Siamese: (2+,2+,2+,3+,





(Thai/Siamese, Akha/Meo)


Rural Thai (Siamese)


In a previously unpublished study dated 1943, Benedict (1952:p29)[1] states: “No attention is paid to the boy baby’s play with his genitals or any erection. The child is certainly not punished”. From age eight or nine, the children, girls more strictly than boys, go clothed, boys go to the monks’ school. Hanks (1963)[2] stated that “[i]nformation on human sexual matters was gathered by the young sometimes by accidental observation of parents and others, through hints from hearing cursing, and by conversations with grandparents, older siblings, and friends of the same sex”. DeYoung (1956:p55)[3]: “The village child learns about sex early. For he sleeps in the same room with his parents until he is ten or twelve years old. Children often play with themselves, and boys are not punished for playing with their genitals, although if they continue to do this as they grow older, they are ridiculed by their playmates. Sex play between boys and girls is rare, for children segregate into their own sex groups at an early age and keep to this segregation until their early teens”.

Kaufman (1960:p148-9)[4]:


“The Bangkhuad child is exposed to sex at a very early age. Sleeping in the same room with his parents, as is so often the case, he cannot avoid noticing their actions from time to time. As soon as a girl is old enough to sit up, she is given a silver public apron (taping) which she wears until she is old enough to wear skirts. Mothers quite often, when feeding or playing with their young sons, will tickle them in the area of their genetalia. Young children up to the age of five or six run around nude, so that sex differentiation is something of which all children are aware. Children witness births and constantly overhear jokes and references to sex made by older children and adults. It is interesting to note that children are never asked to leave the room, regardless of the topic of conservation. Yet never do they enter the conversation, or make any remarks whatsoever. Sharp[5] has pointed out that the adage “Children should be seen and not heard”, is carried to an extreme in Thai culture”.


Textor (1973)[6] mentioned that “coital statues are a principal means by which children have traditionally learned the details of the standard culturally prescribed coital pose between humans. During a period of drought in the prewar era, young boys up to the age of about fifteen would sometimes sculpt these statues just for fun, or in order to wait surreptitiously and watch the embarrassment of maidens who happened along the path and stumbled onto the statues”. Visser (1978:p200)[7] states that children observe parental intercourse, and are genitally teased after disrobing.


Taywaditep et al. (1997)[8] stated that “[l]ike parents in many other cultures, most Thai parents do not educate their children about sexuality, and when children ask about sex, they are likely to avoid answering or they provide incorrect information. Since parents are unlikely to display affection in front of their children, role-modelling of affection between the genders is usually derived not from parents, but from literature or the media. […] Sexuality education was introduced in Thai schools in 1978. Although the curriculum has been revised over the years, it has been limited to reproductive issues and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). As in many other countries, sexuality education in Thailand has been rarely taught in a comprehensive manner”. Lyttleton (1999:p33-5)[9] observed that traditional forms of adolescent courtship were giving way to the rule of motorcycles, discos and soft-core sex movies at village fairs and travelling shows. However, premarital sex is still widely construed as a steppingstone to marriage.


Pongthai (1990/1992)[10] noted that during the eighties, masturbarche took place at age 13.9 (SD=2.3); for some reason, the data on female students could not be calculated. The first sex dream occurred at mean age 14.3 (SD=1.9). First heterosexual coital engagement and homosexual contact occurred at ages 18 and 17, respectively. According to another study by Chompootaweep et al. (1991)[11], many more male students (42 percent) than female students (6 percent) reported having masturbated. The modal age of first masturbatory experience was 13 years. Adolescents were likely to maintain negative attitudes about masturbation, viewing it as “unnatural”, or citing myths about masturbation, such as a belief that it causes sexually transmitted diseases. Thai male adolescents eagerly look forward to their first intercourse and, as its slang term (khuen khruu) roughly implies, a learning process with someone sexually experienced. For many young Thai men, this practice continues beyond their first sexual experience, and commercial sex becomes a bachelor’s recreation. On the other hand, young women are supposed to be virgins until they are married.

In Northern Thailand, the median age of first sexual intercourse for never-married males was typically 17.5 (VanLandingham et al., 1993:p302)[12].


