COPPER INUIT (North American Natives)


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See also: North-America Non-Natives




De Coccola and King (1986:p85)[1][191] described the intergenerational transmission of Copper Inuit sexual mores taking place continuous from infancy:


“Normally little Eskimo girls are first shown by their parents how to submit sexually to those little boys to whom they have been promised and to whom they will be married at puberty or sooner. If the young females do not yield their bodies to the advances of their affianced, or if they prove unreceptive, the adults will urge them on with words of encouragement and by suggestive movements. Or else they will poke fun at the beginners and tease them, all the while roaring with laughter [Briggs[2][192]“ was explained that “[When we [Inuit] tell the puppy to bite the little boy’s penis off], we aren’t trying to make [him] afraid, we’re celebrating his maleness”; “We tell children their genitals are bad in order to make them feel a little bit careful” […]”.]. Most children were introduced to such sexual games when they were still taking milk from their mothers’ breasts. Their parents and neighbors had manipulated their intimate parts as far back as they could remember. It was nothing new to them, and they seemed to enjoy these experiments. Visiting their young friends was another opportune occasion for the children to fondle one another, to excite their sexual desires, and to caricature the physical raptures of their parents with cries of  “It’s wonderful!” ”.


McElroy (1977, II:p268)[3][193] gives some observations on Inuit childhood: among these, “Girls try to do the same [urinating off the cliff], holding their clitoris up and arching their back, laughing at their lack of success”. Jeness (1922)[4][194] stated:


“Whatever the causes may be sexual immorality is certainly very rife amongst them, and as certainly disregarded as a matter of no importance. Even the children are doubtfully pure. A married man deliberately mishandled a little girl in the presence of other people, and his action met with no condemnation. The relatives would doubtless interfere if the children were subject to any annoyance, but as long as no trouble arises no one takes any notice. I never knew of any girl being a mother before she is married, for the simple reason that girls always marry about puberty”.


Condon (1987)[5][195] notes:


“Adolescent sexual-activity commences with little or no knowledge of reproductive physiology. All the teenagers we interviewed stated that their parents had given them no advice whatsoever about sex or pregnancy. In most cases, mothers even avoid discussing the implications of menarche with their daughters. When one young girl had her first menses and asked her mother what was happening to her, the mother simply replied that she was “growing up”. The father of three daughters stated that most parents are just too shy and embarrassed to discuss such things with their children. The lack of parent-child discourse regarding sexuality may be due also to parental ignorance regarding reproductive physiology. Because of the lack of sexual knowledge, some girls who have become pregnant may not realize it until the second or even third trimester of their pregnancy” (p143-4).


“[…] we note that older boys display a clear preference for interacting in large same-sex groups even as they are developing an interest in more intimate dyadic cross-sex interaction. One explanation is that while these older boys prefer the companionship of same-age and same-sex companions, they are not completely disinterested in the opposite sex. In fact, it may be that awakening sexual interest in the opposite sex leads these older boys, and older girls, to seek out more intimate contact with potential sexual partners outside of the mixed-group context. Thus while young boys and girls are likely to limit their contact with the opposite sex to mixed play groups, older teenagers begin to develop dating relationships and cross-sex friendships that are an outgrowth of initial contacts established within mixed-sex groups. Even as teenage boys spend much time in large same-sex groups, they tend to increase contact with the opposite sex in intimate cross-sex dyads. The fact that boys spend significantly less time in mixed-sex groups than in same-sex groups may not necessarily be due to any conscious segregation between the sexes, but simply because they enjoy the thrill of competitive sports play, in which teenage girls do not participate”.


Condon (1983)[6][196]: “Due to the high value placed upon newborns, the unwed mother, regardless of age, is rarely chastised for her sexual awakening”.










Additional refs:


§         Condon, Richard G. & Stern, Pamela R. (Dec., 1993) Gender-Role Preference, Gender Identity, and Gender Socialization among Contemporary Inuit Youth, Ethos 21,4:384-416

§         Saladin d'Anglure, B. (2000) [Pijariurniq: Inuit performances and rituals of the first time], Études Inuit 24,2:89-113






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][191] De Coccola, R. & King, P. (1986) The Incredible Eskimo: Life Among the BarrenLand Eskimo. Surrey, B.C.; Blaine, Wash.: Hancock House

[2][192] Briggs, J. L. (1999) Out of the Garden of Eden: Morality Play in the Life of an Inuit Three-Year-Old. Online paper, adapted from Briggs’s Inuit Morality Play. Yale University Press, ch. 5 []

[3][193] McElroy, A. (1977) Alternatives in Modernization: Styles and Strategies in the Acculturative Behavior of Baffin Island Inuit. New Haven: HRAF. Vol. II

[4][194] Jeness, D. (1922) The Life of the Copper Eskimo. New York : Johnson Reprint Corporation

[5][195] Op.cit.

[6][196] Condon, R. (1983) Inuit Behavior and Seasonal Change in the Canadian Arctic. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press