IES: Morocco




IndexMiddle East Supra-Saharan Africa Morocco



“The most striking features of adolescent sexuality in Zawiya [Morocco] today center on three factors. First, there is a clear double standard, in which males have a good deal of sexual freedom and are assumed to be sexually active, while females are much more restricted in opportunities for sexual activity and are expected to remain virgins until marriage. Second, there is a much greater range of sexual practices by males than by females, including homoerotic play [[1]] and masturbation [[2]]. Finally, courtship, sexual values, and marriage choices are undergoing significant and rapid change as a result of increased access to education and electronic media”[3].


Menarche in Morocco is frequently an unexpected event, but might be discussed by girls amongst each other, and some elements might be heard in the hammam (Naamane-Guessous, 1988 [1990:p265-31])[4]; she might also hear things from a younger brother who has contacts outside the home. However, direct [formal] information prior to menstruation has risen from 17.3% to 24.2% in three decades. Since menarche is considered the beginning of sexual functioning, parental supervision is increased. Sex instruction is formulated in a set of prohibitions, and negative advises.


Makhlouf Obermeyer (2000:p247)[5]:


“In contemporary Morocco, information about initiation into sexuality is, as would be expected, obtained mainly from peers, films and popular songs, as well as printed media; novels, particularly photoromans (romances with photographs) represent an important source of ideas regarding romantic love and relationships between men and women, especially for young girls. Some sexual experimentation is believed to take place around the time of puberty in the context of same sex groups of adolescents (principally boys), and some same sex behavior is tolerated at that time as a temporary stage rather than a pathology (Davis and Davis, 1989). There is also anecdotal evidence regarding other forms of sexual experimentation (Dialmy, 1997)[[6]], but it is not possible to assess their representativeness”.


Eppink (1974 [1976:p8]; 1977:p111; 1992)[7], offering a precise analysis of male Moroccan adolescent sexuality (and female: 1977:p133-43), states that adolescents use boys aged 8 and upward whom they judge “suitable” for the (passive) job. There is no shame (no girls), and the possibility of subordination; there would be no affection involved. An autobiography[8] revealed that boys “go with” other boys who are smaller or the same age. Boy masturbation was denied, but at least four types of animals were in vogue among the adolescents. As Duvert (p77, 78)[9] puts it: “C’est comme un jeu éducatif: on serre les fesses ensemble, le premier qui relâche est pédé”. To further illustrate the difficult position for adolescents, Pascon and Bentahar (1971)[10] found that in Morocco, teenage zooerastic contacts are relatively common (cf. Webster, p177-8)[11]. Patai ([1962:p191]) states that young boys practice coitus with female donkeys with phallopoetic intentions. Davis and Davis (1989:p108-9, 112)[12]: “Prepubertal play with a sexual theme is rare but does occur, usually in the context of playing “groom and bride” in small groups of children. The groups are often composed of five- to eight-year-olds, sometimes including siblings. This play takes place in the house (usually outside the scrutiny of the parents) or in an empty lot. Children attempt to re-create the ceremony, music and dance they have witnessed at weddings, and the designated “groom” and “bride” may make contact with each other’s genitals while playing at the defloration of the bride”. Grown-ups frequently do not wait until the child poses questions relative to the sexual sphere, but “volunteer the information upon which the honour and prestige of the group depend” (Mernissi, [1985:p162])[13]. Moroccan girls are geared toward marriage from an early age (see Davis, 1983)[14]. Rassam[15] notes that “[…] the prospective bride, who tends to be very young (14-16) and immature, [is to] maintain a passive and almost somnambulistic attitude through the marriage [which] is to be viewed as a mandatory rite of passage which initiates the girl into womanhood […]”.

In Dutch Moroccan families, sexual education is not in vogue, at least for children under age 10[16]. Serhane (1983)[17] studied the impact of modernity on adolescent sexuality.


Children are considered not to have a “sexuality” (Bartels, 1993:p121)[18]. Fasting signifies male sexual maturity. Girls are increasingly watched after menarche.


In a study[19] on second-generation immigrant Moroccans in Belgium, aged between 15 and 21 years old, unmarried, and from Berber or Arabic speaking families, the following was found:


“All girls are confronted with the virginity standard: sex before marriage is forbidden; the worth of a girl and the honour of her family is coupled with her virginity. Talking about sex and sexuality in the family is taboo; but the message of preserving one's virginity is clear: stay away from the boys, no sports, no tampons. There is greater social control and a more conservative attitude in Belgium than in the country of origin. A virginity certificate is required for a marriage license. This acts as a protection for the girl and her family. […] Girls do have contact with boys, except in extreme secrecy. There is heavy petting and love-making, but actual coitus is avoided […]. However, some girls fear to lose their boyfriend and have penetration sex. […] Most of the boys were aware that the Muslim teaching is that boys as well as girls should remain virgin until marriage, although very few think that sexual relations are forbidden for them […]. Premarital coitus is legitimated on several levels: there is no evidence of male virginity, sexual passion is irresistible in the man, they have to prove themselves a “real man”. According to the boys, almost all Moroccan boys have sexual contact. They have a Belgian (or in far fewer cases a Moroccan) girlfriend, or they go to a prostitute […]. Going to a prostitute seems to be accepted for Moroccan men and boys”.


