Growing Up Sexually





Index AfricaZaire Tetela

Also: Congo

Featured: Mbo, Bwela, Ngwana, Mukete, Basoko, Kuba, Bahemba, Azande

, Bakongo, Bakwa-Luntu, Tetela, Muyaka, Alur, Baluba, Baushi, Wagenia



Regarding the Batetela, “[i]nfant betrothal is found among the various sections of the tribe, but the habit of engaging a new-born female child to a small boy by throwing an iron bracelet into the water in which the baby has been first washed is only practiced by Sungu mothers” (Torday, 1921:p375)[1].

Milk must not fall on the infant’s penis or vagina, for it will cause impotence or hypersecretion[2] (Enry, 1971:p92; 1977:p341-55). Girls of five or six go to the forest and pull the labia majora and the clitoris “afin de les faire grandir et d’attirer ainsi les garçons” (cf., Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p71). Girls touch each other’s mammellae to ensure its future ability to produce milk. The vaginal canal is dilated digitally, or with a manioc dildoe. Boys of this age apply manioc powder of the penis to prepare the organ for circumcision (ibid., p93-4). A multitude of sexual taboos exists (1971:p96-7; 1977:p349-50), including genital automanipulation, on the threat of impotence. Children observe parental nudity, and “hear every anecdote”. A certain amount of sexual education is given to the girl by her mother and certain women of the village (sexual hygiene, coital techniques). The boy is merely told to be potent, and to satisfy the girl (p101-2).  Both children (about 8-9) and adolescents practice house/marriage play (by one informant named Asanga), including coital play (p105-6)[3]. Children are sometimes betrothed by parents (p106). Children married at age 10-12, boys at 15 (Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p68).










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] Torday, E. (1921) Culture and Environment: Cultural Differences Among the Various Branches of the Batetela, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 51:370-84

[2] See also Enry, P.(1971) Les Premiers Pas dans la Vie de l’Enfant d’Afrique Noire. Paris: Le Livre Africain

[3] Among the Bayombe (p106), imitated sexual behaviour during hut play would be rare; “on s’intéresse surtout aux traveux quotidiens”. However, sexual games are prevalent (p105).