Growing Up Sexually



IES: Indonesia




(-,-,3-,3-,2,2;8,8; D4,1)eHRAF

TORADJA (Indonesia)


IndexIndonesiaToradja, Toraja




Child betrothals being common, Nobele (acc. vP)[1] observed on Makale that betrothed children were allowed to live in a single residence but are forbidden to sleep as a couple until of marriageable age. “Formerly, women often married shortly after menarche, while men generally married in the late teens or early twenties” (Hollan & Wellenkamp, p96). Adriani and Kruyt (1912 [1951:p619])[2] note the following on the Toradja of Central Celebes (Sulawesi): “At an early age the child knows everything concerning sexual life, for all of these things are discussed freely by the parents in the presence of the children, and the latter are present at a confinement from the beginning to the end. From an early age the child is familiar with the secrets of sexual life, and as soon as its senses begin to speak and the impulse reveals itself from within, it yields to the act without any self-restraint”[3]. Downs (1956:p77)[4] agreed that “[…] it was not uncommon for girls to have sexual intercourse before they menstruated for the first time”. Hollan and Wellenkamp (1996:p72)[5] quoting a mother: “Often when a boy is sleeping with other children, …he may put his legs around [another child] or pillow, and he does it [thrusts as in intercourse]… but he doesn’t even know what he’s doing […] We don’t say anything […] If he’s just pretending, you know?”.


Two accounts of Toradja puberty are given:


“Boys and girls reach sexual maturity inconspicuously. There is no festivity or ceremony in connection with the transition to marriageable age. When a girl has her teeth shortened (among the To Poe’oe-mboto the teeth are knocked out), this is evidence that one may have a love affair with her. This does not apply to boys: they do not have their teeth shortened until a later age, when they are seriously considering marriage. Before this time they have already enjoyed the free association with girls that the adat permits them. […] For girls the onset of menstruation is certain evidence of their sexual maturity, but many have already had love affairs before that time. No special notice is taken of the onset of the menses” (Adriani & Kruijt).


“Boys were incised (montindi, mopatindi) anywhere from their sixth to fifteenth year. If a boy had had sexual intercourse before the operation, however, it was thought to be dangerous both for him and the operator and could have harmful effects on the rice plants. […] Boys had their teeth shortened when they felt they had grown up, at any rate after they were incised and before they were married. It was more dangerous, however to operate on a boy who had already had sexual intercourse, and therefore only some one who had killed an enemy could safely do it” (Downs).


Among the Sigi-Toradjanamed To Bada, as described by Woensdregt[6], a girl begins to seek social intercourse with equally aged boys after her teeth have been knocked out. “According to some the girl begins to socialise with young men after her second menses. However, according to others menstruation would be a cause of the making out” [“Volgens anderen zouden de menses juist een gevolg zijn van de vrijage”] (p246; cf. Atjeh). Child marriage (p256-7) per se is inexistent, though parents do negotiate marriages at this age. As is sexual life concerned (W., p265-6), it is observed that “Het grijpen van een jongen naar de genitaliën van zijn kameraad (mombekoko) is een gewoon verschijnsel. Evenzoo de meisjes onderling. Maar ook meisjes en jongens doen dit wederkeerig, en vaak blijft het niet alleen bij mombekoko. Meestal gaat de verleiding uit van het meisjes”[7]. The elderly argue that “Ze spelen wat met elkaar; ze moeten toch iets hebben aan hun verloving!”[8]. Another form is called mombekatehoebe’i, translated as “met elkaar ergens tegenaan komen, over struikelen” (to stumble upon something together, DJ). When the boy “pays” her (e.g., a mirror), he cannot be fined afterwards.






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] Nobele, E. A. J., Tijdschr Indische Taal-, Land- & Volkenk [Dutch] 66; Van Praag, p521-2

[2] Adriani, N. & Kruijt, A. C. (1912) De Bare’e-Sprekende Toradja’s van Midden-Celebes. Batavia: Landsdrukkerij. Translated (1951) as The Bare’e-Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes (the East Toradja).Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij. Vol. 2

[3] “For girls the onset of menstruation is certain evidence of their sexual maturity, but many have already had love affairs before that time” (p385).

[4]Downs, R. E. (1956) The Religion of the Bare’e-Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes.The Hague [Holland]: Uitgeverij Excelsior

[5] Hollan, D. W. & Wellenkamp, J. C. (1996) The Thread of Life: Toradja Reflections of the Life Cycle. Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press

[6] Woensdregt, J. (1929) Verloving en huwelijk bij de To Badja’ in Midden Celebes, in Bijdragen […] 85:245-90; Van Praag, p494

[7] “Boys’ grabbing at their comrad’s genitalia (mombekoko) is a common occurrence. The same for girls amongst each other. However, boys and girls practice the same mutually, and often the thing doesn’t end with mombekoko. The initiative lies often with the girls” [DJ].

[8] “They play a little among each other; they’ve got to profit from their engagement somehow!” [DJ].