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According to Barlow (1985)[1], “Boy babies are often handled and stimulated sexually by their mothers while they are nursing. […] Their mothers tease them about their little penes and poke them playfully. When angry they threaten to cut them off or yell at the little boys for appearing before them naked. “Don’t stand there in the ay with the rope bobbing up and down!” “Get out of here before I cut off that little snake of yours!” ” (p. 400, 431-3). Also,


“Modesty in little girls of this age [toddlers] is encouraged but not enforced. They are usually naked until at least five or six years old, when their own increasing awareness of their difference from boys makes them willing to put on clothes. But women are embarrassed by little girls’ nakedness and try to teach them to cover their genitals with their hands or a piece of cloth when they are sitting in a group of people. Traditionally neither boys nor girls wore anything until they were initiated around the time of puberty. Grandmothers reluctantly put clothes on little girls, saying, “Now the white man has come and they have taught us this way. Before, not at all.” ” (pp. 404-5).


Boy initiations include “beatings, penis bleeding, and other forms of hazing […]”.


“Much of [the] teasing is flirtatious, and as brothers and sisters approach adolescence it is, unsurprisingly, about infatuations, flirtation, and sexual relationships” (p. 448). “Because they understand the heavy responsibilities of marriage and family, parents are concerned about preventing their children from becoming sexually active and from marrying at a very young age” (p. 453).


“Children have an early, though non-participatory awareness that sexuality and fighting are associated in non-sibling cross-sex relationships. They are often present when their parents fight, and hear others predict that another child will soon be on the way. […] children develop an early awareness of sexuality as a strong impulse in everyone, male and female. There are joking relationships between certain categories of affines, and with classificatory mothers’ brothers and fathers’ sisters. The content of the joking is often explicitly sexual and children are taught to make the standard jokes even before they are aware of their meaning. Older people, particularly of grandparents and senior joking partners do not hesitate to describe sexual intercourse explicitly to children and watch them recoil in disgust or better yet learn to participate in the joking repartee that the subject inspires (p. 455-62)”.


Children are publicly shamed on occasion. “During adolescence boys and girls begin to explore the domain of sexual relationships” (p. 463). “Marriage is accomplished when either the young man or woman fails to go back to his or her parents’ house in the morning, or when one of them moves his/her belongings to the other’s house. The parents’’ consent is then requested […]” (p. 149).








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

Last revised: Feb 2006


[1]Barlow, Kathleen (1985) Learning Cultural Meanings through Social Relationships: An Ethnography of Childhood in Murik Society, Papua New Guinea. Ph.D. Dissertation. La Jolla: University of California, San Diego