Growing Up Sexually


IFALUK, Woleai (Central Carolines, Micronesia)

IndexPacificsMicronesiaCaroline Islands Ifaluk




Prepubertal intercourse is strictly forbidden for girls, after puberty there is “almost complete freedom (Ford and Beach, 1951:p181)[1]. According to observations by Burrows and Spiro (1957:p284-97)[2]:


“Sexual activity of any kind is taboo until puberty. Sexual activity, it is believed, stunts their growth and causes illness. […] sexual behavior is punished by beating. […] I did not observe masturbation in young children though I have often observed children playing with, or fingering their genitals, with no comment at all from the adults. […] children stated that they were ignorant of the masturbating behavior of other children[3] […]. Whether or not children engage in overt heterosexual activity is a question I cannot answer. Both adults and children profess to know of no such behavior, and I myself never observed any. […] the prepubescent children sleep in one net. It is difficult to believe that children who sleep together in close proximity under one net do not engage in some type of sexual explorations. In the absence of other evidence, however, this must remain conjecture”.


They children, however, exhibit themselves, grab at genitalia, bump and rub buttocks, and imitate sexual dances. “Often the men will engage in sexual “horseplay” with the boys. For example, a man may grab at the exposed penis of a young boy, the latter invariably withdrawing with mock-serious threat. Or a man may tickle the boy’s penis with a twig[4]”. There is much ignorance about conception and birth. Intercourse is permitted after the third menses, and, ambiguously, after “the first indication of their sexual virility”.











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] Ford, C. S. & Beach, F. A. (1951) Patterns of Sexual Behavior.New York: Harper & Row

[2] Burrows, E. G. & Spiro, M. E. (1957) An Atoll Culture. New Haven: HRAF

[3] “Certain informants, however, maintained that children violate the taboo. They also maintained that the children engage in mutual masturbation […]” (p296).

[4] The “taboo on overt sexual verbal or physical behavior does not apply in the case of interaction between adults and children” (p298).