Index → Former Russia, Soviet Union
Denisenko and Dalla-Souanna (2001) provide a synopsis of the history
of youth sex behaviour research in
“Russian youth sexual attitudes are
more liberal than their peers in the
But how liberal is this climate today? According to Ammerman, “[t]he Russian Education Ministry is trying to ban toys that “provoke aggression, fear and premature sexuality” among children. One of the chief toys they want to ban is the Barbie doll […]. “Girls who play with Barbie dolls start feeling like grown-up women who buy fancy dresses and posh furniture,” said psychologist Natalya Grishayeva”.
Graupner states there is no age limit for sexual relations (2000:p420, 434, 446), but in fact it appears to be 14 for some categories (p428, 439).
The “Russians” are rated
(3+,3+,3+,3+,-,-;-,-) as would be judged from the study of
“We have very little information on infantile sexual play after the child is unswaddled (while it is swaddled there can obviously be none). The general picture seems to be that children are ‘innocent’ and ‘sinless’ and therefore nothing they can do can have any ‘moral’ or rather ‘immoral’ significance’ ”.
“Although there is little
documentation of the physical care of children (especially toilet-training
and regulation of childhood sexuality) in imperial
pointed to “child marriage [being] widespread in
“Fathers marry their sons to some
blooming girl in the village at a very early age, and then send the young men
either to Moscow or St. Petersburg to seek employment […] At the expiration
of some years, when the son returns to his cottage, he finds himself the
nominal father of several children, the off-spring of his own parent who had
deemed it his duty thus to supply the place of a husband to the young wife.
This is done all over
The same was observed by Post.
Tissot’s Onanisme appeared in Russian translation in 1793. A first legal notion of non-violent or statutory rape for girls under the “age of consent” was invoked by a 1845 code. A 1903 Code further renounced honour and chastity as the juridical objects of rape, centralising sexual maturity as an indicator of responsibility (p477-8).
A Russian collection of poems, sayings, hints, riddles, songs and jokes illustrating the evolution of the erotic perception of children ages 4 to 14 years old is done by Armalinsky (1995). A chapter of Comfort’s Power and Death deals with Russian attitudes on child sexuality. Occasional medical papers are offered on sexual development (e.g., Kaiumova, 1969), and, apparently, on the “treatment” of clinical masturbation. The sexual biographies of Russian and Finnish women were compared by Rotkirch (1997, 1998).
In a survey among paediatric health care specialists (2000), almost all considered desirable the introduction of a “paediatric sexologist” at health centres and regular sexual education of prepubertal children. However, sexology addressing childhood was already flourishing in the 1920s. Early numeric material specific on childhood age brackets was gathered by Weiþenberg on female Russian students (1924), and school children (1925). Meliksetyan (1989) presented data on prostitutes’ childhood sexual experiences using material from the 1920s. A study by Schbankow in 1922 gives data on “starting sex life”.
A study by Schmidt (1924) provides data on early masturbation. In a study by Barash (1924, 1926), data are provided on “the beginning of sex relations”. In the 1920s, psychoanalytic views of child rearing took ground, e.g., Vera Schmidt (1924:p22-7),
“[…] playing a leading role in an audacious experiment, one Reich described as “the first attempt in the history of education to give practical content to the theory of infantile sexuality.” That theory held that children are not asexual until puberty, as conventional wisdom would have it, but rather that they have “a very rich sexual life,” though one that obviously takes different forms than adult (i.e., genital) sexuality. The implications this had for education were profound” (Brenner, 1999).
Danilov (1982?) surveyed that 22.5 percent of girls had engaged in self-pleasuring by age 13.5, 37.4 percent by age 15.5, 50.2 percent by age 17.5, and 65.8 percent by age 18.5. Vassilchenko (1980) provided some data on the psychosexual development of 1035 male outpatients of a sexological clinic, whose development was apparently nevertheless taken to be representative of the normal population. Libido “awakened” at a mean age of 12.8 (SD=0.24), masturbarche at 14.2 (SD=0.13), and “ejacularche” at 14.3 (SD=0.10) (N=147). Prepuberty was literally considered as void of sexuality.
“As in the former
“Children and adolescents normally have their first sexual experience through self-pleasuring. Boys generally start to engage in self-pleasuring at the age of 12 or 13, reaching a peak at age 15 to 16. Girls begin to self-pleasure at a later age and do it less frequently. According to a 1982 survey by V. V. Danilov, 22.5 percent of the girls had engaged in self-pleasuring by age 13.5, 37.4 percent by age 15.5, 50.2 percent by age 17.5, and 65.8 percent by age 18.5. Until the late 1970s, official attitudes to self-pleasuring were completely negative. Children were told that it results in impotence, deterioration of the memory, and similar harmful consequences. As an antidote, there was a clandestine teen ditty: “Sun, fresh air, and onanism reinforce the organism.” Nevertheless, many Russian teens and adults still have strong anxieties regarding it. Many sexual dysfunctions are attributed to self-pleasuring experiences, and adults are terribly ashamed of it” (see Kon, 1995:p43-5, 189-99; 1999; nd).
Shapiro agrees that, though the
overwhelming majority of Russian teenagers, their parents, and teachers favor
the introduction of sex education in schools, there is no national program of
school-based sex education in
Kon (1997) on puberty:
“The overall trends in the psychosexual development of Russian children and adolescents are the same as in Western countries. Above all, there has been a substantial acceleration of sexual maturation. The average menarche age fell from 15.1 years to 13 among Muscovite girls over a period of thirty-five years, from 1935 to 1970. Similar trends are also typical for the boys. Sexual maturation confronts the teenager with a host of bodily and psychosexual problems. Many boys are worried about delay in emergence of their secondary sexual attributes in relation to their peers - shortness of height or of the penis, gynecomastia (transitory female-breast development), etc. Girls are concerned about hirsuteness, being overweight, the shape of their breasts, etc. (Kon 1995, p194-209)”.
