An Anthrpology of Sexuality

Essay, 2017
7 Pages



Anthropology refers to the study of people across the world concerning their behaviour, evolutionary history, adaptations, communication and interactions with each other (Morris & Morris 2012, p.6). Mainly, this area of study takes into account both biological and social features of a community. Some of the natural aspects that feature in anthropology include health, genetics, physiology, and nutrition while social elements range from language, culture, sexuality, family, politics and religion among others. Precisely, this field seeks to establish how societies are different or the same based on given comparisons that fundamentally rely on the aspect of time. Sexuality, on the other hand, refers to the mix of emotions that enable people to express or experience themselves as sexual beings. The combinations of emotions that surmount to sexuality include erotic, biological, social and spiritual feelings. Thus, the Anthropology of Sexuality and its relation to health can be defined as the study of people's sexual behaviour observed over time (in an evolutionary aspect) with health and psychological issues having been put into perspective.

Context Literature Review

The paper submits the review of literature based on findings by other academicians and authors concerning the anthropology of sexuality and with consideration of health. The research herein draws material from several sources that are firmly related to the theme and objectives of the study, including insights into controversies associated with it.

Over the years, the increased knowledge and the basis of science as a compass for finding fact from fiction have prompted anthropologists to attempt to learn more about pursuing facts over fiction. Armstrong and Tennenhouse (2014, p. 97) argue that there have been advancement and changes over the years in how health is handled in societies. With this regard, there has been a variance in sexuality that has, thus, necessitated regulation of sexual embodiment and to no small extent, criminalised those who do not subscribe to a given acceptable sexual belief. They further argue that the public’s thinking constructs sexuality regarding identities, practices, communities and bodies that have a politically empowered society to sexually objectify people, especially women, an aspect that has over the years caused more discontents. On a varied opinion, Kath (2011) posits that the society's empowerment can have a positive and negative impact since individuals interpret the constructs of sexuality differently such that segments can harness this power for positive outcomes like countering the perpetuity of objectification.

Vance (2005, p.26) observes that in instances where there are marginalised clusters of persons who do not subscribe to standard non criminalised sexuality, years of norm subjection have forced them to create their subcultures in which they find meaning. There have been many acknowledgements that admit anthropology of desire as being a phenomenon that was virtual and even its relation to health across genders was subjective with no steady structure. The intangibility of sexuality is backed by the Victorian approach to discovery, which documents more fortunate men of society as having traversed the world to observe and write about different sexual practices with the desire to better comprehend the path that highlights given changes. It is by understanding the past that they sought to deal with intimate aspects of the present and to delve into the future.

The group in the society that was discontent with the acceptable sexual related norms created other tastes and preferences that uniquely bound them into functional units that have since availed different perspectives of knowledge on sexuality. Conscription is reviewed as one of these aspects and is defined as the diachronic process that involves forces of power and inequality that allow the privilege to certain voices above others in a given ethnographic account. In this regard, it can be of merit or demerit, depending on perspectives subjected to it.

Maksimowski (2012, p.9) reviews the two significant displacements of sexuality concepts in the society as Conscription and Discourse. Specifically, discourse is the composition of those who do not agree with the criminalisation of a given sexuality behaviour and ends up converging into groups that promote divergent ideologies. Conscription is the exact opposite. Therefore, the research paper seeks to shed light and critique the various recruitments (Construction and Deconstruction) and discourses (Victorian and Anthropological) that have produced the much knowledge and behaviour that revolve around sexuality and its evolution through time.

Sexuality and the Victorian Discourse

About human behaviour, in the 18th century, it was healthy to have proper control of what, where and when passion would be brought up and practised (Weston 2011, p. 16). Sexuality is depicted over centuries as having been put under control and to a more significant extent, was based on virtual law- the kind of rule that was not written, but silently observed with punitive measures on those who failed to abide by it. The Victorian Discourse was a means through which power was enacted rationally upon citizens and individuals. The main aim of the discourse was to authorise given parties to exercise control over others who were deemed subjects in its contexts such as wives, children, teachers and courts. The depiction of women and children as being under control shows an unhealthy approach to relationships even in the 18th century. The lack of liberty for the female gender indicates a male chauvinist era where the much women could do was to obey just like children and other ‘lesser’ persons. The Victorian discourse legitimised the deprivation of sexuality and the rights thereof that should have been accorded the ordinary citizens of lower rank. The legislation that lies in the discussion brings out sensuality as a prestigious phenomenon, purely meant for the privileged and only for the underprivileged under the authority of the higher cadre of citizens.

The Victorian discourse emphasised on ideologies of true mechanically linked biology and health with psychology (Bolt 2013). What was considered "Normal" in this doctrine was that those in authority can be heterosexual and were never studied due to legitimisation. The authenticity of a vice on one end and the criminalisation of the same on the other gave birth to sexual identities, attained through the influential ones seeking to exploit different practices that favoured them, but which were publicly criminalised. Nevertheless, some methods such as lesbianism and gay characters were practised in hidden form. The existence of European like the institutions of marriage perpetuated the hidden fashion of illegal practices since their approach sought straight up characters that were deemed modern, civilised and non-primitive.

The perception created by the Victorian discourse shows a skewed approach to the comprehension of difference in culture. The conversation mistook variance in sexuality as permittivity and more so for practices that did not conform to the European model of sexuality. For instance, the African traditions of sexuality were more liberal and promoted heterosexuals until the late 20th century with the advent of colonialism in the continent. However, to non-African scholars, the given practices went against their "normal", and as such, they sought to influence Africans to adopt their ways, evolution.

Also, a feature of the Victorian discourse remains into the 21st century and this is the "explorer versus explored" mechanism of interaction. The female, by this discourse, were the objects of discovery and the male were the explorers. Specifically, the adventure seekers, the consequence of which, illustrates sexuality as an imbalanced equation (Allen and Smith 201, p. 76). The most pronounced of these illustrations was through the readership and observation of African females during the slavery era. The history thereof shows them as “promiscuous” and savage in sexuality, a demeaning fete that was, however, misunderstood because African females simply had more developed sexual organs as compared to their white counterparts. Also, the situational aspect of being enslaved means the white males had authority over them at any given time, and as such, their exploitation was unlimited with many psychological and health consequences. However, it is a biased conclusion to believe that moral implications on sexuality were primarily based on race while ignoring other factors that constructed sexual differences (La Font 2003, p. 69).

Sexuality and Anthropological Discourse

In the mid-20th Century, there was a paradigm shift in sexuality. From the 1930s to late 1970s, there was the societal support of alterations in sexuality to a grand level. Changes such as gender-specific roles occurred. There were health campaigns on desire, especially among women, as well as rights and activism. Enlightenment had set in, and the chronology of events ever since has seen more changes in sexuality. For instance, the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Transsexual individuals have since emerged to take centre stage in protecting their space and legitimising what initially was not "normal" across the world (Donna 2010, p. 117).


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An Anthrpology of Sexuality
University of Applied Sciences Mittweida
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anthrpology, sexuality
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Dr. Amos Wesonga (Author), 2017, An Anthrpology of Sexuality, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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