South America






IndexAmericasSouth AmericaColombia


Featured: Cubeo, Embera, Alkatcho, Aritama, Zorcas, Tukano, Kagaba, Kogi, Uitoto



Gonzáles et al. (2001)[1] [read all: IES]:


“Investigations conducted by a variety of groups that strongly support sex education have found that parents are reclaiming their roles as the primary informants of sex education. Mantilla (1993) reported that men’s primary sources of information on sexuality were: friends, mother, father, and school. Women reported that their primary sources of information on sexuality were: friends, mother, school, and father. Gutierrez and Franco (1989) found that women reported that their primary sources of information on sexuality were: school, mother, friends, and the general media. Men reported that their primary sources of information were: friends, school, the general media, and father. The Institute of Social Securities (Instituto de Seguros Sociales 1994) found that adolescents posed questions regarding sexuality primarily to their mothers, 47 percent of females and 20 percent of males, whereas only 16 percent questioned their friends and 11 percent questioned their fathers”.


About masturbation:


“Erotic autostimulation is rather common among children. Ardila (1986a)[[2]] interviewed 700 mothers, pertaining to different Colombian subcultures, and found that three out of four mothers reported masturbatory behavior among children of 4 years of age. Acuña and associates (1986)[[3]] explored the existence of this behavior and the anxiety that it causes for parents. In general, this type of autoexploratory and sexual gratification behavior is repressed by the adults.


Autoerotic behaviors are also common among adolescents. Masturbation generally starts between the ages of 13 and 15 (Alzate 1989; Domínguez et al. 1988; González 1995; Giraldo 1981; Gutiérrez & Franco 1989; Useche 1999)[[4]]. Among the adolescents, between 60 and 95 percent of men and 14 and 68 percent of women have masturbated at least once in their lives (Alzate 1989; Domínguez et al. 1988; González 1995; Giraldo 1981; Gutiérrez & Franco 1989; Useche 1999)[[5]]. In general, feelings of guilt and anxiety are reported with respect to masturbation (Domínguez et al. 1988; González 2000; Gutiérrez & Franco 1989) [[6]]”.


“Heterosexual” behaviours:


“Childhood sexual rehearsal play and sexual exploration are quite common. One out of every two mothers reported observing sexual rehearsal play in their 4-year-old children (Ardila 1986)[[7]]. Still, childhood sexuality is a theme that produces great anxiety in adults (Acuña et al. 1986; González 2000)[[8]].


There are no widespread rituals of initiation to puberty. In some rural areas on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, it is common for adolescents to engage in sexual acts with animals, namely mules (González 2000)[].


Sexual activity among adolescents occurs frequently and functions according to the traditional male-dominant cultural pattern. Forty-four percent of Colombians initiate sexual interactions between the ages of 11 and 18. By 18 years of age, 72 percent of males and 40 percent of females have had sexual intercourse, according to Ministry of Health of Colombia (Ministerio de Salud 1994). Generally, female adolescents’ first sexual encounter occurs with their boyfriends. Often, sexual relations between Colombian adolescents stem from an intimate relationship and not from an encounter with a prostitute (Bonder et al. 1999; González 1995; González et al. 2000; Useche 1999)”.



Two studies were done by Alzate (1978, 1984, 1989)[9] on female Colombian university students, revealing data on masturbarche and coitarche. Romanowski et al. (1996)[10] reported on rural parent-child communication on sexuality using a sample of adults and adolescents. Rodrigues et al.[11] report on a study of 200 men assessed for treatment of sexual dysfunction in private clinics, arguing in favour of a relationship between childhood and present curiosity about sex. Bonilla and Fernanda-Mejia (1991)[12] found that 400 teenagers (aged 14-19 years) experienced “poor communication with parents [on the topic of sex] because of the fear of being judged, rejected, or misunderstood”. Ebert and Money (1986)[13] report of a Catholic woman’s development of awareness and acceptance of her children's sexuality. The subjects own sexual education, her mother's repressive attitudes, the punitive attitudes of the Catholic Church and Catholic schools, her own developing sexuality, her sexual activities as a young adult, and her interactions with her children are discussed.


