The Relationship of Gender and Sexuality within Cultures
Culture refers to the knowledge, beliefs, values and attitudes acquired by individuals or a group of people and passed down from one generation to another (Rohner, 1984). Culture largely determines people’s socialization depending on where they come from, and this is evident in different gender roles portrayed by members of a society. Socialization is the process by which children grow to respect and follow their societal norms and customs, which in turn determines how a child of different sex is socialized into their specific gender roles and taught what it means to be male or female.
A child’s gender socialization starts when it is born. It now begins to learn the gender roles through the agents of culture and socialization, which include the family and schools, peer groups, workplace and the media. This is when sexual attitudes and behaviors are introduced and reinforced in the society.
Cultures in the world differ greatly, but interact with gender to show how people perceive their sexual attitudes and behaviors, in that some lean towards collectivism, which is interdependence, and this is evident in the orient. Others for instance, the west, emphasizes more on individualism, which focuses on personal goals and independence (Kitayama, 2002).
Polygamy is the practice of having more than one sexual partner in a relationship during a period. Infidelity is unfaithfulness in a marital relationship. While polygamy is prohibited and illegal in some western countries like Canada and America, it is a norm in the orient and African countries due to their religious practices. However, some families in the American society still practice polygamy law do not sanction it. Women who divorce their husbands in African culture tend to carry with them a social stigma, so infidelity seems to be an option to them.
In the African culture, men are often seen as superior to women, and so polygamy is used as display of power and prestige in the society. This does not match the western culture whereby women are seen to be equal to men and the practice of monogamy is the responsibility of both man and woman.
Even though polygamy is believed to be unjust to both women and children in the western culture in that it violates their rights and dignity, the African culture still prides in it, because it curbs infidelity, which may be rampant in monogamous relationships. These cultures engage in polygamy to increase the probability of having children, in the cases whereby the wife cannot bear children, or has girls only. Some men see having many wives will give him sexual satisfaction and more children to provide labor in the farms.
Infidelity is been enhanced by the social media, which poses as one of the greatest threat to marriage in both cultures, though these affairs may be survival. Secret online sexual and intimate relationships usually amount to affairs even when there is no actual intercourse or physical contact involved. Premarital sex is, usually practiced in both cultures, that is, the African and the western, whereby it is, accepted as a reality, regardless of the amount of sex education carried out in different institutions. This may be the reason for rising cases of infidelity. Ghule, Balaiah, & Joshi (2007) argue that various religious views and associations affect the attitude and permissiveness on premarital sex.
In the African and oriental countries, there are great resource inequalities among men, hence women tend to marry polygamous men, as opposed to where inequalities are low. Women who are more educated tend to shun polygamy as opposed to their peer who have little or no education, and from low social upbringing.
Some African cultures, which are more sexually restrictive than the western cultures try to limit the sexual gestures and expressions and their occurrences. Premarital sex and to extension infidelity is seen to hold a dangerous power, and is considered harmful and should be abstained from at whatever cost, because they may bring about negative outcomes, for instance early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Adults in these societies tend to keep their children away from understanding issues pertaining to sexuality for longer periods, to protect them from indulging in these activities. Sexual chastity and abstinence is emphasized and becomes the cultural norm for moral and acceptable behavior. Thus, in the African and oriental cultures, virtue is often characterized by abstinence of sex before marriage, which is seen to curb infidelity once one gets married.
Infidelity in marriages often leads to unfairness on the side of the wronged partner and the children, because they are, robbed of their right to normal family in case of a divorce. The Islamic culture, quite prevalent in African and American societies, has tried to rescue marriages from collapse by forbidding any form of extramarital affairs by imposing strict sharia law, and allowing men to marry at most four wives. This protects the children and the first wives against any unfairness as seen in the western culture. In cases where infidelity has led to a divorce, in the western culture, men are, forced to pay for child support, which in turn acts as punishment for unfaithfulness.
Polygamy harms children in that they are, induced into a rivalry for paternal love and affection. They do not get adequate model for authority, equality and fidelity, which are, needed for their development emotionally into future husbands and wives, or even citizens and leaders. They also do not get adequate resources needed for physical and intellectual growth.
Coercing of young girls into early marriages in the African cultures harms them psychologically. They are then pushed aside for a younger co-wife, hence being reduced into slave-like rivals in the household. Their husbands tend then to abuse them sexually, leading to more children in the families without an increase of resources. Once the women start protesting, their husbands threatened them with violence and passive treatment with no show of affection.
Globalization and technological advancements are having a positive impact on the changes of different cultures by making the reexamine their respective beliefs on polygamy and infidelity. American culture of delayed marriages due to schooling has served to remove sexuality from family and societal control and placing it on the individual’s own hands. African cultures are however being abandoned because of media influence in favor of the western culture. These cultures are increasingly promoting gender equality and at the same time permitting more individual freedom, thus giving way to a slow death for polygamy.
Thus, people entering into marriages should see the seriousness of the implications of infidelity and strictly adhere to the vows of the institution. Polygamy should also be shunned for better development of a family, since there will be no competition for resources.