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“Girls are quite free sexually before marriage, and promiscuous intercourse between young people is the rule. The girls do the asking, and they will ask a boy to sleep with them, and he will come to their parents’ or brothers’ house to have connection. If a boy goes to a girl who has not asked him, he may have his way or may not, but in either case the girl will shun that boy afterwards and will also tell her friends he is no good”[1].


“Marriages are arranged by the parents, when the children are very young. After the two families have settled this, the children, even if still in arms, are what is called in Motuan Mahenta, and locally as Bobeia, which means, roughly, engaged, and they are spoken of, even as infants, as husband and wife. […] When the marriage is to be ratified [not invariably so], the boy takes the girl to his father’s house and sleeps with her, without touching her. […] No sexual intercourse is permitted the bride and groom till they have planted two gardens, and fattened up a pig and sold it (that is to say, for one year after marriage.  […] when a feast is given the girl has connection with a man not her husband and is then free to the husband”. Paradoxically, “[t]he woman has invariably been deflowered before marriage, and in fact they prefer such a woman to be a virgin”.


“Before children come to puberty no clothes are worn at all. When a boy is getting near puberty families meet and arrange—another family have a girl coming on, and they are approached and arrangement made for a combined feast. The maternal uncles decorate the children and they are given dance ornaments, and a dance is arranged. The boy is told during the dance to take the girl and have connection with her; the dance lasts all night, and whilst the people dance outside the boy “has” the girl in his parents’ house. […] this connection has no effect on future marriage, and has nothing to do with it—it is merely initiation. The dance may last several days, and advantage is taken of it to initiate all children who can be. However long the dance lasts the two children only copulate once. This is called Iarata, and all boys initiated are called Iarata. Circumcision is not practiced” (p470-1).


Menstruation being explained by copulating moons, “[…] small girls are held up to the moon, and told that the moon will have them first and afterwards their husbands” (ibid.).










Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Frazer, J. G. / Liston-Blyth, A. (compil.)(1953) Notes on Native Customs in the Baniara District (N.E.D.), Papua, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 53:467-71, at p468