In a previously unpublished study dated 1943, Benedict (1952:p29) states: “No attention is paid to the boy baby’s play with his genitals or any erection.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) 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): “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”.
“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 has pointed out that the adage “Children should be seen and not heard”, is carried to an extreme in Thai culture”.
Textor (1973) 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) states that children observe parental intercourse, and are genitally teased after disrobing.
et al. (1997) 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
Pongthai (1990/1992) 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), 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.
As indicated through interviews with 11-14-year-olds, 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.
“[…] 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”.
D. F., Growing Up Sexually.
Last revised: Jan 2005
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