The Oneida Community Analysis

November 25, 2021

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The Oneida community of the 19th century emerged from the simple belief among a handful of the admitted members of society that Jesus had come in their past and cleansed them of any evil. Therefore, this community thrived on the ideology that they had the best life and practice as Christian society after the redemption by Christ. As a result, they adopted a number of practices that set traditions for many aspects of life. Some of these practices concerned reproduction, work, and religious faith. Some norms in this community proved conservative while others appeared liberal. For instance, a simple family planning method of male continence was conservative while the equality of gender and sexes was liberal. Moreover, confession ascribed to the reversal of a Christian in the thought of what would happen after the second coming of Jesus Christ. As a result, it was a part of the imaginary ideology that shaped the lives of the Oneida community as it did not exist in the Bible. Politically, the ideology bordered on communism or socialism, with every member of society living in mutual understanding and acting in the common good of the rest of the community. Therefore, the ideals of the community proved both suitable and unnecessary. This paper evaluates the benefits and shortcomings of the Oneida community practices, namely complex marriage, male continence, mutual criticism, ascending fellowship, the equality of sexes, and confession.

Complex Marriages

The Oneida community practiced sophisticated marriages, in which every man was entitled to every woman and vice versa but without the conjugal attachments that came with paired couples. Therefore, nature of marriage reduced the level of tension that usually occurred due to the infidelity issues in society. For instance, one woman would serve any man without any jealousy as a given, but any man would also engage in the sexual intercourse with any woman with undue regard. As a result, many of modern society conflicts, caused by to remarriages, divorce, or separation, could not arise in this community. On the one hand, this practice also points to a major positive aspect of the community as a liberal one. On the other hand, it would bring serious disadvantages. For instance, contiguous diseases, such as sexually transmitted infections, would spread from one person to another too quickly to be controlled. In fact, the practice of complex marriages excluded the ability to prevent these epidemics as the freedom of sexual intercourse was open to everyone who was a member of this community. Therefore, the complex marriage in the Oneida community has led to a mixture of positive and negative implications for the involved population.

Male Continence

The freedom in mating would be expected to result in an enormous population explosion in the Oneida community. However, male continence provided a means of controlling births, thereby checking the possible outburst in the number of members. Moreover, it entailed behavioral responsibility among the men in the community to avoid ejaculations when they had sexual intercourse. Instead, they withdrew immediately they felt they were about to ejaculate so that women’s possibility of being impregnated was minimized. As a result, this practice meant that the woman in the community had fewer children, which led to the less time spent on caring for their children. Consequently, the amount of workforce for other productive activities, such as the economic production of goods and services, improved as it included a high number of women as well as men. Moreover, the method provided a safe natural means of controlling births. Indeed, even modern Roman Catholics uphold the belief that natural birth control method remains the best of all scientific alternatives available such as the use of contraceptives. The only possible negative side of such a practice is its practicality, given that the psychological and physiological activities during sexual intercourse are highly impulsive rather than being related to consciousness. Nevertheless, this practice of the Oneida community translated into more gains than losses.

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Ascending Fellowship

Ascending fellowship was another practice in the Oneida community that ensured that age groups and sex cycles continued. In this tradition, teenagers would be drafted into sophisticated marriages by assigning each member of this age group to a senior person who guided them through the process of a complex marriage. In essence, senior members were people from the opposite sex who had sexual intercourse with teenagers in qualifying them for the marriage age bracket. As a result, aging women would be easily replaced by their upcoming younger counterparts. Therefore, this tradition ensured that continuity was ascertained in the community. Not only did it come with the ability to sustain the sexual needs of the population, but it also ensured that multiple generations succeeded one another. Consequently, the population in the community grew exponentially despite its people’s wide practice of natural birth control and strict membership requirements. However, this practice introduced relatively young persons into sexual life, thereby reducing their concentration on the most vital aspects of life such as careers or professions. For instance, a teenager of about 14 years old would be introduced to the complex marriage that amounted to being wed to an elderly person early to start reproducing. Afterwards, the teenager was left to have sexual intercourse with any member of the community. Hence, such a practice reduced the level of productivity of the Oneida community while ascertaining its sustainability.

