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Sex and Sexuality in Yorùbá 71 Lampooning Songs

Lampooning songs (songs meant to shame and humiliate) are pedagogical tools by which the Yorùbá of southwestern Nigeria animate moral precepts and teach ethical values. Through such ritual performances, on particular days of the year, the Yorùbá publicly celebrates ‘vulgarity’ in the hope that it teaches morals that bring about social change. Although scholarly works abound on lampooning songs, few have examined them as cultural resources for moral pedagogy. This study argues that by shaming the genitals of offenders during the yearly lampooning performances, the Yorùbá prescribe a moral template of what society considers to be an ideal moral character. Using data from interviews and poetic texts from lampooning songs performed at three annual festivals in southwestern Nigeria (Edì in Ile-Ife, Òpèpéè in Ondo, and Ògún Obìnrin in Akure), this research reveals that discussing sexuality and disrespecting sex organs openly, though in a ritual context, is a means to effect positive social change.