IndexAmericasCaribbean, Middle / Central AmericaMexico

See also Mexican Americans


Further: Guadeloupe, Chatino, Aztec, Chatino, Huichol, Kickapoo, Mixtecans, Maya, Nahua, Tarahumara, Tepoztlán, Tzeltal, Zapotec




Amuchástegui Herrera[1] studied the concept of virginity and sexual relationships in Mexico, and its historical effect on sex education (2001b).

Some data are available on homosexual behaviour before ejacularche in urban Mexican male homosexuals (Carrier, 1976)[2]. Carrier states that the “high level of sexual awareness among males in Mexico appears to be partly the result of the sexual stimuli presented them from birth onward by the scolding, joking, and public media. By the time they reach puberty, they are especially aware of the availability and acceptability of effeminate males as alternative sexual outlets”. 26 of 47 had prepubertal homosexual contacts with postpubertal males, 17 of 18 homosexuals scoring high on “effeminacy” had. Carrier (1980:p109; 1985)[3] reported a large proportion of Mexican men had sexual relations with nephews, cousins or neighbours between the ages of 6 and 9.


“Some post-pubertal males utilize pre-pubertal boys as sexual outlets prior to marriage, and, fater marriage, continue to utilize both heterosexual and homosexual outlets. […] [These males] usually initiate sexual encounters with pre-pubertal effeminate boys who are relatives, nephews or cousins, or neighbors. Because of the proximity of these pre-pubertal boys, the interested post-pubertal males may maintain long-term sexual relationships with them. While these homosexual relationships are going on, the older males also have novias [prospectives brides], and occasionally have sexual relationships with available neighbourhood girls or prostitutes. The sexual relationships with the younger males are usually terminated when the older males marry. The older males, however, may continue occasional homosexual contacts with older males after marriage”. The pattern seems lateral to a second in which males have durable relationships with novias between the onset of puberty and marriage.


“Adolescent males are […] pressured while in their early teens, (often at the first signs of puberty) by their brothers, male cousins, and/or friends to prove their masculinity by having intercourse with prostitutes or available neighborhood girls. […] from an early age onward effeminate males in Mexico are sexual targets for other males. All but one the author’s respondents scoring on the effeminate side as a child (17 of 18) had sexual contacts with older postpubertal males prior to their first ejaculation; 13 of the 17 had contacts between 5 and 10 years of age. […] Following the onset of puberty, effeminate males continue to be sexual targets for other males […] many early homosexual encounters […] are carried out with relatives and friends of the family. This appears to be particularly true for the preadolescent effeminate male. […] Several of the prepubertal homosexual contacts with relatives, it is interesting to note, were maintained over extended periods of time” (Carrier, 1976:p368, 369, 370)[4].


Thus, the concept and terminology of unmanly homosexuality is instilled “from early childhood on” (Carrier, 1989:p133)[5]. “At the first signs of puberty, Mexican adolescents may be pressured by their brothers, male cousins, friends, or all three to prove their masculinity by having sexual intercourse with either prostitutes[6] or available neighborhood girls. By this time they are also aware of the availability and acceptability of feminine males as sexual outlets”. Taylor (1978:p129-30)[7] notes that


“[m]any children have their first homosexual experience in the [steam] bath. For example, J. P. J., the respondent in Georgina Ruiz Garcia’s Master’s thesis (1975) [[8]] relates that he first learned about masturbation from his playmates when he went to bathe together in the bath house of their vecindad (a slum neighborhood)”.


Reportedly, prostitution is a road to masculinity[9]. Visiting “boys town” brothels on the Mexican side of the border remains “a rite of passage” for some young American men, who cross the border looking for mostly heterosexual adventure (Cantu, 2002:p164n27)[10]. The Latin prostitution experience may commonly be like that of Mario Vargas Llosa:


“When he was a child, the word puta [whore] filled him with both horror and fascination. And during adolescence, his experiences with prostitutes are a source of pleasure as well as a nagging guilt for having participated in the degradation of poor women”[11].


