Seclusion of Girls at puberty -Part 2

There is a question people keep asking. Why is the seclusion of pubescent girls so special? It is true some social commentators say that there is no difference between male and female puberty rites as in many cultures; puberty is rather a social event than a physiological event. But these commentators then recognise that there are differences, between male and female puberty, associated with menstruation (See Ruth Benedict’s essay on ‘the diversity of Cultures‘ in ‘Cultural Sociology‘ ed by Lyn Spillman, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2002 p 21-22). Thus, in general, there are differences between male and female puberty recognised, at least, by some cultures and these differencese are directly or indirectly linked to menstruation.

To answer the above question we also need to consider a few facets of the place women were held in the historical times. One obvious physiological difference between male puberty and female puberty is the menstruation. For the early humans it might have taken a long time before they discovered the connection between menstruation and the fertility. Perhaps, until they could develop a proto-language they might not have been in a position to communicate the universality of menstruation. However, once they developed some communication skills, it wouldn’t have taken much intelligence or time to see the difference between male and female puberty. It is very difficult to argue for or against these theses due to the fact that, as Mary.E. Clark (In Search of Human Nature, Routledge, London, 2002, p45) says, soft tissues and behaviours do not ‘leave behind any physical evidence’ for us to trace’ when and why they evolved’.

However, the physiological difference could not surely have been missed for long. Even before our ancestors understood the link between menstral cycle and the fertility, they might have seen any connection between the puberty and the mental disturbances simply due to the proximity between the cause and effect. As we know, child birth takes around ten months and all the ovulating women do not end up giving birth. Even though the girls were not mature enough to be fertile, they would have been surrounded by mature, fertile males since the humans started living in groups. These might have increased the stresses suffered by the young girls. (More details in this regard could be found in ‘the lure of noma’.)

Secondly, the connection between male puberty and the seclusion is not mainly related to the superstitious beliefs that many authours describe to exist around female puberty. The male puberty is significant in some cultures due to other cultural connotations rather than the physiological importance.

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The website aims to show the possible origin of religion through a ‘uniquely’ human process which has links to the seclusion of girls at puberty. It also advocates the view that the Paleolithic Venus figurines are related to these puberty rites and hence, the prehistoric Venus figurines may carry a much larger meaning. Thus, Religion is something more than a throwback from our animal past.
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