South America

IES: Brazil



NAMBIKWARA, Nambicuara, Nambiquara(Mato Grosso, Brazil)


IndexAmericasSouth AmericaBrazil → Nambikwara




Lévi-Strauss (1955:p301 [1962:p277])[1] stated that children, who are cousins, call themselves spouses. In the evening they make their own campfire and dedicate themselves-depending on their abilities and means- to the same love play [aux mêmes épanchements] as their elders; the adults observe the scene with amusement. There is no formal play, however. Lévi-Strauss (1949:p71-2)[2] had already commented on the fact that the children enact


“[t]ous les traveaux érotiques qu’ils ont vu leurs aînés pratiquer. L’incident est accueilli par les adultes avec indifference, ou, au plaus, avec des sourires amusés: […] “Ce sont des enfants qui ont de petites relations sexuelles” , dit-on en passant. Nous n’avons verifié ces que de façon occassionelle, chez jeunes enfants (cinq à sept ans)”.


The games appear absent in those approaching puberty, but reliable data are not present.


One man who “caught a little boy” (pegou um menino), was requested to leave town at least temporarily. “The boy’s only remark was that he had not been paid” (Hutchison, 1957:p141)[3].


Fernandes (1969:p82-3)[4] states that the urban Negro (São Paulo) learned the secrets of life “precociously”. There was much sexual use of minors, particularly also of boys, and children “already used each other at five and six years of age according to informants”. Although females are subject to a puritanical sex code, males are given “more or less a carte blanche to do as they please and get away with as much as they can”. Virginity is valued with great intensity, and a rigid pattern of separation and chaperonage is seen after puberty. Sex is not generally talked about, but some mothers might (Patai, 1988:p116-7, 139-42, 154, 219-20, 288, 302)[5]. Harris (1969:p158)[6] stated that “childhood masturbation, while never deliberately discouraged, is less likely to be methodologically prohibited in males than in females, especially among the lower classes”. Parker (1991:p122, 123-4)[7] noted masturbation contests in jack-off clubs. Thus, “[f]rom early childhood on, masturbation, oral eroticism, and anal eroticism, as well as same-sex relations and any number of other deviations [sic], emerge alongside the genital sexual norm […]”. A man relates:


“When I was maybe six years old, in groups of men, my father would say, “You have to fuck that one there […] that one there is a woman […] you have to fuck women […] fuck cunt […] you have to make her suck […] you have to fuck her ass!” And the others, they would add on […]. They would give lectures. “Take off the bra first.” “And when you’re sucking her nipple, you take her hand and put it on your cock”. “But you’ve got to have a hard-on, to show her that you’re a macho” (p60).




Additional reading:


§         Price, D. (1989) Miriam's Awakening: A Nambiquara Puberty Festival, The World & I (maio):678-89





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

Last revised: Oct. 2004


[1] Lévi-Strauss, C. (1955) Tristes Tropiques. Paris : Librairie Plon. Dutch translation, Het Trieste der Tropen. Aula, 1962

[2]Lévi-Strauss, C. (1948) La vie familiale et sociale des Indiens Nambikwara, J Soc Americainist 37:1-132

[3] Hutchison, H. W. (1957) Village and Plantation Life in Northeastern Brazil. Seattle : Univ. of Washington Press

[4] Fernandes, F. (1969) The Negro in Brazilian Society. New York [etc.]: Columbia University Press

[5] Patai, D. (1988) Brazilian Women Speak. New Brunswick: Rutger

[6] Harris, M. (1969) Town and Country in Brazil. New York: AMS Press

[7] Parker, R. G. (1991) Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions. Boston: Beacon Press