As indicated through interviews with 11-14-year-olds[13], in childhood socialisation, girls were undergoing an important training to be ‘feminine’ and a wife and mother, which is embedded in her conscious and unconscious development. These young girls entered the preadolescent period with ambiguous feelings about their gender stereotypes. The girls also enter their sexual lives with silence and with the ambivalence associated with being a woman. Most of young girls experienced negative and shameful feelings about their changing bodies and menarche. They have difficulty in understanding their own developing bodies. Premarital sexual relations and dating were the topics about which mothers, grandmothers, and teachers most frequently disciplined their young girls. Inadequate learning from their parents or other adults has led them to explore sexuality from media, pornographic materials, friends, and by peeking at others’ bodies.


Among Hmong, Mien, and Lahu hilltribes, premarital sex seems “still culturally permissive” or at least “wide-spread”[14].


“[…] Thai children have been brought up with the belief that good women should be restrained with the opposite sex and they should be virgins at marriage to reflect this good behaviour . Therefore, young girls should rak nual saguan tua ‘reserve themselves’, which can be expressed by the way they dress or how they interact with the opposite sex […]some parents need to be careful not to be heard by their children during sexual intercourse, as it is common for the children to sleep next to them until quite a late age. […]The Educational Technique Department of the Ministry of Education explored the opinions about sexual discussions between parents and children. They found that 2 out of 3 parents (65 per cent) intended to deliver sex education to the children by themselves but they were not confident and did not know how to do it properly. This finding suggests that a sex education program is important to prepare readiness and encourage appropriate sexual attitudes in the parents”[15].



Age Stratified Patterns


Thailand has no recognised historical account of age-“stratified” categories. In the case of Thai “child” prostitution, few ethnographies are undertaken integrating aspects of childhood and sexuality[16]. Mathews[17], writing in 1987, stated that the “Western ideology that boys are unwillingly or unwittingly exploited by men” could be considered “idiosyncratically Western”. Contemporary Thai attitudes toward “paedophilia” seem to be rather negative (Jackson, 1989:p19, 104, 131-2, 135-7, 147-8, 225)[18]. However, others argued that Thai society “[…] has little antipathy to age-graded relationships, an age of consent for males was first established (with little publicity) in 1987, at 15”[19]. In a study[20] on Thai sex workers based on interview groups in selected brothels, only 0.4% had their “first sexual experience” under 10, 15.2% between 11 and 14, while 52.2% had between 15-17. Fifty one per cent had lost their virginity in the brothels; the figures on early teenage intercourse are much lower than many figures in the US. In Manila, most male prostitutes are ages 12-20 - much younger than their clients, who are said to be predominantly Western tourists.






Additional references:


§         Baker, S. (2000)The changing situation of child prostitution in NorthernThailand: A study of Changwat Chiang Rai. ECPAT [fulltext at]

§         Ford, N. J. & Kittisuksathit, S. (1994) Destinations unknown: the gender construction and changing nature of the sexual expressions of Thai youth, AIDS Care 6,5:517-31

§         Montgomery, H. (2000) Abandonment and Child Prostitution in a Thai Slum Community in Thailand. In C. Panter-Brick & M. Smith (Eds.) The Abandonment of Children. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press

§         Montgomery, H. (2001b) Children, Identity and Prostitution in a Tourist Resort in Thailand. In K. Kempadoo (Ed.). Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition. Routledge

§         Montgomery, H. (2001c) Return of the White Slave Trade? A comparison of Victorian England's and contemporary Thailand's reaction to child prostitution. Under consideration by Current Anthropology

§         Montgomery, H. (2001d) Pattaya and Child Prostitution as a Form of Cultural Crisis in Thailand. In Collected Papers of the Sixth International Conference on Thai Studies. ChiangMaiUniversity Press

§         Montgomery, H. (2001e) Child Prostitution in Thailand. Occasional Paper no. 8 published by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, Cardiff, Wales

§         Montgomery, H. (2001f) Child Sex Tourism in Thailand, in David Harrison (Ed.) Tourism and the Less Developed World Issues and Case Studies. 2nd ed. New York: CABI, p191-202

§         Montgomery, H. (2001g) Imposing Rights? - A Case Study of Child Prostitution in Thailand. In J. Cowan, M. Benidicte Dembour, & R. Wilson (Eds.) Culture and Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

§         Montgomery, H. (2001h) Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand. Oxford, England: Berghahn Press [review in American Ethnologist 30, 2; May 2003]

