Growing Up Sexually



TALLENSI (2,2,2+,2+,2,3-;8,8) (NORTHERN GHANA




IndexAfricaGhana → Tallensi

(Thsi-Speakers, Tallensi, Akan, / ASHANTI, Fanti, Kokomba, (S)Isala, Ga, Ewe, Vagla, Krobo


Fortes (1938:p36, 56; 1970:p251)[1]:


“Children of opposite sexes play at husband and wife and sleep together on the same mat. When children are caught at such practices, the male child is given a good beating and never allowed to remain with the females alone anywhere in the compound. The female child is rather treated cruelly by the mother. She grinds pepper and applies it to the child’s vagina. The other children in the family ridicule the unfortunate pair and the treatment becomes a warning to the other boys and girls against similar practices. […] It is said […] that housekeeping play sometimes branches into sexual play, little boys pretending to be husband and wife and trying to copulate. Detailed inquiry shows that this is not uncommon. The usual method of sexual experimentation at this stage of development follows the pattern of adolescence. Small boys “woo sweet-hearts” with little gifts, and sexual experiments occur in connexion with dancing or by chance opportunities”[2].


Masturbation is “overt until puberty in boys”. Parents take it for granted that children will indulge in sexual play (Fortes, 1949:p100)[3]. Fortes added that the Tallensi “are not surprised at the comprehensive and accurate sexual knowledge of a six-year-old, though direct instruction in these matters is never given” ([1970:p223, 239-40]).









Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Fortes, M. (1939) Social and Psychological Aspects of Education in Taleland. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Fortes, M. (1970) Social and psychological aspects of education in Taleland, in Time and Social Structure and Other Essays. London: Athlone, p201-59; Fortes, M. (1938) Social and psychological aspects of education in Taleland, Africa, Suppl., 11,4:1-64. Reprinted in Middleton, J. (Ed., 1970) From Child to Adult. New York: Natural History Press, p14-74, Bruner, J. S., Jolly, A. & Sylva, K. (Eds.) Play: Its Role in Development and Evolution. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, p474-83

[2] See also Fortes, M. (1936) Kinship, incest and exogamy in the Northern territories of the Gold Coast, in Buxton, L. H. (Ed.) Custom Is King. London: Hutchinson’s Scientific & Technical Publications

[3] Fortes, M. (1949) The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi. London: OxfordUniversity Press. See also Fox, J. R. (1962) Sibling incest, J Sociol 13:128-50, p139-40