“There is clear evidence that sexual activity is beginning earlier for today’s Russian adolescents than in past generations. The mean age for first coitus dropped in the last ten years from 19.2 to 18.4 for males, and from 21.8 to 20.6 for females. According to the only survey of teenagers ages 12 to 17 (Chervyakov, Kon, & Shapiro 1993), sexual experience was reported by 15 percent of the girls and by 22 percent of the boys. Among 16- to 17-year-olds 36 percent were sexually experienced; among 14- to 15-year-olds, 13 percent; and under 14 years, only 2 percent. Boys are generally more sexually experienced than girls, but the difference gradually disappears with age”.
According to Danilchenko, Blonsky’s 1935 Essays on Child Sexuality would be
“[…] the first serious study of sexual development and education in the USSR. It contains such matters as the sexual experiences of boys and girls of different ages, the influence of childhood sexual experiences on adult sex life, the psychology of love, first love, etc. He states that the social environment, supervision and instruction have a large part to play in sexual maturation. Puberty, in his view, is an important but not the main factor in development”.
Leningrad psychiatrists Prof. Dmitri Isayev and Dr. Victor Kagan began studying juvenile and adolescent gender and sexuality issues, publishing the first Soviet guide for doctors on the subject in 1986- The Psycho-Hygiene of Sex among Children (which has not been translated).
Under Stalinism, a “30-year conspiracy of silence” on sex was said to result in “a monstrous sexual ignorance. Soviet children and adolescents were not given even elementary sexual information. In the correct regime, early sexual feelings do not arise. The situation was particularly woeful in intellectual families, where the parents tried to keep absolutely everything from their children; workers and peasants looked at these things more simply: what the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve” (Kon, 1995:p95). Rivkin-Fish (1999) also explored the implicit and sometimes explicit ways that sex education lectures are being driven by debates over the significance of the Soviet past and anxieties over the perceived chaos of current transformations. Masturbation under the Soviet communists was seen as “siphoning off energy from important productive labor and leading young men to be apathetic, pessimistic, and individualistic- anti-social characteristics that a communist society would not tolerate” (Rivkin-Fish, 1999:p804-5).
“Control of sexual behaviour” was part of the social functions spectrum of the family under socialism (e.g., Fokeyev). Kulski (1954:p496-7) quoted from Makarenko’s Selected Pedagogical Works in demonstrating that the Soviet regime, but also many societies before the October Revolution, avoided sexual discussions with children in order to prevent them “to look upon sex in a coarsely realistic manner”. In the first years after the revolution, child sex education was “[…] permeated with the spirit of puritanism and strove to strengthen the “new proletarian morality” ”; sex research was forbidden, or not published, and sexuality as viewed by Freudianism was refuted.
According to Easson (1977), Russian paediatricians, psychiatrists, nurses, and midwives believe that adolescent sex education belongs in the home. At the time of writing Soviet society then had the responsibility of reinforcing the standards and attitudes instilled by parents. The markedly puritanical sexual standards in Russia would be “similar to those seen in the United States at the turn of the century”. In one study, American subjects expressed more acceptance of premarital sex than did the Russian subjects. Men were more sexually permissive than women as in the U. S. Russian subjects were more likely to endorse the double standard than Japanese and American subjects. Rates of sexual intercourse parallel many western European countries.
In a recent study on the “psychosexual health” of 308 children, aged 2-11 years, as well as that of their families, it appeared that “[d]eviations in psychosexual development were found in 34.6% of the children examined. The following types were detected: difficulties in formation of gender- determined behavior features--64.4%, precocious psychosexual development--13.7%, delayed psychosexual development-- 12.3%, obsessive masturbation--9.6%. Risk factors for deviant psychosexual development were found”. As for “precocity”, in a Moscow school sample of 1,090 youth (mean age 14 years), about 8.8% reported participation in sexual intercourse before age 12.
For a further note on sexual education, see Grassel and Bach (1979:p288-90). Additional refs:
§ CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: East Central Europe, p151-75
Until puberty, boys and girls play separately (Mandal, 1975:p266). Two female 19-year-olds denied any knowledge about “playing doctor”. Russians were known for their use of obscenity, says Krupyanskaya (Benet, 1970). This is significant since in Russia ”obscene actions between adults in the presence of youth and children [were] punishable”.
(Chukchee, Yakuts, Nenets, Northern Tungus)
Some data on Siberian marriage is provided by Czaplicka (1914). The Yakut betroth their children when only one of two years old (p108). The Gilyak / Nivhgu (2,2,2+,2+,2-,2+;8,7) girl is usually passed to the house of her future husband at age five or six, “with who[m] she grows up, and whose wife she becomes at maturity” (p100). The Japanese / Siberian Ainu (Saru Ainu: 3-,3-,3-,3-,2+,2+;4,4) were betrothed in childhood, but it does not compel them to marry (p102). The Buryat Mongols betroth children in infancy (p118). The Kalmuk Mongols betroth children in earliest infancy or in the womb (p121). They are joined at age fourteen. Among the Dagor Mongols, marriage across generation was permissible but rare (Vreeland III, 1957:p249).
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
 Denisenko, M. & Dalla-Souanna, J. P. (2001) Seksual'noe povedenie rossiyskoy molodezhi [The Sexual Behavior of Russian Youth], Sotsiologicheskie Issledovaniya 27,2:83-7
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