Initiation plays important roles in the growth and development of boys. These roles are varied depending on the society. This work is about the perception of initiation and its roles in the Sambia society -- a society which initiates boys at the age of ten! The central question is, “Why age ten?” (123).
Sambia believes in plasticity of sexuality, and through initiations, boys can be taught how to control their sexuality. Initiation helps in controlling the attractions and desires thus a key tool in sexual and gender development. According to Sambia, a boy must be initiated before he is “too old” or “too big” (124). The main reasons for this include separating the boy from the mother, defeminizing the boy through ritual practices, masculinizing and preparing the boy to be a worrier, and finally regulating the boy’s sexual desires. This must be done at an age not later than ten, and any failure poses great dangers to the boy as he risks biological male development (sexual development). The society is equally endangered when the boys are not initiated at age ten.
From this observation, a question which linger into my mind is, “Does early initiation affects the sexual development of boys?” From Sambia’s view point, the ritual represents a universal potential of bisexuality or homosexuality. These views assumes the existence sexual orientation. According to Sambia parents, when the boys are left on their own, they fail to achieve the required successful transition into the effective roles of warriors. Such boys fail to achieve adult reproductive competence as the role requires that the boys should grow away from the attachments of the mothers in order to attain the political ability to manipulate sexual transition.
If we keenly analyze the emphasis that the Sambia have placed upon the physical and mental development of boys, we definitely arrive at their point of view which leads to the formation of sexual life-ways that are highly dependent on developmental and cultural processes. Historically, the sexual culture of the Sambia was over-determined by warfare (134). This is probably the cause of the link between the society demands and the personal desires.
The Sambia have given us the reasons why they prefer initiations at the age not later than ten; however, they have failed to tell us the effects of the failure of the initiation at age ten to the boy’s sexual development. We are left wondering whether they are worried about their boys not getting married or not having children, or even becoming softer, just as women. These are fears that are manifested in cultural beliefs and social practices of societies.
“The Magical Age of 10 or Why Sambia Initiate Boys So Young”