IndexAmericasSouth AmericaPeru

Featured: Sharanahua, Shipibo, Machiguenga, Amahuaca, Cashinahua, Urarina; ®Aymara)



A male’s first sexual experience in Lima was typically either with a prostitute or a “fling” (Nencel, 1994:p62, 63, 68)[1]. In a study (Chirinoset al., 2001)[2] on Latino male adolescent (12-19) students living in California and Lima, “the” sexual debut was 13 years in both samples. Of the sample, 43% had ever had sex; age at first sexual intercourse was 13 years (Chirinos et al., 2000)[3]. Males tended to mainly discuss sexuality with their male peers. In a previous (early 1990s) Lima study on low-income mid-twenties reported by Mahler[4], first coitus occurred at a mean age of 16.2 (mm) and 19.2 (ff). In a later study[5] on 6,962 urban secondary school students aged 13-18, seventeen per cent reported ever having had sexual intercourse (boys: 32 per cent, girls: 7 per cent). Among those reporting having had coitus, the mean age at its first occasion was 13.1 and 14.1 (bs and gs).


Whitam et al. (1998)[6] offer some material regarding lesbian identity development.


In one study from the mid-1980s, “Many of the young men said their first sexual experience had been with a much older woman- probably a prostitute, according to the investigator”[7]. “Most contacts of [female adolescents] were with boyfriends. [Male adolescents], however, had had intercourse with friends, prostitutes, and girlfriends. Homosexual experiences were reported at 12.3% for men and 4.3% for women. Preceding such experiences, noncoital practices served to facilitate the initiation of youth to coitus at a rather early age”[8].



Mocheros  (Moche District, North Coastal Peru)


In Moche, Peru, female virginity is highly valued but many boys have intercourse by ages 12-13 years though dating doesn’t begin until ages 15-16 years. Premarital intercourse, “although disapproved, is taken for granted” (Gillin, 1948)[9]. Gillin (1949:p70-1)[10] argues that sex is dealt with “naturally”. Thus, “Masturbation is ideally frowned upon, but elders do not hound their child to desist and it is actually regarded as a legitimate outlet for the sex drive in those rare cases where “normal” satisfactions are not available. [...] A boy begins to have sexual relations when he is about twelve or thirteen, but such relations are restricted. Most boys seem to have their first experience with girls of about their own age or somewhat older. The more common practice seems to be for a boy to waylay a girl as she passes through the campiña [...] Sometimes a group of boys waylays a group of girls. As a rule, either type of seduction is preceded by verbal plans or hints and certainly by prior acquaintance. [...] By the age of fifteen or sixteen a boy makes dates with a girl to meet him at a given place in the campiña when he is supposed to be coming home from the market”. “Perhaps the majority of children [...] have seen intercourse at an early age, and practically all children know about it in a vague way by the time they are eight or nine years old, though they fail to understand its details or biological purpose. There is no puritanical attitude about it, and there is no effort to withhold knowledge from children, though privacy is preferred. [...] the disapproval of masturbation seems to be more half-hearted than real. Children are not corrected for acts evidencing autoeroticism, but a confession is made to European mores. “Of course t is bad”, they say, but children are not lectured on its baleful effects not hounded to desist. The same is true regarding premarital intercourse”.


As found by Chung et al.[11],


“All the adults who were interviewed expressed concern that both boys and girls initiate their sexual experiences too early (at 12 or 13 years of age). However, the adolescents in the study reported initiating sexual activity at an older age (between 15 and 20 years of age). The most frequently cited age by adolescents for beginning sexual activity for girls was 20 (45 percent) and for boys was 18 (38 percent) […] Many boys view girls who have reached menarche as sexual objects. Boys have heard from their mothers and grandmothers that when a girl bleeds, she “is ready to look for a man and be with him.” A teacher in Luyanta commented about girls’ experience of sexual intercourse, stating “Young men go looking for girls at the pasture, and when the girls are not paying attention, they go and rape them.” The girls become pregnant, and their barely begun adolescence comes to an end. As many of the boys deny paternity, they are able to continue to enjoy their adolescence. The girls, on the other hand, abruptly become single mothers, cutting short any expectations for formal education or self development, and exacerbating existing poverty”.


