Papua New Guinea





MANUS (Papua New Guinea) (eHRAF)


More: Arapesh, Ari, Barano, Baruya, Bimin-Kukusmin, Busama, Darabi, Dobu Isl., Eipo, Etoro, Foi, Gebusi, Jaquai, Keraki, Kewa, Kimam, Kiwai, Koko, Kwoma, Lesu, Marind Anim, New Britain, New Ireland, Normanby Islanders, Paiela, “Sambia”, Trobrianders, Vanatinai, Wogeo




Mead (1930)[1], on the Manus, says little on child sexual behaviour. Perhaps the “[h]abits of rough and tumble sex play, established in youth” persist as adult foreplay. However, the children masturbate in hard-to-find solitude and surrounded by shame [1953:p101, 102][2]. Manus girls were betrothed at age 8 or 10 (Mead, 1956:p31)[3]. “Engaged girls should not run about too much with younger children, should not play with boys, should stay at home and make bead work for their dowries” (Mead, 1947:p9)[4] arrangements ideally made for children of two male cross-cousins (Mead, 1934:p228)[5]. The taboos associated with this fact continuously disturbed the normal constellations in children’s play groups (Mead, 1937:p221)[6]. An adolescent must not see his betrothal before marriage, “and then only for a brief instant”; men, without exception would be ignorant of menstruation (Fortune, 1965 [1969:p89, 82, 149][7]). Thus, “[f]irst menstruation is believed to be due to the hymen breaking. […] As it is understood, first menstruation is believed to come as a matter of course, naturally. The men think that a girl’s first sexual intercourse produces the next menstruation. They conclude that sexual intercourse causes menstruation. […] When one urges upon them that Manus girls menstruate […] they take the statement as an insult upon the chastity of their girls” (p82-3). Whereas children’s play formerly was found to be “empty of any content which imitated adult social relations”, including betrothals and marriage, they were later found to “play house, they build very tiny houses and also houses big enough to get inside, and play at housekeeping”. Nothing, however, was said about sexual imitations (p364, 366). Boys of four or five, however, begin to imitate displays of phallic “athletics” as is integrated in ceremonial dances (p51, 130).





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

Last revised: May 2005


[1] Mead, M. (1930) Growing Up in New Guinea. New York: William Morrow. Mentor ed., 1953. See also Whiting, J. & Child, I. (1953) Child Training and Personality: A Cross-Cultural Study. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p79

[2] Ford and Beach (1951:p181), op.cit.

[3] Mead, M. (1956) New Lives for Old. London: Gollancz

[4] Mead, M. (1952) Adolescence in primitive and in modern society, in Swanson, G. E., Newcomb, T. M. & Hartley, E. L. (Eds.) Readings in Social Psychology. Rev.ed. New York:  H. Holt, p531-8. Originally (1947), p6-14

[5] Mead, M. (1934) Kinship in the Admiralty Islands, Anthropol Pap Am Mus Nat Hist 34,Pt.II:183-358

[6] Mead, M. (1937) The Manus of the Admirality Islands, in Mead, M. (Ed.) Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples. New York & London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., p210-39

[7] Fortune, R. F. (1965) Manus Religion. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1965 pr.