IndexPacificsPolynesia French PolynesiaTahiti


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



Early betrothal was described by Ellis[1]. Cook noted in 1769 that a boy announced his wedding with an eleven- or twelve-year-old girl by having sexual intercourse on the market, thereby advised by the audience (Stoll, 1908:p693; Sutor, 1964:p418; Brongersma, 1993:p123)[2]. As mentioned before, Oliver (1974)[3] noted that coital simulation became actual penetration as soon as young boys were physiologically able. Oliver (1981)[4] notes that children played in mixed-gender groups until 13 or 14 years old. The Tahitian attitudes to children playing at copulation was one of amusement (1981:p366). As children approached the age of 11, adult parental attitudes shifted in regard to young females but not males. Jacobus X ([1893] 1898, II:p440-5])[5] fully agrees. The children “learn at an early age to play at little husband and little wife. Children of neighbours form couples, and mutually instruct each other. The Tané is precocious; he attains puberty at eleven or twelve years at the latest. By the age of ten, he has commenced to prepare for the work of love”. The boys practice urinary preputial adhaesiolysis, and sometimes perform an imitated preputial incision, to hasten readiness. “As soon as the gland [sic] can come out freely, the young Tané, whether he produces sperm or not, commences to copulate with his “little wife”. Due to the “habitual coition with children of the same age, whose yards are in proportion to the size of the vulva and vagina, [t]here is a slow and gradual dilatation, which distends the hymen without tearing it”. On Taihiti, one Dr. Lesson (quoted by Caufeynon, 1920:p72)[6] noted the close, in fact causal, connection of coitarche and menarche: “Toute fille réglée, est à leurs yeux une fille déflorée, et la menstruation est l’indice certain qu’elle a subi les approches de l’homme”[7].


In the Tahitian institution of mahu, adult males would have practised fellatio and/or intercrural intercourse with local “boys”[8]. The mahu would be “particularly selected when boys and kept with the women solely for the caresses of the men” (Bligh as cited by Levy, p13). Levy found a single 16-year-old mahu in the early 1960s, noting that “[o]vert homosexual behavior was distinctly not an essential shared part of the community’s idea of the mahu’s role”.


Levy further documents that “[t]here is much homo-erotic play among boys, particularly related to the adolescent boys’ life stage in which membership in the village peer group is of central importance. There is much body contact, occasional dancing together, occasional group masturbation, much darting out timidly into heterosexual forays and then a return for bragging and discussion to the peer group” (p18).













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] Ellis, Polynesian Researches, I, p267, 270; Westermarck, E. ([1901:p214])

[2] Sutor, J. /Jacobus X (1964) The Erogenous Zones of the World, by a French Army Surgeon. New York: Book Awards; Brongersma, E. (1993) Jongensliefde, Deel 2. Amsterdam: SUA. Cook speaks of an “odd scene” in which “a young fellow above six feet high lay with a little girl about ten or eleven years of age publickly”.

[3] Oliver, D. L. (1974) Ancient Tahitian Society.Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press

[4] Oliver, D. L. (1981) TwoTahitianVillages: A Study in Comparisons,Provo, UT: BrighamYoungUniversity Press

[5] Jacobus X ([1893]1898) L’Amour aux Colonies. Paris : I. Liseux. 3 vols. Second and enlarged english ed., Untrodden Fields of Anthropology (etc.). Paris: Librairie de Medecine, Folklore et Anthropologie. 2 vols.

[6] Caufeynon (1920) L’Œvre de Chair et L’Enfantement dans l’Humanité. Paris: Bibliotheque Populaire des Sciences Médicales

[7] Herman-Giddens et al. (1988) suggested that sexual abuse of children caused a protraction of sexual maturity, because of an inspecific stress reaction. See Herman-Giddens, M. E., Sandler, A. D. & Friedman, N. E. (1988) Sexual precocity in girls. An association with sexual abuse? Am J Dis Child 142,4:431-3

[8] Levy, R. I. (1971) The community function of Tahitian male transvestism, Anthropol Quart 44:12-21. Also cited by Brewis, A. A. (1992) Sexually-transmitted disease risk in a Micronesian atoll population, Health Transition Rev 2,2:195-213, at p197n6