In a study on Spanish-speaking people of San Jose, Clark (1970:p135)[12] noted: “Parents avoid sexual discussions with preadolescent children except for giving them general instructions to “stay away from the boys” or “leave the girls alone”. In a Sierra Tarascan village (Beals, 1946 [1973:p178])[13] it is claimed that most young people before marriage have no sexual experience. Menarche occurs at about age 14. Originally an Aztec rite, in a girl’s Quinceañera, or Latina Sweet Fifteen[14], the sexual is primarily symbolic and “[…] also acknowledged by the instruction and preparation that some parishes use to prepare the young people involved in the quinceañera” (Cantú). “Masturbation by small boys is simply ignored by everyone even though it be in public” (p173). Napolitano (1997a,b/1999/2002)[15] analysed the celebration of girls’ fifteenth birthdays in a low-income neighbourhood of Guadalajara, Mexico:


 “The ritual represents the beginning of a phase in a girl’s life which will be completed upon her wedding celebration. This period is identified as a time of “illusion”, because it is a time when representations of the nature of sexual relations and life differ sharply from the “reality” of life after marriage. […] The fifteenth birthday celebration coincides with the acknowledgment by the family (especially the father) that a daughter is ready to have a sweetheart (if she does not have one already). The father gives her the permiso de porta (literally the license of the door), the authorization to see her boyfriend on the threshold of the house for a set period during the evening. […] The celebration, through the emotional experience and the symbolism of the ball, the waltz and the dress, formally introduces girls into a “new sexual world”, and at the same time “defends” them from it” (1997a). “[…] the ritual […] constitutes an important moment in the process of female identity and self-perception because it opens up a time of negotiation within the family concerning control over, and definition of, the female sexualbody” (1997b).


Mexican parents adhered to what they called a “discreet silence” on sex matters, causing “blessed ignorance”, however condemned by an advisory committee in the 1930s (Ebaugh, 1936)[16]. The Ministry of Public Education tried to initiate a sexual education program in Mexico City’s primary schools[17]. The project faced powerful opposition from the Catholic hierarchy and parents’ organizations, so it was never implemented. Thus, “[s]ex education by the mother was never approached as a part of a young girl’s training in traditional families in rural Mexico[18]. Davies[19]:


Girls are conditioned from an early age to accept that when they grow up, they will become mothers and women come to believe that only the maternal role will truly fulfil them. Simone de Beauvoir emphasises this. She says: ‘From infancy, woman is repeatedly told that she is made for childbearing, and the splendours of maternity are forever being sung to her. The drawbacks of her situation - menstruation, illnesses, and the like - and the boredom of household drudgery are all justified by this marvellous privilege she has of bringing children into the world[20]” ”.


Girls in the Juan Cuamatzi municipio, Mexico, were strictly controlled in their premarital reputation by their mothers (Nutini, 1968:p85)[21]. Some may marry at age fourteen of fifteen, but commonly courtship begins at this age.

Rubio (1997)[22] stated:


“During early adolescence, 11 to 15 years of age, most adolescents begin to explore in a form of ritualized relationship called noviazgo, formally a relationship period prior to marriage. However, during early adolescence, noviazgos are commonly established without marriage as a goal. For young adolescents, it is a social way to regulate interpersonal relationships. It appears that the major part of early dyadic sexual exploration takes place in this form, though no formal data exist. At this early age, noviazgos are usually of short duration. Once an adolescent has had his or her first noviazgo, it is not difficult for either a male or female to continue with subsequent noviazgo relationships. Intercourse is usually deferred to a later age. The possibility of having had the first intercourse increases after 15 years of age: the CONAPO (1988)[23] survey found that the typical age for first intercourse is 14 to 17 years of age for males and 16 to 19 years for females […]”.


Castañeda, García and Langer (1996:p135-6)[24] found that the moon analogy still exerts strong influence in the rural (and not the urban) areas of Mexico, some of the questioned women explaining menarche as “The moon takes advantage of the women before the man does, that is why she has her period. They also said that the moon breaks in the woman for the first time”. “Often a woman prefers to marry young, between 10 and 14 years old, so a man will enjoy her before the moon” [menarche]. Allowing that the moon is a female deity, possessing male attributes, it might be concluded that “in the deflowering myth of the moon, whereby the moon is a woman, the virginity loss is partial and will be fully accomplished with the human act of the man”.


Gutmann (1996:p104-6)[25] provides a further sketch on Mexican machismogenesis. The author marks


“[…] an elaborate performance of emphasis and de-emphasis upon gender distinctions is begun at birth in Santo Domingo. For instance, certain popular expressions about newborns, prompted by an examination of an infant’s genitalia, are increasingly, if often jokingly, contested by women in the colonia. For boys, the comments have often been: "¡Qué grande y fuerte! [How big and strong!]"; "¡Va a tener un pegue! [He's going to be quite a catch!]"; "¡Qué cara inteligente! [What an intelligent face!]" For girls: "¡Qué ojos bonitos! [What pretty eyes!]"; ''¡Qué piernas bonitas! [What pretty legs!]"; "¡Carne para los lobos! [Meat for the wolves!]" Boys and girls from infancy on are commonly referred to as papacitos and mamacitas, little daddies and little mommies”.


