Understanding the Concept of Sex

Sex is a state of being male or females, usually; there are characteristics which distinguish different sexes.

It can also be defined as the feminity and masculinity of an organism. On the other hand sex can be defined as the act of intercourse or communication of two opposite organs (male and female).


It is the feelings and activities connected to the person's sexual desires. It is a basic dimension of our personality. It is self understanding, self expression of our way of being in this world as male or female. It involves our emotions towards the opposite sex.

Human Sexuality is a general term referring to various sexually related aspects of human life, including physical and psychological development, and behaviors, attitudes, and social customs associated with the individual's sense of gender, relationships, sexual activity, mate selection, and reproduction. Sexuality permeates many areas of human life and culture, thereby setting humans apart from other members of the animal kingdom, in which the objective of sexuality is more often confined to reproduction. This article discusses the sexual anatomy, development, physiology, and behavior of human beings.

Traditional African understanding about sex

The African understanding was highly rooted in sexual roles where women did the domestic work while men had harder tasks like hunting, construction and security provision.

There was no equality because men dominated women while women were surbodinate and often traded for wealth e.g. in Teso dowry could go up 50 heads of cattle or more while in Karamoja a virgin would be taken for 120 heads of cattle while a non virgin for only 8.

Procreation: In African traditional understanding sex was a ritual with power to lead to procreation. After a couple getting married, relatives look on to see whether the boy has 'killed' the girl's youth hood by impregnating her.

Sex was a ritual in a sense that when an epidemics befell to replace the deceased. Rituals were also performed on important occasions such as when a son or daughter got married.

In order to wish them fertility e.g. among the Banyole, the mother and father would sit by the door of the new wed couple and after realising that boy has succeeded in having sex they also went to have sex to wish them success and thanking God for having a normal son.

There was myth to indicate that the first couple lived in a state of ignorance.

Virginity was highly upheld if not marriage was terminated or sometimes part of the dowry would be returned like in Bugisu and therefore no respect for the woman. In Ankole if one had lost virginity a 'hollow coin' or perforated paper money was sent to the parents of the girls but if a virgin bed sheets and a goat were given to the her parents.

Sex for the first time it was honoured, accompanied by rituals, eating herbs, prayers, sacrifices and in presence of an aunt for example among the Baganda, the Aunt makes sure that if the girls is fearing she sleeps with her husband sexually to give an example and courage and later forces her until the man fulfilled it.

Sex is also sacred in a sense that it is not to be played before marriage or outside marriage. This would lead to sexual offences e.g. in Karamoja if a girls became pregnant outside marriage she would be speared to death.

It was also done in secrecy even for the married people in a secret place, time (at night) in darkness or when children and other members in the house are sleeping.

Sex was also used for hospitality 'Okwanirana' in case a visitor came one would surrender his wife or daughter for a night especially among the Banyonkole.

There was no prostitution in Africa and even if one had sex outside required norms one only requested begged and was given for free e.g. the Jap Adhola would say 'Amito ngonye' asking for the female organ end woman or girl would just give if she felt like.

All were advised to sit well; cover private parts and children advised not look at or keep at private parts of elders. Among the Karamojong if one looked at the private part of a woman and his penis erected they would use a stick to beat up his penis if not he was to run away quickly.

Impotence was considered being dead, knocked by the sheep just as frigidity of girls was a disgrace.

Sexual desires were given priority and satisfied in case husband is forced by circumstances such as was, imprisonment; relatives organised a brother or friend to play sex with her to avoid going out anyhow with others.

Extra marital appetite was often solved by polygamy.

Legitimate uses of sex in African tradition

There were many ways in which sex was officially allowed to played as illustrated bellows:-

It was allowed for hospitality as noted above among the Banyonkole.

It was allowed in marriage and had to be consummated on the wedding night in the presence of an Aunt in Buganda.

Sex play was used to determine the seriousness of any sickness e.g. among the Banyole they would ask if the partner can take some porridge (play sex) and if not then the sickness is serious.

Some proverbs and wise sayings were connected to sex e.g. the Japadhola had a saying Jachandi geno pierre. ‘To mean a poor man trusts his waist'. In other words however poor a man is so long as he is standard via playing sex the wife would never leave him (even if mistreated)."

Playing sex in marriage is a must and any relaxation if reported "beating the back" the man would be punished 12, 24 or 36 strokes among the Banyole before defending himself because he is misusing the gift of life and for a woman 12 strokes!

The first night was used to prove virginity of the girl e.g. among the Baganda the stained bed sheet and a goat was given to the aunties who use sharp knives to spear it so that as blood oozes it signifies that their daughter had been speared and is bleeding but if not a virgin an old basket or winnower would be rolled towards them to show that their daughter was over used by men like the old baskets.

A woman believed to bring fortune had the chance to have sex before any activity or journey and after success.

