Growing Up Sexually




IndexAmericasCaribbean, Middle / Central AmericaMexicoTarahumara





After the age of seven or eight, girls no longer can play freely with boys, and become very shy for the opposite sex; parents live in fear of sexual assault upon their daughters (Fried, [1951]:p148-9, 168)[1]. Fried (1969:p868-9)[2] states that girl’s modesty begins at age 8. Male sexual intercourse begins with full tesgüinada participation.


“Girls are taught to be modest in their dress and never expose such body parts as legs, sexual organs, or breasts. Three informants stated that even in marriage the women are still careful about exposing themselves before their husbands. During sexual intercourse wives do not remove their clothes. After the age of seven or eight, girls no longer can play freely with boys. This is the age at which the work assignments of girls and boys become differentiated, the girls now spending their time aiding their mothers, and the boys assisting their fathers. It is assumed that children of this age are able to care for themselves without much supervision. Children range far from home with the herds, but young girls, unlike boys, may not go far from the house if they are unaccompanied. Parents fear that young girls will be sexually assaulted if they are alone, and they communicate this fear to their daughters. It is at this age that girls become very shy of men and boys. This attitude of shyness continues as an outstanding characteristic of the female aspect when she is in the company of a male who is not a close relative. She will never look directly into the eyes of a man, but will gaze down or gaze fixedly at some point in space with one hand against her cheek. It is during the tesguinada that this restrained reserve breaks down under the influence of corn beer, and the woman may become the initiator of the sex act. She tosses pebbles at a man to attract his attention, then walks off to some secluded spot where they can meet. All adult informants (unfortunately they were all males) believed that mothers do not instruct their daughters in matters of sex. They are apparently not even warned of the onset of menstruation, for it is said that girls then become terrified. This first menstruation is not recognized by ceremonial observances. There are no menstrual taboos placed upon women. Active sexual participation is begun with tesguinada attendance. There, from both observation and participation, or at least vicariously through conversation, the young learn of sexual matters. Children have ample opportunity to observe the behavior of adults during tesguinadas held in their houses. Girls at the Indian school of Sisoguichic stated that mothers taught them to be `ashamed' in the presence of men, not to engage in conversation with them, and not to go off with them alone into the mountains or secluded places. Masturbation by boys was acknowledged by all informants. No particular sentiment against this practice was voiced. There is a joking attitude taken toward it and it is not considered harmful” ([1951:p148-50]).








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] Fried, J. ([1951]) Ideal Norms and Social Control in Tarahumara Society. [New Haven, Conn.]: [YaleUniversity]

[2] Fried, J. (1969) The Tarahumara, in Wauchope, R. (Gen. Ed.) Handbook of Middle American Indians.Austin: University of Texas Press. Vol. 8, p846-70