§         Montgomery, H. (2001i) Motherhood, fertility and ambivalence among young prostitutes in Thailand. In S. Tremayne (Ed.). Fertility and Reproduction. Berghahn

§         Montgomery, H. (2004) Transgressive child sex in Thailand: metaphor or morality tale? 8th EASA [European Association of Social Anthropologists] Conference, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, September 8th to 12th

§         O'Connell Davidson, J. & Taylor, J. S. (1994) Child Prostitution and Sex Tourism: Thailand. ECPAT []


§         Sorajjakool, S. (2003) Child Prostitution in Thailand--Listening to Rahab. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc.,




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

Last revised: Jan 2005


[1]Benedict, R. (1952) Thai Culture and Behavior. Ithaca, New York: CornellUniversity

[2] Hanks, J. R. (1963) Maternity and its Ritual in Bang Chan. Ithaca, New York: CornellUniversity, Department of Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program. See p12

[3] DeYoung, J. E. ([1955] 1956) Village Life in Modern Thailand. Berkeley [etc.]: University of California Press

[4] Kaufman, H. K. (1960) Bangkhaud: A Community Study in Thailand. Locust Valley, New York: Association for Asian Studies

[5] See p86

[6] Textor, R. B. (1973) Roster of the Gods: An Ethnography of the Supernatural in a ThaiVillage. New Haven, Conn.: HRAF

[7] Visser, A. P. R. (1978) Een Dorp in de Centrale Vlakte van Thailand.  Dissertation, University of Utrecht, Holland

[8] Taywaditep, K. J., Coleman, E. & Dumronggittigule, P. (1997) Thailand, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York: Continuum, Vol. 2. Quoted from the online edition

[9] Lyttleton, Ch. (1999) Changing the rules: shifting bounds of adolescent sexuality in Northeast Thailand, in Jackson, P. A. & Cook, N. M. (Eds.) Gender & Sexualities in Modern Thailand. Bangkok: Silworm, p28-42

[10] Pongthai, S. (1990) Sexual experience and sexual orientation among Ramathibodi medical students, Thailand, J Med Assoc Thai 73, Suppl 1:81-6; Pongthai, S. (1992) First masturbation, sex dream, coitus and homosexual contact of Thai medical students, in Bezemer, W. et al.  (Eds.) Sex Matters. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica, p177-9

[11] Chompootaweep, S., Yamarat, K., Poomsuwan, P. & Dusitsin, N. (1991) A Study of Reproductive Health in Adolescence of Secondary School Students and Teachers in Bangkok, Thai J Health Res 5,2

[12] VanLandingham, M. J., Suprasert, S., Sittiitrai, W., Vaddhanaphuti, Ch. & Grandjean, N. (1993) Sexual Activity Among Never-Married Men in Northern Thailand, Demography 30,3:297-313

[13] Fongkaew, W. (1995) Early Adolescent Girls in Transition in a Peri-Urban Northern Thai Community: Perceptions of Gender Role and Sexuality. Diss., University of Washington

[14] Omori, K. (1999) [Knowledge about AIDS and risk behaviors among hill tribes in northern Thailand], Nippon Koshu Eisei Zasshi 46,6:466-75

[15] Im-em, W. & Siriratmongkhon, K. (2002) Gender and Pleasure: Exploration of Sex Gadgets, Penile Implants and RelatedBeliefs in Thailand. Presented at the 2nd meeting of the Gender and Sexuality Working Group, Atlet Century Park Hotel, Jakarta, Indonesia, 14-17 July 2002

[16] E.g., Montgomery, H. (1996/7) Public Vice and Private Virtue: Child Prostitution in Pattaya, Thailand. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK. See also under Additional references supra

[17] Mathews, P. W. (1987) Some Preliminary Observations of Male Prostitution in Manila, Philippine Sociol Rev 35,3-4:55-74

[18]Jackson, P. A. (1989) Male Homosexuality in Thailand. Meppel: Krips Repro/ Global Academic Publishers

[19] Puterbaugh, G. (1990) Thailand, in Dynes, W. R. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York & London: Garland Publ. Inc. Vol II, p1288-20, at p1289

[20] Podhisita, C., Pramualratana, K., Uraiwan, Wawer, M. & McNamara, R. (1993) Socio-Cultural Context of Commercial Sex Workers in Thailand, Paper presented at the IUSSP Working Group on AIDS: Seminar on AIDS Impact and Prevention in the Developing World