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three pairs of lovers with space



The Marquesas Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean were settled by Polynesians from the 11th century, conquered by the French in the late 19th century and incorporated by them into French Polynesia.

The following extracts about the Marquesans are from Robert Carl Suggs (born 1932) is an American anthropologistRobert C. Suggs, Marquesan Sexual Behavior, by Robert Carl Suggs (born 1932), an American anthropologist, published in London in 1966. He says that to gather his knowledge for it, “a total of twelve months was spent in the Marquesas archipelago (June to September 1956, and July 1957 to April 1958)”, mostly on the main island of Nuku Hiva.  “An effort was made to collect whatever information was available on the almost extinct native culture of the Marquesans and on various aspects of their present way of life.”

Everything is here reported which Suggs had to say about homosexuality involving boys, though much of this seems to have been sex between adolescents that was not pederastic in character: the distinction is not usually clear.

To understand the context of what he reported about Greek love, it may be helpful to note his observations that the Marquesans were then devoutly Catholic (p. 9); masturbation by boys was usual from the age of three with competitions from the age of six (pp. 44-6); girls had been fully sexually active from the age of eight  in the 18th century (pp. 51-2), but were no longer so before pubescence at eleven or twelve (p. 63); boys were ready for heterosex after superincision between the ages of twelve and fourteen (pp. 58-9), and their first full sexual experiences were usually in groups visiting receptive married women in their 30s or 40s during the absence of their husbands (p. 61).

The footnotes refer to the author’s bibliography.


Chapter 4. Puberty and adolescence

Autoeroticism, Homosexuality, and Animal Contacts

In adolescence, homosexuality among males still appears – possibly with increased frequency although this is impossible to determine objectively. An explanation of “homosexual” in Marquesan terms is necessary before proceeding further. Although we will discuss under this general rubric all the behaviour that our society would label as homosexual, the Marquesans divide their behavioral continuum differently, in terms of frequency and habituation. Acts of homosexuality are accepted as a substitute for heterosexual relations in time of scarcity of women and as especially characteristic of adolescent behaviour. On the other hand, habitual homosexuality, in which female company is eschewed almost entirely and male lovers are taken, earns the appellation of mahu (deviate). Such conduct in the male is usually associated with transvestitism to varying degrees, assumption of female economic roles and feminine posture, gait, and motions. A transvestite is known as mahu’o hiva (homosexual of the ridgepole), referring to his abiding around the house in the performance of female chores. Transvestitism will be discussed at more length in the following chapter.

Pederasty and mutual masturbation occur among normal male adolescents. Isolated male groups will often become stímulated by their sexual talk and horseplay that these practîces will be indulged in. In pederasty, as in masturbation, the penis is moistened with saliva before introduction.

Masturbation contests occur in adolescence, as at earlier age levels. Fellatio is apparently uncommon in “normal” male homosexual behavior, but is considered characteristic of the behaviour of the mahu or homosexual deviate.

Marquesan home life, Taio Hae, Nuku Hiva

There are still a number of valleys on the major islands of the archipelago in which the population is quite small and the females available as sexual partners are either few or completely absent. If adolescent boys are present in these valleys, they must either travel to other valleys at night to find girls, which may be difficult and dangerous, or they must indulge in homosexual relations, incest, or animal contacts. Ho’oumi, one such valley that I visited on Huku Hiva, had a population of thirty-five people. There were five or six adolescent boys, two unmarried girls who were sisters to the boys, and one married but available girl. The girls were all carefully supervised by their parents and in-laws, and contacts were nearly impossible for the boys. The boys had formed a loose group for work and recreatíon which also served as the center for homosexual activities. During the period in which we conducted excavations in the valley, we had excellent opportunities to observe this group. They generally retired to the interior of the heavily overgrown valley for homosexual activities in the afternoon. Their activities were well known to the workmen, who often chided them, asking who had played the girl's role that day. [pp. 84-5]

Homosexuality and Animal Contacts

Marquesan boy

Homosexual activity, at least for males, was characteristic of aboriginal culture, according to Linton (1934, p. 173),[1] Handy (1923, p. 103),[2] and Crook (Danielsson, 1956a, p. 148).[3] No information is available on female homosexual practices. Then, as at present, there was no stigma attached to casual homosexuality. The habitual homosexual and/or transvestite (mahu) who prefers homosexual to heterosexual relations may have been stigmatized, but no data exist on this point. [p. 124]


Chapter 5. Marriage and adulthood

Extramarital Relations

Homosexuality involving married individuals is rare and practiced only under conditions of prolonged enforced abstinence. There is some indication that adult males prefer younger boys for this purpose. The preference is frequently verbalized, the observation being made that young boys have softer bodies, more like those of girls. Such contacts are casual and fleeting, and do not lead to any permanent relationship between the parties involved. Permanent relationships are considered to be characteristic of the deviant mahu or male homosexual, and are regarded as unnatural.

There are relatively few mahu in the archipelago. … [p. 121]

Chapter 8. The Marquesas and Polynesia

A valid dimension for comparison is that of the possible sexual outlets available to an individual. We will consider here masturbation, homosexuality, bestiality, and heterosexual relations.

The data on masturbation are limited. […]

The Marquesas islands

Homosexuality is common throughout Polynesia, being noted in Easter Island, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, the Australs, Puka Puka, Tonga, Tikopia, and the Cooks in one form or another (Métraux, 1940;[4] Danielsson, 1956, p. 148;[5] Mead, 1949, p.68;[6] Ch. 10; Beaglehole, 1941, p. 286;[7] Gifford, 1929, p.203;[8] Firth, 1936, p. 495;[9] Beaglehole, 1957, p. 191[10]). In the groups for which the most detailed information exists, homosexuality is used as a casual form of sexual outlet in adolescence. Perversion, defined culturally as an exclusively homosexual orientation, occurred throughout Polynesia, but in relatively small numbers in any one place. Transvestitism seems to have been a sanctioned form of behavior for perverts in most Polynesian societies. Nowhere in Polynesia does there seem to be any severe punishment meted out for homosexual activity. On the other hand, there are no instances currently known to the writer in which homosexuality was institutionalized as it has been among the people of Malekula, in the New Hebrides (Layard, 1942, p. 486[11]). [pp. 173-4]


[1] Linton, R. 1934 – “Marquesan Culture.” In The Individual and his Society. Kardiner, A., ed. Columbia niversity Press, New York.

Map of the Marquesas islands 1827

[2] Handy ESC 1923 – The Native Cultures of the Marquesas. Bulletin, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, No. 9, Honolulu.

[3] Danielsson, B. 1956a – Love in the South Seas. Allen and Unwin, London.

[4] Métraux, A. 1940 – The Ethnology of Easter Island. Bulletin, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, No. 160, Honolulu.

[5] [Nonsensical reference by the author]

[6] [seems to refer to:] Mead, M. 1944 – Coming of Age in Samoa. Penguin Books, London.

[7] Beaglehole, E. and Beaglehole, P. 1941 – “Personality Development in Pukapukan Children.” In Language, Culture and Personality. Spier, L., Hallowell, A.H., and Newman, S.S., eds., University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

[8] Gifford, E.W. 1929 – Tongan Society. Bulletin, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, No. 61, Honolulu.

[9] Firth, R. 1936 – We, The Tikopia. Allen and Unwin, London.

[10] Beaglehole, E. 1957 – Social Change in the South Pacific. The Macmillan Co., London.

[11] Layard, J.W. 1942 – Stone Men of Malekula. Chatto and Windus, London.




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