IES: Portugal





A small excerpt from Nodin et al. (2001)[1] (read in full: IES):


“Autoerotic behavior is common in children and adolescents, but is usually repressed by parents and society, and condemned by religion. This induces some anxiety, especially for the adolescent who masturbates just the same but often with guilty feelings about it. Adolescents sometimes request counseling over masturbation to know whether it causes illness, impotence, infertility, or pimples, or if it is bad for the health. All these questions reflect popular beliefs about this behavior. […]Childhood exploration of the body of one’s self and others is common, although usually repressed by parents and caregivers. Most Portuguese adults still have some difficulty admitting that children are sexual persons and are thus curious about sex, especially when the adult is not at ease with his or her own sexuality. This is important because sex education directed at children is basically non-existent in the school system and is not done at home. However, from a very early age, children try to get information about sex as they can, usually through their peers. In some cases, sexual experiences start in childhood or early adolescence. In a survey conducted in an urban sample, 15 percent of the males reported having had their first sexual intercourse before 13 years of age (Marktest 1995)[[2]]. This, however, happens only in the case of the male population, probably caused by early curiosity and partner availability; in most cases the female partner is older. Among younger adolescents, from age 9 or 10 on, a game called Bate Pé (Foot Stomping) is played in small- to medium-sized groups. In this game, each girl and boy alternatively proposes a number to an element of the opposite sex. Each number is related to a given behavior, e.g., number one is a handshake, number two is a kiss on the face, number three is a kiss on the mouth, number four is a French kiss, number five is touching the breasts, and so on. The higher the number, the more daring is the behavior, with sexual intercourse being the upper limit. When the recipient of the proposal refuses, he or she will stomp the foot - hence the name of the game. This game is a common starting ground for the discovery of the opposite sex and of rehearsal without compromise. Needless to say that boys rarely stomp their feet and the numbers rarely pass beyond four or five at age 9 or 10. […] Studies of homosexuality in children and adolescents have not been done, and thus, little is known about its incidence or character” (read in full: IES).

In a Portuguese coastal community, girls were considered “adult” when fertile (menstruation occurred around 16 or 17), boys when married. (Cole, 1991:p84-5)[3]. Girls begin to have namoradas soon after menarche. “A son was said to be able to “have sex freely” […], but a daughter should not have sex freely and should show restraint […] in the expression of her sexuality”, which was defined in the context of fertility.


“In 1945 Portugal decriminalized homosexuality for the second time in its history (the first time was in 1852, but the total ban has been reintroduced in 1912) and set an equal age limit of 16. The Criminal Code of 1982 took over this equal minimum age limit for hetero- and homosexual acts at 16 (HTS: Art. 206, 203, HS: Art. 206, 207). Just the penalties laid down in the case of “seduction” of 14 and 15 year old adolescents have been different”[4]. “In Portugal the age of consent for sexual intercourse with adults (i.e. over 18) is set at 14 for heterosexual sex, and at 16 for homosexual sex (articles 172 and 175 of the Portuguese penal code). The Portuguese penal code also considers it a crime for adults to have sexual intercourse with a minor between 14 and 16 if the minor is entrusted to them or under their authority (article 173), if the adult takes advantage of the inexperience of the minor, in the case of heterosexual sex (article 174) or if the adult involves himself in «homosexual acts» with the minor or has him involved in such acts with other persons (article 175)”[5].



Additional refs:


§         Amaro, F., Dantas, A. M. & Teles, L. da C. (1995) Sexual behaviour in the city of Lisbon, Int J STD AIDS 6,1:35-41

§         Further studies by Amaro (1990) and Amaro, Teles, Dantas (1990)






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] Nodin, N. et al. (2001) Portugal, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed. in chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. 4. New York: Continuum. Online ed.

[2] Marktest. (1995) Estudo sobre comportamento sexual dos portugueses [Study on the sexual behavior of the Portuguese]. Lisbon: Marktest-Departamento de Estudos Especiais

[3] Cole, S. (1991) Women of the Praia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press

[4]Graupner, H. (1997) Portugal De-Equalized Age of Consent in 1995,EuroLetter [ILGA Europe] 55:7

[5]Freitas, M. (2001) Age of Consent in Portugal,EuroLetter [ILGA Europe] 87:3