“In refutation of the commonplace that many or most Latin American men have their first sexual escapades with prostitutes, none of the men I interviewed from Colonia Santo Domingo save one admitted to ever having been to a prostitute. Nor had any men taken their sons to prostitutes “to become men. […] In the survey on sexuality among high school students cited earlier, 20.5 percent of the well-to-do boys reported that their first sexual relation was with a prostitute (Consejo Nacional de Población 1988:120). Men from upper middle class homes also speak of the convention whereby the father hires a maid with whom his sons can have their first sexual encounters” (p132-3).



"[...] prostitutes are the category of women that, among other things, facilitate young males’ sexual initiation rites, preventing such an initiation from harming or impairing in any way the “chastity and decency” required from women “destined” to marriage and motherhood. The male’s initiation rite is a festive occasion, a sexual celebration in which “the young man must provide evidence for his resistance and virility”4. This initiation gives birth to the “single man”, who has social authorization to live an active and varied sexual and erotic life. This sex life initiated in adolescence also “ends” with a rite of passage. In bachelor parties all pleasures barred from married life are called together, and it is customary to have public women as the first persons invited to the party. From then on, they will also be the ones making sexual fantasies incompatible with married life come true, since honeymoon is as ephemeral as a man’s sexual desire once he has taken the woman that will bear his children."


"While the boy touches his penis since he is an infant, thus assimilating it into his everyday experience, the girl is repressed each time she touches her genitals. She grows up alienated from a body that she knows nothing of, and it is precisely that lack of knowledge the basis of its attraction. Innocence (which means ignorance and lack of knowledge) and a pure body are the attributes required from girls before matrimony. Therefore, the start of menstruation in puberty (the perfect erotic state) is lived with shame since it is a sign indicating that the body is now ready for reproduction. This is the state that makes the young woman a virgin. A virgin may relinquish the pleasures of the flesh and remain pure, offering her innocence and fertility to God and society. Dressed in white, facing the altar, she relinquishes her eroticism once again, for sexual union should not imply anything but reproduction. Thus, there is no sexual initiation rite for women, just a “surrender”. When she surrenders she gives herself to the other and offers him what she has been told is her most precious possession: her virginity. If she “gives herself” out of the sanctioned boundaries, she loses: she suffers the loss of her immaculate purity, her virgin condition, her sanctity and innocence, and is transformed into a potential public woman."[26]




Further: Guadeloupe, Chatino, Aztec, Chatino, Huichol, Kickapoo, Mixtecans, Maya, Nahua, Tarahumara, Tepoztlán, Tzeltal, Zapotec






 Additional refs:


·         Baird, T. L. (1993) Mexican Adolescent Sexuality: Attitudes, Knowledge, and Sources of Information, Hispanic J Behav Sci 15,3:402-17

·         CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p145-62. Also id., Progress Report, 2000, p63-70

·         Fátima Juárez & Teresa Castro Martín (March 2004) Partnership and Sexual Histories of Adolescent Males in Brazil: Myths and Realities. Paper prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, April 1–3, 2004, Boston,Massachusetts

·         González, R. A. (1998)Formations of Mexicana ness: Trenzas de identidades multiples Growing up Mexicana: Braids of multiple identities, Int J Qualitative Studies in Educ 11,1:81-102

·         Moreno-Castellanos, E. (1998) Aspectos estructurales de la identidad sexo-generica en el niño preescolar, Arch Hispanoam Sexol 4,2:307-34

·         Prieur, A. (1998) Mema’s House, Mexico City: On Transvestites, Queens, and Machos. Chicago & London: Chicago University Press. See esp. p116-26

·         Reysoo, F., C. Stern, C. Fuentes & L. Lozano (2003) Masculinidad y salud sexual y reproductiva: un estudio de caso con adolescentes de la Ciudad de México. Salud Pública de México. Vol. 45, suplemento 1 de 2003, pp. 34-43 []

·         Rubenstein, A. (1998) Raised voices in the cine montecarlo: Sex education, mass media, and oppositional politics in Mexico, J Fam Hist 23,3:312 et seq., section “The Politics of Sex Education”

·         Stern, C. (2001) Los jóvenes, la sexualidad y los embarazos tempranos, De Maria y Campos, Mauricio y Sánchez, Georgina (eds.). ¿Estamos unidos mexicanos? Los límites de la cohesión social en México. México: Editorial Planeta, p297-319

·         Stern, C. (2002) Mitos y realidades sobre la sexualidad y el embarazo adolescente en México. Horizontes. Revista de Población. México, Consejo de Población del Estado de México, No. 1, Agosto, p22-31


