Though not an obvious inclusion, Ford and Beach (1951:p188) listed the Masai as “permissive”. They (p182) state also that intercourse is forbidden until puberty ceremonies. As excepted from Saitoti:
“ “Are you orkirekenyi?” one of my brothers asked. I quickly replied no, and there was laughter. Orkirekeryi is a person who has transgressed sexually. For you must not have sexual intercourse with any circumcised woman before you yourself are circumcised. You must wait until you are circumcised. If you have not waited, you will be fined. Your father, mother, and the circumciser will take a cow from you as punishment”.
Jacobs (1973:p402, 404) agrees that, as for boys, “female children are prohibited from engaging in sexual intercourse, and it is not until a girl completes her tribal initiation ceremony (clitoris sub-incision) ceremony that she can marry and have intercourse with her husband or his age mates”. However, the Tanzania Parakuyo are said to believe that the breasts of a girl can only develop when a man has had sex with her (Von Mitzlaff, 1988 [1994:p80]).
The exception seemed to have confirmed the
rule. In fact, “Two features of Maasai culture in particular were
instrumental in affecting colonial opinions; the pre-menarchal sexual debut
of Maasai girls, and the sexual access of a husband’s age mates to his wife
or wives”. Hollis (1910:p479) referred to “the sexual
intercourse of warriors with immature girls [ditos]”, in which the rules of consanguinity and affinity that
regulate marriage are equally observed. This is also noted by Hinde and Hinde
(1901:p68, 73). A warrior chooses a dito he fancies, and makes her mother
a great many presents, but since it is not a marriage he gives neither cattle
or goats. Equally,
“The Maasai have a widely held belief that semen helps a girl to develop physically. Murran are considered the epitome of healthiness, therefore their sperm is best for pre-pubescent girls. The public ceremony associated with “choosing” a murran involves the girl giving the murran milk to drink. Talle suggests, “the exchange of milk and semen, two body fluids with inherent regenerative capacity, symbolizes a complementary, although not equal, relationship” ([Talle]1994:281[])”
A contemporary source similarly relates that
“[t]he entito, between approximately 10-12 years and puberty associates and lives with the ilmurran [warriors, from circumcision to well beyond marriageable age of 20-25] in their settlements. She lives a rather free life sexually, living with the warriors as sweethearts. Virginity is neither socially or culturally valued. A Maasai girl's sexual activity begins long before she is clitoridectomized; nevertheless she should not become pregnant prior to the operation. Usually girls are operated on before their first menstruation. Maasai women are then ready to marry after their clitoridectomy, but the ilmurran are debarred from access to these women who are their contemporaries. These young women are married off to men who are in the “elder” age group”.
Also, “[g]irls are often promised in marriage at a young age, even before their birth!”. Leakey (1930:p197-8) writes that Kenyan Masai girls of brothers living in manyattas sleep “from a very early age- long before puberty- on the same beds as couples indulging in sexual intercourse; and even those girls who live in the home villages learn all about such matters at a very early age owing to the fact that they always sleep in their mother’s bed. As soon as ever the first signs of puberty are noticeable, girls may be asked by the warriors to sleep with them, and the question of whether there is complete intercourse or not rests then entirely with the girls. Moreover, the uninitiated boys, and especially those who tour the villages as candidates for initiation, expect any young girls who are not already attached to the warriors to sleep with them. In fact, we may say that for the girls sex life starts before puberty and continues (with no such period of sexual prohibition as the boys have during the novice stage) until they are initiated”. Thus, Masai coitarche seems to be early. Merker ([1910:p65, n]) briefly states: “Boys and girls already begin to practice cohabitation at the age of eight to ten”.
Whereas Fosbrooke (1948) noted that “prior to circumcision no youth may have intercourse with a circumcised woman. This is a rule most strictly adhered to”, Fox (1930:p448) notes that the harsh punishment of sexual intercourse with a girl of any sort “is no longer the case, probably because the warriors are afraid of Government interference should they ill-treat the boys”. Bagge (1904:p169) confirms what is suspected: “No circumcised youth is permitted to have connection with a circumcised woman, but no objection exists to his having connection with any uncircumcised girl”.
Huntingford (1953:p113) noted: “A man’s sex-life begins when he has been circumcised; a girl’s when she reaches puberty”. However, “[i]nitiation is often delayed until some little time after puberty, and it is not considered in any way wrong for these boys to begin indulging sexually as soon as they like, provided that they observe certain restrictions. They may do as they like with the younger girls in the neighbouring villages, provided, of course, that they observe the law forbidding sexual relations with any member of their own sub-clan, and also provided they avoid such young girls as are attached to men in the warrior classes. That these young uninitiated lads even try to have intercourse with married women is certain, as there is a special penalty provided for women who so debase themselves” (Leakey, 1930:p187-8). Uncircumcised boys are not permitted to have sexual relationships with the opposite sex in spite of the fact that many of them reach sexual maturity well ahead of their circumcision. But uncircumcised girls of similar ages are at the disposal of warriors who associate sexually with premature girls from ten years upwards (Talle, 1983). It is believed that the semen of the warrior helps and “is in fact almost a prerequisite for the development of a girl’s breasts” (ibid.). Mann et al. (1966) also state that pre-initiation intercourse was not allowed, the ceremonies being held at age 8-12 (girls) and 12-15 (boys). In the former report, the age of marriage for girls was given at 10-14, but males do not get married until age 30 (cf. Weiß, op.cit., p382).
Thus, an extreme stratification by age dominated Masai sexarche. The Masai practiced foetal and infant betrothal.
Another contemporary formulation in tune with the above by Tarayia (2004):
“Between the ages of eight and fourteen, or just before circumcision, the girls are allowed into the free company of the warriors (newly circumcised lads) and can engage in free sex as they wish and can accompany the warriors to the bush “holiday” where they spend “good” times and eat a restricted diet of meat and herbs. [...] female teenagers between the ages of twelve and fourteen have been circumcised as a social rite of passage. Teenagers are taught to refrain from improper sexual behavior, particularly to avoid having children out of wedlock. It is taboo for an uncircumcised female or male teenager to make children. As a matter of fact, adult girls wear deterrent anklets symbolic of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Prior to this event, it was not customary for the young girls to go to the warrior kraals and even follow them to the bush for “free love.” The girls always had remained at home tending domestic chores. However, after this treachery was exposed, it was considered safer to the community and for posterity to let the Maasai girl-child accompany the warriors to go sing, dance, and live with the warriors. This custom where young girls engage in free love with warriors has been observed ever since as a punishment and to curb lust in young, uncircumcised girls. [...] This was, however, a temporary measure and as Isimi, or the period of consorting with young warriors was, and still is, a short period of time ranging between six months to a year. Furthermore, this experience of “love” could and can only be shared between warriors and the young girls who have not necessarily reached puberty. [...]”
For an account of Maasai boy
circumcision, see http://www.circlist.com/rites/maasai.html,
based on Steen, J. B & Riddervold, E. (1993) The Masai People.
by permission of Random House, Inc.
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