Growing Up Sexually


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Bibliography: PNG



Schieffelin (1976:p152)[1]: “Homosexual intercourse for boys […] took place in everyday life […] whenever a boy reached the age of about ten or eleven”[2]. Schieffelin (1982/1998:p162-3, 177-9)[3] received the following impression, from oral history:


“The growth of young boys who were around the age of puberty was encouraged specifically by pederastic homosexual intercourse [of boys] with some of the bachelors. Kaluli believe that girls attain full maturity as women by natural growth but that boys cannot do so without being given a “boost”, as it were, by the semen of older men. This pederasty was considered a major male secret vis-à-vis the women, and it was generally regarded with embarrassment and lascivious humor among the men themselves. Homosexual intercourse for boys also took place in everyday life beyond the bau a [a major ritual abandoned at the time of writing] context whenever a boy reached the age of about ten or eleven. At that time a father would choose a suitable partner to inseminate him, and the two would meet privately in the forest or a garden house for intercourse over a period of months or years. Less frequently a boy might choose his own inseminator, although this was risky: if the man was a witch, his semen would the boy into one too. In the bau a, the boys were inseminated “openly” (that is, they were inseminated by their homosexual partner after lights out in the close, crowded, smoky darkness of the bau a while the rest of the exhausted hunters were thought to be asleep). A few bachelors came to the bau a specifically to act as inseminators, and fathers sometimes assigned their sons to one or the other of them. Other lads chose their own inseminators from among the older bachelors (or bachelors chose them) and formed specific liaisons for a while. Side by side with the serious business of hunters, pederastic intercourse was a marked feature of the bau a which men chuckled over self-consciously in reminiscence”.


A heterosexual virginity was expected to be able to enter bau a (‘measured’ by means of a practical joke); in fact, an imminent heterosexual affair of a bachelor might precipitate the organisation of a bau a. Ayasilo (bau a officials) do not engage in homosexual activity, since it is considered “ultimately profane in Kaluli belief because it is sexual” (ibid., p172). Loss of innocence, thought to negatively impact hunting skills, is not one of knowledge, but of (heterosexual) social entanglement. Non-ritualized, profane and impure homosexual activity occupies a nexus in-between defiling heterosexual intercourse, and the ideal of celibacy as assigned to ritual officials.





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

Last revised: Jan 2005


[1] Schieffelin, E. L. (1976) The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of Dancers.New York: St. Martin’s

[2] On the other hand: “When a boy is eleven or twelve years old he is engaged for several months in homosexual intercourse with a healthy older man chosen by his father […]” (p124).

[3] Schieffelin, E. L. (1982) The Bau A: a ceremonial hunting house, in Herdt, G. H. (Ed.) Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Papua New Guinea. Berkeley: University of California Press, p155-200