Growing Up Sexually




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Fuchs (1950:p94-5)[1] commented on the early knowledge of sex matters in Balahi children. “It is said that small children sometimes imitate the sexual acts of their parents by, as they say, playing “father and mother”[2]. Their parents frown on them, though indulgently, if they see them acting in this way”.  Further, “[s]exual intercourse between half-grown boys and girls occurs, but not very frequently, since from childhood they are separated at play and at work. It is more frequent that boys or girls learn homosexual practices from their older companions, and this especially during the hot season when there is little work to do and the children remain the whole day out on the fields grazing the cattle”. Sexual intercourse, even after marriage, is not permitted before the ana ceremony has taken place, although “love-affairs between half-grown people are not taken very seriously” (p67). Betrothal takes place at age 6 to 8 (boys), and slightly younger for girls (p126). Soon after menarche, the father-in-law comes to “fetch” her as she is ready to enter married life (p163). Sexual intercourse is commenced immediately, abstinence leads to suspicion of infidelity or impotence. Thus, the Bahali youths “have no incentive for the artful sports of courtship”.


Fuchs (1939:p71-2)[3]:


“The Bahalis have for their young people, boys as well as girls, no official introduction to sexual life, such as an initiation ceremony. They attain an early knowledge of such matters from the talk and conduct of their parents and elder brothers and sisters, who speak quite freely and openly of such things even in their ordinary conversations. During the night, the parents, as also the married brothers and sisters and the smallest children, all sleep together in the same narrow hut. There the children see and hear everything that takes place, and so very early acquire a knowledge of sexual affairs. The ritual of birth-ceremonies and marriage-ceremonies contains songs about and favours the discussion of even the most intimate details of married life. The children are of course very interested listeners and are not excluded from such gatherings. […] the children hear all these expressions very often daily, and use them too, at first not knowing the meaning, but that they learn soon enough. […] [Their parents] often take delight in hearing how their little children utter such coarse expressions, “Look”, they say, “how our little one can curse and swear although he is still so small!” Sexual intercourse between boys and girls occurs, but not often, since they separate and do not play with each other”.


“Soon after the first menstruation, at the latest after the second or third, the girl goes to her husband. According to custom she has long since been married, but she has not yet lived with her boy-husband. This will begin now […]. The people believe that unless the girl is brought to her husband and to sexual intercourse soon after her first menstruation, she will become sterile” and to prevent premarital sexual behaviour. “Old people still remember, however, the times when the girl was not brought to her husband or even married before her sixteenth year. They believe that early sexual intercourse has many evil consequences, that it weakens the physical strength of the young couple and that it produces only weak and sickly offspring”.












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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Fuchs, S. (1950) The Children of Hari: A Study of the Nimar Bahalis in the Central Provinces of India. Vienna: Herold

[2] “Thus, “they play “father and mother”, imitating even the sexual actions of their parents”, or birth, weddings, parental quarrels, and work (p122).

[3] Fuchs, S. (1939) Birth and Childhood among the Balahis, Anthropol Quart 12,3:71-84