International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 1(1) pp. 001-005 May, 2009
Available online http://www.academicjournals.org/ijsa
©2009 Academic Journals
Ful Length Research Paper
Manifestation of human sexuality and its relevance to
secondary schools in Nigeria
Akeem Ayofe Akinwale
Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. E-mail: email@example.com.
Accepted 21 April, 2009.
The alarms against the menace of premarital sexual activities reached a crescendo but the behaviour of
young people remained at variance with the alarms. This contradiction contributed to the growth of
sexually transmitted diseases including human immune virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (AIDS). Thus, this study examined manifestation of human sexuality and its relevance to
secondary schools in Nigeria using information derived from content analysis of secondary data.
Results principally showed that human sexuality extended beyond procreation as it captured all the
nuances of the socio-cultural contexts of a society. Different sexualities such as child sexuality,
adolescent sexuality, adult sexuality and sexuality of the elderly produced specific implications for the
entire society. Conclusively, understanding of the interdependent layers of human sexuality would
promote the management of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS. Therefore, it was
recommended that sexuality education should be emphasized in the socialization from infancy till
death. Nobody would be too young or old for learning human sexuality. Critical steps should be taken
to empower students towards scanning their sexual histories and acquiring the right skills to manage
any detected or potential sexual problem.
Key words: Schools, sexuality, STIs, youth.
Human sexuality remains largely misrepresented despite
is the popular perception of sexuality and how can se-
impressive attentions devoted to it since the enlighten-
condary schools intervene in mitigating sexual chal en-
ment era. Archaeological evidence showed that it was
ges? These questions constitute the central focus of this
fluid in pre-agricultural societies and its restriction accom-
study given their relevance in managing the scourge of
panied the emergence of farming. Gradual y, human se-
sexual y transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and
xuality and sexual orientation became means of social
control (Alastair et al., 2008; Kauth, 2006). In the 18th
As mentioned above, human sexuality has been widely
century, classical demographers including Malthusians
discussed but several people stil misunderstand it. This
and neo-Malthusians recognized the power of human
misunderstanding introduces flaws and distortions, which
sexuality in explaining population and development. Their
affect preventive knowledge of STIs including HIV and
concentration on the issues of fertility, mortality, migration
AIDS. The key flaws in the understanding of human se-
and marriage was so enormous that other vital aspects of
xuality include misconception of sex, intimacy, pleasure
human sexuality were neglected especial y as the world
and negligence of the vital layers of sexualities.
became polarized into pro-natal and anti-natal divides.
Misconceiving and neglecting human sexuality can por-
Subsequently, human sexuality was largely confined to
tend danger for the society. For Foucault (1990), the ma-
reproduction and protected with a culture of silence
nifestation of human sexuality would determine the for-
(Foucault, 1978). Obviously, most aspects of human se-
tune and future of the society. In light of the foregoing,
xuality wil not promote reproduction because they tran-
this study is an attempt to demystify the mysteries of sex
scend vaginal penetration and manifest in divergent ways
through a discourse of manifestation of human sexuality
(Alastair et al., 2008). Expectedly, the unexpected con-
and its relevance to the Nigerian secondary schools.
finement and protection opened spaces for introduction of
Issues discussed in the next sections include human
distortions into the knowledge of human sexuality. What
sexuality and its manifestation, popular perception of sex-
002 Int. J. Sociol. Anthropol.
uality and mitigation of sexual chal enges. Conclusion
influences access to capital, health care, employment,
and recommendations fol ow the discourse.
education, social justice in terms of inheritance, property
rights, and use of communal land (Fawole, 2008). This
HUMAN SEXUALITY AND ITS MANIFESTATION
level of manifestation of sexuality put women at a disad-
vantage especial y with regard to discriminatory practices
Human sexuality is a life-long and multi-dimensional pro-
at various establishments. Nigeria remains a largely patri-
cess involving al aspects of behaviour. Its layers are bio-
archal society though the last Nigerian population census
logical, cultural, economic, physical, political, psycholo-
revealed that women outnumbered men. Unexpectedly,
gical, sociological and spiritual. The biological layer of se-
men dominate women in many organisations in Nigeria
xuality entails the natural classification of organisms
despite the fact that the Nigerian governments ratified
based on their sex which refers to observable charac-
several policies on gender main-streaming.
teristics that defined them as male or female. Sex is roo-
The physical layer of sexuality refers to observable ele-
ted in biology of nature. Fundamental y, both biological
ments of human development. These elements include
and non-biological factors influence understanding of sex
growth, appearance, body posture, eyes contacts, facial
and sexual drives of males and females. This assumption
expressions, hugging, kissing, touching and sexual inter-
echoes the interdependence of nature and nurture as
course which can cause adolescent pregnancy. Growth
wel as their influence on the manifestation of human se-
reflects in al parts of human body and each part plays
xuality. For instance, aging affects human sexuality within
specific roles in the manifestation of human sexuality.
