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Male Sexual Dysfunction and its Implications on Perceptions of Gender and Sexuality Among Young Men in Tanzania

An advertisment posted on a wooden electical pole for a healer who is concerned with sexual  performance (nguvu za kiume) among others.

An advertisment posted on a wooden electical pole for a healer who is concerned with sexual performance (nguvu za kiume) among others.
Image Credit: Simon Mutebi

Simon Mutebi

My ethnographic project aims at understanding the perceptions and practices of young men experiencing sexual performance concerns, particularly dysfunctions. Globally, there are over 152 million men experiencing sexual dysfunctions, erectile dysfunction in particular. For example, by the year 2025, the number of men experiencing erectile dysfunction is projected to reach about 322 million with the highest percentage increase in developing countries of Africa of 169% from 1995 to 2025 (Ayta et al. 1999). In Tanzania, particularly, the little available data on sexual performance concerns are limited on the prevalence, risk factors associated with sexual dysfunctions and among people with comorbidities such as HIV/AIDS (UKIMWI) and diabetes (See, for example, Mkongo, 2009; Mutagaywa et al. 2014). As a result, the perceptions and practices of men experiencing sexual dysfunctions have remained unexamined. So far, to the best of my knowledge, there is no ethnographic study on male sexual dysfunctions not only in Tanzania but also in the wider Sub-Saharan African region.

The central argument of my project builds on the previous qualitative and/or ethnographic studies of Inhorn and Wentzell (2011); Wentzell (2013; 2014) and Zang (2015). These scholars argue that notions of ‘male sexual dysfunctions’ are not universal to all cultures and contexts. However, unlike them, whose focus has been on older people living in Europe, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Mexico, my focus is on young men living in Africa particularly in urban Tanzania. The main questions governing this project are: How do young men make sense of sexual performance, sexual performance concerns? And what are the social implications of such constructions on perceptions of gender and sexuality? By using ethnographic approach with young men in Mwanza city and by building on theoretical frameworks of embodiment, discourses and practice, I argue that young men’s constructions of sexual performance (and sexual performance concerns) are context specific. Hence, young men’s meanings and perceptions of male sexuality including sexual performance, embodied lived experiences of male sexual performance concerns, and the coping practices with sexual performance concerns particularly sexual dysfunctions are dynamic. As such, they shift among young men, within peer groups and between partners.

Berlin Southern Theory Lecture