Growing Up Sexually





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


Schidlof (1908:p10)[1]: “Die Frühriefe führt dazu, daß Vierzehnjärige bereits kirchkich getraut werden undklimatische Verhältnisse, unsittliche Gebärden, böse Beispiele und Lebensweise wecken im Herzen des Kindes heimliche Gelüste und dessen Geschlechtstrieb reift in überraschender Weise frühzeitig heran” ”. Single-room housing would lead toeine sittliche Verweichung […] die besonders die Kinder ergriff und eine schrankenlose Vermischung herbeiführte” (Karsch-Haack, 1901[1983:p258-9])[2]. Ploß (Die Frau, I) stated that, according to Richard Neuhauss, Hawai’ian “girls of 12 to 14 years are generally virgins no more and acts of impurity of father with daughter are no rarity”.

For infant females in Hawai’i, “milk was squirted into her vagina, and the labia were pressed together (Diamond, 1990) [3]. The mons [veneris] was rubbed with kukui (candlenut) oil and pressed with the palm of the hand to flatten it and make it less prominent. The molding continued until the labia did not separate. This chore usually was done by the mother or by an “aunt” [...]”. The buttocks of infants, males more than females, were molded so that they became “rounded and not flat”, also clearly evolving from an aesthetic motive. A “blower” is designated for each male infant, ostensibly to prepare him for subincision of the foreskin: “the penis was blown into daily starting from birth. The blowing was said to loosen and balloon the foreskin [and] continued daily [...] until the young male was 6 or 7”, when penile subincision takes place (Diamond, 1990:p430-1)[4].

Diamond (p433) reports:


“Individuals of both sexes were expected to initiate and participate in coitus at puberty, although sexual activity, play, instruction, and so forth occurred much earlier. For instance, as part of exploratory play, the young investigated each other’s genitals, and young males and females might masturbate each other heterosexually or homosexually. This activity occurred without adult disapproval, and it was considered to be an introduction to adulthood. Casual intercourse before adolescence was not an uncommon experience for males (Handy and Pukui, 1958:p95) and females (Pukui, Haertig and Lee, 1972:p78)”.



Murray (1992:p15-8)[5], particularly drawing from Beaglehole (1967) summarises pre-contact homosexuality involving aikanes, or chiefs’ young retinues. A further treatise was offered by Morris[6].


Boggs (1968:p73-5)[7] provides some data about adolescent sex. A passage argues that:


"Along with most other American parents, Hawaiians are unable or unwilling to talk freely to their sons and daughters about the thing parents are most worried about: sexual experience. Most of the students' information on the subject (as contrasted with warnings and admonitions received from parents) comes from older siblings, friends, and from courses at school. Many who are confident that they can use their own judgment to go steady and explore sex without getting into trouble, by using information from school and from friends, do know more than their compliant friends; but, in fact, they appear to be quite ignorant. Girls show little awareness of the importance their chosen mate may play in their future, if they become pregnant, and they feel much better informed than they really are on the facts of reproduction and birth control. (Some mothers of pre-schoolers who were interviewed reported being astounded by the facts of intercourse and birth which they learned only by experiencing them.) "Kids around here think sex is a game," is a frequent comment. Losing the game is briefly shameful, but it soon becomes a part of normal living, not a disgrace. Becoming pregnant may involve some intense, but temporary shame; while losing the chance to finish school is felt as a real loss for a long time".



Handy (1958)[8]


"Distinguished families betrothed (ho`opalau) their hiapo during childhood, sometimes before birth." (p105)

"Sex knowledge was not kept from children, and though they were not ignorant of sex there was no unseemly behaviour on the part of the young folks going about together. They went swimming together with nothing on their bodies, but used the hands as a shield when coming out of the water. It was impressed into their minds that it was not good to indulge in sexual practises when too young and a boy who did so was called a keiki pu`e (a rapacious child) and avoided by the other boys and girls. When a girl or boy felt matured, he or she withdrew from their young playmates and associated more with the older people. This was a sign that he was beginning to feel his responsibility, and thinking of marriage. He was closely observed by the neighbours and if industrious and well behaved, they knew that he would be a good husband, but if he was lazy, none cared to have him as an addition to the family. This was also true of girls. Among the chiefs, a boy was not only trained in warfare and government but when he was grown physically, a matured chiefess was chosen to train him in sexual practices. This was part of his education. Should a child result, he or she was reared by the mother. Thus it was that Kamehameha claimed Ka`oleioku as "the son of my beardless youth," at the dedication of the heiau of Pu`ukohola. This was the son born to him by Kane-i-ka-polei, one of the wives of his uncle Kalaniopu`u." (p110)










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

Last revised: May 2005



[2] Karsch-Haack, F. (1901) Uranismus oder Päderastie und Tribadie bei den Naturvölkern, Jb Sex Zwischenst 3:72ff. Reprinted in 1983 (Schmidt, W. J. (Ed.), Vol.1:p229-96

[3] Diamond, M. (1990) Selected Cross-Generational Sexual Behavior in Traditional Hawai’i: A Sexological Ethnography, in Feierman, J. R. (Ed.) Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions. New York: Springer-Verlag, p422-43

[4] Diamond draws on data by Pukui et al. (1972) and Handy and Pakui (1958). See Pukui, M. K., Haertig, E. W. & Lee, C. A. (1972) Nana I Ke Kumu. 2 vols. Honolulu: Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center; and Handy & Pukui (1958), cit.infra

[5] Op.cit.

[6] Morris, R. J. (1992) Same-sex friendships in Hawaiian lore: constructing the canon, in Murray, S. O. (Ed., 1992) Oceanic Homosexualities. New York & London: Garland, p71-102

[7]Boggs, J. (1968) Hawaiian adolescents and their families, in Studies in a Hawaiian community: na makamaka o Nanakuli, edited by Ronald Gallimore and Alan Howard. Honolulu: BerniceP. BishopMuseum, Dept. of Anthropology, p64-79 [eHRAF 2005]

[8]Handy, E. S. C. & Pukui, M. K. (1958) The Polynesian Family System in Ka-‘u Hawaii. Wellington, New Zealand: The Polynesian Society