·         González-López, Gloria (2004) Fathering latina sexualities : Mexican men and the virginity of their daughters, Journal of marriage & family 66,5:1118-1130

·         Carrillo, Hector (2002) The Night is Young: Sexuality in Mexico in the Time of AIDS. Series: (WD-CSSGC) Worlds of Desire: The Chicago Series on Sexuality, Gender, and Culture. University of Chicago Press [Part 2: Sexual Socialization]

  • Reyes, Ramfis Ayús (2003). Virginidad masculina en jovenes Mexicanos: analisis de historias sobre practicas de iniciacion sexual. Paper presented at the 16th World Congress of Sexology, March 10-14, 2003.

·         Antonio, Marco & Argüello, Torres (2003) Conducta erotica de 6 000 adolescentes del Estado de Chiapas, Mexico. XVI Congreso Mundial de Sexología

·         Reyes, Ramfis Ayús (2002) Virginidad e iniciativa sexual en México. Experiencias y significados de Ana Amuchástegui    Estudios Demográficos y Urbanos 17,2:425 et seq.

·         Reyes, Ramfis Ayús & Luis Alberto Montejo (2001) Adolescents Sexual Education and their Information Sources in Mexico. The Eighth International Literacy & Education Research Network Conference on Learning, Spetses, Greece, 4-8 July 2001

·         Gonzalez-Garza, Carlos, Rojas-Martinez, Rosalba, Hernandez-Serrato, María I et al. Profile of sexual behavior in 12 to 19 year-old Mexican adolescents: Results of ENSA 2000. Salud pública Méx, May/June 2005, vol.47, no.3, p.209-218. PDF:




In 16th century Seville (Mexico), the seises (choir boys) were castrated to preserve their soprano voices (Spell, 1946:p296)[27].






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

Last revised: Sept 2005



[1]Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (1999) Dialogue and the negotiation of meaning: Constructions of virginity in Mexico, Culture, Health & Sexuality 1,1:79-93. Also Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (1994) El Significado de la Virginidad y la Iniciación Sexual para Jóvenes Mexicanos. Reporte de investigación. The Population Council/UAM-Xochimilco, México; Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (1996) El significado de la virginidad y la iniciación sexual: Un relato de investigación, in Szasz, I. & Susana, L. (Eds.) Para Comprender la Subjetividad: Investigación Cualitativa en Salud Reproductiva y Sexualidad. México: El Colegio de México, p137-72; Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (1998) La dimensión moral de la sexualidad y de la virginidad en las culturas híbridas Mexicanas, Relaciones 19(74):101-34; Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (2001a) Virginidad e Iniciación Sexual: Experiencias y Significados. EDAMEX, S.A. de C.V. y Population Council; Amuchástegui Herrera, A. (2001b) The Hybrid Construction of Sexuality in Mexico and its Impact on Sex Education, Sex Educ 1,3:259-77

[2] Cf. Carrier, J. M. (1976) Cultural factors affecting urban Mexican male homosexual behavior, Arch Sex Behav 5,2:103-24

[3] Carrier, J. M. (1980) Homosexual behavior in cross-cultural perspective, in Marmor, J. (Ed.) Homosexual Behavior: a Modern Reappraisal. New York: Basic Books; Carrier, J. M. (1985) Mexican Male Bisexuality, in Klein F. & Wolf, T. (Eds.) Bisexualities: Themes and Research. New York Hayworth Press, p75-85/ J Homosex 11,1/2

[4] Carrier, J. M. (1976) Family Attitudes and Mexican Male Homosexuality, Urban Life 5,3:359-75

[5] Carrier, J. M. (1989) Sexual behavior and spread of AIDS in Mexico, Med Anthropol 10:129-42

[6] Cf. Espín, O. M. (1984) Cultural and historical influences on sexuality in Hispanic/Latin women: implications for psychotherapy, in Vance, C. S. (Ed.) Pleasure and Danger. Boston [etc.]: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p149-64, at p157: “Sexually, “machismo” is expressed through an emphasis on multiple, uncomminted sexual contacts which start in adolescence. […] [M]any [Latin American] males celebrated their adolescence by visiting prostitutes. The money to pay for this sexual initiation was usually provided by fathers, uncles or older brothers. Adolescent females, however, were offered coming-out parties, the rituals of which emphasize their virginal qualities”.

