The study of people from all over the world with regard to their behavior, evolutionary history, adaptations, communication, and relationships with one another is known as anthropology (Morris & Morris 2012, p.6). This field of study primarily considers a community’s biological and social characteristics. Health, genetics, physiology, and nutrition are some of the natural factors that are discussed in anthropology, whereas language, culture, sexuality, family, politics, and religion are some of the social components. Specifically, this area seeks to determine how cultures differ from or are similar to one another based on comparisons made that heavily rely on the concept 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).
In the 1960s, along with anti-racial campaigns in the Americas and Europe, sexuality was an emerging aspect that had to be looked into both socially and legislatively. Thus, it had been preceded by instances of changes in gender-based role allocation in family settings during the First World War. Men had left their native homes to go to war, and as a result, women assumed roles that were traditionally male. Some even joined the military and produced some of the essential innovations of the 20th Century. The disconnection between couples and broken relationships led to society’s fundamental units (family) to break down. Consequently, there were role voids not filled in families that led to children subscribing to sexual orientation that was not traditional based on the neediness created by broken families. The surge in population segments with non-conforming sexuality resulted in the openness and legitimisation of directions such as gay and lesbianism.
Sexuality constructed both healthy and unhealthy circumstances in the 1970s, both in literal and non-literal phases. As Marxism earned ground in anthropology, there was a change in perspectives and stereotypes even further than the mid-20th century. Marxism brought about the analysis of morality in sex terms and roles of gender such that the critical points of argument moved from an uninformed angle to a scientific paradigm. Sensitive issues in the society had to be tackled with equal measure and rationale that portrayed reason. A good example would be references made to racism, labour and women rights among many. Thus, the anthropological discourse of the 20th century had given birth to the initial steps of constructive criticism channelled toward sexuality.
Construction and Deconstruction of Sexuality
These are the most recent anthropological developments. In the late 20th Century, there was widespread education that enlightened society. Anti-Racial campaigns coupled with gender-based attacks and those for labour reforms were indicative of the evolution of the mind and the need to destroy the current legislatures that were counterproductive to the course of necessary for liberty and happiness. There were new leaders such as Marxists, Martin Luther King, and Maya Angelou among many. These were the champions of a rebirth in perspectives of sexuality. Women were no longer going to take violence and subjectivity seated; they had rights that they aggressively sought to earn. Thus, there was the need to abolish some laws that favoured only the rich, white and the privileged.
Deconstruction as a process is ongoing and has passed through numerous challenges across the world. Not many nations seek to earn gender equity, and those that have the will experience legislative difficulties. As a result, post 20th Century discourse is uniquely different as a result and aims to deconstruct various sex discourses within itself (Valentine 2011, p.10-12).
Construction has seen the emergence of gender fluidity and the legislation of the same. Liberties are protected, and even the fluidity keeps shifting and is redefined based on emerging trends (Carole 2005). Anthropology theorises that sexuality is now more than ever, an informed practice within informed society, which, however, still limits inappropriate sexual expressions that may be offensive. HIV/ AIDS has had its impact on the general perception of gender and sexuality, thus, evolving behaviours and practices. For instance, wife inheritance is now faced out as a practice among some native societies, especially in Africa.
The study sought to demonstrate an anthropological contingency of various structures that relate to sexuality, including discourses, constructions and deconstructions. Sexuality is observed to be a construct of historical interrelationships that may be engraved in the ideologies of certain people, as well as the prevailing cultures and economy. Also, it noted that sexuality is an ambiguous aspect of life, and very virtual. Therefore, the alterity of it is justifiable through the existence of groups, whose power can never be the same, meaning one team will always subscribe to the other. Thus, the scrutiny of the past facilitates the learning of history, socialisation and politics that surround sexuality.
Allen, J. and Smith, J.L., 2011. The influence of sexuality stereotypes on men’s experience of gender-role incongruence. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 12(1), p.76.
Armstrong, N. and Tennenhouse, L. eds., 2014. The Ideology of Conduct (rout ledge Revivals): Essays in Literature and the History of Sexuality. Routledge. p. 97
Bolt, C., 2013. Victorian attitudes to race. Routledge. https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/publications/victorians-attitudes-to-race-and-cultural-diversity
Donna, Hastings and Fiona Magowan. 2010. The anthropology of sex. New York: Berg. p. 117
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