Growing Up Sexually



IndexPacificsPolynesia French PolynesiaCook IslandsMangaia


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



Marshall (1971:p108)[1] relates that boys and girls are separated by the age of four or five. The uncircumcised penis is not shamed.


“Young children imitate the work and activities of their elders as a basis of play. In the course of this, according to some informants, they are thought to play at copulation. But this activity is never seen in public”, which would be in tune with Mangaian sense of “public privacy”. “Despite varied sexual activities that occur continuously within the one-room houses, it is outside of the home that the child learns more intimate details of sex and their results- such as “where the babies come from”. The knowledge is achieved at about age eight or nine. For just as brothers and sisters are not seen together in public, so they do not discuss sexual matters together […]. Mothers and daughters or fathers and sons do not discuss sexual matters with one another- or even with the older persons among whom they work”.


Marshall states that a boy’s penis is orally and manually stimulated, together with the cunnus (p109, 110) in an attempt to change its size. Masturbation, not seen in public, is learned at ages 7-10, and practised about 2-3 times a week, while “excessive masturbation is thought to expose the glans of the penis […] prior to superincision. Mangaians believe that boys with few friends tend to masturbate more than those who spend more time with other children”. Nocturnal emissions are blamed on the visit of avaricous “ghost women”. “Although parents may try to stop children from masturbating, once they know of it, their efforts are not very heavy nor their punishments severe. The boys experimenting with coitus before superincision “must content themselves with sexually knowledgeable and promiscuous older women and widows of the village, rather than copulating with either the younger girls or with what are referred to as the “good girls”. Most boys wait until age thirteen or fourteen to commence their sexual adventures […], following the act of superincision”. The superincisor provides sexual instruction, and may arrange for women to provide “more practical” instruction (p113). The information not only includes “[…] detailed information [concerning] techniques of coitus, but it is also said to include the means of locating a “good girl” ”. It includes such techniques as cunnilingus, orgasm timing act. Girls are taught by elderly women. Whereas in former days the age of the operation ranged 15-26, it was replaced by an earlier timing (age 10) or infant circumcision.

Sexual matters are not discussed in the home except for covert references, and are left to the peer group. After circumcision, the glans must not be shown.













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]Marshall, D. S. (1971) Sexual behavior on Mangaia, in Marshall, D. S. & Suggs, R. C. (Eds.) Human Sexual Behavior.New York & London: Basic Books, p103-62. See also Van Ussel, J. (1975) Intimiteit. Deventer, Holland: Van Loghum Slater, p90-2, and Yates, A. (1978) Sex Without Shame. New York: William Morrow, p68, 70-5