In the mountains near Lugu Lake in the high-country of China, a phenomenal community of people exists under completely different societal norms and familial structures. The Mosuo are known to be the last true matriarchal society in existence today, and have both matrilineal and matrilocal practices. What truly make this society unique are the coming-of-age traditions of young women and men. Upon reaching maturity at 13 or 14, girls undergo a “skirt ceremony” in which they are given a room with private street access. Mosuo girls have complete autonomy over who enters their “flower room”; the only strict rule is that guests must be gone by sunrise. “There is no expectation of commitment, and any child she conceives is raised in her mother’s house, with the help of the girl’s brothers and the rest of the community.”. To the Mosuo people, marriage doesn’t exist, only relationships of the “visiting kind” where there is no exchange of vows, property, the care of children, or expectations of fidelity.
Communities like the Mosuo where women enjoy high status and respect are very different from many familiar Western cultures. For example, Steven Goldberg, an American sociologist and author, argues that patriarchy has and always will be the way societies are structured. This male-dominated, nuclear approach to the family unit contrasts the communal approach like that of the Mosuo. Feminist anthropologists would relate these differences to the gendered natures of those societies. The ‘traditional’ nuclear American family may have a skewed gender balance leaning toward masculine authority [i.e. men supporting the household both socially and financially], and strongly associates shame with promiscuity/sexual freedom especially amongst women. The Mosuo family unit is quite the opposite and could be interpreted as having a more equal gender balance. Gender and sexuality within the community is more open than in American culture, which shows a connection between predefined constructs of the sexes and the sexual practices without the constraints of monogamy.
Practice theorists would have taken a different approach, focusing more on the matriarchal vs. patriarchal hegemonic power structures associated with the Mosuo and Western societies. Anthropologists may explain that in Western culture, infidelity within the nuclear family is a way of liberating agency in the socially acceptable structure of a monogamous, patrilineal society. The Mosuo, however, may find agency elsewhere. For example, maintaining a frequent sexual relationship with an individual is abnormal and may express love and desire for monogamy where that culturally doesn’t exist. The Mosuo, a deeply complex culture, give Western anthropologists across fields a unique picture of what a liberated American culture might look like. With contemporary movements toward open relationships, this could be the future of the nuclear family.
 Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010), 128.
 Christopher Ryan et al., Sex at Dawn (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010), 132.