Fals Borda (1955:p204)[14] stated that “[a]ccording to accounts, the first sexual experiences begin early in adolescence”. This would be slightly over age 15 for married mestizo women (Lopez, 1967:p454)[15]. Males indicate a “sort of” virginity complex, the experienced coach the virgos. In Cartagena area Colombia, boys have intercourse practice with donkeys (Brongersma, 1987:p129)[16]. This “donkey theme” is confirmed by Streicker[17]:


“Since women's virginity and monogamy are so jealously guarded, many boys’ first sexual experience is with a marica [“faggot”, passive homosexual] or a female donkey (burra). Though a large, rapidly growing city, Cartagena’s anemic economy still has room for burros as transportation (especially in the scavenging and construction trades). Where there are burras, there are boys. The power dynamics of sex with donkeys are even clearer than in male-to-male sex: female consent, initiative, and pleasure are simply not issues. Boys/men exert an absolute power over the females, usually immobilizing the animals' hind legs with rope or a belt. […] What determines proper sexuality for men is not necessarily heterosexuality, although this is the ideological norm, but rather requires that the man initiate relations, seek his own pleasure, and in doing so demonstrate his supremacy over inferiors. An anecdote illustrates this proposition. Two four-year-old boys, cousins, were left alone at home for an hour or so by one of the boys' fathers. When Pepe, returned his son claimed that the cousin had tried to “fuck” him. Pepe was furious. He immediately informed his brother, Raul, the other little boy's father. While Raul spanked his son for the attempted rape, Pepe beat his little boy for being a marica. Pepe’s wife, mother, and assorted female neighbors blamed the little boy's rape attempt on his parents’ sexual laxity: Raul was lazy, often staying at home and having sex with his wife during the day rather than working, and the boy had witnessed this through a hole in the door. Rather than search for a little girl, the boy took advantage of an opportunity, but thereby also embodying (unconsciously?) the political logic of local male sexuality. Witnessing heterosexual relations does not necessarily make little boys want to experience heterosex, but to perform penetrative sex”.


Solano and Gonzalez (1987)[18] studied the sexual attitudes and knowledge of female teachers in government and private preschool institutions in Barranquilla, Colombia. Subjects completed a sexual attitudes and knowledge inventory, and mean scores for various groups were compared [note: not seen by the compiler. It was not established whether the “attitudes” and “knowledge” pertains to child matters].


In a study[19] of middle-class youths aged 13-18 years in main cities of Colombia, it was found that they


“[…] tend to begin sex between ages 15-18, and have little concern over the consequences of their sexual behavior. They are, moreover, quite ignorant about reproductive health. Sexuality is not thought of as part of marriage, women are expected to be virgins at marriage, and a resounding 87% of the study population rejected abortion legislation. 90% of the young men had their 1st sexual encounter with either a prostitute or domestic servant, while 90% of the young women had their 1st encounters with friends from within their social groups. Sexual relations from adolescence on were supported by 35% of the girls and 60% of the boys, 72% of the girls and 38% of the boys supported virginity, yet less than 10% were in favor of the notion of open relationships. 20% of the girls and 25% of the boys had active sex lives, with homosexuality representing 1.6% and 3.1% of the two sex groupings, respectively. Sex education is practically non-existent. Most young women know little of contraception, and fail to use it out of misconceptions regarding method safety, and fear of one's parents finding out”.


Historical Notes


“A complex preparation for Muisca priesthood most certainly affected the candidate’s perception of the world and the cosmos for the rest of his life. […] Young boys were selected for priesthood when they were ten years old and isolated in a hut for four to six years. [After some tests] The final test before being ordained was one of sexual abstination. The candidate had to sleep next to two fourteen year old girls for four months and not touch them. If he failed this test he was killed during the early Muisca period. During the later Muisca times the boy who couldn't control himself was simply allowed to return to his former place in society”[20].



Ethnographic Particularities


See Cubeo, Embera, Alkatcho, Aritama, Zorcas, Tukano, Kagaba, Kogi, Uitoto



 Additional refs:


§         CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p69-90. Also Progress Report, 2000, p30-8

§         Fomez-Ponce-de-Leon, R. F. (1994) Educacion sexual en la adolescencia, Rev Latinoam Sexol 9,1:31-48

§         Restrepo Angel, H. E., Awad Audad, E. L., Correa-Molina, G. S., Gonzalez-Soto, M. D. et al. (1988)Educacion sexual en las familias de adolescentes escolarizados del area metropolitana del Valle de Aburra [Sex education in families of high school students of the metropolitan area of the Aburra Valley],Rev Latinoam Sexol 3,1:25-41

§         Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá (1993) La prostitución infantil en Bogotá. CEDE, Universidad de los Andes, Santafé de Bogotá

§         Segura Escobar, N. (1992) La Prostitución infantil y la educación: Colombia. Unpublished MSS, Paris: UNESCO






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

Last revised: Jan 2005


[1] Gonzáles, J. M. et al. (2001) Colombia, in Francoeur, R. T. ( chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. 4. New York: Continuum. Online ed.

