Hailing from two different cultures I have witnessed varying marriage and sex advice. Although unsure of the sex education men are given (I can presume it is not very extensive judging from conversations I’ve had with some of them) I can speak to that of African women. We have long been “schooled” in the art of sex (marital) sex. This education has centred on the notion that sex is a gift to be protected and then given to a deserving man.
Strangely enough one lesson that seems to be never taught is: “enjoy it”.
This is why I am of the firm belief that, subconsciously as society, pleasure is seen as something for men and not women. But that is an idea to be explored on another day.
As I cannot speak to the wisdom passed on from men to boys I shall speak to that given within the female realm. Advice here comes in many forms from the ability to undulate like a snake in the summer heat or keep it clean and juicy fresh so as not to fill the room with a smell (note I did not say scent). My personal favourite (due to the fact that it can be easily mistaken for masturbation) is the knowledge passed down by the Ugandan females who say that by pulling my labia minora my future sexual partner will remain “warm and pleasured” during the act. There are kitchen parties in many African homes where advice is dished out in heaps. Wisdom passed down between generations of women comes in the form of societal warnings (don’t kiss boys or people will speak badly about you) or in the forms of in-depth instruction about how women can be vessels of pleasure for men.
Despite these pearls of wisdom fished from the deep waters of tradition, and focus on the pleasure of our male counterparts, women are still out there in the world enjoying and relishing in what the French call “la petite morte”. The orgasm.
Despite this are they being given the space to properly explore this aspect of their identities outside of being mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, home makers and breadwinners? Are women being celebrated as sexual forces of nature?
Female sexuality is so tied to that of men that it proves difficult to conceptualise spaces that women carve out from themselves. Consider: a straight woman is a woman who sleeps with men, a bisexual is a woman who sleeps with men and women and a lesbian is a woman who does not sleep with men.
There can be no denying that, often, the concept of female sexuality is phallocentric. This being the case it must be noted that with great power comes great responsibility. If men are the be all and end all of sex then the question remains: “What are the men teaching the boys?” Are they teaching them the complete tricks of the trade or simply (as they say in hip-hop) “give them the D”? Are they spreading the idea that insertion is the key to opening unlimited pleasure thus denying a range of pleasure both to themselves and women?
Women throw around bombs such as “sex is really for men”, “he is the one who enjoys it more” or, my personal favourite, “I have never had an orgasm”. Apparently the bedroom is not always the place for women to celebrate their sexual side. Personally I would advise the shower or the kitchen (but watch out for knives and damp surfaces).
There are certain spaces that allow women to feel safe enough to express desires, desires that wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise. The inability of women — of all “normative” sexualities — to express their desires and curiosities speaks to the far deeper issue of sexual anonymity when it comes to women. The crux of the problem lies with ideas of what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable self-exploration and expression. In terms of expressing your sexuality you can try some things and not others, explore some identities and not others.
Thankfully, from what I can see, women are beginning to challenge that. Obviously I am not advocating for one to go and lick every stranger they find “tasty” but the inability to simply ask “what do I really like” seems somewhat disheartening.
Therefore it isn’t so much that there is nothing going on sexually with African women outside of their men but that it’s not getting the space to manifest itself. Women are wildly sexually beings, who are auto-erotic and hold within them the capability for unlimited pleasure and desire. Some argue that this must be reined in lest it dismantles the very fabric of society. This makes sense. Female sexuality is actually that powerful — just ask the people making billions off it.
On a positive note I have been told that a sexual revolution is coming and I, for one, have already started dusting off my beret and have sworn an oath to do my continental duty in helping all the women out there to discover their sexuality.
There are women who are exploring aspects of their sexuality that the powers that be would deem “immoral” and “untraditional”. It’s wet and it is wild. Yes. But then again what good revolution isn’t?
Women are beginning to try something new. More and more you see sex toys for women being sold and a study has shown an increase in the number of women engaging with erotica. Some call it decrepit, I call it “going all Dr Livingston on sex” and discovering something new.
So dams will break and the still waters will come forth. It is experimentation and testing boundaries that has allowed humanity to go from riding horses to having horsepower engines. It is trying to see what is on the other side that has propelled us forward, made us better (in some respects) and allowed us the creature comforts we have today. Women have far more to offer sexually than merely being a fragile vessel from which sexual pleasure for a partner may trickle forth, instead we offer an erotic abyss that is yet to be explored. But only by those who are brave enough.
Image – AFP