Sanday, Peggy Reeves 1937–

views updated

SANDAY, Peggy Reeves 1937–

PERSONAL: Born July 9, 1937, in Long Island, NY; children: two. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1960; University of Pittsburgh, Ph.D., 1966.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, 325 University Museum, 33rd and Spruce Sts., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

CAREER: Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant professor of anthropology and urban affairs, 1969–72; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, associate professor, 1972–85, professor of anthropology, 1985–2001, R. Jean Brownlee Endowed Term Chair, 2001–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Humanitarian Award, Los Angeles Commission on Assaults against Women, 1983; chosen as one of "85 People to Watch in 1985" by Philadelphia Magazine; Philadelphia Women's Way Award, 1991; Fulbright scholar, 2001.


(Editor) Anthropology and the Public Interest: Fieldwork and Theory, Academic Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor, with Ruth Gallagher Goodenough) Beyond the Second Sex: New Directions in the Anthropology of Gender, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1990.

Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1996.

Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2002.

Contributor to American Anthropologist, Michigan Law Review, Pacific Studies, Phi Delta Kappan, and other periodicals. Associate editor, Journal of Sex-Role Research, 1974–79; member of board of editors, Expedition, 1996–98, and Violence against Women, 1996–99.

SIDELIGHTS: Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday has published several books, among them Anthropology and the Public Interest: Fieldwork and Theory, which she edited. This book is a study of the vast influence of anthropology on society, and it contains chapters dealing with the role of the anthropologist in various aspects of American culture, including language planning and public policy.

For her second book, Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality, Sanday culled anthropological data from some 150 societies, studying the history of men's and women's roles in various cultures. In this book, the author analyzes male and female roles in two types of societies: those with inner orientation and those with outer orientation. Inner-oriented societies, Sanday sets forth, are those in which inhabitants live in harmony with nature and with one another. A society that has inner orientation has an abundant food supply, with little need for hunting, and there is no threat of attack or oppression from neighboring societies. The creation story of a society with inner orientation most often finds its god in nature and portrays god as either a woman or a couple.

On the other hand, Sanday demonstrates, societies that have outer orientation offer a more difficult way of life. The scarcity of food forces the men to become hunters and, as food suppliers, men are considered to be more valuable than women. Women in outer-oriented cultures are more apt to be beaten and dominated by their men, and often treated as slaves. The deity of a society that has outer orientation is generally portrayed as a male, supernatural god, who competes with nature.

Sanday's study reports an increase in the number of outer-orientation societies with the advent of Western colonization. Sanday's findings about outer-and inner-orientation are explained further in the Women's Review of Books: "Sanday argues that societies with an inner orientation have [far] more egalitarian relationships between men and women…. Where an inner orientation prevails men and women share more activities…. [w]omen have more control over the distribution of goods and services beyond the household and more political power. And where an inner orientation prevails there is less emphasis on male toughness, less wife-beating, less rape, and less frequent raiding of alien groups to take women captive."

Sanday issued her next book, Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System, in 1986. In this volume the author looks at fifteen societies that practice, or have previously practiced, cannibalism. Contrary to widespread belief that cannibalism results from food shortages, Sanday's findings indicate that there are spiritual and practical aspects of cannibalism. Kinsmen, for example, often eat the body of a dead loved one in order to bond with the deceased, while others maintain internal order by consuming invasive outsiders. Reviewing Divine Hunger in the New York Times Book Review, Deborah Gewertz deemed Sanday's work a "lucid and intellectually compelling book [that] demonstrates that cannibals and, in most cases, their victims are likely to regard the torture and consumption of human flesh as entirely appropriate if not essential."

