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Old 11 September 2012, 05:15 PM
Dr. Flibble
 
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Default Do some cultures molest children in order to pacify them?

I have heard on more than one occasion that in some cultures, it is seen as perfectly normal and acceptable for parents and caregivers to rub their babies' privates and even fellate them in order to calm them down and help them sleep. This disturbing practice has been attributed to Japan, Albania, native Hawaiians, and parts of Latin America.

What I want to know is, does it really exist? I have my doubts. I haven't researched it, nor do I want to for obvious reasons (hence why I'm turning to you guys to do the research for me), but it smacks of urban legend to me. It goes without saying that there have always been tons of nasty rumours and outright lies about the practices of foreign cultures (particularly their sexual practices), usually meant to demonize them and justify bigotry towards them. Such myths are present even in the social sciences (perhaps especially so), and remain widespread to this day, for all that political correctness has tried to stamp them out.

I see no reason to believe that this practice is not another one of these myths. It seems suspicious for several reasons. For starters, it seems unlikely that doing something like that to a child would have the supposed effect of calming it down. Furthermore, it seems highly out of character with all the cultures to which it has been attributed (well, it might be plausible for pre-colonial native Hawaiians and Latin Americans - some of their morals were pretty bizarre by western standards, after all - but definitely not modern ones). And on top of that, I'd have thought if such a shocking practice was real, you'd hear about it more often.

For the record, I've already asked about this on Yahoo Answers (not the best source, I know). I haven't gotten many responses. A few people claimed to have at least heard of the practice, but none could clarify that it was real or that any particular culture engaged in it. The only response from a member of one of the aforementioned cultures was from a native Hawaiian, who categorically denied that they engaged in it or had ever done so at any point in their history.
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Old 11 September 2012, 05:34 PM
Ryda Wong, EBfCo. Ryda Wong, EBfCo. is offline
 
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I ran up against that claim when I read the Author's Note for Piers Anthony's Firefly. Yes. I realize there's a whole bunch of mistakes I made there (reading Piers, reading his Firefly, reading his author's note).

Since the author's note (and the text) was pretty much an homage to and an excusing of the sexually abuse of children, I took it with a large grain of salt. I've not heard it repeated in other contexts.
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Old 11 September 2012, 06:01 PM
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I've heard it ascribed to Latino (especially Cuban) culture, but no Latino person I've ever known has made a mention of it. I've never actually asked them, though. But it seems like something I would have run across at some point, living in a region with a large Latino population.
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Old 11 September 2012, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Flibble View Post
For starters, it seems unlikely that doing something like that to a child would have the supposed effect of calming it down.
I've never heard the rumor, and I doubt very highly that it is true. That being said, I do know that some children will play with their own genitals as a way of calming themselves down or releasing stress, or sometimes just out of boredom.
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Old 11 September 2012, 06:11 PM
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About 10 years ago, when I still lived in Raleigh, there was bit of a local controversy when an employee at a photo lab came across a photo of what appeared to him to be child molestation and reported it to the authorities. The subject of the photo argued that it was simply a cultural misunderstanding and he was doing was just expressing affection for his baby. The news reports obviously didn't provide a graphic description of what he was doing in the photo, but did mention that he appeared to be kissing the infant's "groin area" if I remember correctly. >>
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Old 11 September 2012, 06:14 PM
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I've even heard it stated as something that Victorian nursemaids in England used to do. I can't remember where I heard or read that claim, though.
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Old 11 September 2012, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Flibble View Post
I haven't researched it, nor do I want to for obvious reasons (hence why I'm turning to you guys to do the research for me)
Gee, thanks!

Now that I'm probably on yet another secret FBI watchlist, I did recall an incident where the Drudge Report printed some excerpts from Jim Webb's novel Lost Soldiers.

Quote:
The first quote describes a shirtless man picking up a naked boy who runs toward him. The book describes what happens after the man picks up the boy and turns him upside down. It comes from the 2001 book "Lost Soldiers."

Webb responded Friday morning on Washington Post radio. "Let me explain what that was," he said. "I actually saw this happen in a slum of Bangkok and when I was there as a journalist. A man placing his lips on his son's private parts. ... And the duty of a writer is to illuminate the surroundings.

"There is nothing that's been in any of my novels that, in my view, hasn't been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot," Webb said.
I couldn't find much else, but I remember that when the DR article came out, there were protests that it had taken these excerpts out of context, and that it was some form of greeting in rural parts of Thailand. Or something like that; cultural differences anyway.

And now to pack my bags and flee the country before I get tossed in Gitmo....

ETA: Transcultural Development Sexology: Genital Greeting Versus Child Molestation

Quote:
In America today, when an older male establishes manual contact with the genitopelvic region of an infant or child for purposes other than hygienic care, that behavior is likely to be classified as child molestation or sexual child abuse. Legally it is criminal and is subject to severe penalty. By contrast, among the Telugu-speaking people of central southern India, similar behavior toward boys may be customarily prescribed.
If I don't post again in three days, call the Canadian Embassy

Last edited by Mateus; 11 September 2012 at 07:32 PM. Reason: ETA: Article
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  #8  
Old 12 September 2012, 09:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
I've even heard it stated as something that Victorian nursemaids in England used to do. I can't remember where I heard or read that claim, though.
I'd heard it about Roman wetnurses.
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Old 12 September 2012, 01:58 PM
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I've heard a similar story about the Balinese.
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Old 12 September 2012, 02:06 PM
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So maybe it's like cannibalism: lots of people do it, but they're always far away.
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Old 12 September 2012, 02:47 PM
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I swear I read this in my Anthropology textbook, but I can't find it now. It mentioned how in Western cultures there is often a "cry it out" attitude toward infants, and in this (African tribe, I believe, although I could be very off as to location) culture letting an infant cry would be considered the most appalling child abuse.

