Growing Up Sexually



IndexPacificsPolynesia Ra’Ivavae


Featured: Pukapukans, Ra’Ivavae, French Polynesia [Marquesans, Cook Islands [Tahiti, Aitutaki, Mangaia], Samoa, Tonga Isl.]; Santa Cruz Isl., Santa Cruz Isl.


“To the Polynesian, sex is life itself: the entire cycle of birth, love-making, death- and then eternal life through one’s seed. It is all-embracing, like the weather or the sea, and it is talked about as freely. Even the small children on Ra’ivavae know that navenave means to experience the orgasm, and they understand that both men and women are capable of it. Both sexes know from infancy that the clitoris, tira, is the seat of female pleasure, as is the penis, ure, of the male”. According to Marshall (1962:p241-59)[1], as among for the Mangaia, but not contemporarily so, the girl’s clitoris used to be massaged, moulded, balmed, and orally stimulated by the mother. The length of the organ was regularly measured by priests within sacred grounds, to provide additional advise. The aim may be the increase of fertility thought to result from satisfactory sexual contacts, or rather, “to protect the virginity of the girls, as the clitoris covered the vaginal opening and prevented the boy’s organ from making entry”. Presumably for this reason, boys’ penises were pulled by the mother to modify their length.

Children see every scene of the life cycle, including copulation. There is “no” system or philosophy of child rearing; much occurs in the age group. Although menarche [12 or 13] and superincision [no fixed age] end childhood, “[…] copulation could well have taken place before this” (p246). The superincisor instructs the boy in sexual matters, and an older woman initiates him into the technique of intercourse, “a universal phenomenon in the many Polynesian islands with which I am familiar””.











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] Marshall, D. S. (1962 [1961]) Island of Passion, Ra’Ivavae. London: George Allen & Unwin; Marshall, D. S. (1961) Ra’Ivavae: An Expedition to the Most Fascinating and Mysterious Island in Polynesia. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. See also Van Ussel, J. (1975) Intimiteit. Deventer, Holland: Van Loghum Slater, p90-1