IndexAmericasMiddle / Central America;Caribbean



Featured: Antilles, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panamá, Puerto Rico


Also: Aztec, Chatino, Cuna, Huichol, Kickapoo, Mixtecans, Maya, Nahua, Soumoo, Tarahumara, Tepoztlán, Tzeltal, Zapotec [not featured SCCS peoples]



Sexual Development: General Statements. 1

Juvenile Prostitution. 3

Historical Notes. 3

Current Age of Consent and Sexual Intercourse. 4


Ethnographic Peculiarities. 4





Sexual Development: General Statements


Caribbean sexuality is typified by a double standard (e.g., Wilson, 1969:p71-3)[1] historically informed by Spanish and Victorian English (Jamaica) values (e.g., Green, 1960:p31, 33)[2]. Many authors (e.g., Francoeur, 1990:p98-101)[3] have provided baseline sketches of Latino sexuality, but few analyses have clarified formative and pedagogical aspects. Accounts on native concepts of sexual standards and development are less voluminous than is the Latin case. Beals (1961:p605)[4], for instance, provides an account that offers little coherence:


“Masturbation is performed openly, even on public thoroughfares, by Tarascan children. But among the Quechuas it is discouraged by stories of loss of memory, possible insanity, danger of tuberculosis, or the drying up of the bone marrow […] Female masturbators and child lebians are called Mimetera (Caresser), Linguista (tongue caresser), Little Pitcher-drinkers, Those-who-think-they-are-babies, Breast-suckers, Little Calves, Those-who-go-down-to-the-well”.


Writing on the Caribbean as a whole, Carrim (2000:p25-6, 62-3)[5] argues:


“Neilson Waite [[6]] sees the socialization process in general and the lack of information in particular as major factors in female attitudes toward sexuality (35-38). At a young age the socialization process for girls regarding proper sex behavior and modesty begins. Girls’ activities are sharply curtailed at puberty. Activities outside of the house must have purpose; that is, to fetch water, to buy groceries, to collect mail at the post office. By contrast, the boys' activities are comparatively free; leaving the house requires no particular purpose (Chevannes, Sexual Practices 5)[[7]]. Puberty rituals are lacking throughout the Caribbean and parents rarely discuss sexuality with their children. Often girls enter menarche confused and ignorant of what is happening (Chevannes, Sexual Practices 5). Adolescent females are pressured to stay away from men, yet are seldom given an adequate understanding of their own sexuality. Although sexuality is generally not discussed with adolescent males either, the socialization process is significantly different. Freedom to experience sexual intercourse is encouraged for the males, either by the many examples they see or tacitly by the parents' silence. Sexual behavior is generally tolerated in male children and adolescents and may even be viewed with amusement (Chevannes, Sexual Practices 5). The peer group is the major source of information regarding sexual practices for adolescents, but especially for males. Usually older males educate younger males in this regard. Magazines, books, and the cinema supplement sex education for many Caribbean adolescents (Chevannes, Sexual Practices 5). The socialization process begun in childhood and continued in adolescence is perpetuated in adulthood”.



“Of those who reported history of sexual intercourse, many reported that their first intercourse was forced, and nearly half reported that they were aged 10 years or younger when they first had intercourse”[8]. However, Bozon (2003:p3)[9] overviews a sexarche timed in the late teens.


On Latino culture and sex education:


“Latino parents are especially concerned that differing sexual mores, values, and customs will corrupt their children; they place high value on the ideal of cultural preservation. The macho concept of the exaggerated importance of being male is inculcated in a male child from a very early age. Girls are constantly reminded of their inferiority and weakness and usually praised for their docility, submissiveness, and attractiveness. Marianismo, the submissive and obedient female character, pervades the traditional role of wife bestowed upon the Latina[10].



Additional refs.:


·        Holmstedt, M., (Ed., 1974) Sex Education and Social Development in Sweden, Latin America and the Carribean.

·        Lundgren, R. (2000) Protocolos de Investigación para el Estudio de la Salud Sexual y Reproductiva de los Adolescentes y Jóvenes Varones en América Latina. Washington, DC: Organización Panamericana de la Salud

·        Pick de Weiss, S. & Vargas-Trujillo,-E. (1990) Conducta sexual y reproductiva de los adolescentes en América Latina, Avances en Psicol Clin Latinoam 8:11-41

·        Vener, A. M. & Stewart, C. S. (1974) Adolescent sexual behavior in Middle America revisited: 1970-1973, J Marriage & Fam 36:728-35

·        Vener, A. M., Stewart, C. S. & Hager (1972) The sexual behavior of adolescents in Middle America: generational and American-British comparisons, J Marriage & Fam 34:696-705

·        Flórez, Carmen Elisa & Núñez, Jairo (Aug. 2001) Teenage Childbearing in Latin American Countries. Centro de Estudios sobre Desarrollo Económico – CEDE, Universidad de Los Andes [http://www.iadb.org/res/publications/pubfiles/pubR-434.pdf]



Juvenile Prostitution


A small 1996 nationally specific bibliography was compiled by Ennew et al. (section 3.3; cit. infra).





