KAYANS (Borneo, Indonesia)


IndexIndonesiaBorneo → Kayans

Also: Dusun, Rungus Dusun, Dayak





Hose and McDougall[1]:


“About the age of ten years the Kayan boy begins to wear a waist-cloth-- his first garment -- his sister having assumed the apron some two or three years earlier; we are not aware of any ceremony connected with this. […] There is little or no attempt made to impart instruction to the children, whether moral or other, but they fall naturally under the spell of custom and public opinion […]. It is difficult to say exactly at what age puberty begins with the youths. The girls mostly begin their courses in the fourteenth or fifteenth year. By this time the girl of the better class has the lobes of her ears distended to form loops, which allow her heavy ear-rings to reach to her collar-bone or even lower, and she is far advanced towards completion of her tatu on thighs, feet, hands, and forearms […]. The process is begun at about the tenth year, and is continued from time to time, only a small area being covered at each bout, owing to the pain of the operation and the ensuing inflammation and discomfort. […] The youth goes through no elaborate rite of initiation to manhood […]. When the youth begins to feel strongly the attraction of the other sex, he finds opportunities of paying visits, with a few companions, in friendly houses. It is then said in his own house that he has gone “to seek tobacco”, a phrase which is well understood to mean that he has gone to seek female companionship[2].

We must not pass over without mention a peculiar mutilation which is practised by most of the Kayan youths as they approach manhood, namely, the transverse perforation of the GLANS PENIS and the insertion of a short rod of polished bone or hard wood.

A youth of average presentability will usually succeed in becoming the accepted lover of some girl in his own or another house (cp. Chap. V.); and though he may engage himself in this way with two or three girls in turn before deciding to “settle down”, he is usually not much over twenty years of age when he becomes accepted as the future husband of a girl some years his junior. A Kayan youth who has rendered pregnant a girl with whom he has kept company can be relied upon to acknowledge his responsibility and to marry her before her time comes”.







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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1]Hose, Ch. & McDougall, W. (1912) The Pagan Tribes of Borneo: A Description of Their Physical Moral and Intellectual Condition With Some Discussion of their Ethnic Relations. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited. Vol. I [Gutenberg Project]

[2] It came into use, no doubt, through the hospitable offering of cigarettes by the women of the household. [orig. footnote]