Growing Up Sexually



IndexPacificsMicronesiaCaroline Islands Ulithi



Lessa (1966[1]:p78, 80, 82, 84-5, 87-8, 91, 98-9; 1977:p199, 201-2, 212-3)[2] provides a detailed coverage of Ulithian childhood sexual socialisation. In the context of pi supuhui village “holiday”, “Small children pair off [as do all age sets] but they are usually made to keep at a distance from their elders. The play of these children is noncoital and considered to be innocuous, as it usually is, but it may go so far as to imitate the amorous words, caressing and embracing of men and women. Youngsters may even explore one another’s genitals”. Still, “[h]eterosexual explorations begin early in the preadolescent years among companions of approximately the same age. […]Genital exhibition is [given the rule of nudity] rendered meaningless, and the children proceed directly to the inspection of one another’s sexual parts. Manipulation is usually confined at first to mere touching and does not ordinarily develop into truly mastabatory [sic] contacts. [...] Mouth-genital contacts appear to be rare, but genital apposition is not uncommon. Having in many instances witnessed copulation by their parents, the children may make clumsy efforts at penetration, but vaginal entries are rare and limited for the most part to finger insertion. Much of the sex play of young children comes when they are in mixed groups and have occasions to pair off, as when playing a game of hide-and-seek. There may be some hugging and tickling, and by the time of adolescence this may become a light petting” (1966:p88; 1977:p201-2). Nevertheless, “a boy may be warned that “if he plays with a girls genital she will bleed, sicken, and die; a girl is warned that if she handles the phallus of a boy he may be injured and perhaps die” (p212-3).












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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Lessa, W.A. (1966) Ulithi: A Micronesian Design for Living. ProspectHeights: Waveland Press, Inc.

[2] Lessa, W. A. (1977) Ulithi: a Micronesian design for living, in Spindler, G. & Spindler, L. (Eds.) Cultures Around the World: Five Cases. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston