Sexuality

Despite the practice of clitoridectomy, both women and men are supposed to enjoy sex. Young men of the warrior age grade are allowed to bring uninitiated girls to spend the night with them in their own personal "hut" or a communal neighborhood warriors' house (sigiroino). Sexual play, which ideally does not reach the point of penetration, is an expected part of such encounters. There is no high value on virginity at marriage per se (though honor is accorded to a girl judged to be a virgin at her initiation), but premarital pregnancy is not approved. Traditionally, people said, if a girl became pregnant out of wedlock the problem would be solved either by infanticide or adoption by a barren woman, the girl would have difficulty being married, and the young man who impregnated her was supposed to be beaten by his age mates. In modern times, unmarried girls sometimes have and keep their babies, and this is viewed as a social problem. The degree to which sexual play is present in young children and attitudes toward it are unknown.

Modern norms of modesty are a legacy of Christian missions. Women normally cover their thighs and breasts, though public nursing of babies is common. Married women cover their shoulders. In precolonial times, adult women covered their genitals at all times, but adult men did not. Adult women might work in the fields bare-breasted. The most embarrassing body part, after a married woman's genitals, is a married woman's thighs.

Nandi have a generally negative view of homosexuality and are reluctant to discuss it. People sometimes denied the existence of homosexuality among them, but I learned that there is a word for sodomy and there were a pair of men in the neighborhood reputed to be sexual partners. It was viewed as shameful, but not an outrage. I did not hear of any lesbian relationships. There was a person in a neighboring community said to be a woman who dressed as a man. This was thought to be exceedingly strange, but I was unable to learn more about her.

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