As excerpted from Kadiri (2001)[20] [Read whole: IES]:


“The expression “sexual education” is part of the multiple taboos that characterize our society. The subject frightens and worries Moroccans, because there has always been confusion between sexual education and sexual freedom. Discussing sexuality with parents remains a strong taboo in Morocco. A certain difference exists between the two sexes. For all young children, boys are encouraged to display their genital organs, whereas girls are supposed to hide their intimacy. At the time of preadolescence, the girl has discussions with her mother who believes her role is to inculcate in her daughter the obligation to preserve her virginity and to avoid all sexual contact before the bonds of marriage. During these discussions, she prepares her daughter for puberty. The principal role of the mother is to obligate her to preserve her virginity with a talk full of modesty and hchouma. On the other hand, the preadolescent boy is left to his own devices, and has no one with whom to talk about his bodily transformations other than his friends and companions. A study in 1992 (Naamane 1999)[[21]] showed that in 360 Moroccan men, divided equitably between the urban and rural areas, no man had ever gotten information from his father. In one case, the father made an allusion to the puberty of his son to ask him to begin to fast. Thus, in these situations where the young lack total communication about anything sexual with their parents and elders, it remains only to the young of their age, the media, and popular speech. […] In the rural areas, masturbation, as much as zoophilia, remains the instrument most used in a male youth’s apprenticeship in sexuality. Adolescents masturbate themselves, often in a group, making from this event a competition that consecrates the one that ejaculates quickly and most strongly. If masturbation among adolescents is hushed, ignored, but not tolerated, that of adults is almost a sacrilege. It is a hchouma, more than a disgrace, without being truly illicit. […]Infantile sexuality absolutely is said not to exist in our context. Instead, from early childhood, one inculcates an implicit sexual education totally antagonistic to the consideration of the two sexes. The sexuality of a boy is praised and valued. He must forge his virility from his young age; he must be the stallion who must get hard in the presence of a woman (Malek 1995)[[22]]. The sexual education of girls is done traditionally by the women of the family, by mothers, aunts, and older sisters. The older women tell the young girl what is forbidden and what is recommended in terms of repressing their sexuality. […] Female adolescence is dominated by the repression of sexuality with the objective of preserving an intact hymen, the symbol of chastity, until the wedding day. The education of the senses of the body is negative and tends to block the personality of the girl on both the physical and psychic planes. The adolescent girl carries the mark [prégnante] of hchouma (disgrace) and honor, which crystallizes itself in the obsession with virginity (Naamane 1990)[[23]]. This education is perpetuated by the mothers, who make each step of the evolution of the girl a shock lived in anxiety. However, a study in the urban areas observed that “in three decades, the proportion of women initiated in the elementary principles of their sexuality changed from 38 percent to 55 percent.” This initiation touches on two essential questions, menstruation and the gaining of knowledge of sexual contact (intercourse) (Naamane 1990)[[24]]. Paradoxically, in the large cities like Casablanca, girls have access to sexual information at a precocious age. […]The sexual abuse of children seems to be frequent, but is usually hidden by the families. In the legal field, these abuses are very seriously punished whether that abuse involves a male or a female child”. [Read whole: IES]








Additional refs.:


n       Beamish, Julia and Lena Tazi Abderrazik (January, 2003) Adolescent Reproductive Health in Morocco: Status, Issues, Policies, and Programs. []

n       Davis, Douglas A. (Mar., 1995) Modernizing the Sexes: Changing Gender Relations in a MoroccanTown, Ethos 23,1:69-78

n       Guessous, S. N. (2001) The passing of bodily seasons, UNESCO Courier 54,7/8:39-40

n       Leo, au. (2003) Le Mariage Force Chez Les Jeunes Filles D’origine Maghrebine: Analyse d’une forme de violence. Présenté pour l’obtention de la Maîtrise Administration Economique et Sociale mention « Développement Social ». Université Montpellier III Paul Valery []





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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] “In Zawiya, various forms of homoerotic play, including nude swimming and group masturbation, were reported as fairly common for boys in the early teen years. Older males sometimes engage in homosexual acts, sometimes including interfemoral and anal intercourse, but these young people do not think of themselves as homosexuals but rather as going through a phase. Homosexuality in adulthood seems to be rare and is still considered shameful by most Moroccans. Separate terms are used for the partner who plays the active and the passive role in intercourse, and the term for the passive participant (zamel) is an insult and a frequently seen graffito on walls near Moroccan schoolyards. In contrast to what we heard from young men, most young women in Zawiya seemed never to have considered the possibility of female homosexuality, and both sexes stated that lesbian relationships were very rare”.