Peruan Indians: Generalia


Tessmann (1930)[12] gathered data on premarital intercourse prohibitions and early homosexuality in 49 Peruan Indian tribes. His data reveal that the common prohibition and punishment of premenarchal coitus is usually associated with early homosexual behaviour or, less common, masturbation. Societies with no such prohibition (Koto, p201; Bora, p278; Kandoschi, p291; Yagua, p470; and less clear, Mayoruna, p375) reveal minimal homosexual play. An exception to this rule are the Muinane (p336), in whom both occurs, and the Auischiri (p483) as well as the Okáina (p557), for both of whom neither practice is seen. Among the Indians of Ucayali , Tessmann (1928:p208-9)[13] notes:


“Mit dem Geschlechtsverkehr beginnt die Tschama früh- es ist sehr schwer, über das Alter etwas auszusagen- mit acht bis zehn Jahren dürfte nicht zu früh geschätzt sein. […] Der Tschama ist genau wie der peruanische Mischling selbst in Iquitos schon von frühester Jugend an strak auf das weibliche Geschlecht eingestellt. Seinem Trieb folgt er früh und sucht die kleinen Mädchen zu verführen. Diese kommen ihm, wenn sie nur können, entgegen und benutzen jede Gelegenheit, wenn ihre Mutter sie der Pflanzung beschäftigt ist, oder die abendlichen Stunden, um ihren Liebhaber zu treffen und sich hinzugeben. Beide heißen muerati, was ich nur mit Vorbehalt als “Geliebte” bzw. “Geliebter” zu übersetzen wage, da nicht etwa ein Junge immer dasselbe Mädchen hat, sondern jeder nachstellt, die er erreichen kann, wie sie auch nur dann keinen anderen nimmt, wenn keiner zu bekommen ist. Dieser von keinen sentimentalen Anwandlungen getrübte Liebesverkehr beginnt schon lange vor der Beschneidung der Mädchen, und meine Berichterstatter haben mir versichert, wie ich schon sagte, daß keine der zu Beschneidenden noch jungfräulich ist”.


The parents do not protest. Masturbation would be uncommon (typical of most Peruan Indians), and anal intercourse occurs “nur unter kleineren Jungen”.


Fejos (1943:p74)[14] on the Peruan Yagua: “Girls have their first sexual experience either before their first menstrual period or shortly afterwards. Boys and girls of the same clan meet secretly in the bush or on outer chacras but if they are discovered they are not punished”.




Additional refs:


§         CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p163-85. Also Progress Report, 2000, p71-9





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

Last revised: Dec 2004


[1] Nencel, L. (1994) The secrets behind sexual desire: the construction of male sexuality in Lima, Peru, Etnofoor 7,2:59-75

[2] Chirinos, J. L., Brindis, C., Tye, S. & McCarter, V. (2001) Differences and similarities in sexual and contraceptive knowledge, attitudes, and behavior among Latino male adolescent students in California, United States and Lima, Peru, Cadernos de Saude Publica / Ministerio da Saude, Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz, Escola Nacional de Saude Publica 17,4:833-42

[3] Chirinos, J. L., Salazar, V. C. & Brindis, C. D. (2000) A profile of sexually active male adolescent high school students in Lima, Peru, Cad Saúde Pública 16,3:733-46 []

[4] Mahler, K. (1997)Increased Risk of STD Infection Among Peruvian Women Linked to Their Partners’ Sexual Practices, Int Fam Plann Perspect 23,1:39-40

[5] Magnani, R., Seiber, E., Zielinski Gutierrez, E. & Vereau, D. (Aug., 1999) Correlates of Sexual Activity and Condom Use among Secondary School Students in Urban Peru.Washington, DC: FOCUS on Young Adults, Pathfinder International

[6] Whitam, F. L., Daskalos, C., Sobolewski, C. G. & Padilla, P. (1998) The emergence of lesbian sexuality and identity cross-culturally: Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States, Arch Sex Behav 27,1:31-56

[7] Loli, A. (1986) La Sexualidad en la Adolescencia: Un Estudio Peruano. Servicio Médico Materno-Infantil abd the Pathfinder Fund, Líma. Reported under “Pregnancy Rates High Among Urban Teenagers in Peru, Study Shows”, Int Fam Plann Perspect 13,1:30

[8] Aller-Atucha, L. M. (1990) Practicas de iniciacion sexual y anticoncepcion en un grupo de jovenes limenos, Peru, Rev Latinoam Sexol 5,2: 155-77

[9] Gillin, J. (1948) Approaches to marriage on the North Peruvian coast, Marriage Hyg 1:160-4

[10] Gillin, J. (1949) Marriage among the Mocheros, Marriage & Fam Living 11,2:70-1,92

[11] Chung, C. E. et al. (January 2001) Menarche and Its Implications for Educational Policy in Peru. La Red Nacional de Promoción de la Mujer []

[12] Tessmann, G. (1930) Die Indianer Nordost-Perus. Hamburg: Friederichsen, De Gruyter & Co.  Tessmann should be noted for his systematic inclusions on early sex life, for instance on the Ucayali Indians (1928:p208-9), the Bafia (1934:p225-7), the Baja (1934, I:p204; 1937, II:p112), Bubi (1923:p166-7), and the Pangwe (1913, II:p251-3).

[13] Tessmann, G. (1928) Menschen ohne Gott: Ein Besuch bei den Indianern des Ucayali. Stuttgart: Strecker & Schröder

[14]Fejos, P. (1943) Ethnography of the Yagua. (Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology 1) New York: Viking Fund