[2] Ardila, R. (1986) Psicología del Hombre Colombiano. Santafé de Bogotá: Planeta

[3] Acuña, A., Palacio, M. & Guerrero, P. (1986) Sexo: En los niños. Santafé de Bogotá: Editora Cinco

[4] Alzate, cit.infra; Domínguez, E., Mendoza, A., Merlano, L. & Navas, M. (1988) Estudio descriptivo del comportamiento sexual del estudiante de Bachillerato de Barranquilla (Tesis de grado). Barranquilla: Facultad de Psicología, Universidad del Norte; González, J. M. (1995) Diferencias genéricas en el comportamiento sexual de estudiantes universitarios solteros de Barranquilla, Rev Latinoam Sexol 2:161-76; Giraldo, O. (1981) Explorando las sexualidades humanas. México: Trillas; Gutierrez, M. de, & Franco, G. (1989) Encuesta sobre sexualidad en adolescentes. CAFAM. II Curso de atención integral al adolescente. Santafé de Bogotá: CAFAM; Useche, B. (1999) 5 Estudios de sexología. Manizales: ARS Ediciones

[5] Op.cit.

[6] Op.cit.

[7] Op.cit.

[8] Acuñaet al., op.cit.; González, J. M. (2000) Amor & Intimidad en el Caribe Colombiano. Barranquilla: Editorial Antillas

[9] Alzate, H. (1978) Sexual behavior of Colombian university students, Arch Sex Behav 7,1:43-54; Alzate, H. (1984) Sexual behavior of unmarried Columbian university students: a 5-year follow-up, Arch Sex Behav 13,2:121-32; Alzate, H. (1989) Sexual behavior of unmarried Colombian university students: A follow-up, Arch Sex Behav 18:239-50

[10] Romanowski, M. P., Cuellar, J. I. & Vargas-Trujillo, E. (1996) Creencias, valores, actitudes y conocimientos sobre sexualidad de un grupo de maestros, padres y adolescentes en un area rural colombiana [Beliefs, values, attitudes and information about sexuality in a group of teachers, parents and adolescents in a Colombian rural area], Avances en Psicol Clin Latinoam 14:125-37

[11] Rodrigues, O. M., Monesi, A. A. & Costa, M. (1991) Curiosidad sexual infantil y adulta: Prevalencia e implicaciones para el tratamiento de las disfunciones sexuales masculinas  [Child and adult sexual curiosity: Extent and implications for treatment of male sexual dysfunction], Rev Latinoam Sexol 6,1: 45-54

[12] Bonilla, N. & Fernanda-Mejia, L. (1991) Se comunican los adolescentes con sus padres acerca de temas sexuales? [Do adolescents talk to parents about sex?], Rev Latinoam Sexol 6,2:151-66

[13] Ebert, P. & Money, J. (1986) Biografia de la educacion sexual de una madre catolica [Biography of the sexual education of a Catholic mother], Rev Latinoam Sexol 1,1:55-65

[14] Fals Borda, O. (1955) Peasant Society in the Colombian Andes. Gainesville: University of Florida Press

[15] Lopez, A. (1967) Some Notes on Fertility Problems in a Colombian Semi-Urban Community, Demography 4,2:453-63

[16] Brongersma, E. (1987) Jongensliefde, Deel 1. Amsterdam: SUA. Brongersma Foundation was said to possess a videotape of the custom, although it may have been confiscated by the police after his death.

[17] Streiker, J. (1993) Sexuality, Power, and Social Order in Cartagena, Colombia, Ethnology 32,4:359-74

[18] Solano, A. L. & Gonzalez, J. M. (1987) Actitudes y conocimientos ante la sexualidad en educadoras preescolares de hogares infantiles I.C.B.F. y jardines infantiles privados de la ciudad de Barranquilla [Sexual attitudes and knowledge of female preschool teachers in government preschool institutions and private kindergartens in the city of Barranquilla], Rev Latinoam Sexol 2,1:57-78

[19] Ramirez, S. (1991) Early sexual experience and traditional values in Colombia, Newsl Womens Glob Netw Reprod Rights, Jul-Sep (36):30-1

[20] Marriner, Harry A. (nd) Colombian rock art motifs: some ideas for interpretation. Online article, accessed Oct. 15, 2004 []