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Abstract

We seem a curiously cursed species, caught in a dichotomizing combination of a lusting subjectivity and the experience of being an object of lust. We know we desire and we know we are desired, subject and object in a web of arousals and genders and roles and impersonations of natural order. It is the naturalness of engendered sexuality which is being Questioned now, as anthropologists turn the subtlety of our analytic lens on a close examination of what, at least for those of us encultured into the European tradition, is a fundamental attribute of personhood and being. In this discussion I want to extend the range of Questions which the insightful papers gathered here raise to a more general concern for how we 'read' sexual meaning from the anthropological evidence. What follows is in two parts. The first Questions recent evidence from Brazil regarding the coexistence of mutually exclusive schemes of sexual classification in a single social milieu. My concern in that discussion is how frames of observation applied to novel contexts distort our ability to see sex and sexuality as they are lived. The second section of this discussion considers why Western analysts appear to be trapped in these limiting frames by deciphering the Eurocentric assumptions which are embedded in much research and writing on sex and sexuality in other cultures.

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