Despite the early engagement of teenagers into sexual life, discrimination against gender was eliminated by the wide practice of equality in the community. This gender equality came in many forms such as work and family roles. For instance, women were given the same opportunity to work in the fields and in the cottage industry just the same way men were allowed to do so. In fact, the population of women in the working setting would even surpass men when the later had other chores to run such as guiding new teenage girls into complex marriages. Similarly, the family role was the task of both parents as they found time for their children and others in their group or community. Therefore, the application of this rule of equality of sexes instilled discipline among men, thus eliminating abuse of women and girls. In fact, gender discrimination, social stereotyping, or even prejudice against women were completely absent due to the belief that every human being was equal before God. Indeed, the Christian doctrine on God having created man in His own image led to gender equality that eliminated possible abuse such as domestic violence. Therefore, the Oneida community was relatively peaceful society as compared to the pagan world at the time. The equality of sexes was a practice, according to which women were never abused due to the regulation by the religious faith that everyone should do well for their own sake and for the need of others. Therefore, this practice of equality of sexes only played a positive role in the Oneida community.

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Mutual Criticism

In the case of any deviance in a member’s behavior, the Oneida community would subject the individual to a fair trial named mutual criticism. Under this process, the person accused of wrongdoing was taken to a committee or the general public and rebuked and criticized for their unfound actions. The public criticism led to the shunning of the community members for the actions or behaviors considered abnormal in the community. As a result, the rate of disorderliness, the violations of laws, and disturbance of order was reduced. In other words, the community tamed the behaviors of its members through this simple method. Indeed, the system represents the normal judicial system and other contributions from the related law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the Oneida community had an internal system that checked against deviance. However, this measure might not have sufficed to eradicate crimes and other forms of evil in society were it not for the strong belief in the Christian religion. Thus, religion became the underlying factor in the manner the community was run. Otherwise, the capitalism of paganism would lead to overindulgence into the vices that only enriched a few people. This factor was quite serious, considering the low consequences of doing wrong in society. Mutual criticism served as a law and order system for the community but left it predisposed to crimes and other vices when the involved party never ascribed to Christian values and the communist ideology.

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Confession, an integral practice in Christianity, was missing in the Oneida community. The community leader, Noyes, eliminated the practice, claiming that the return of Jesus Christ had cleansed every person of any evil. Therefore, the need for additional cleansing through confession was inappropriate. As a result, the members of the community lived freely rather than by the bounds of the guilt of sin. This practice relieved the social and psychological tensions among the community members. However, it increased the level of pervasiveness as people had no feeling of guilt for their actions. Nevertheless, the mutual criticism reduced the ability to over indulge in negative behaviors. Still, the practice of confessions is an integral part of modern Christian religion, and Noyes’ elimination of it comes as one of the most controversial faith-based practices of all times. For instance, the population of Roman Catholics believes that the faithful need to abide by the values of transparency and honesty. However, lack of these values would be inherent in the Oneida community as they deny the claim that they are always righteous. In fact, it was hard to believe that the community applied the teaching of the Bible to its final letter. Therefore, it was difficult to see clearly the benefits of this practice to the community apart from the view that it could encourage negative behavior.


The strong belief in Christian faith was the basic reason for the practicality of the traditions, instilled and applied in the Oneida community. Therefore, a strong belief in the Christian values led to a low resistance and high compliance to the rules even when they appeared absurd or illogical. For instance, the complex marriages only worked because the subjects believed that very person was clean enough and everyone was equal. Similarly, the practice of male continence only proved feasible due to the consideration that the need to abide by the policy was for everyone’s benefit. Male continence, in fact, facilitated the economic prosperity of the community that relied on the tradition to increase the number of workers available for the field and industrial tasks. Moreover, the induction of young women into complex marriages became sensible as a means of furthering the generations in society. The same was true for boys who were assigned women to guide them as they gained experience in their sexual life. The combined effects of these factors led to Oneida being a rather unique community; yet, it only chose laws that suited its existence and served the needs of its members. Ultimately, the traditions affected the community in positive and negative ways.