[2] “This topic was very difficult to discuss with young people in Zawiya, however, and we concluded that masturbation is viewed more negatively in this traditional Muslim community than in most American groups. A few boys and young men admitted to masturbating, and estimated that most males did so, but no young women either admitted or described female masturbation. Generally, we were struck by the much greater range and frequency of sexual experiences reported by males, although both sexes were fascinated by romantic images”.

[3] Davis, D. A., & Davis, S. S. (1993) Sexual values in a MoroccanTown, in Lonner, W. J. & Malpass, R. S. (Eds.) Psychology and Culture. NeedhamHeights: Allyn & Bacon, p225-30. Quoted from version at See also Davis, S. S., & Davis, D. A. (1993) Dilemmas of adolescence: Courtship, sex, and marriage in Moroccan town, in Bowen, D. L. (Ed.) Everyday Life in the Contemporary Muslim Middle East. Indiana University Press, p84-90

[4] Naamane-Guessous, S. (1988) Au-Delà de Toute Pudeur. Casablanca : Sodon. 1990 Dutch translation: Achter de Schermen van de Schaamte. Amsterdam: Dekker

[5] Makhlouf Obermeyer, C. (2000) Sexuality in Morocco: changing context and contested domain, Culture, Health & Sex 2,3:239-54

[6] Dialmy, A. (1997) Jeunesse, SIDA et Islam au Maroc: Les Comportements Sexuels. Report to the Ford Foundation. See also Dialmy, A. (1998) Moroccan youth, sex and Islam, Middle East Report 206; 28,1:8-11

[7] Eppink, A. (1976) Seksualiteit en Verliefdheid bij Marokkaanse Jongens en Meisjes. Amsterdam: Averroes Stichting [Dutch]; Eppink, A. (1977) Familierelaties en Persoonlijkheidsontwikkeling in Marokko. Dutch Doctoral Diss., Averroès Stichting; Eppink, A. (1992) Moroccan boys and sex, in Schmitt, A. & Sofer, J. (Eds.) Sexuality and Eroticism among Males in Moslem Society. New York: Harrington Park Press, p33-41

[8] Crapanzano, V. (1980) Tuhami, Portrait of a Moroccan. Chicago: ChicagoUniversity Press

[9] Duvert, T. (1976) Journal d’un Innocent. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit. Quoted by Eppink (1977:p125), op.cit.

[10] Pascon, P. & Bentahar, T. (1971) Ce que disent 296 jeunes ruraux, in Bentahar, M. et al. (Eds.) Études Sociologiques sur le Maroc. Rabat/Chellah, p145-286. See p217-21

[11] Webster, Sh. K. (1982) Women, Sex, and Marriage in Moroccan Proverbs, Int J Middle East Stud 14,2:173-84

[12] Davis, S. S. & Davis, P. A. (1989) Adolescence in a MoroccanTown. New Brunswick & London: Rutgers UP

[13] Op.cit.

[14] Davis, S. S. (1983) Patience and Power. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman

[15] Rassam, A. (1980) Women and Domestic Power in Morocco, Int J Middle East Studies 12,2:171-9, at p174

[16]Pels, T. (1994) Opvoeding in Marokkaanse gezinnen, in Pels, T. (Ed.) Opvoeding in Chinese, Marokkaanse en Surinaams-Creoolse Gezinnen. Rotterdam [Holland]: ISEO, p81-131. See p96-7

[17] Serhane, A. (1983) Les Répresentations Sexuelles chez le Jeune Marocain issu du Milieu Traditionnel. Thesis, Toulouse

[18] Bartels, E. (1993) “Een Dochter is Beter dan Duizend Zonen”.Dutch Dissertation, Free University Amsterdam

[19] Hendrickx, K., Lodewijckx, E., Van Royen, P. & Denekens, J. (2002) Sexual behaviour of second generation Moroccan immigrants balancing between traditional attitudes and safe sex, Patient Educ & Counsel 47,2:89-94

[20] Kadiri, N. (2001) Morocco, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.-in-chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. 4. New York: Continuum. Online ed.

[21] Naamane Guessous, S. (1999) Enquête sur la puberté, la ménopause et l’andropause. In press.

[22] Malek, C. (1995) Encyclopédie de l’amour en Islam. France: Payot

[23] Op.cit.

[24] Op.cit.