The Sambia people- a tribe of mountain-dwelling, hunting and horticultural people who inhabit the fringes of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
They fascinate the world because of their cultural acts of ‘ritualized homosexuality’ and ‘semen ingestion’ practices by young boys.
To the tribe, drinking of semen turns boys into men- a ritual, which is a symbol of a young boy’s rite of passage to manhood. Boys between the ages of 6 to 10.
Imperative to the processes and teaching of the initial ceremony is the notion that women can be dangerous to men.
To become a man, and in essence a “warrior,” these young men are taught how to detach themselves from their mothers and the women around them as a means of showing that they can live without them and prove their masculinity.
Affirming one’s manhood can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years until these young men father a child. Much of the initiation and training is characterised by what some have deemed to be highly erotic and sexual.
PHOTO: Herdt, Gilbert. “The Sambia: Ritual, Sexuality, and Change in Papua New Guinea.”Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
The full initiation is reported to start with members of the tribe being removed from their mothers at the age of nine. This process is not always voluntary and can involve threats of death.
The children are then beaten and stabbed in their nostrils with sticks to make them bleed.
The cane stick stabbed into the boys’ nostrils may seem ‘inhumane’ to most people, because of the obvious infliction of pain and injury to the body, but for the Sambia, it is a symbol of strength and his ability to sustain pain is a needed requirement of a warrior.
In the next stage, the children are hit with stinging nettles. The boys are then dressed in ritual clothing and an attempt is made to force them to suck on ritual flutes. The boys are then taken to a cult house and older boys dance in front of them making sexual gestures.
Once it gets darker the younger boys are taken to the dancing ground where they are expected to perform fellatio on the older boys.
The act of performing fellatio and the act of ingesting semen is seen as an integral part of manhood because boys are unable to mature into men unless they ingest semen and they adhere to the notion that all men have, ‘eaten the penis’.
According to Sambia belief, the semen of a man possesses the ‘masculine spirit’, which young boys will be able to attain through his ingestion of semen.