dynamics of transition from infancy to childhood, child-
In this light, it is important to stress the functions of hair,
hood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, and
eyes, ear, nose, mouth, tongue, teeth, hands, breast, but-
adulthood to grave. Within and between these transitions,
tocks, vagina, penis, anus, legs, nails, skin and comple-
several manifestations occur, namely: puberty, meno-
xion in the study of human sexuality because they repre-
pause, and manopause. Understanding of the problems
sent sense organs which assist in the transmission and
and prospects of each of these manifestations is impor-
interpretation of sexual signals. Human sexuality can be
tant for people including students in secondary schools.
managed through understanding of the power of sense
The cultural layer of sexuality can be described as the
organs and how to control it. However, the handicapped
total ways of life of people in a society. People’s life ways
and the able-bodied persons require different skil s and
may include arts, beliefs, customs, knowledge, morals,
orientations in the management of their sexuality due to
and other cultural traits such as dress, drinks, food, mar-
differences in their physical appearance.
riage and music. A very high significant relationship can
Recent studies showed that sexual relationships that
be found between culture and human sexuality. This
could lead to procreation were judged not acceptable for
hypothesis exposes the danger of solely relying on the
people with learning disabilities even if their child could
Western culture for the understanding of human sexuality
be nurtured by a non-handicapped parent (Esterle et al.,
in Nigeria, a highly heterogeneous African society. A per-
2008). Sexual relationships among people with disabi-
spective of human sexuality cannot fit al settings of the
lities were, however, judged moderately acceptable in the
Nigerian social structure. The peculiarities and differ-
cases when the person is autonomous, the partner is of
rences in sexuality of each of the Nigerian ethnic groups
the same age and is also handicapped, and the relation-
can be understood in different cultural contexts such as
ship is protected (Esterle et al., 2008). The main con-
attires, beauty, ceremonies, dialects, greeting, history,
cerns here centered on the consequences of sexual rela-
naming, poetry, and proverbs.
tionships and not the relationships per se.
In Southern Nigeria, cultural practices such as fattening
The political layer of sexuality indicates interpretations
ceremony among the Okrika as wel as popular music
of identities and segregation of members of the society
and dance among the Tiv have contributed to the deve-
into different categories. Gender is a major component of
lopment of cultural layer of sexuality. Similarly, in Nor-
this layer because it influences understanding of sexuality
thern Nigeria, a considerable proportions of Hausa and
in terms of homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexua-
Fulani are known for the use of traditional medicines,
lity. The Nigerian societies are largely heterosexual be-
“Burantasi” and Kayamata” in the treatment of sexual
cause they discourage marriage or sexual relationships
weakness in men and women. These medicines can aid
between persons of the same sex. With the adoption of
sexual satisfaction at different stages of sexual expres-
western culture of Christianity, heterosexual monogamy
sions: desire, arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution.
became largely popular in Nigeria, whereas heterosexual
Also, nuptial songs, popular traditional sexual expres-
polygygy remained unabated in some parts of the country
sions among the Yoruba of the Western Nigeria, serve as
with strong Islamic tradition or indigenous values. Basi-
avenue for sharing cultural knowledge of sexuality.
cal y, the Nigerian societies promote marriage and family
The economic layer of sexuality deals with livelihood
to regulate human sexuality. Alternatively, people engage
activities including human interaction with the environ-
in premarital and extra-marital sexual relationships for dif-
ment to ensure survival. A discourse of gender discrimi-
ferent purposes. Such relationships were defined as plas-
nation in economic activities is relevant here. Sexuality
tic sexuality indicating sexual relationship that is not gear-
ed towards marriage or reproduction (Giddens, 1992).
Societies regulate al layers of sexuality through sociali-
Psychological y, the evidence of human sexuality can
sation agents including the family, schools, religious or-
be demonstrated through conception and interpretation of
ganisations, pressure groups, mass media, and the state.
desires. Al forms of sexual expressions closely associate
Conflicts of interests among these agents usual y pro-
with psychological layer of human sexuality. A principal
duce barriers and contradictory messages on human se-
component of this layer is sexual script, which implies
xuality. For instance, peer pressures and unwholesome
series of stages and procedures fol owed in securing the
exhibitions in the mass media can affect conformity with
attention of the prospective beloved. Sexual script exists
sexual values acquired through the family, schools and
in dating and courtship. It is an integral part of family life
religious organisations. Each of these agents differently
cycle covering different human experiences from mar-
contributes to modifications of lifestyles of members of
riage to death. Communication and intimacy are essential
the society who are usual y expected to perform specific
elements of this layer as they affect outcomes of human
roles that fit their sexualities.
