Growing Up Sexually



MOHAVE  (North-American Natives)


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See also: North-America Non-Natives



The sexual life of the Mohave was extensively researched by George Devereux[1][67]. Devereux chooses to discuss sexual socialisation matters apart from the global pedagogical realm (1950:p94)[2][68]. Devereux (1951:p95-6)[3][69]: “Personal experience was [as was the route of the ear] an important source of information. Although, with the exception of prosperous older men who married child-wives, and of a few dissolute women, Mohave adults seldom if ever cohabited with children, the sexual skills of adults were relayed to the very young through adolescents, who cohabited both with adults and with preadolescents”. “In other words, the technique of sexual acts seeped down to the younger generation through the adolescents, who were the intermediate link in the sexual chain connecting children and adults”. According another quote (Williams, 1986), however, Devereux stated that “[m]any children cohabited with each other and even with adults long before puberty; the latency period was conspicuous by its absence” [ital.add.].

Boys were used as escorts of prostitutes as witnesses of eventual misbehaviour of their clients[4][70]. The Mohave believed in the possibility of orgasm in small children. Mohave “playing house” (p101-3) was not discussed as related to play coitus, although “the present play pattern of Mohave children has been so deeply influenced by American toys and ideas, that it is no longer possible to make direct observations of aboriginal forms […]”. Ultimately, and most probably, there is “amused tolerance”. Children formed at least temporarily stable affairs, in which coital play took place “sometimes as early as the fifth year of life, small girls being usually deflowered[5][71] by boys belonging to their play group, while older ones were sometimes seduced by adolescents or adult men”. The same pattern was noted for boys. Incest was avoided. Generally, “parents seem to have tried primarily to encourage their children to avoid sexual acts which would have been scandalous even among adults”. Nettle[6][72], characterising the early twentieth century Mohave Reservation, complained that no ten-year-old Mohave girl was still a virgin. Informants told Wallace (1948)[7][73] that coitarche took place before puberty, and were considered commonplace. Devereux (1937:p499 [1963:p184-5; 1992:p137]) noted that


“[c]asual homosexual relations in early childhood were frequent in the past and, according to my informants, seem to be on the increase at the present time.  “Nowadays the kids at school don’t get a chance to play with the opposite sex and therefore they go off into the bushes and copulate with other boys or girls”. […] Water games were especially favorable for sexual intimacy, which, however, seldom if ever led to actual sex relations in the water because the Mohave believe that intercourse in the water causes a certain disease in women. […] Not seldom older boys got hold of one of their comrades, pulled back his foreskin, and smeared mud on the exposed gland. Mutual masturbation was not absent but rather uncommon. Older boys, however, often performed forced rectal intercourse on their younger playmates. […] Adults seldom had sexual intercourse with children of their own sex, although betrothal of young girls to old men or seduction of very young boys by adult women was not rare”.


Devereux (1950c:p238, 247) states that many girls were deflowered before puberty while it being “possible that in late aboriginal times, and during the early reservation days, few girls were virgins by the time they reached puberty”. Mohave children held masturbation and urination contests. They played house, and examined the opposite sex genitals; “[…] such activities usually culminated in intercourse”.













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][67] Devereux, G. (1936) Sexual life of the Mohave Indians., Doctoral Dissertation, University of Berkeley, California, p32; Devereux, G. (1937) Institutionalized homosexuality of the Mohave Indians, Hum Biol 9:498-527. Reprinted in Ruitenbeek, H.M. (Ed.) The Problem of Homosexuality in Modern Society. New York : Dutton & Co., p183-226; and in Dynes, W. R. & Donaldson, S. (Eds., 1992) Ethnographic Studies of Homosexuality. New York & London: Garland, p136-65; Devereux, G. (1938) L’evoûtement chez las Indiens Mohave, J Soc Américanists de Paris 29:405-12; Devereux, G. (1940) Primitive psychiatry I, Bull Hist Med 8:1194-213; Devereux, G. (1948) Mohave zoophilia, Samiska 2:227-45; Devereux, G. (1950a) Heterosexual behavior of the Mohave Indians, in Róheim, G. (Ed.) Psychoanalysis and the Social Sciences, Vol. II. New York: International University Press, p85-128; Devereux, G. (1950b) Mohave Indian autoerotic behavior, Psychoanal Rev 37:201-20. Discussed in Ann Survey Psychoanal 1(1950), p92, 304-5; Devereux, G. (1950c) The psychology of feminine genital bleeding; an analysis of Mohave Indian puberty and menstrual rites, Int J Psychoanal 31:237-57. Discussed in Ann Survey Psychoanal 1(1950), p305-6; Devereux, G. (1951a) The Primal Scene and Juvenile Heterosexuality in Mohave Society, in Wilbur, G. & Muensterberger, W. (Eds.) Psychoanalysis and Culture. New York: International Universities Press, p90-107. Discussed by Devereux, G., in Ann Survey Psychoanal 2(1951), p502-5; Devereux, G. (1951b) Mohave Indian Verbal and Motor Profanity, in Roheim, G. (Ed.) Psychoanalysis and the Social Sciences. New York: International Universities Press. Vol 3., p99-127. More on Mohave children in Devereux, G. (1950c)  Amusement and Sports of Mohave Indians Children, The Masterkey 24:143-52; Devereux, G. (1950d) Notes on the Developmental Pattern and Organic Needs of Mohave Indian Children, Transact Kansas Acad Sci 53,2:178-85; Devereux, G. (1950e) Status, Socialisation and Interpersonal Relations of Mohave Children, Psychiatry 13,4:489-502; Devereux, G. (1968)L’image de l’enfant dans deux tribus, mohave et sedang et son importance pour la psychiatrie infantile, Rev Neuropsychia Infantile 16,4:375-90. See also his 1951 Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. New York: IUP; Italiaander, R. (Ed., 1969) Weder Krankheit Noch Verbrechen. Hamburg: Gala, p91-8; and Williams, W. (1986) The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. Boston: Beacon

Press, p89-90

[2][68] Devereux, G. (1950) Education and Discipline in Mohave Society, Anthropol Quart 23,4:85-102

[3][69] Devereux (1951a), op.cit.

[4][70] Devereux, G. (1948) The Mohave Indian Kamalo:y, J Clin Psychopath 9:433-57

[5][71] See also Devereux (1951b:p125), op.cit.

[6][72] Nettle, M. A. I., Mohave Women. MS of a lecture delivered before a woman’s club, Parker, Arizona, as cited by Devereux (1951:p105), op.cit.

[7][73] Wallace, W. J. (1948) Infancy and childhood among the Mohave Indians, Anthropol Quart 21:19-38