For this Indian people of northern Colombia, “[p]uberty rites are observed for both sexes, and formerly both boys and girls were initiated sexually by older persons at the conclusion of such rites. Now only boys are so initiated. Married couples also observe a taboo against sexual intercourse indoors.”
There have been many books and articles written about whether American children have or should have initiation rites. Some have suggested that obtaining a driver’s license or going on a first date or having one’s first period are the closest we have to a rite of passage.This raises a couple of questions for me:
1) Should there be a clear demarcation between childhood and adulthood? Do rites of passage serve a legitimate purpose even in modern societies?
2) Should such rites be sexual in nature? I can imagine anthropologists arguing that without such rites, sex is cheapened in our culture, with a cascade of consequences. Perhaps our birth of sexuality is too significant to ignore or to relegate to happenstance, and sexuality should be elevated above other bodily functions as eating, drinking and like eliminating waste. Like most people, however, I find the idea of adults sexually initiating children to be repulsive. There should be some other way to restore sexuality to something like sacredness.
3) If we had rites of passage, would we have fewer people in their 20’s living at home with their parents? Would we have fewer adults playing video games?
I certainly get a sense that Americans are infantilized far beyond their childhood years. If you don’t think so, contrast what 14-years do today versus what they did in other times and places. Throughout most of world history, it was very common for people to be married at around the age of 14 . (A prominent example of this would be Joseph and Mary in the Bible.) Another 8th grader doing significant things was John Quincy Adams. “By age 14, John Quincy was receiving ‘on-the-job’ training in the diplomatic corps and going to school. In 1781, he accompanied diplomat Francis Dana to Russia, serving as his secretary and translator (Biography.com).” I have a hard time imagining any junior high school students doing such responsible things as establishing a household or learning to be a diplomat.
The other interesting thing in this article was the taboo against indoor sex. I wonder if outdoor sex ensures a good year for hunting or crops.