Among the Kreung tribe in a remote part of northeast Cambodia, parents build a love hut for their daughter to prepare her for marriage. She then initiates sex with different male suitors until she finds one she wants to marry. In this tribe, marriage is the woman’s choice — an idea that’s very modern in Cambodia.
In northeast Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province, dwell a people with a unique practice. At the age of 15, parents build their daughters tiny ‘love huts’ a short distance away from their home so that the girls can begin to experiment with sex with boys. The Kreung people are very big on female empowerment; a trait which I admire. For them, having girls and women set the rules about sex instead of male religious/political/social figures helps create independent young women and also, helps the girls make their own choices about their potential spouses.
At first I was concerned about many things, among them unplanned pregnancy, STDs, sexual violence and promiscuity. But the girls and their families seem to have it all under control. The girls choose which boys they want to have sex with.
“When a boy comes to stay the night, if I don’t want him to touch me, he won’t. We’ll just talk and sleep. But if I have a special boyfriend and we’re in love, then I’ll be intimate with him. If I stop loving him and find another boy I’m more attracted to, I will stop having sex with the first one.” – Nang Chan, 17
Luckily, Kreung society is such that the elders have taught the boys to respect the opposite sex. Parents do not generally give their children advice about sex but trust that they have instilled enough morals in their children so that they make the right choices. Nongovernmental organizations have begun to spread the news about condoms and the girls say that the boys are usually responsible about wearing them.
New concerns have been raised however, about the effect that American media is having on the boys. The once-shy lads have become arrogant and sometimes violent, copying the things they have learned from watching pornography and the way sex is portrayed between American men and women on tv. Many wonder if this unique tradition will survive the ‘onslaught of modern culture’ but are content with the current state of things. The focus seems to be on female empowerment.
Perhaps American parents should take a leaf from the book of the Kreung but still keep in mind that both societies are different and that there are boundaries that must be set. Talking about sex might not be the easiest thing to do, but it prevents situations where teens have to hide their sexual activity. Taking birth control pills from your daughter does not guarantee that she will not have sex. Talking on the other hand, fosters trust and mutual understanding.