IES: Turkey




TURKEY (Kurds)


IndexMiddle East Turkey




The genital reference in infancy is well documented.


Delaney (1991:p78-9)[1] stated that infants’ “penises were kissed and stroked […] grandparents and parents fondled their genitals and repeated: “You are male, you are male” ”. Blowing on the penis is done to encourage urination. Female genitals and masturbation are ignored. Olsen (1981:p108)[2] saw her daughter’s “sugar box” “kissed lovingly” by a Turkish maid/nurse and was urged to do the same “as a part of appropriate “mothering” ”. Olson-Prather (1976:p278)[3] noted that a teenage neighbour girl of the elite class expressed verbal but not physical admiration. Bilge, another American researcher told Olson[4] that this was common among recent and earlier Turkish immigrants near Detroit, Michigan. Helling (1960:p87-8)[5] described that old women may snatch at the penises of little boys as they run by in the nude, threatening to cut them off, but also in apparent celebration of his incipient virility.


As can be examined in a revealing article by Unal (1994; 2000)[6] on Turkish children, clinicians are apparently still out to “identify children who could be at risk of developing CM [childhood masturbation], such as children with a history of insufficient breastfeeding, sleep difficulties in the infancy period, and genito-urinary diseases” [ital.add.].


Observers of 19th century Istanbul mention prenatal betrothal, while the occurrence of pubescent marriage, (although some mention marriage ages for girls of twelve and fourteen) was found to be dubious by Duben (1990:p420)[7]. Among the Black Sea Turks, there is mention of female infant betrothal, the practice of the groom’s family rearing the betrothed female infant, the wearing of corsets by virgins and their removal by the groom on the wedding night (Meeker, 1971:p330, n1)[8]. Pelin (1999)[9] discussed the custom of virginity tests[10].

While 50.8% of female Turkish students believed their knowledge about sexuality was adequate, on evaluating the results, this did not live up to researchers’ standards[11]. Girlfriends were found to be the most important source of sexual knowledge. The study indicated that 88.8% of the girls wanted to have sexual education at schools and 60.5% of those preferred to take such a lecture together with boys.


As excerpted from Aydin and Gülçat (2001)[12] (read in full: IES, a decidedly clinical entry):


“According to Islam, puberty is a stage when a child is ready to take on some adult responsibilities. As a part of this, while adolescent girls are expected to behave and dress as mature women, every male child should be circumcised before he reaches puberty as a step into manhood. In the traditional context, sünnet (circumcision) is usually performed by a “sünnetçi,” always a male, who has been trained and is experienced in circumcision but does not have a medical degree. During the operation, which usually takes place at home, the kirve (a close friend of the father or a male relative) holds the child, and the sünnetçi conducts the operation, usually without any anesthetics if performed in the traditional way. Great importance is attached to this ritual in traditional Turkey, as it is accepted as a step into manhood. A special feast is prepared, and the child is dressed in a white gown and a cap adorned with decorations. Following the operation, he is laid down in a decorated bed while prayers are said and visitors bring in presents and are offered food and sherbet. Sünnet is a religious rule, although many people believe that it is also a requirement for healthy sexuality, both in the medical and functional sense. As a result of this, if the child is born in a hospital, many parents now prefer the operation to take place in the hospital setting, a few days after birth, out of hygienic as well as economic concerns.

Although circumcision is an obligation for males according to Islamic rules, it is also seen in many pre-Islamic cultures and religious practices. The age of circumcision in Islam varies from birth to adolescence, while Turkish boys are mostly circumcised between 3 and 6 years of age (Öztürk 1963). As is well known, this period has been regarded as a critical stage in terms of psychosexual development, and circumcision at this age might be deleterious for later stages of development. Öztürk, who studied this phenomenon in Turkish males, found no evidence to support the hypothesis that circumcision at an early age (or during the phallic stage) might have a negative effect later on. […] Case histories of psychiatric patients sometimes reveal homoerotic activity during childhood, although empirical studies for this period are not available. On the other hand, a number of retrospective studies with late adolescent male homosexuals and transsexuals imply that, in both groups, the first sexual experience occurs at an early age. Most transsexuals and about a third of homosexuals reported that they had their first sexual experience before age 12 (Gülçat et al. 1988; Inci 1993). These studies also show that sexual intercourse is mostly initiated by the youths, that is, without being forced, which seems particularly to be the case for transsexuals”. (read in full: IES)




Further reading:









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] Delaney, C. (1991) The Seed and the Soil. Berkeley (etc.): University of California Press

[2] Olson, E. A. (1981) Socioeconomic and psychocultural contexts of child abuse and neglect in Turkey, in Korbin, J. (Ed.) Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p96-119

[3] Cited by Olson (1981:p108), op.cit.

[4] Olson (1981:p108n), op.cit.

[5] Cited by Olson (1981:p108), op.cit.

[6] Unal, F. (2000) Predisposing factors in childhood masturbation in Turkey, Eur J Pediatr 159:338-42. The author also refers to a 1994 article in Turkish.

[7] Duben, A. (1990) Household Formation in Late Ottoman Istanbul, Int J Middle East Stud 22,4:419-35

[8] Meeker, M. E. (1971) The Black Sea Turks: Some Aspects of Their Ethnic and Cultural Background, Int J Middle East Stud 2,4:318-45

[9] Pelin, S. Th. (1999) The question of virginity testing in Turkey, Bio-Ethics 13,3-4:256-61

[10] See further Parla, A. (2001) The “honor” of the state: virginityexaminations in Turkey, Feminist Studies 27,1:65-88; Decker, D. C. (1998) A broken promise: the continued use of virginitycontrol examinations in Turkey, Buffalo Human Rights Law Rev 4:317-40

[11] Vicdan, K., Kukner, S., Dabakoglu, T., Ergin, T., Keles, G. & Gokmen, O. (1996) Demographic and epidemiologic features of female adolescents in Turkey, J Adolesc Health 18,1:54-8

[12] Aydin, H. & Gülçat, Z. (2001) Turkey, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.-in-chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. 4. New York: Continuum. Online ed.