. Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa: Introduction
is a lot of difference, between calling a secret lover ‘the top of the pot’—signifying something extra, something nice, a pleasure and luxury—or stigmatising a married woman with a lover as a ‘loose’ woman. Nevertheless, in the period with which Hunter is concerned (the 1920s and 1930s) a married woman with one or more lovers also ran the risk of being positioned as isifebe—a loose woman.
With Christianity and colonization, Christian lines of thinking and Christian norms for social conduct grew increasingly dominant in those (vast) parts of Africa where Christian missions gained an effective foothold. Rules regarding sexuality and fertility coalesced into a single moral code, and norms for male and female sexual behaviour developed along different lines: for a man to have multiple sexual relations with women to whom he was not married became associated in positive ways to masculinity and manhood, isoka in Zulu contexts, whereas women were increasingly not allowed to have multiple sexual partners (Hunter 2003:6). Gradually a Christian moral regime is created: sexual pleasure for women is defined out of existence, female chastity and passionlessness (Cott 1978) becoming the model and the norm. Sex for women is legitimized only as a means of procreation; pleasure is seen as very close to sin—the idea of sexuality as ‘primordial sin’ being a cornerstone in Christianity. In practice however the curse of ‘primordial sin’ works differently for men compared to women. For men an idea of sexuality for pleasure, and multiple sexual partners continues to exist—it becomes understood, and even naturalized, as a part of male nature: ‘men just are like that’—whereas for women sex as such is perceived as linked to procreation. Male/female double standards thus become the order of the day, along with the idea of female sexual purity (chastity), and female sexuality under male control.
Sex for procreation and male/female fertility remain an important issue, especially in kinship contexts. But not only that, development planners have also taken an interest in fertility control (‘family planning’) generally based on a kind of neo-Malthusian understanding of excessive population growth as a major cause of poverty. Adomako Ampofo (this volume) shows how KAP surveys (KAP = Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices) setting out to measure women’s so-called ‘unmet need’ for contraceptives, miss the mark by not taking local contexts and gender power relations between husband and wife into consideration. Like the previously discussed ‘development discourse’ concepts, such as HTP and FGM, the concept of ‘unmet need’ is based on implicit and invisibly normative assumptions, in this case the ‘need for modern contraception’. “Whose need?” Adomako Ampofo asks, pointing to the fact that any identification of an ‘unmet need’ also means a ready market for contraceptives.
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