Two of Sanday's later books examine another form of human injustice. Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus and A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial are the anthropologist's studies of rape and its effect on society. The first of these looks specifically at a gang rape that occurred in a fraternity house on a college campus in 1983. The victim, referred to as "Laurel," was one of the author's students at the time of the rape and told her story to Sanday several weeks after the incident. According to Sanday's account, Laurel had used LSD and was drinking heavily when she attended a fraternity party. After falling down a flight of stairs, Laurel fell asleep, waking later to find herself unclothed and being carried to a room where five or six fraternity brothers raped her. Although the men involved admitted having had relations with Laurel, they insisted that she seduced them and was a willing participant in the incident. The university sided with the fraternity brothers, believing their story that Laurel consented to sex that evening. The brothers were ordered to do some assigned reading and community service assignments as penance, while Laurel was paid a sum of money to settle the issue.

Sanday's book on the fraternity rape focuses on the views of the men involved regarding rape, as well as the opinions of other male college students. The men who raped Laurel did not perceive the incident as rape; on the contrary, they said they were merely taking advantage of a situation, not of a person. They cited her drunkenness as the reason she was so easily victimized, and they refused to admit to rape because they did not have to use force to have sex with her.

Sanday's interviews of male college students reveal the prevalence of gang rape on campuses. The fraternity brothers who raped Laurel reported that similar incidents occur several times a month at their particular university, as fraternities use gang rapes to prove their prowess, even making participation in gang rapes a segment of hazing rituals for fraternity pledges. This domination of women perpetuates, Sanday asserts, as the fraternity introduces each succeeding generation of pledges to its demoralizing ritual of rape. Still, most of the men interviewed refuse to recognize themselves as rapists.

Sanday further explores society's reaction to rape in A Woman Scorned, which traces the history of beliefs about the sexual domination of women, while indicating how those beliefs influence cases of acquaintance rape. Publishers Weekly reviewer Peggy Reeves praised A Woman Scorned, finding that Sanday's "analysis of past and present attitudes toward acquaintance rape is insightful and persuasive."

Beginning in 1981, Sanday spent some eighteen years studying the Minangkabau people of Indonesia. This ethnic group, numbering some four million people, is matriarchal, Islamic, and animist. All land is owned by women and passed down to their daughters. Conflicts are settled in ceremonies in which harmony is the goal. In her book Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy Sanday argues that the Minangkabau have been overlooked by anthropologists who, when they were seeking a matriarchal society in the modern world, were looking for a mirror-image of patriarchy. They did not notice the subtle nature of the Minangkabaun matriarchy in which women do not openly rule as a class but rather control family lineage. Silja J. A. Talvi of Lip Magazine noted that in the matriarchal system of the Minangkabau, "village life is defined and centered around maternal ties, and … spiritual practice and interpersonal harmony between men and women are the most highly prized societal values." "It is the great virtue of Women at the Center," wrote Kate Gilbert in the Women's Review of Books, "that, dry and detailed though it sometimes is, the Minangkabau and their way of life shine through and make you long for their survival."



Choice, November, 1976, p. 1176; November, 1981, p. 412; January, 1987, p. 791; March, 1991, p. 1178; February, 2003, S. Ferzacca, review of Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy, p. 1024.

Contemporary Sociology, January, 1998, review of A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial, p. 98; September, 2003, Rita Smith Kipp, review of Women at the Center, pp. 562-563.

New York Times Book Review, May 3, 1987, Deborah Gewertz, review of Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System, p. 39; April 28, 1991, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1996, Peggy Reeves, review of A Woman Scorned, p. 73.

Reviews in Anthropology, Volume 22, number 3, 1993, pp. 175-184.

Signs, winter, 1983, p. 304; winter, 1994, p. 527.

Washington Post, September 5, 1991, p. D3.

Women's Review of Books, June, 1985, pp. 14-15; February, 1991, pp. 8-9; October, 2002, Kate Gilbert, review of Women at the Center, pp. 25-26.


Lip Magazine, (January 15, 2003), Silja J. A. Talvi, review of Women at the Center.

Peggy Reeves Sanday Home Page,∼Sanday (July 29, 2005).