I really wish I could find that book to look this up.
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Old 12 September 2012, 04:09 PM
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There's a world of difference between "cry it out" (which is sometimes the best option - sometimes, a kid just needs to scream*) and molesting a child.

*Not that I was ever very good at accomplishing that!
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Old 12 September 2012, 04:36 PM
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It appears to be New Guinea.
Quote:
Berndt (1962: p91): “As babies and small children their genitalia are fondled”. Mothers caress “the fleshy parts of [the infant's] body [...] and implanting breathy kisses over and over again in the region of its genital organs” (Hogbin, 1943: p298).
Quote:
Gillison (1993: p176) describes the process of masturbating infants among the Gimi:

“The mother insists upon continued contact, interrupting her toddler's play repeatedly to offer the breast. Masturbation [...] with a baby girl [occurs when] the mother or amau holds her hand over the vulva and shakes it vigorously. She may kiss the vagina [sic], working her way up the middle of the body to the lips and then inserting her nipple (often when the child has given no sign of discontent). With a boy, she kisses the penis, pulls at it with her fingers and takes it into her mouth to induce an erection. Several women may pass a baby boy back and forth, each one holding him over her head as she takes a turn sucking or holding the penis in her mouth. When the child then pulls at his own organ, the women, greatly amused, offer squeezes and pulls of their own”.
Quote:
“She is expected to masturbate him periodically to ensure the growth of his genitalia, but she must carefully avoid the excessive development of erotic “infant lust” which may injure his finiik [spirit][...]. When mothers rub the penes of their infant sons, the little boys wriggle on their mothers' laps and have erections. These tiny erections bring laughter. It is play. It will make their penes big when they are older. But “infantile lust” can become too strong and can damage the growing “spirit or life-force” (finiik) of little boys. You will see mothers and sons together in this way everywhere” (Poole, 1990: p127, 106).
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Old 12 September 2012, 07:36 PM
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I've run across this notion too, but only in novels. I can't remember the name of the book, but there was a scene where the main character as a younger child was remembering seeing a babysitter fellate a baby boy in order to calm him down when he was fussy. I remember another book which may have been The Journeyer where it was mentioned that mothers were expected to play with the penises of their young sons to encourage them to grow larger as they aged. I was never certain whether these practices were created by the imaginations of the authors or whether they really did have some historical truth to them.

The passages have always stuck in my head because the idea of deliberately doing sexual things to a baby just seems so weird and contrary to healthy parenting.
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Old 13 September 2012, 03:24 AM
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FWIW, my father would repeat this UL-sounding tale that his mother (my grandmother) told him. In Poland between the wars, my grandmother's mother worked as a nanny to a Jewish family. When their babies cried, they wouldn't do anything to pacify them. Quite the contrary - they were encouraged to cry and even pinched, to have them cry louder and longer, until they were too tired to cry and just fell asleep, exhausted. Encouraging this crying and wailing was the way to develop a good singing voice later in life. Quite the opposite of the notion that a crying child must be pacified...
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  #16  
Old 13 September 2012, 10:46 AM
Dr. Flibble
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
It appears to be New Guinea.
That site you link to seems to support claims that this practice is common among the Japanese and the Balinese. It also claims it is common among Australian Aboriginals and Mongolians. However, I'm not sure how reliable that site is.
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  #17  
Old 13 September 2012, 12:44 PM
Dr. Flibble
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
It appears to be New Guinea.
I checked the site you linked to, and it claims this practice does indeed exist in several cultures, especially among the Japanese. However, I'm still a little skeptical, as the site is a complete mess, almost incomprehensible in how sloppily it's put together, and while its written in a scientific manner and cites lots of "academic" works and studies, I'm not convinced of the veracity of these citations. Much of it is probably racist psuedoscientific drivel.
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  #18  
Old 28 September 2012, 05:22 PM
anil
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Flibble View Post
I checked the site you linked to, and it claims this practice does indeed exist in several cultures, especially among the Japanese. However, I'm still a little skeptical, as the site is a complete mess, almost incomprehensible in how sloppily it's put together, and while its written in a scientific manner and cites lots of "academic" works and studies, I'm not convinced of the veracity of these citations. Much of it is probably racist psuedoscientific drivel.
Humbolt University in Berlin is rather respected academic institution. The link is merely an archive site, and the citations are in an index that is not uncommon in many academic institutions.

What one needs to do, is chase the individual studies in the cited journals.
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Old 04 November 2012, 04:40 PM
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I've at least heard about it secondhand. Perhaps this isn't the best source, but it convinces me.

I have a friend in the Philippines who said that mothers she knows do it. Specifically, mothers suck on their infant son's genitals to calm him down when crying. She did not do it to her own baby, and described it in such a way that made it seem like she thought it was "weird but okay because it's traditional culture."

I was going to try to do a google search to find some backup for the practice being common in the Philippines, but then I decided not to do that search. I guess if you were creative you could come up with okay search terms.
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  #20  
Old 04 November 2012, 05:18 PM
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The only time I've ever heard of such behavior is among bonobos, and the documentation of that is fairly good.
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