Featured: Pukapukans, Ra’Ivavae, French Polynesia [Marquesans, Cook Islands [Tahiti, Aitutaki, Mangaia], Samoa, Tonga Isl.]; Santa Cruz Isl., Santa Cruz Isl.


Danielsson (1954 [1956:p81-105]) gives an informed account of sexual development in Polynesia. The Polynesians “made no attempt to suppress sexuality in the younger generation; parents indeed, encouraged their children in free experimentalizing and realistic play. For the Polynesians childhood and youth were a time of preparation in this respect as in others, and they considered, without doubt rightly, that it was of the greatest importance for everyone to acquire as much sexual knowledge and skill as possible before marriage”. Children often witnessed the sexual act of their parents, and overheard their conversations. Parents “often urged their children to masturbate when they wanted peace and quiet, more or less as we give our children rubber teats. When the children grew rather older, they had to learn various sexual games. “Daddy, Mummy and children”, for example, was played much more realistically than our children play it, and, in concordance with adult customs, often with two or three daddies and mummies at once. […] Small children imitating sexual intercourse were a common sight on all the islands. Only children of the same age, however, took place in these sexual games, and it was considered in the highest degree improper and abnormal for an adult person to show any interest in them. Any such offence was punished with extreme severity, sometimes even with death. […] Sexual experimentalizing became bolder and bolder during [the] free association in play groups consisting of both boys and girls, and many of them had intercourse, though naturally [?] they could seldom attain orgasm”. Puberty was not a social secure in this respect. Boys and girls had their “first real intercourse” with “an older, experienced person” belonging to the same set, but often also from the parental generation (aunts, uncles). In the AustralIslands, it is stated that “young males received sexual instructions from the Kariois, young females from priestesses. Courses in sexual refinements were given in the karioi-society”[1]. On Tongareva (Penrhyn), a “woman of mature age”, appointed by the father, practically instructed the pubarchic boy in intercourse after conditioning his preputium[2]. In Hawai’i, a boy of noble family was equally instructed by a mature chiefess[3].

Polynesian adolescence may be characterized as a period in which boys form cohorts, the primary focus of interest of which is sex (Ortner, 1981 [1986:p380][4]). This may commonly be organized around a dormitory system (Suggs, 1966:p175; Firth, 1963:p82).


Featured: Pukapukans, Ra’Ivavae, French Polynesia [Marquesans, Cook Islands [Tahiti, Aitutaki, Mangaia], Samoa, Tonga Isl.]; Santa Cruz Isl., Santa Cruz Isl.









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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Stimson Archives. PeabodyMuseum, Salem, Mass., USA [orig.footnote]

[2] Buck, P. H. (1932) Ethnology of Tongareva. Honolulu, Hawai’i: BerniceP. BishopMuseum

[3] Handy, C. (1951/2) The Polynesian Family System in Kau, Hawaii, J Polynesian Soc

[4] Ortner, Sh. B. (1981 [1986]) Gender and sexuality in hierarchical societies, in Ortner, Sh. B. & Whitehead, H. (Eds.) Sexual Meanings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p359-409