(Boylove Documentary Sourcebook) - On the East Bay Islanders of Melanesia

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View of Graciosa Bay, Santa Cruz Island (Santa Cruz Group), 1906.

From "Sexual Patterns and Their Regulation in a Society of the Southwest Pacific" by William H. Davenport, in Sex and Behavior, edited by Frank A. Beach (Huntington, New York: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1974), originally published in the United States of America in 1965 by John Wiley & Sons.

Note: "East Bay Islanders" is a pseudonym applied by Davenport to the inhabitants of the Nabakaenga District of Graciosa Bay on Nendö (Santa Cruz Island),[1] in the present-day Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands.

For men, homosexual relations constitute another important and socially approved substitute for heterosexual intercourse. At some time during his life, very nearly every male engages in extensive homosexual activities. Such experiences are readily and openly discussed for they are considered to be as normal as masturbation and marital intercourse. Homosexual activity usually begins with foreplay which consist of mutual or unilateral masturbation and ends with anal intercourse culminating in orgasm.

There are two categories of homosexual relationships: those between young single men of the same age group, and those involving older men and boys from seven to perhaps eleven years of age. With young men of the same age, homosexual interaction occurs between persons who are merely good friends, sometimes between brothers. One partner assumes the passive role when the other requests it, and subsequently the favor is returned. Men who behave thus are not regarded as homosexual lovers. They are simply friends or relatives, who, understanding each other’s needs and desires, accommodate one another thus fulfilling some of the obligations of kinship and friendship. The usual relationship between older men and young boys is quite different. The man always plays the active role, and it is considered obligatory for him to give the boy presents in return for accommodating him. A man would not engage his own son in such a relationship, but fathers do not object when friends use their young sons in this way, provided the adult is kind and generous.

Young men usually engage in homosexual behavior privately in the bush, or sometimes in the men’s house at night. These relations are not discussed openly, but neither are they concealed. They are treated as private, confidential, and privileged matters between friends. When young men leave the island to work on plantations, homosexual partnerships become more obvious and there is less attempt to keep them private, for life in the barracks or labor lines, as they are called on the plantation, is in all ways far less formal that it is back home in a men’s house at East Bay.

Older men who select young boys for sex partners always have contact with them privately in the bush, never in the men’s house. In any event, the boys usually are too young to be living there. Boys discuss their homosexual activities freely and without shame in the presence of their parents and friends. It is considered a kind of duty to obligingly accede to the demands of an older man, and boys consider themselves well rewarded if they are rewarded with a stick of tobacco or some other valuable article of trade goods they would not otherwise be able to obtain.

For the mature man, self-masturbation is considered an immature form of behavior representing a continuation of natural childish habits into adulthood. In contrast, anal intercourse is classified as adult behavior. Infantile masturbation without orgasm; then juvenile masturbation with orgasm and ejaculation; then anal intercourse with an age mate; and finally anal intercourse with a young boy are all seen as appropriate forms of sexual activity for males of different ages. Older men and particularly those of high social standing, deny deriving any pleasure from masturbation. This type of sexual behavior is not befitting their position. For comparable reasons a young man does not engage a younger boy as his sex partner, for to do so openly would be presumptuous and not in keeping with his age-appropriate social position.

Boy from Nendö Island wearing a headdress decorated with flowers.


  1. Stephen O. Murray, Pacific Homosexualities (San Jose, California: Writers Club Press, 2002), p. 254.

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