GREEK LOVE IN OCEANIA
It is widely known that the first Europeans to visit Tahiti (or Otaheite, as they usually called it) thought they had stumbled upon a sexual paradise when they were welcomed by its beautiful, nearly-naked girls. Less well-known and shocking to them was that it was also a paradise for the free practice of Greek love.
British Lieutenant George Mortimer of the Marines recorded the following episode, while anchored in Matavia Bay on 1st September 1789, in his Observations and remarks made during a voyage to islands of Teneriffe, Amsterdam, Maria's Islands near Van Diemen's land; Otaheite, Sandwich Islands; Owhyhee, the Fox Islands on the North West Coast of America, Tinian, and from thence to Canton, in the brig Mercury commanded by John Henry Cox, Esq. (London, 1791) p. 47:
"In the afternoon, I went on shore for the last time, with two of our gentlemen, and saw a Heiva, which was uncommonly indecent and lascivious. Now I am upon the subject of these kind of entertainments, I cannot help relating a very droll occurrence that happened in consequence of their nocturnal Heivas. Attracted by the sound of drums and a great quantity of lights, I went on shore one night with two of our mates to one of these exhibitions. We seated ourselves among some of our friends whom we found there; when one of the gentlemen who accompanied me on shore took it into his head to be very much smitten with a dancing girl, as he thought her, went up to her, made her a present of some beads, and other trifles, and rather interrupted the performance by his attentions; but what was his surprise when the performance was ended, and after he had been endeavouring to persuade her to go with him on board our ship, which she assented to, to find this supposed damsel, when stripped of her theatrical paraphernalia, a smart dapper lad. The Otaheiteans on their part enjoyed this mistake so much that they followed us to the beach with shouts and repeated peals of laughter; and I dare say this event has served as a fine subject for one of their comedies."
Here is a comment from British naval surgeon George Hamilton in his The Voyage of H.M.S. Pandora Despatched to Arrest the Mutineers of The 'Bounty' in the South Seas 1790-91, (London, 1915) p. 89, more typically European in its expression of outrage:
"To this island [contiguous to Otaheite] they [the Otaheitans] likewise send their wives, thinking they become fair by living on fish, and low diet. They also send boys for the same reason, whom they keep for abominable purposes."