Growing Up Sexually



South America



Goajiro: 2+,3,3-,3,3,3;1,1)

GUAJIRO (Venezuela)


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Girls after menarche receive “instructions with respect to sexual […] activities, such as how to prepare and use contraceptives […]” (Watson-Franke, 1982:p452; 1976)[1]. These contraceptives would be administered even during the seclusion, part of the initiation called majayuraa.

In Guajiro society there is an apparent relationship between severe socialisation of female sexual behaviour and the demands made on a woman’s behaviour by the institution of marriage (Watson, 1972)[2]. The success of this severe sexual socialisation of the girl has a bearing on the ability of her family to maintain its status in society and to contract useful political alliances. Severe socialisation is functionally adapted to these demands because it produces negative fixation in the sexual system, which in turn acts as a psychic monitoring device to discourage the unmarried girl from experiencing sexually and thereby increases the likelihood that she will remain sexually chaste, marry well and be potentially valuable to her lineage for cementing a political alliance. This pattern is carried out especially conscientiously by upper class Guajiro who have more at stake in the successful marriage of their daughters.


“Virtually from the time a girl can walk, she is taught to keep physical distance from boys and men. […] If she is seen talking to boys she is scolded sharply; if this pattern is repeated she may be slapped or beaten. The girl is told by her mother that sex is “evil” and “dangerous”. […] She is warned that sexual experimentation will not only be severely punished but will seriously damage her future. Even if the merest suspicion of sexual transgression on her part (to say nothing of actual detection for sexual deviation) brings in its wake immediate sanction. This usually takes the form of a beating or whipping, but if the offense is a serious one the mother may place the tip of a hot banding iron on the girl’s vagina to make the punishment a convincing object lesson. This, it is believed, will effectively deter any repetition of the transgression. Adult female informants expressed the opinion that if a tendency to engage in clandestine sexual activity is not checked in its beginning stages, the girl will develop an uncontrolled craving to have sexual intercourse with men for the sheer pleasure of it, becoming a kind of “whore who takes no money for her services. [though some rationalise their behaviour in terms of premarital purity and the “good name of the family and lineage”] […] Like other forms of sexual behavior, masturbation is severely punished in a girl for it is believed to create in her an irreversible urge to have sexual intercourse. […] On emother stated: “If the girl likes to play with her vagina the mother puts gloves on her hands which have been sprinkled with a hot peppery substance. […] sexual socialization is even more severe for a high-raking girl than for one from an ordinary family. Such a girl is subjected to a particularly long period of confinement when she reaches puberty (sometimes exceeding five years), during which she must endure close and almost suffocating surveillance to ensure her virginity” ”.


Girls may be “checked” digitally if under suspicion. Nothing is said about male sexual socialisation.

“The majority of the Guajiro seem to act as passive carriers of their tradition and do not question, to any appriciable degree, the reasons why they socialize sex the way they do” (p155).






[Additional refs.: Faust, B. B. (1998) Cacao Beans and Chili Peppers: Gender Socialization in the Cosmology of a Yucatec Maya Curing Ceremony, Sex Roles 39,7/8:603-42]




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] Watson-Franke, M. (1982) Seclusion huts and social balance in Guajiro society, Anthropos 77:449-60; Watson-Franke, M. (1976) To learn for tomorrow, in Wilbert, J. (Ed.) Enculturation in Latin America: An Anthology. Los Angelos: LatinAmericanCenter, University of California, p191-211

[2] Watson, L. C. (1972) Sexual Socialization in Guajiro Society, Ethnology 11,2:150-6