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Guest Contributor Denise L Harrison: When We Control Our Own Sexual Health and Pleasure We’ll Control Our Own Destiny

Whether you live in Accra, Ghana or Akron, Ohio in the US, as a woman of African descent you know what it means to have your sexual health and pleasure controlled by someone else. You could be denied oral contraceptives at the pharmacy or denied the protection of a condom in bed.  Your cry of “stop!” to a man forcing himself on you can fall on deaf ears just as easy as your cry to keep it going until you reach orgasm can.

Lately, in South Africa, there has been a lot of discussion about Zuma marrying his 6th wife and whether or not rape is a part of South African culture. In Sweden, Painful Cake, by Afro Swede Makode Linde,  allows you cut into a red velvet cake designed to look like an African woman’s vagina. It’s meant to bring awareness to female circumcision or female genital mutilation. But, for me it really makes me ask,  “Where are African women’s voices in all of this?” What are our thoughts about a man having more than one wife or woman and what a woman can say “no” or “yes” to.

We need to take the lead in these discussions and decisions taking place all over Africa and the diaspora. I think having our own art work showing how we feel and what we want and need sexually as well as having our own blogs to set the agenda and stir the conversation can let us get what we want out of our sexual lives. We can do this more and more as we get access to jobs and positions that allow us to take a stance on whether or not oral contraceptives can be sold without a prescription or why rape needs stiffer punishment. Or why we need female ejaculation. Of course, we’re making progress. But, are we making it as fast as we can?

So, what will it be? Oral contraceptives or orgasms today?  What are your thoughts?

Bio: Denise Harrison is the CEO & Founder of Suzy Knew. SuzyKnew aims to improve women’s sexual pleasure and health as well as improve reproductive health targeting women in the US and select African
and Asian countries.

About the Author

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Published on: 11 June 2012 by in General Issues

has written 217 stories on this site.

6 Comments
  1. Ekuba says:

    this is a great post. you’re so right! i feel that as african women, no matter our educational background or financial status, we face diverse types of discrimination daily. it’s interesting you use access to contraceptives as an example. 1st time i went to buy contraceptive pills (couple of yrs ago) @ a modern hospital @ ridge, accra; the nurse asked me when i was going to settle down/ get married lol. i doubt that men who buy condoms are asked about their future marriage plans. hmmm

  2. ozohu says:

    I can bet a good amount of money that the nurse who asked Ekuba when she was going to settle down, was a woman. i could be wrong, but i have experienced similar from so many women and not half as much men. I would think it should be the other way round. Our progress as African women will be faster if there weren’t so many of us who still judged one another even while we’re trying to do the right thing like be in charge of our own sexual health. Women sometimes could judge a fellow woman so harshly for refusing to be with a man who wants a more than 1 woman, excusing the man by saying “it is part of our culture”… There is still some more Un-educarion and Re-education needed for the African woman..

  3. Ekuba says:

    Yep, Ozohu, you’re right on the money! The nurse was a woman. The irony is that 3 months later when I went for a refill of my contraceptive pills, I saw the same ‘holier-than-thou’ nurse coaxing a 20 yr old woman to have an abortion bcos she said the woman was illiterate, poor & already had 2 kids (she later did a quick abortion for the woman). i thought to myself “So, Auntie nurse, shouldn’t you rather be encouraging young women to protect themselves rather than coaxing them to have abortions when they get pregant?” I wish i had had the courage to say it out loud!

  4. We’re making progress… We’re making progress…! We just have to keep at it. It’s great when books like “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moya because we can see what a difference it makes when we start and control the dialogue. Kara Walker is another example that comes to mind of how African women can change to texture and feel of a well-known theme. Or, how about when you look at women owned sex toys or erotica. There’s a big difference! When you control the dialogue including that of your sexuality, you control your destiny. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Nana Darkoa says:

    @Ozohu – It is important for us to remember that women have been positioned as the gatekeepers of our societal norms although ironically we stand to loose the most from this social system … so women like the nurse as part of preserving their own status in society want to be in this privileged authoritative position where they get to tell young women to only have sex within marriage…and by inference imply that they are holier than though…cos of course they will never have done anything as scandalous as having sex before marriage…

  6. Corey Gilkes says:

    What always strikes me on these issues is the way in which it seems that not so much the fact that so many African societies are rigidly patricentric but that it appears that all knowledge of the ancient pre-colonial, pre-Islamic (and even IN SPITE OF the Islamic incursions) of autonomous women’s sexuality and status has been erased totally from people’s consciousness.

    This is very grave and must be addressed. I believe that in the process of modern African women finding and making the space to be asserting their sexuality, there needs to be a detailed analysis of women’s sexuality in the ancient world and matching it with the reality of contemporary society and demographics

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