Growing Up Sexually



IndexPacificsPolynesia Santa Cruz Isl.


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




Davenport (1965:p196; 1966)[1], on the “EastBay” society: “Despite the apparent latency period for both sexes, youthful attempts at copulation are sometimes discovered, especially between sister and brothers. Such behaviour is immediately interrupted with a scolding, but as long as the miscreants have not reached full sexual maturity, their parents are more likely to joke about it than to be deeply shocked”. Little is done to discourage genital behaviour in infancy. More strictness is applied after age four (boys may be ridiculed for erections), and girls’ genitalia are more tabooed than boys’. From age five, the touch-taboo extends to the whole female body. Despite nudity till puberty, there is little evidence of heterosexual play, except between siblings, where it is immediately discouraged. Sexual matters are discussed in the family with complete frankness, and children of five and six are rather completely knowledgeable on sexual matters. Adolescent heterosexual behaviour is strictly forbidden. Adolescents may have homosexual interactions in the men’s house. A man may have sexual interaction with a young boy, often too young to be living in a men’s house. Sexual interaction takes place in the bush, and incest taboo is observed. No homosexuality is reported for girls. Marriage arrangements can be made at all ages, from infancy on.






Davenport (1969a:p207)[2]:


            “Occasionally, initiates were permitted to play certain games to relieve their boredom. One of these was     mock copulation, and into which the attendants entered in order to explain the fine points of sexual            intercourse”.


About initiations (p210, 213):


“The sponsor of each initiate gives to his men's house special presents of tobacco, pork, and other fancy food. If possible, too, he would have arranged for a concubine to be there sometime in the near future to

introduce the initiate to sexual intercourse. Associated with this, one of the attendants to an initiate gave him two rolls of feather currency. The rolls were tied over his shoulder, one in front, one in back, and

carried by the initiate to the men's house. There the currencies were hung up for display. They signified, however, his payment for the use of a concubine. Actually, five days later the father or other sponsor of

the initiate retrieved the currencies for himself, so the presentation was from the attendant to the sponsor of the initiate. From now on the initiate is regarded as a full adult member of the men's house group. Any man who had not been through the sega initiation was not so considered. […] Another is a moral condemnation of the association between se[.]ga[.] and introducting the initiate to his first sexual intercourse”.





Davenport (1968:p183-5)[3]:


“[...] The fifth observance is made to mark the donning of a strand of beads worn around the waist. This may be omitted for boys, but never for girls. The next observance may be done when the child is still small, and it is to mark his or her wearing of their first adult-style clothing. Before, this was a bark cloth wraparound garment for women, and a breach clout for men, but today it is a cotton cloth wraparound for both sexes. Actually, this observance is more of a notice that the sponsor will, later when the child is more mature, sponsor the celebration of the actual putting on of the first garment. As a preliminary notice, this prevents anyone else from usurping the right to sponsor this occasion. It is not done for all children. The celebration of this initial putting-on-the-garment has nothing to do with modesty, for it is done long before genital modesty training is even commenced. The last observance is a celebration at adolescence of the actual donning of the first garment. By this time the child is fully aware of what is expected in the way of genital modesty and from this time on he or she is expected to exhibit this modesty”.





Davenport (1969b:p241)[4]:


“Sometime between the age of about five and nine years, when the child begins to be trained in genital modesty, he (or she) may be dressed in his (or her) first garment. The event is celebrated by a feast”.













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]Davenport, W. (1965)Sexual patterns and their regulation in a society of the south west Pacific, in Beach, F. (Ed.) Sex and Behaviour.New York: Wiley, p164-207; Davenport, W. (1966) Sexual patterns in a southwest Pacific society, in Brecher, R. & Brecher, E. (Eds.) An Analysis of Human Sexual Response. New York: Signet Books, p175-200. See also Money, J. & Ehrhardt, A. A. (1973/1996) Man & Woman, Boy & Girl. London: Aronson, p135-9

[2]Davenport, W. (1969a) Social organization notes on the Northern Santa Cruz Islands: the MainReefIslands. Berlin: D. Reimer, p151-243 [eHRAF 2003]

[3]Davenport, W. (1968) Social organization notes on the Northern Santa Cruz Islands: the DuffIslands (Taumako). Berlin: D. Reimer, 1968. p137-205 [eHRAF, 2003]

[4]Davenport, W. (1969b) Social organization notes on the Southern Santa Cruz Islands: Utupua and Vanikoro. Berlin: D. Reimer, 1969. p207-75 [eHRAF, 2003]