In the Mosuo culture, men and women bath naked with each other without complications. If attraction would appear, it is quite natural that they spend the night together, which does not mean anything special for the future, or for their possible relationships with other partners.
China. August 2007. Foto by Sara Gouveia, taken from flickr here.
I have just seen a very beautiful and thought-provoking documentary, about one of my favourite topics: family structures. As many of you know already, I am since many years quite opposed to the traditional I-am-nothing-without-you kind of love, and relationships that by definition are structured around little malfunctional, isolated boxes of couples, who are supposed to take care of everything from each other, to two different carreers, to the raising of children, all by themselves. I think that we need to develop alternatives to that, and in that development, I think that looking at existing alternatives is very important.
One such alternative is found in south-west China, in the Mosuo culture. This is a matriarchy, and as seems to be the case with all matriarchies, they also have a much more liberal view of sexuality, and of couple-formations. In this culture, with its "walking marriages", you pick any, and as many, lovers you want, and you stay together as many or as few nights as you want. The key ingredient, I think, to make this work is that if such couplings at some point produces a child, it is *not* the responsibility of the biological parents to raise this child. The responsibility of child raising is instead that of the family, with which you stay for your entire life. According to this video, their way of forming couples is much more harmonious and leads to much more smooth transitions into new formations. Without these formations being centered around any less profound and meaningful love! It also seems like most people there leads lives that are much less filled with sexual frustration than is the case here, but where they instead have a natural and playful attitutude to nakedness and sexual attraction. The comparisons between patriarchical monkey societes (like chimpanzees) and matriarchical monkey societees (like bonobos) is stunning.
The documentary spends quite some time to the current less than harmonious mixing of this culture with the westernized han-chinese culture, and it unfortunately seems like the old ways rapidly are dying out. This is sad, of course, and perhaps unavoidable. However, I can still see a glimmer of hope in all of this: because of the current rapid spread of ideas, the few examples of alternatives that can be found are now available as inspiration to the entire world. So soon I think that new alternatives will be found, and soon the current mono-culture will blossom into a multi-alternative culture: where everybody can live in the fashion that suits them the best, and where functionality and love is at the heart of all family formations.
And nothing is supposed to stay permanent for ever. Love the changes in life, and life will love you back.