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'Keeping Up Appearances': Sex and Religion amongst University Students in Uganda

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

Students of Uganda's Makerere University currently find themselves in the middle of an emerging clash of sexual ideologies, perpetuated by different peer groups. Transactional sex is one of the most evident social dynamics around the campus. For most women, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, having sex with often older, wealthier men is the quickest and easiest way to secure the material goods and lifestyles exemplified by their wealthier peers. This dynamic, known as 'detoothing', whereby a woman will analogously extract a man's teeth one by one until he is left with nothing, appears the most salient determinant of sexual behaviour amongst university students. This paper aims to examine how the increasingly popular theologies and social structures of Pentecostalism are creating new 'born-again' peer groups with their own standards for social and sexual behaviour. The promotion of sexual abstinence and an anti-materialist rhetoric challenge the central tenets of the prevailing sexual patterns amongst students. However the impact of the born-again discourse on actual sexual behaviour is complicated by broader socio-economic dynamics that influence the ways in which theologies are received and acted upon by church members.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Study of Religions, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK


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