Historical Notes


Burg (1995:p121-32)[11] details the use of boys by Buckateer pirates.




Current Age of Consent and Sexual Intercourse


For details, one is to consult ECPAT[12] and Interpol[13]. [Contemporary AoC figures are presented in the ®South America chapter]. See also Median and Minimum Legal Age at Marriage, Age at First Sexual Intercourse, Premarital Sexual Experience, and Premarital Sexual Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean tables (Population Reports, Volume XXIII, Number 3; October, 1995).


Data[14] suggest that median female coitarche ages in Latin America and the Caribbean of the late 1980s/begin 1990s lie between 17.8 and 20.0. Singh et al. (2000[15]:p25; see further Wulf and Singh, 1991)[16] found female median ages ranging from 16.9 (Jamaica) to 19.6 (Peru) years. This compares to male figures of 15.4 (Jamaica) to 17.8 (Haiti). Median female marriage ages ranged 18.6 (Guatemala, 1987) to 21.2 (Brazil, 1986; Colombia, 1990)[17].





The User of this Atlas will note that the author has not specifically focussed on medical issues per se, although some of contemporary material surfaced in the context of HIV/AIDS discussions. For USAID HIV/AIDS profiles outline country- and region-specific information on epidemiology, factors contributing to the disease's spread, challenges faced in mitigating the epidemic, national- and regional-level responses to date, and a summary of USAID-funded HIV/AIDS activities, go http://www.synergyaids.com/summaries.asp, “Latin America/Caribbean” section. Also consider http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/global?page=cr05-00-00 (Latin America) and http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/global?page=cr02-00-00 (Caribbean).



Ethnographic Peculiarities


See Antilles, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panamá, Puerto Rico [not featured SCCS peoples]









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

Last revised: Oct. 2004


[1] Wilson, P. J. (1969) Reputation and Respectability: A Suggestion for Caribbean Ethnology, Man, N. S. 4,1:70-84

[2] Green, H. B. (1960)Comparison of nurturance and independence training in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, with consideration of the resulting personality structure and transplanted social patterns,J Soc Psychol 51:27-63

[3] Francoeur, R. T. (1990) Current religious doctrines of sexual and erotic development in childhood, in Perry, M. E. (Ed.) Handbook of Sexology volume VII: Childhood and Adolescent Sexology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, p80-112

[4] Beals, C. (1961) Sex life in Latin America, in Ellis, A. & Abarbanel, A. (Eds.) The Encyclopaedia of Sexual Behavior, Volume 2. London: W. Heinemann, p599-613

[5] Carrim, Rh. L. (2000) Attitudes toward Sexuality and Spiritual Well-Being among Nazarene Pastors in the English-Speaking Caribbean. Diss., Faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary

[6] Waite, N. A. (1993) Caribbean Sexuality: A Pastoral Counsellor Looks at Family Patterns and the Influences of Culture on Caribbean People. Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Church in America

[7] Chevannes, B. (1992) Sexual Practices and Behaviour in Jamaica: A Review of the Literature. Washington, D.C.: AIDSCOM Academic for Educational Development

[8] Halcon-L; Blum-RW; Beuhring-T; Pate-E; Campbell-Forrester-S; Venema-A, (2003) Adolescent health in the Caribbean: A regional portrait, American-Journal-Of-Public-Health 93,11:1851-1857

[9] Bozon, M. (2003) At what age do women and men have their first sexual intercourse? World comparisons and recent trends, Population & Sociétés, 391, June:1-4 [http://www.ined.fr/englishversion/publications/pop_et_soc/pesa391.pdf]

[10] Medina, C. (1987) Latino culture and sex education, SIECUS Rep [US] Jan-Feb;15,3:1-4

[11] Burg, B. R.  (1995) Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean. New York & London: New York University Press

[12] ECPAT International, Online Database [http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/index.asp]

[13]http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/Default.asp (Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against children)

[14] Cauley, A. P. et al. (October, 1995) Meeting the Needs of Young Adults. Population Reports 23,3. Population Information Program, Center for Communication Programs, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, table 2

[15] Singh, S., Wulf, D., Samara, R. & Cuca, Y. P.(2000) Gender Differences in the Timing of First Intercourse: Data from 14 Countries, Int Fam Plann Perspect 26,1:21-8, 43

[16] Wulf, D. & Singh, S. (1991) Sexual activity, union, and childbearing among adolescent women in the Americas, Int Fam Plann Perspect 17,4:137-44

[17] Singh, S. & Samara, R. (1996) Early marriage among women in developing countries, Int Fam Plann Perspect 22,4:148-57, 175, at p151