sexual relationships. A psychologist (Sigmund Freud)
Role expectations depend on different factors such as
confessed his childhood sexual experience while narra-
age, gender, time, location and circumstances. General y,
ting the Greek story of Oedipus Rex who fel in love with
sexuality affects al segments of the society including chil-
his mother and wished to kil his father. This story has
dren, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. These cate-
been analysed within the spiritual layer of human sexual-
gories of people have various sexual needs, which pro-
duce different sexualities such as child sexuality, adole-
The sociological layer of sexuality covers many borders
scent sexuality, adult sexuality, men sexuality, women
of human behaviour and al aspects of interaction
sexuality and sexuality of the elderly. A study of sexual
including relationships, friendship, courtship and mar-
orientation among 14,059 persons across 48 countries
riage. Intimacy, love, romance and sexual intercourse
showed sex differences in human mating strategies with-
can be examined in this context and their implications
in diverse range of cultures (Schmitt, 2005). The study
vary but are essential for the understanding and manage-
found that sex differences were significantly larger when
ment of STIs including HIV and AIDS. In their recent stu-
reproductive environments were demanding but were
dy of 690 boys and girls selected from kindergarten
reduced to more moderate levels in cultures with more
through high school, scholars concluded that youth who
political and economic gender equality. In his earlier stu-
initiate sexual intercourse in early adolescence (age 11 -
dy, Schmitt (2003) col ected data from 17,804 men and
14) experience multiple risks including concurrent adjust-
women in 62 countries to investigate gender differences
ment problems and unsafe sexual practices (Schofield et
in romantic attachment. He demonstrated that the influen-
al., 2008). This shows the danger of sexual intercourse at
ce of gender on romantic attachment was weak. His stu-
certain age and time can be understood in this context.
dy combined men and women across different age cate-
The spiritual layer of sexuality refers to understanding
gories. Schmitt’s study on mating strategies in four major
of the sacredness of human body. Spirituality is governed
world regions covered views of men and women across
by truth and righteousness (Yehuda, 2008). Issues such
three sexual orientations: heterosexual, homosexual, and
as sexual taboos and incest are part of the spiritual layer
bisexual. His findings showed that across al four world
of sexuality. Reflecting spirituality of sexuality, the Greek
regions and regardless of sexual orientation, men more
story began before the birth of Oedipus Rex and its re-
than women were sexual y unrestricted and relatively
presentation in Shopocles’ play featured after the death
open to multiple mating opportunities. He found that
of Oedipus’ father (Bernstein, 2001). In the story, an ora-
across world regions, gay and bisexual men reported en-
cle told Laius (the king of Thebes) that his unborn child
gaging in more unrestricted sexual behaviors than he-
would murder him and marry Jocasta (the queen of The-
terosexual men. Contrary to expectations, however, bi-
bes). Laius ordered his shepherd to kil his new born son
sexual women reported engaging in more unrestricted
to avert the foretold danger but the shepherd secretly
sexual behavior than either heterosexual women or les-
took the child to the palace of Polybus (the king of Co-
bians. This trend can be understood in light of the fact
rinth). Oedipus grew up as a prince and was ignorant of
that same-sex sexual behaviors cannot lead to reproduc-
his true origin. An oracle told him the same story that
made his father ordered his death and he ran away from
Polybus and Merope thinking they were his parents. On
POPULAR PERCEPTION OF SEXUALITY
his way, he met and kil ed Laius during a quarrel.
Subsequently, his ability to solve a riddle led to the
Basical y, most studies on human sexuality focused on
death of the monster that used to kil people at Thebes
adolescents thereby neglecting other segments of the
and to show their gratitude, Thebans made him their king
society. This situation affects popular perception of
and Jocasta became his queen and they had two sons
sexuality and sexual chal enges that could have been
and daughters. As earlier predicted by an oracle Oedipus
prevented from infancy or childhood. People general y
life ended in tragedy fol owing the discovery of his predi-
attribute sexuality to sex, sexual intercourse and sexual
activities. Accumulated knowledge confirms the growth of
004 Int. J. Sociol. Anthropol.
adolescents’ sexual intercourse (Ghuman, 2005; Nwafor
Nigerian educational systems has produced several chal-
and Madu, 2002).