[7] Taylor, C. L. (1978) El Ambiente: Male Homosexual Life in Mexico City. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley

[8] Ruiz Garcia, G. (1975) La Homosexualidad en México. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

[9]“Young men are encouraged to seek out prostitutes and often boast about such exploits, which provides a superficial source of anxiety-reduction in the area of sex. The prostitute plays a not unnecessary role in this subculture, for she affords a return to the early stage of receiving unconditional acceptance. Masculinity is thus demonstrated by recourse to an older woman or a woman of easy virtue, both of whom may give unconditional acceptance and restore the individual to an earlier state of infantile omnipotence” (Kiev, A. ([1968]) Curanderismo: Mexican-American Folk Psychiatry. New York: Free Press).

[10] Cantu, L. (2002) De Ambiente: Queer Tourism and the Shifting Boundaries of Mexican Male Sexualities, GLQ: J Lesbian & Gay Stud 8,1&2:139-66

[11] Ellis, R. R. (1998) The inscriptionof masculinity and whiteness in the autobiography of Mario Vargas Llosa, Bull Latin Am Res 17,2:223-36, at p229

[12] Clark, M. (1970) Health in the Mexican-American Culture. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press

[13] Beals, R. L. (1946 [1973]) Cherán: A Sierra Tarascan Village. New York: Cooper Square

[14] Cantú, N. E. (1999) La Quinceañera: Towards an Ethnographic Analysis of A Life-Cycle Ritual, Southern Folklore 56,1:73-101; King, E. (1998) Quinceañera: Celebrating Fifteen. [Quinceañera: Celebrando Los Quince]. New York: Dutton Books; Davalos, K. M. (1996) La Quinceañera: Making Gender and Ethnic Identities, Frontiers 16,2/3:101-27; Lankford, M. D. (1994) Quinceañera: A Latina’s Journey into Womanhood. Brookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press; Lorch, D. (1996) Quinceañera: A Girl Grows Up. The New York Times, The Home Section, Thursday, February 1: C1, C4

[15] Napolitano, V. (1997a) Becoming a “Mujercita”: Rituals, Fiestas and Religious Discourses. Paper prepared for delivery at the 1997 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), Continental Plaza Hotel, Guadalajara, Mexico April 17-19; Napolitano, V. (1997b) Becoming a 'Mujercita': Fiestas, Rituals and Religious Discourses, J Royal Anthropol Institute 3,2:279-96; Napolitano, V. (2002) Migration, Mujercitas and Medicine Men: living in urban Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, Chapter 5: ‘Becoming a Mujercita: Rituals, Fiestas, and Religious Discourses’. Idem, in Klass, M. & M. Weisgrau, Eds. (1999) Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion. Boulder CO: Westview

[16] Ebaugh, C. D. (1936) Mexico Studies Sex Education, Social Forces 15,1:81-3

[17] Castillo-Troncoso, A. del (2000) La polemica en torno a la educacion sexual en la ciudad de Mexico durante la decada de los anos treinta: conceptos y representaciones de la infancia [The Controversy about Sexual Education in Mexico City during the Thirties: Childhood Concepts and Representations], Estud Sociol 18,52:203-26

[18] Garcia Manzanedo, H. (1980) Health and illness perceptions of the Chicana, in Melville, M. B. (Ed.) Twice a Minority: Mexican American Women. St. Louis, Missouri [etc.]: Mosby, p191-207

[19] Davies, L. (nd) Monstrous mothers and a the cult of the Virgin in Rosario Castellanos’ Oficio de tinieblas.Online paper

[20] De Beauvoir, S. (1997) The Second Sex. Transl. by H. M. Parshley. London: Vintage, p508-9 [orig. footnote]

[21] Nutini, H. G. (1968) San Bernardino Contla: Marriage and Family Structure in a Tlaxcalan Muncipio. University of Pittsburgh Press

[22] Rubio, Eu. (1997) Mexico, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York: Continuum, Vol. 2. Quoted from the online edition

[23] Consejo Nacional de Población (1988) Encuesta Nacional sobre Sexualidad y Familia en Jóvenes de Educación Media Superior, 1988. Consejo Nacional de Población, México

[24]Castañeda, X., García, C. & Langer, A. (1996)Ethnography of fertility and menstruation in rural Mexico, Soc Sci Med 42,1:133-40

[25] Gutmann, M. C. (1996) The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press

[26] Bautista López, Angélica & Rodriguez, Elsa.Conde (2003) Social Representation and the Construction of the Erotic, in Lavallée, M., Vincent, S., Ouellet, C., & Garnier, C. (Ed.) Les représentations sociales. Constructions nouvelles, pp. 493-512 []

[27] Spell, L. M. (1946) Music in the Cathedral of Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, Hisp Am Hist Rev 26,3:293-319