Growing Up Sexually





Index AfricaNigeria Ibo Afikpo Igbo


Also featured: Badjju, Nupe, Hausa, Kadara, Kagoro, Efik, Tiv, Kanuri, Ijaw/ Ijo, Bini, Marghi, Jekri, Lala, Kofjar, Ibibio, Woodabe Fulani, Borroro Fulani, Ibo [Afikpo Igbo, Asaba Ibo], Rukuba, Irigwe, Yakoe, Igbira, Igala, Orri, Dakarkaki


The first sexual experience for Igbo girls is generally after menarche (Ogbalu, 1979)[1]. According to Ottenberg (1989)[2], who presents a most detailed study of gender role development, Afikpo boys are prohibited to have intercourse before circumcision, a reason to perform the operation early (p38). When violating the rule, boys are thought to be weakened by the act. Most of the sexual behaviour, which would be surprisingly modest, seem to occur in a sort of unsupervised annual children’s orgy called egwu[mirrored c]nwa (Moonlight Dancing, p109-12). It does not involve more than a petting courtship. In the adult equivalent, this type of bonding is omitted. It does not involve more than a petting courtship. It was said to provide “experience in exercising sexual [self-]restraint”, for boys  rather to protect the female partner from sexually aggressive advances performed by other boys.

A recent update on sexual socialisation by Ogbu (1996)[3] found that authority has shifted to Afikpo mothers who are unprepared to assume the responsibility. “In traditional Afikpo culture mothers were not responsible and did not function as the principal agents of sexual socialization. Hence, with the shift of responsibility they are unable to function as agents of sexual socialization. Traditionally, sexual socialization was managed through socially orchestrated rituals, such as initiation”.

Agbasiere (2000:p97-101)[4] relates that Igbo girls’ coming-of-age begins at age seven, with the teachings of household, proceeding until the menarchal nubility ritual, at about age 14. During the seclusion, the girl is introduced to the “female secrets” of married life, including “formal lessons in the major vales associated with successful conjugal relationships”. This entails wifely subjection and restriction on sexuality, including pre-marital chastity and fidelity within marriage.

Anyanwu (1973)[5] speaks of infant betrothal and adoption marriage among the Mbaise Igbo.







Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1]Ogbalu, Ch. (1979) Igbo Attitude to Sex, Containing over 1,000 Proverbs on Sex.Onitsha: University Publishing Co.

[2] Ottenberg, S. (1989) Boyhood Rituals in an African Society: An Interpretation.Seattle & London: University of Washington Press

[3] Ogbu, M. A. (1996) Girl to woman in a changing African society: The impact of modernization and development on sexual socialization of adolescents, DAI-B 57(3-B):1740

[4] Agbasiere, J. Th. & Ardener, Sh. (2000) Women in Igbo Life and Thought.London [etc.]: Routledge

[5] Anyanwu, C. N. (1973) Traditional procedure and systems of marriage among the Mbaise Igbo, African Notes 7,2:62-8