Weird History What Was Sex Like In Ancient Hawaii  

Rachel Souerbry
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Hawaii is a paradise, with lush green landscapes, beautiful beaches, and near-perfect weather. And in ancient Hawaiian culture, it was a sexual paradise as well. Sexuality in ancient Hawaii was open, freely expressed, and highly nuanced. Sex in Hawaii's pre-colonized days had no concept of shame attached to it — it was just a part of everyday life.

Polynesian sexual culture was very different to that of the intruding Westerners; plural relationships were considered normal, LGBTQ identities were accepted, and expressions of sexuality were intertwined with regularly-used phrases for love, joy, and happiness. 

The ancient Hawaiian time period ends around the time when King Kamehameha I unified the Hawaiian islands, and when Captain James Cook "discovered" them in 1778. Sadly, explorers and early missionaries left a scar on Hawaiian culture that never managed to heal. Puritanical Christian values were forced onto the native people, and their openly loving way of life was never the same again.

Read on to discover the powerful, beautiful, and sometimes shocking sexual activities of the ancient Hawaiians, and how they blended love and eroticism into their everyday lives.

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Photo: Author Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Children Were Given In-Depth Lessons About Sexual Performance

Everyone goes through through sex education class in school, but in old-time Hawaii, sex ed was actually about the act of intercourse. Young Hawaiians were taught actual skills to make them the best lovers possible. Grandparents were often the teachers of the children, with grandmothers having the responsibility of breaking young girls' hymens (so that they wouldn't be hurt later or get blood on their lover). 

If a person was known as a selfish or lazy lover, they were ridiculed by their community; if they were skillful lovers, they were admired. Besides observing and practicing good sexual habits, children were taught interpersonal skills to prepare them for the day when they would start building their own intimate relationships.

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Photo: John Webber/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The White Settlers Brought STDs That Wiped Out Huge Percentages Of The Native Population

Captain Cook, the famed British explorer, landed in Hawaii for the first time in 1778. He and his sailors were greeted warmly by the native Hawaiians, and the white men hastily took advantage of this. In return for their hospitality, the Englishmen brought death and disease

The men introduced tuberculosis to the islands, which wiped out a significant portion of the population. To make matters worse, they also introduced sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. While syphilis often proved fatal, both STDs led to a severe decrease in fertility, meaning that the next few generations couldn't raise the population to its former level.

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Photo: Helen Mather/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Food And Eating Had More Rigid Rules Than Sexual Activity Did

There were many very strict traditions and customs regarding food and eating in ancient Hawaii. Many of them applied specifically to women; there were certain foods that it was punishable by death for a female to eat, including pork, some types of bananas and coconuts, and certain types of fish. Men and women also couldn't eat Hawaiian staples like poi and taro from the same bowl. 

Although they were free to have sex with each other whenever they pleased, men and women couldn't eat together. But Hawaiian royals eventually succumbed to Western influence and deliberately broke the tradition — after King Kamehameha's death, his son and two of his wives sat down and ate a meal together.

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Photo: J JMesserly/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

High-Ranking Chiefs Would Commonly Have Intimate Relationships With Members Of Their Biological Families

Incest among Hawaii's "royals" was very similar to the inter-familial relationships common in ancient European royal families — the basic idea being that they needed to preserve the family line. However, Hawaiian chiefs took the concept much further. Siblings married frequently, and it was all to do with producing offspring with the most "mana," or divine life force. For commoners, however, this practice was actually not considered acceptable.

One example was King Kamehameha I. He had 27 partners, one of which was his niece Keopuolani. She actually outranked him (mana-wise), and thus could never be physically lower than him; researchers suggest she must have been required to be on top when they had sex. They had three high-ranking children; two of them were in love with each other and were set to be married. The pair defied the Christian colonizers and had a child together, but the baby did not survive. If it had lived, it would have been considered to be the highest possible rank.