lenges such as premarital pregnancies, abortion, untime-
Comparably, the prevalence of premarital sexual inter-
ly death, dropping out of schools and vulnerability to STIs
course among adolescents was higher in developed
including HIV and AIDS. The ravaging influence of these
countries, Africa and the Caribbean than in Latin Ame-
chal enges shows that successive efforts towards sexual-
rica, Asia and Middle East. Studies in the United States
lity education remain inadequate. Obviously, many adole-
revealed that sex was the most frequently searched topic
scents are sexual y active with poor knowledge of human
on the internet (Dixon-Mul er, 1996).
sexuality. Popular manifestations of poor knowledge of
In the late 1970s in the United States, France and En-
human sexuality are low level of contraceptives’ use and
gland, 40 - 50 per cent of girls had sexual intercourse be-
the growth of STIs including HIV and AIDS (Juarez and
fore reaching age 17; while in Sweden about 80 per cent
LeGrand, 2005; Okekearu, 2004).
of girls had sexual intercourse before reaching age 17.
Over 50% of the global cases of HIV and AIDS were re-
Similarly, over 90 per cent of American adolescents aged
corded for persons aged 15 - 24 and over 60% of the
16 years had sexual intercourse and 72 per cent of the
cases occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, which constitutes
boys and 57 per cent of the girls aged 16 - 19 had it
10% of the world population (UNAIDS, 2004; WHO,
(Haralambos et al., 2004). Sexual intercourse is different
1998). The high magnitude of HIV and AIDS prevalence
from sexual activities but several studies seem to ignore
among young people associate with misconceptions
this fact. Studies on adolescent sexual behavior in seve-
about sex and lack of curriculum for sexuality education
ral parts of Nigeria showed that premarital sexual inter-
in schools. The German philanthropic movement was an
course were popular (Araoye and Adegoke, 1996). The
example of necessary approach that can be utilized to
popularity of premarital sex is not necessarily an indica-
mitigate sexual y oriented chal enges. A German school
tion of high level of awareness of human sexuality. Ade-
tested the efficacy of sexuality education by inviting digni-
quate understanding of human sexuality can contribute
taries and asking students questions on the mysteries of
towards management of premarital sexual intercourse.
sex, birth and procreation. Students were made to com-
Asuzu (1994) reported that in Ibadan, 49% of 16 years old
ment on pictures of pregnant women and couples and
boys reported premarital intercourse compared to 28% of 16
they responded without signs of shame or embarrass-
years old girls. Adebayo et al. (2006) described the Nigerian
ment (Foucault, 1978). Drawing from the German model
young people’s sexual attitudes as risky. They reported that
of sexuality education for students, availability of institu-
Nigerian adolescents were largely characterised by early
tional devices and deployment of appropriate discursive
initiation into sexual activities, multiple sexual partners and
strategies can improve knowledge of human sexuality
poor attitude towards protective sex. Similarly, a recent
and reduce the incidence of STIs in secondary schools.
study of perception of sexuality in a Nigerian secondary sch-
ool showed that students were concerned about abortion,
premarital sex, pregnancy, teacher-student relationships and
lesbianism (Kafewo, 2008). It was mentioned that sexuality-
related problems especial y premarital pregnancy forced
This study examined manifestation of human sexuality
some students to drop out from the school. This situation
and its relevance to secondary schools in Nigeria.
has implications for parity and women development. Resear-
Principal y, the importance of complete understanding of
chers have shown that female education negatively affected
human sexuality and schools’ intervention in the miti-
fertility (Osili and Long, 2008).
gation of sexual chal enges in Nigeria were discussed.
On this note, governments advocated the need to edu-
This study has reinforced the notion that the perspectives
cate women for reducing population growth and fostering
of human sexuality are diverse: historical, theological,
sustainable socio-economic development. The students that
anthropological, psychological and sociological (Geer and
dropped out from schools may, however, constitute threat to
O’Donohue, 1987). Each perspective presents unique
the realisation of developmental goals of the society and
opportunities and chal enges suggesting that no single
they themselves may be principal victims of underdeve-
perspective can provide adequate knowledge of human
Another study (Fawole, 2008) shed light on gender based
sexuality. Therefore al the perspectives must be con-
violence and its consequences on human health and deve-
nected. As shown in this study, al layers of human
lopment. Conclusively, perception of sexuality is largely mis-
sexuality essential y interweave and affect knowledge of
leading as several studies demonstrated. Unfortunately,
managing STIs including HIV and AIDS.
positive lessons in various aspects of the neglected aspects
This notion impregnates the fact that human
of human sexuality have not been explored. This gap cal s
sexuality extends beyond procreation to capture the
for additional information for effective management of sexual
nuances of the socio-cultural contexts of the society. A
popular expression of sexuality can be found in nuptial
songs composed to amuse, entertain and prepare people
MITIGATION OF SEXUAL CHALLENGES
for different responsibilities. Thus, any genuine interest in
the study of human sexuality wil consider the relevance
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