A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter III-23:  Sex and Rivalry in a House   <PDF file>

Sexual patterns in the household; jealousy among wives; the use of medicine against each other; how a husband should live with wives who quarrel

Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  sex can strengthen or cause trouble in marriage
2.  differences emerge among women in polygamous household
3.  sex causes jealousy among wives

Sex outside marriage

4.  sex before marriage is not common; couples don’t know their sexual compatibility
5.  divorced women who are remarrying:  some refuse and some accept
6.  sex with girlfriends only rarely leads to marriage
7.  even pregnancy does not necessarily lead to marriage; the man or woman or her family can refuse
8.  differences among women regarding sex can lead or not lead to marriage
9.  differences in sexual behavior of young women
10.  differences between friendship money and paying for sex

Sex inside the household

11.  sex strengthens the bond between husband and wife
12.  the woman’s sexual preferences determine the nature of the sexual relationship
13.  sexual strength and appetites are from character; not learned
14.  some men chase outside women; differences in sexual pleasure from different partners
15.  differences causes problems; difficult to give equal attention; women see the differences

Scheduling sex in the polygamous household

16.  women sleep with husband on their cooking day; men get tired trying to please all
17.  jealousy among women when the other wives are having sex
18.  how women know if the husband has been having sex with the others; from washing
19.  a neglected woman will respond:  proverbs, return to her family house; how the man responds
20.  if the woman does good works in the house, will stay; otherwise will divorce


21.  jealousy among women; they know the husband’s relations with their cowives
22.  no remedy for jealousy; jealous woman is looking for vindication
23.  sex can strengthen or weaken marriage; need for balance and moderation


24.  rivalry among cowives; four wives or two wives separate themselves; especially cooking days
25.  menstruation days also bring out rivalry; sex not forbidden but not common during menstruation
26.  having many wives is difficult; not all women are jealous, but many are
27.  three wives is most difficult; shifting rivalries of two against one
28.  husband cannot separate the quarrel; sometimes will put the three wives into separate houses
29.  some three wives get along; or the rivals all quarrel with their husband instead of each other

Examples of rivalry and jealousy

30.  rivals can use medicine against one another or against the husband
31.  rivalry extends to stepchildren; medicine and abuse against the children
32.  rivalry over gifts; have to give to each wife individually and equally
33.  wives are possessive about other responsibilities on their cooking days
34.  the wives resent and work against a favored wife; gossip outside the house
35.  jealous woman has no shame; will work against the person who will help her in the house
36.  the jealousy is general among women; examples of bluffing each other

Women who are happy

37.  women who are the only wife are happy; examples
38.  a woman who is for herself; trading and in her own house; no man trouble


39.  cannot know everything about a woman; secretive; more complicated than men
40.  women take quarrels to a higher extent; overstate and lie about issues
41.  can only trust women to an extent; too much jealousy; hold onto bad feelings; good and bad

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Sex can make a man love a woman and a woman love a man.

Somebody having only one wife is still sleeping inside his mother’s room.

All women are not one.

A woman’s work does not work only in Dagbon.

A jealous woman has no medicine.

A jealous woman is like someone who lies down with closed eyes but is not sleeping:  if you want to wake the fellow, it’s difficult.

If a soothsayer is a nantarga and you need someone to look for you, you will have to go and bring him:  you will close your nose and let him sit down and look for you.

We call someone with only one wife a bachelor because he doesn’t know what is inside marriage.

Jealousy is the heart of a woman.

The talk of someone who is not a person, don’t accept it and don’t refuse it.

A jealous woman does not want herself, and we say again that she wants to kill herself.

If you beat a dog, it means you are waiting for its owner.

Jealousy is our custom here.

We don’t worry a woman to do any work that she is not supposed to do, and it has become like a custom because it is standing.

Women don’t fear shame.

Shyness or shame is what makes a human being.

A human being is shyness.

A woman does not like her fellow women.

No one can know all the talks about women.

A woman is like knowledge:  no one can finish learning knowledge; everyone will only learn to his extent.
Knowledge doesn’t finish, and you will search for knowledge and be learning, and you will never finish.

To know a woman, you will only know to your extent.

You will only know your wife to your extent.

Men don’t have long talks like a woman.

You can know a man, but you cannot know a woman.

A woman is like a watch:  as you have her and you trust her, don’t have trust in her too much.

A woman will not agree that her sense is a bad sense.

If a woman is a stranger and she comes to a town, before it’s daybreak, when she roams once, she knows all the talks of the town and all that is in the town.

A jealous woman is always causing trouble, and she does not know had-I-known.

A woman should not know the secrets of her friend.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Names and people
Fati  (wife of Alhaji Ibrahim)

Towns and places

Cultural groups
Dagbana, Dagbamba

Miscellaneous terms
cowife, cowives