Growing Up Sexually





Index AfricaCongo Bala

Also: Zaire

Featured: Lega, Mangbetu, Lalia-Ngolu, Bahuana, Batetela, Nkundo Mongo, Mbuti, Bala, Lele, Bangala



Schmitz (Van Overbergh, 1908:p253)[1], on the Basonge: “Bien avant leur puberté, tout gosses encore, négrillons et négrillonnes se roulent dans les coins, en quête de voluptés. “Ils ne peuvent pas encore, mais ils essayent”.” Further, “[a]s to crimes against nature, instances are few and far between, exclusively among young boys”. Merriam (1971:p78)[2] states:


“For the Bala, autoeroticism among children is considered normal although continuation of it is thought to lead to difficulty. Boys play with their genitals “from the time they are very young”, but they cannot ejaculate “until they are 10 years old”. During the evening, when boys get together, they may masturbate (kwasa, “play”), and there is also group masturbation. Adults consider the latter shameful and break it up whenever possible. It is said that the result of persistent masturbation, whether individually or in a group, will be subsequent lack of interest in women. Little girls also masturbate, first with their fingers, and later with a dildo (kankondenkonde, pl. tunkondekkonde) made of manioc root. […] In addition to this preadolescent sex play, all young boys, it is said, spy on women when they are bathing. As a result they know something of female anatomy and the sexually connected keloid markings at an early age”.


Boys and girls may sing obscene songs (p99). Girls and boys play love games (Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p21), choosing lovers and ridiculing those not chosen. Further, Torday and Joyce (1910:p272) note that “Il est permis à ceux qui ne sont pas mariés d’avoir des relations sexuelles et ils en ont dès un très jeune âge”. Merriam (1974:p226)[3] stated: “Young men and women engage in heterosexual activities before marriage, and in the case of girls, often before puberty”. Intercourse is freely practised during more or less informal arrangements referred to as engagements. Boys are ready for marriage when he stops “fooling around” like a youngster, when pimples start breaking out on his forehead (“someone with pimples can’t be trusted around women”), and when his axillary hair, pubes and beard (least important) begin to grow. For girls, it would be thelarche, and not menarche [age 12]; girls are ready earlier because “girls mature faster than boys”. Marriages can be arranged at age 13-15 (girls) and 15-17 (boys). Children may also be affianced at an age as early as eight years, but this is not considered special or different from ordinary betrothal (p233). Girls of 13-15 are said to seek badumiyanami [heterosexual friendships] among boys of their own age, and adults accept the notion that one of the purposes of these friendships is sex relations (p263). “Girls of the same age may also have a badumiyanami who is an older married man, and one of his primary obligations in this role is to instruct the girl in matters pertaining to marriage. Such instruction may be in sexual intercourse as well as in other matters, and sex relations may continue after the girls has married; in either case, the affair is carried on in secret. Similarly, teen-aged boy may have an older married woman as his badumiyanami”. Beaucorps (1941:p106)[4] would argue that among the Songo of the past, a man who consented to live maritally with an immature girl would have been despised. “This vice has only been introduced to the Basongo by civilization”.








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] In Van Overbergh, C. (1908) Les Basonge. Bruxelles: A. de Wit            

[2] Merriam, A. M. (1971) Aspects of sexual behavior among the Bala (Basongye), in Marshall, D. S. (Eds.) Human Sexual Behavior.New Jersey: E. Cliffs. 1972 Prism Paperback ed., p71-102

[3] Merriam, A. P. (1974) An African World: The Basongye Village of Lupupa Ngye. Bloomington [etc.]: Indiana University Press

[4] Beaucorps, R. de (1941) Les Basongo de la Luniungu et de la Gobari. Brussels; Mair (1953:p88), op.cit.