In Ankole if one married while still young the father / brother would play sex with the wife / bride in order to train her and in turn she trains her husband what she has learnt.

Consummation of marriage on the first night was also carried out to make sure that the boy is normal sexually and among the Baganda if the boy failed, the Aunt would come out with a candle to the plantation ‘okunonya ebilezi' (looking for the herbs) to make the parents of the boy look for ways to treat their son and if all failed they went back with their daughter and therefore no marriage.

Sex was also used for gratitude or appreciation so it was one of the ways of saying thank you to the partner.

It was used for welcoming one from a long journey or if one has been away for sometime e.g. if a woman went to visit her parents and on coming back she did not have sex with her then her coming back had not been welcomed.

Widows/widowers were inherited to avoid sexual starvation where the sister of the dead wife inherits the husband or the brother to the dead man inherits the wife. (Sorority for the sister and levirate for the brother taking over)

Sex parts were not to be mentioned but jargons were used such as Akasolo (small animal).

Among the Babukusu of Kenya, a boy can play sex with anybody after circumcision to prove barrenness or not. It was also to enlargen the organ.

Medicine men could have sex with barren women for curative purposes to induce fertility.

Sex was for comfort and love e.g. if it has rained or there is coldness, the Basoga say, 'Amadi gagwile abayombye baidha kutabagana' i.e. it has rained to reconcile those who had misunderstandings.

The fluid from the female organ was used for medicine against fire burns or used as First Aid for snake bites.

It was allowed between males and females of different clans i.e. incest was condemned.

It was for fulfilling political interests e.g. for the king in Buganda had to have many wives. Chiefs who worked so well were given young girls to marry as gifts for the quality service in the area.

It was for satisfying sexual desires of the partners.

It was to guard against sexual abuses such as adultery, incest, fornication etc.

It was to be heterosexual i.e. in Africa the ideas of homosexuality and lesbianism were nonexistent.

Sex was for religious purposes e.g. in twin naming parties in Buganda and other African societies the ceremony was for sexual enjoyment with anybody.

In some societies such as the Akamba of Kenya and the Bagisu of Uganda, people initiated together i.e. age sets to share wives.

Among the Embu of Kenya the father is supposed to break her virginity on the night before the marriage because he does it slowly with care.

Sex was for ceremonial purposes e.g. before marriage in Buganda the king had mock sex with Nakku and among the Bagishu, Khukhala Mulindi for widow cleansing or removal of healing scars of circumcised boy .

Among the Basoga, it is common for a brother's wife to be used "mukamugandawo twala butwale."

In case a boy was impotent the parents organised for him a wife and a brother asked to have sexual intercourse to keep his name.

Male attitude towards women was negative; always blaming anything wrong on the females, in fact some men even avoided meeting females first when going on journey to hunt as they could get bad omen.

Sex was performed with a dead body before burial. Among the Luo of Kenya when a Sex was performed with a dead body before burial as a farewell or somebody else was asked to do so but in case it is the man who had died a night before burial the wife must sleep by or on the dead body a sign of farewell, sometimes even when they are taking for burial the wife remains sleeping where the body has been till after burial (it happens among the Japadhola Luo in Uganda).

Among the Samia of a mature girl died before marriage they would organise a small hut in the bush where they take the dead and someone meant to have sex with the body before burial to make sure at least tastes sex before leaving this world.

Also if a man was on a journey and meets a girl and after by passing her and tries to look behind and accidentally the eyes meet it means the 'blood has caught each other' so it could demand a follow up.

It was used to prove the strength of the man i.e. on wedding night they would be made to sleep on fresh banana leaves smoked by fire and the ability to tear them via vibrations would prove his strength.

Among the Samias sex was used for consolation after death of a child; the parents are supposed to play sex the night after burial for consultation.

However, the following were illegitimate uses of sex and people involved were punished severely:-

Incest was prohibited so children of different sex slept separately and in case it occurred among the Banyole they would make them enter a dry banana / grass thatched hut while naked and fire set so that it burns them but a nephew of the clan would use a stick to chase them out and have to run for their lives.

If one became pregnant before marriage she was severally punished even killed e.g. in Congo she would be tied in the middle of the forest so that wild animals eat her or in Ankole thrown into a cliff while in Buganda would be taken to a lonely Island and left to die.

Figure 4 In Ankole such lions would eat those dumped in forests.

Sexual deviations like homosexuality and lesbianism were not common but if took place they would be isolated.

In some societies rape would make one to be severely punished though in Karamoja it is the legitimate way of getting a wife.

Bestiality was severely punished and even the animal would be burnt to death.

Extra marital relations outside prescribed ways by society was punishable sometimes by death or castration or had part of the body mutilated or pay compensation.

There were taboos where even married people were not allowed to have sex e.g. when children had measles it could lead to death, when brewing alcohol (malwa and mwenge) or burning charcoal or bricks it would not come out just as it is believed up to date.