Sexuality

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Sex is a very important part of life, both for enjoyment and for reproduction. Even very young children know the mechanics of sexual intercourse and can mimic the action involved. At least one Manjako man stated that regular sexual intercourse helps prevent blindness. Sex during pregnancy—especially the later stages—is discouraged; after giving birth, the mother ideally abstains from sex for up to 3 years during the time she is nursing.

Sex is very much discouraged among adolescents until they have finished their age-set initiation, when the girls are ready for marriage. Teen pregnancy is considered spiritually dangerous. During the 4 years of age-set initiation, many couples form, but sexual intercourse is not condoned. Since teen pregnancy is extremely rare, either couples are indeed abstaining, or they are taking very good care that the girl does not become pregnant or come to term. Young wives are often suspected of continuing to see their sweetheart (urok) even after marriage, especially if their new husband is 15 or 20 years older.

In general, men's extramarital affairs, though not condoned, seem to be more accepted than women's, with the attitude that "men will be men." If a man emigrates, he will often leave a wife or wives in the village and take a lover or another wife abroad. Yet the number of children born to women whose husbands are away is proof that women also seek sexual partners outside marriage. Conflicts arising from adultery are common and lead to heated public arguments. Physical violence rarely results; instead, contracts are made with spirits to punish an adulterous spouse and his or her lover (besobar).

There is little if any cross-dressing or cross-sex identification. Homosexuality is not readily conceivable. (E.g., when this researcher tried to ask informants about homosexuality, a long explanation was delivered to incredulous listeners by a Manjako assistant, including a reference to tourists in the Gambia. On another occasion, a Manjako man, when asked about possible female homosexuality, asked, "But how would they do it? They don't have the right parts!")

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