The conceptions of sexual relationships among the Yoruba people in Nigeria.
Irinoye, Omolola Oladunni.
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The study explored the cultural dynamics of construction of sexual intercourse within gender constructions of masculinity and femininity among the Yoruba people of South western Nigeria. The Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue (EMIC/ETIC) framework, a cultural explanatory social analytic framework with guides to looking at the insiders' perspectives, was used as the theoretical base to the study. The study was conducted to broaden understanding of sexual relationships in order to generate culturally relevant programmes that can promote sexual health, control sexual coercion, sexual violence and reduce the transmission and spread of HIV. It explored information about the conceptions of sexual relationships, social dynamics of sexual negotiations in marital and non-marital relationships, the expressions and process of knowledge acquisition as such translates to sexual behaviour by men and women. The prevalence of consensus, coercive and forced sexual intercourse and sexual morbidity were determined. Perceived link of sexual coercion and sexual violence to HIV transmission was also explored. Traditional practices, including regulatory mechanisms for the control of sexual behaviour of men and women in the culture were also explored. Equally focused in the study were differences in the conceptions of sexual relationships among the study population as moderated by sex, age, educational background and marital status, along with experiences of sexual coercion, forced sex, and sexual intercourse related morbidity. Adopting the ethnographic method, qualitative data from historical review of existing information about the Yoruba people, focus group discussions, in-depth individual interviews and observations were complemented by quantitative data generated through a survey in a sample Yoruba community of lIe-Ife. Findings showed the conception of sexual relationships and sexual intercourse built around the conception and social constructions of active masculinity and passive femininity. Conceptions of sexual relationship evolved as a transitional phenomenon that individuals were expected to learn informally instinctually and as they attain sexual biological maturity through language use and observations of practices among older people. Two typologies of masculinity and femininity were discernible in the study population that also give specifications to social and sexual behaviour of men and women. There appeared a changing conception of femininity especially among young people below 30 years, which is also informing sexual behaviour of young women. Relationships were moderated by age, economic status and marriage, which invariably put women in subordinate position to men either in social or sexual relationships. Behaviour of men and women were dictated by social role assignment of leadership through economic provisions for family and control of sexual act by the man. This was within a contractual relationship of older men with younger women with the primary motive of procreation in traditional orientation. Sexual intercourse was seen as a compulsory act for both men and women especially as it results to procreation though the initiation and control were part of the social responsibility of the man. It was socially approved within marriage but pre-marital and extra marital relationships were tolerated more for men. The act was also used "as a prove of self", for economic gains, to demonstrate love, for enjoyment and as a tool of punishment of women by some men. Knowledge acquisition about sexual relationships and sexual intercourse tended to be inadequate throughout the life span. There was never a time when individuals, even after marriage, have access to correct information about sexual intercourse. There was gross assumption of what sexual partners know about sexual intercourse in the population. Within the context of 13 identifiable topical knowledge areas desirable for sexual health, more than 50% of males and females expressed lack of knowledge. There were significant differences in expressed knowledge by male and female respondents of what sexual intercourse is and the motives of sexual intercourse