Growing Up Sexually



South America

IES: Brazil




IndexAmericasSouth AmericaBrazilMehinaku





Boys are secluded for three years at age 12, girls at menarche (Gregor, 1977)[1]. A father of a boy who was having a romance, would say: “That will keep him away from her; I don’t want him to grow up stunted”.

Children may “play at seclusion” (p114, 226). Other games require privacy: “women’s sons” (tenejuitãi), “Mariage” (kanupai), and “jealousy” (ukítsapi) (p113). In one variation of marriage, “[…] the husbands and wives pair off and go to hidden areas around the village to engage in casual sex play or, if they are capable, actual intercourse. The Mehinaku are sexually free, and most children have had some degree of experience by the time they are adolescent”. In playing Jealousy, “the boys and girls take lovers while their spouses are away. When the cuckolded partner returns from a fishing trip, he discovers his wife and his friend together in the same hammock. In a fury he pretends to beat his wife while his friend runs off”. Thus, the children “not only imitate their parents but their parent’s mistresses and lovers as well” (p114). “There is even a game in which a girl violates the privacy of the men’s house and the little boys in retaliation pretend to gang rape her” (p114). “[…] some prepubescent girls enter into casual lesbian relationships. Since the participants in these experimental affairs are mercilessly teased if they are exposed, village children must become acquainted at an early age with the arts of concealment they will employ in adult life” (p116).

 “Adults freely discuss sexual matters in their children’s presence and even incorporate children in their sexual intrigues as bearers of messages or gifts” (Gregor, 1995:p339)[2].






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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Gregor, Th. (1977) Mehinaku. Chicago & London: ChicagoUniversity Press. See also Fisher, H. E. (1992) Anatomy of Love. New York & Lonfon: W. W. Norton & Co., p267-9

[2] Gregor, Th. (1995) Sexuality and the experience of love, in Abramson, P. R. (Ed.) Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture. Chicago & London : Chicago University Press, p330-50