Growing Up Sexually




LEPCHA (Sikkim)(India)

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Gorer (1967)[1] gives a detailed account of Lepcha childhood sexuality[2]. The Lepcha ignore puberty and have no word for it (p315). Female sexual maturing is attributed to copulation, or, in the rare case of a virgin menarche, to the visit of a supernatural Kandoo moong, a sign of good luck. “The majority of women, however, depend on the intervention of a man; the physical signs will start whenever a girl experiences copulation, and there is therefore no stigma attached to grown men forcing little girls of nine or ten, and this occurs occasionally”. A child should know who be his num-neu-zong, that is, those people with whom all sexual contact is prohibited, by the time he is nine or ten (p153). There is “no formally marked beginning of sexual life […]. Some men make a distinction between pre-puberty and post-puberty sexual activity, but this distinction is personal and not cultural. Most men, when talking of their past lives, emphasise what was their first “real” sexual experience; but some place this first experience very early, at the age of eleven or twelve. I think the operative distinction in the mind of the Lepcha is whether the sexual adventure formed part of a play, or was undertaken seriously for its own sake” (p316). Children’s play of marriage “always end in simulated copulation; if the “bride” is another boy, the children tie their penises together. From about the age of ten children at marriage feasts and similar gatherings are likely sort themselves into pairs and attempt copulation; there is also a certain amount of mutual masturbation among boys. […] Adult Lepchas consider such sex-play extremely funny, though very childish; far from being disapproving of the children, they are more likely to egg them on” (p310). In the name of legalised adultery, boys have their first “real” experience and training with an older married woman, usually an older brother’s wife (p161, 326). Betrothal and marriage start at age 8 (girls) and 12 (boys); at the time of writing, most girls were betrothed before, or at, pubescence.












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] Gorer, G. (1967) HimalayanVillage.New York: Basic Books

[2] See also Ford, C. S. & Beach, F. A. (1951) Patterns of Sexual Behavior. New York: Harper & Row, p191: “The Lepcha of believe that girls with not mature without benefit of sexual intercourse. Early sex play among boys and girls characteristically involves many forms of mutual masturbation and usually ends in attempted copulation. By the time they are eleven or twelve years old, most girls regularly engage in full intercourse. Older men occasionally copulate with girls as young as eight years of age. Instead of being regarded as a criminal offense, such behavior is considered amusing by the Lepcha”.