Azende, Peter M. (2018) Sexuality and Sexual Agency among Female Adolescents in North Central Nigeria: A Grounded Theory Approach. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Within Tiv society, the prevailing sociocultural context in which young people live plays a significant role in their knowledge and experiences about sexuality. With a grounded theory approach, this study focuses on tracking the influence of sociocultural forces on the sexual world of young women and contributes to the culturally specific understanding of how female adolescents experience their sexuality. Qualitative methods were used to elicit data for this study. Four focus group discussions were conducted with young women between the ages of 14 and 19 years. In addition, individual in-depth interviews were conducted with twenty parents. Additionally, another set of young women participated in thirteen individual Skype in-depth interviews. Data were recorded, transcribed and then analysed using the concurrent processes of constant comparative analysis, data gathering, theoretical sampling and memo writing.

Findings revealed that female adolescent sexuality among the Tiv is socially constructed and affected by power relations and repressive traditions. This seems to derive from the interplay of power, gender, patriarchal values and culture/traditional practices. Young women, however, demonstrated their belief that sexuality was an integral part of who they were. They were acutely aware of their sexual needs and desires and they used a range of tactics to claim back and express their sexual power. Given that their premarital sexual intercourse is negatively and punitively constructed, some young women paid very high prices for subverting parental control over their sexuality and engaging in premarital sex, especially if they became pregnant. The adolescents in this study were agentic, but only within the liminal space that they create.

The development of sexuality for Tiv adolescent females is then, a complex and shifting construction mediated by cultural context, family norms and social settings. Young women’s understanding of their own sexuality reflects consciousness and their expression of sexual desire reflects agency, however these crucial facets of the subjective self are constrained within a wider context. Further, the role of mothers in controlling their daughters’ sexuality is illustrative of their role in the perpetuation of patriarchal values. This thesis provides new insights into adolescent sexuality and contributes to creating a space where female adolescents can share their perceptions and experiences about their sexual lives.

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