Growing Up Sexually


BIMIN-KUKUSMIN(Papua New Guinea)


More: Arapesh, Ari, Banaro, Baruya, Busama, Dani, Darabi, Dobu Isl., Eipo, Etoro, Foi, Gebusi, Huli, Jaquai, Kaluli, Keraki, Kewa, Kimam, Kiwai, Koko, Kwoma, Lesu, Manus, Marind Anim, New Britain, New Ireland, Normanby Islanders, Paiela, “Sambia”, Trobrianders, Vanatinai, Wogeo


Bibliography: New guinea



Poole (1982, 1983,1984, 1985a,b, 1987, 1990)[1]observed that mothers systematically “masturbate” the penes of their baby boys:


“She [mother] is expected to masturbate him periodically to ensure the growth of his genitalia, but she must carefully avoid the excessive development of erotic “infant lust” which may injure his finiik [spirit][...]. When mothers rub the penes of their infant sons, the little boys wriggle on their mothers’ laps and have erections. These tiny erections bring laughter. It is play. It will make their penes big when they are older. But “infantile lust” can become too strong and can damage the growing “spirit or life-force” (finiik) of little boys. You will see mothers and sons together in this way everywhere” (Poole, 1990:p127, 106).


As cited by DeMause (1999)[2]: “Much of the ribald joking among mothers is for the purpose of denying that the erotic use of the child is in fact incest-it is blamed on the infant’s “lust” only-for only “bad” mothers “are believed to stimulate their sons beyond the bounds of “infantile lust”[[3]] in order to satisfy their own sexual desires [...]”[4]. Those mothers who completely give in to their own “lust” are called “witches” who are said to be “driven [...] to destroy all aspects of masculinity through jealousy and rage” [5] a condition all women can fall into, particularly when they are young, inexperienced mothers or are treated harshly by their husband’s family. In order to prove that she isn’t being too lustful, mothers deliberately cover their breasts with bark cloth when they are stimulating the penis in a ritually prescribed manner. Indeed, this often highly ostentatious act of covering the breasts is a display to an ever-watchful public that the mother is acting properly in tending her son. On occasion, I have witnessed older women admonish a young mother for failing to cover her breasts when rubbing her son’s genitals (P., 1983:p11)”. More privacy is afforded at night, however, when mothers can rub against their children’s entire bodies because they sleep naked with their them, “together in each other’s arms” and when they also can “regularly rub” the boy’s penis to erection (P., 1987:p115).


Poole interviewed one young boy, Buuktiin, who described how when his mother was depressed or angry she often “pulled, pinched, rubbed, or flicked a fingernail against his penis” (P., 1987:p118) until he cried, afraid it might break off[6]. “When he struggled to escape, she held him tightly and rubbed his penis even harder” (P., 1990:p159). “Kiipsaak [his mother] had masturbated him earlier as mothers often do [...]. [But] now she increased the tempo and roughness of the episodes [...] and he often jerked at her touch and struggled to get away, hitting her and complaining of throbbing pain in his penis. “It hurts inside. It goes “koong, koong, koong” inside. I think it bleeds in there. I don’t like to touch it anymore. It hurts when I pee” (P., 1990:p137).


Girls are initiated at menarche at the late age of 17 to 18 (Poole, 1981 [1986:p142])[7]. Male and female siblings are to chaperon the neothelarchic girl, since she is now regarded attractive. Premarital virginity is highly valued. There is no custom of courting per se, and betrothal often occurs before menarche; the girl’s consent is held essential.


During elaborate boy initiation cycli (ais am), which strike one as abusive (in fact, ritual death is implied to be symbolised), boys (9-12y) are stripped and their genitalia washed, which considering the life phase is exceptional and embarrassing (Poole, 1976[8]; 1982:p121). Another humiliation consists of the application of blood to the penis, which is thought to be feminine and destructive to the tissue (ibid., p126-7, 130). Moist gourds are said to stretch the penis (p130).






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

Last revised: Jan 2005


[1] Poole, F. J. P. (1982a) Personal Experience and Cultural Representation in Children’s “Personal Symbols” Among Bimin-Kuskusmin, Ethos 15:104-32; Poole, F. J. P. (1982b) The Ritual Forging of Identity: Aspects of Person and Self in Bimin-Kuskusmin Male Initiation, in Herdt, G. H. (Ed.) Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Papua New Guinea. Berkeley: University of California Press, p99-154; Poole, F. J. P. (1983) Folk Models of Eroticism in Mothers and Sons: Aspects of Sexuality among Bimin-Kuskusmin. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association; Poole, F. J. P. (1984) Cultural Images of Women as Mothers: Motherhood Among the Bimin-Kuskusmin of Papua New Guinea, Social Anal 15:73-93; Poole, F. J. P. (1985) Coming Into Social Being: Cultural Images of Infants in Bimin-Kuskusmin Folk Psychology, in White, G. M. & Kirkpatrick, J. (Eds.) Person, Self, and Experience: Exploring Pacific Ethnopsychologies. Berkeley: University of California Press, p183-242; Poole, F. J. P. (1990) Images of an Unborn Sibling: The Psychocultural Shaping of a Child’s Fantasy Among the Bimin-Kuskusmin of Papua New Guinea, in Boyer, L. B. & Grolnick, S. A. (Eds.) The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. Vol. 15. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, p105-75

[2] The Emotional Life of Nations, ch. 6

[3] Aur auk-saar (Poole, 1984:p88), op.cit.

[4]Poole (1983:p2-3), op.cit.

[5] Ibid., p6

[6] Also cited by Poole (1982a:p116-7), op.cit.

[7]Poole, F. J. P. (1981 [1986]) Transforming “natural women”: female ritual leaders and gender ideology among Bimin-Kukusmin, in Ortner, Sh. B. & Whitehead, H. (Eds.) Sexual Meanings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p116-65

[8]Poole, F. J. P. (1976) The Ais Am. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms