FON, DAHOMEY (2,2,3-,3,4,4;5,5)  (BENIN




IndexAfricaBenin Dahomey


“Formal sex instruction” may precede puberty initiation (Stephens, 1971:p407)[1]. Herskovitz (1938)[2] describes genital doctoring. Homosexuality is seen as an adolescent phase (ibid., p289)[3]. Dahomey adolescents enlarge their labia pudenda (cf. Stanley, 1998:p41-3)[4] and occasional mutual masturbation would occur (Carrier, 1980)[5]. In Dahomey (Kossodo, 1978:p113)[6], Fan mothers practice clitoral masturbation, pull labia, stroke the anus and use water beams for then minutes on the vulva. This continues until age four. The practice is said to induce frigidity and cause childlessness[7]. Sexual education is given to the girls in their period of seclusion, who later pass on their knowledge to the boys (Herskovits, 1932)[8]. Coitus is not supposed to start until the passage of 48 menstrual cycles. Boys have homosexual liaisons in early adolescence when girls are unavailable. In Dahomey, “[…] the fact that in early puberty groups of boys build and live in houses of their own, electing their own leaders and carrying on much in the fashion of adults, is […] regarded by Dahomeans as educational. Especially important are the recognized mechanism of sexual experimentation, while perhaps not less significant is the withdrawal of nubile girls from contact with boys who might cause them to become pregnant. This creates a situation which leads either to further training of young men in sex through illicit relations with older women, or to indulgence in homosexual experience, which is sanctioned for this period” (Herskovits, 1943:p743-4)[9].






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

Last revised: Apr 2005


[1] Op.cit.

[2] Herskovits (1938), op.cit.

[3] See also Murray and Roscoe (1998:p104-5), op.cit.

[4]Alpern, S. B. (1998) Amazons of Black Sparta; The Women Warriors of Dahomey. New York Press

[5]Carrier, J. (1980) Some comments on marriage in Africa, ARGOH Newsl 2,3:2-4

[6] Kosssodo, B. L. (1978) Die Frau in Afrika. München: List. Translated from the English

[7] Cf. Duerr (1988, I:p202), op.cit.

[8] Herskovits, M. J. (1932) Some aspects of Dahomean ethnology, Africa 5,3:266-96

[9] Herskovits, M. J. (1943) Education and Cultural Dynamics, Am J Sociol 48, 6:737-49