts of the South Pacific, but it does seem that Maori could still shrug their shoulders about men engaging in at least some sexual practices together:
There are a number of recorded examples of new settlers cohabiting in same-sex relationships with Māori. The most well-documented example is the Reverend William Yate, an English missionary, who lived with his male companion for two years in the Māori village of Waimate, before being expelled to England for homosexual behaviour. His relationship seems to have been accepted by the Māori community but it was frowned on by his religious peers. An investigation into allegations that Yate had engaged in sexual acts with Māori youths illustrates that there was a more open attitude by Māori to sexuality. Richard Davis observed that ‘[they] showed no shame. They simply declared that they were unaware of any sinfulness in such practices and that Yate had not initiated them.’3 *

As for Maori heterosexual behaviour (which I had never read anything about before), here's how the same article summarises it:
Māori chiefs would often have more than one wife. Except for puhi (high-born women set aside for a political marriage), sex before marriage carried no stigma. English and French explorers tried to make sense of the culture they saw. For example naturalist Georg Forster, who was on British explorer James Cook’s second voyage, said, ‘Their ideas of female chastity are, in this respect so different from ours, that a girl may favour a number of lovers without any detriment to her character; but if she marries, conjugal fidelity is exacted from her with the greatest rigour.’1 French explorer Julien Crozet said, ‘[Māori] gave us to understand by signs that we must not touch the married women, but that we might with perfect freedom make advances to the girls.’2 Many explorers, sailors and even missionaries had sexual relationships with Māori.
Children born outside marriage were still considered part of their tribe.
* Update:  actually, I see that Rev Yate has turned up in my blog before.   And on reading other accounts of what went wrong for him in New Zealand, I haven't seen mention of him living in a gay relationship in Waimate, so that article might be a bit misleading.  The acts he did get into trouble were not sodomy, which seems to have been a technical point on which he was saved from criminal sanction.

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