I know that there are many cases of cultures having whacky ideas of how exactly babies are made, however in most of these cases they still link the creation of babies to having sex (however weird the link may be). My question is the following:

Is there any strong evidence of historical (or current) cultures, in which the link between sex and the creation of babies was not understood in the slightest?

If not, I would accept an answer that comes the closest. Thank you.

(I apologize if this is the wrong stack exchange, I tried looking for what I deemed the most fitting)

  • 4
    Here in Switzerland my grandparents didn't know and had to figure out by themselves in the 1950s. They were told babies were made by kissing on the mouth. Thankfully the mentalities changed in the 1960s,
    – Bregalad
    Jan 15, 2017 at 17:07
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    I did read that the Venus figurines are examples of cult to the women and fertility, and that in ancient (paleo and neolithic cultures) the lack of knowledge about the process of birth made women to be considered almost sacred (remember, not all couples that have sex get to have children, so the correlation is not that easy to see). Of course, that is just one of several possible explanations.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 15, 2017 at 19:48
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    Any culture undertaking animal husbandry would have a knowledge of the facts of reproduction. That said my wife tells the story of her then-teenage great grandmother locking her new husband out of their bedroom when she found out what he intended to do to her. This was in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century IIRC.
    – AllInOne
    Jan 17, 2017 at 17:58
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    @AllInOne Good point, agricultural societies would probably know. However, perhaps there could be hunter-gatherer societies.
    – Eff
    Jan 17, 2017 at 18:58
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    @NSNoob I don't think that's necessarily true. I think our evolved predisposition to have sex would have people engage in it, even without knowledge of the outcomes of having sex.
    – Eff
    Jan 20, 2017 at 10:00

2 Answers 2


I can't think of any group that doesn't make the connection between sex and reproduction but there are/were cultures that don't understand it in its entirety. In particular, there used to be many societies who believed in multiple paternity, where a baby can have multiple fathers if a woman has sex with multiple men. You can find this belief among several Amazon tribes as well as ancient Hawaii.


I've been doing some reading and it appears that among one tribe in New Guinea people didn't make the connection between sex and reproduction at all, so families were matrilineal. The people proved this because a man's wife could have a child even when he's been travelling for two years. (Scientific explanation: adultery.) They also understand that reproduction works the same for all animal species and their pigs reproduce even though they castrate all the males. (Scientific explanation: domesticated female pigs mate with wild pigs.)

  • This might be more to do with expediency. It prevents arguments about who is responsible for the child. Jan 20, 2017 at 16:58
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    Until fairly recent times, I don't think it could have been proven that babies could not have more than one father and it is not that crazy of an idea; in the case of multiple births of course there can be different fathers, at least in, for example, cats. So I wonder if even Western cultures might have held this belief prior to 1900 or 1800. In fact, while this can't happen through conventional fertilization, it can be done artificially right now.
    – Jeff
    Jan 23, 2017 at 7:10
  • @Jeff Whether superfetation can happen ina few very rare cases through conventional fertilization in Humans reamins debatable: through conventional fertilization
    – Evargalo
    Apr 16, 2018 at 13:29
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    Do you have a citation for the second part?
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 20, 2019 at 7:05

From Robert Graves' The Greek Myths :

Once the relevance of coition to child-bearing had been admitted - an account of this tuning-point in religion appears in the Hittite myth of Appu (H.G. Guterbock: Kamarbi, 1946) - man's religious status gradually improved, and winds or rivers were no longer given credit for impregnating women.

So this view identifies a date of between 1600BCE and about 1200BCE.

Interestingly, Graves notes that this change in outlook coincides with the change from matrilineal societies to patrilineal societies.

In the Myth of Appu, poor old Appu is busy sacrificing sheep to the gods when, according to the wikipedia article -

The sun-god appears and advises him to get drunk and then have sex with his wife.

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