IES: Cyprus




Index EuropeCyprus

Georgiou et al. (2001)[1]:

“Boys are encouraged to develop their masculinity as expressed through “physical courage, toughness, competitiveness, aggressiveness, and defending one’s honor,” whereas girls are taught to cultivate their femininity as expressed through “gentleness, expressiveness, responsiveness, tenderness and modesty” (Balswick 1973)[[2]]. The most important virtues that girls must learn are, again, those related to modesty and shame-avoidance. A girl must demonstrate that she is a virgin not only in the flesh, but also in spirit. She should avoid not only physical but also social contact with men, because this could be associated with sexual desire. This entails accepting a number of social prohibitions, such as never to talk to a man in the street, unless he is a close relative; not to fraternize with men, and “when a man looks at her she should avert her eyes and blush; she should not laugh in front of men and if she does so, she must bring her hand in front of her mouth” (Markides et al. 1978)[[3]]. If this behavior is maintained, her good name and family honor are preserved, which adds to her value as a future bride. Throughout socialization in the family and community, a girl learns to set marriage as the paramount goal of her life, since it allows her to become a wife and a mother.”



“The only data available on child and adolescent autoerotic behavior comes from retrospective histories taken with a clinical sample of 840 patients whom the main author saw in clinical practice between 1993 and 1996. While male masturbation in this sample is far more prevalent than female masturbation (85 percent v. 15 percent), approximately 50 percent of masturbating females felt guilty about this behavior compared with 48 percent of males.


It appears that parents also have fears of the female losing her virginity if she is allowed to “play about down there!” Virginity is related to the “honor” (timi) of the family, and this is very carefully guarded. Males, on the other hand, are often encouraged and “cajoled” to continue, if they are caught fondling their genitals in infancy, as this is seen as a normal part of growing up. Given that the females get rather negative messages when caught masturbating, and indeed may be chastised for this behavior, then it is perhaps not a surprise to find that only 15 percent of the females in this sample masturbated.


Still, it may be a little surprising that such a large number of Cypriot girls begin masturbating at such a young age, before age 10. One of the factors is certainly the early growth spurt that females have in relation to boys, but there are probably other explanations also. Most males learn how to masturbate from their friends (77 percent) compared to only 26.5 percent of females. The majority of girls, however, learn to masturbate by themselves, through experimentation or accident (54 percent), compared to fewer boys (21 percent) that learn in this way. Again, more girls (19 percent) learn to masturbate from the media, books, magazines, and the like compared to about 2 percent of boys. It appears that girls tend not to talk as openly as boys do with their peers about masturbating, and therefore this is not the source of their information. Girls, it appears, prefer to find their sexual information from books and magazines, and self-experiment in the privacy of their own home.


The main author’s clinical experience has shown that there is a widely reported incidence of childhood masturbation from infancy to nursery school age. These cases are often reported by parents and are accepted by parents and caretakers if the child is male, and it is often joked about: “He’s as potent as his father. Look, he’s started young.” If the child is female, such behavior is often frowned upon, with punishment as a consequence if it continues. Over the last decade, I have had a number of parents coming to the clinic to discuss the “normality” of their young infant daughter’s masturbatory behavior, sometimes in horror that their little “innocent” should be capable of such “disgusting” actions! I have yet to see a parent come to discuss their son’s masturbatory behavior!”


“No data have been gathered to date regarding children’s sexuality or sexual rehearsal play in Cyprus.”



Further references:


§         Cyprus Changing the Age of Consent, EuroLetter [ILGA Europe] 92:3-4





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

Last revised: Dec 2004


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

[2] Balswick, J. (1973) The Greek Cypriot Family in a Changing Society. Lanarca, Cyprus: Department of Social Welfare Services, Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance

[3] Markides, K. E., Nikita, N., & Rangou, E. (1978) Lysi: Social Change in a CypriotVillage. Nicosia, Cyprus: Social Research Centre