Socio-cultural and gender-based issues influence sexuality of emerging adults. These gender-based issues worsen sexual health outcomes of emerging adults in studies outside Nigeria. Some of these issues are male dominance in sexual relationships, health care providers’ bias in attending to sexual health needs of emerging adults and age disparate sexual relationships. Studies have reported that males dominate females in sexual relationship largely in part owing to masculinity tendencies. Also, health care providers view emerging adults as randy when seeking information on sexual and reproductive health care services. Added to these is age disparate sexual relationships. Older men engage in exchanged sex while younger females are unable to negotiate condom. All these speak to gender and social inequality in sexual relationships are largely undocumented in Nigeria.
This study collected information purposively using a qualitative inquiry. Thirty (30) in-depth interviews (IDIs), six (6) Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Eighteen (18) Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were conducted across the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Narratives and interviews showed nuanced discourses of all these gendered issues. Males dominated females in sexual relationships through suppression to negotiate condom, diminished females’ individual agency, and engagement in multiple sexual partnerships. Females endured domination of males in sexual relationships to sustain relationships. Also, health providers were biased and indifferent in providing sexual and reproductive health services to emerging adults. This study showed poor socio-economic status makes older men to exploit and take advantage of younger females in sexual relationships. Wide age difference and the notion of fulfilling their side in a paid sexual intercourse made younger females unable to negotiate condom.
Gender-based issues and socio-cultural norms diminished individual agency of emerging adults, especially females, achieving positive sexuality. Policies that dispel socio-cultural and gendered norms in sexual relationships should be encouraged, including increased awareness on sex education to parents and children, skill acquisitions and empowerment programmes for emerging adults and capacity building of health providers to improve provision of SRH needs of emerging adults.