[Members of the Rotaract Club of Accra Ring Road Central invited me to speak to their club on the topic above. I started out wanting to write a story to illustrate the topic but a few hours to the talk decided I needed to prepare a ‘proper’ talk as well. I ended up doing a reading to the club and delivering my prepared speech which can be found below. I shall post the story shortly. As usual I would love to know your thoughts]
Being asked to speak on this topic delighted and dismayed me. Dismay because the title of the topic could lead one to assume that the African woman is not already sexually liberated or that women all over the world are sexually liberated and somehow the African woman is trailing behind. I have a problem with this idea. When I hear of women undergoing vaginoplasty in the West it gives me the distinct impression that Western women are not yet sexually liberated. When I hear that 1 in 4 women in the United Kingdom is a survivor of domestic violence I get the distinct impression that women in that part of the world are not yet sexually liberated. When Kanye West tweets about not being sure whether it is appropriate to use the word ‘bitch’ in his music I wonder about the effect that popular American hip hop has on the psyche of women all over the world including myself. The reality is that your sexuality is affected by how you feel about the way your vagina looks. Your sexuality is affected by violence and its effect on your self-esteem, and health. Your sexuality is affected about the messages we get from society including music, and all aspects of popular culture.
Yet I am delighted that I have been asked to speak on this topic. Perhaps I am delighted because the invitation to speak on this topic came from a man and it reinforces one of my own subjective views – that young men today are increasingly interested in the sexual pleasure of women. That has been my own personal experience in recent years but maybe this is just the case of bringing your A game when you’re having sex with a woman who blogs on the subject.
But there’s a bit more to liberating the African woman sexually than young men wanting to make sure women orgasm during sex. Liberation is also about getting rid of those aspects of our culture that limit women’s sexuality. I’m sure you can recite the list – FGM, breast ironing in some parts of the continent, harmful widowhood rites in this country and others. Lets also not forget about other aspects of our culture, which are also equally harmful to women’s sexuality. This includes telling your friends “Oh that girl? She be shashi. I shag am”. Lets also not pretend that the sexuality of women is exclusively heterosexual. The assumption of hetero-normative sexuality is also limiting to the full expression of a woman’s sexuality.
Ensuring African women have an enjoyable sexual life starts from childhood. It means on one hand protecting children from the sexual abuse that is so rife in our communities and on the other hand raising girls up to be confident individuals with a strong sense of self worth. An enjoyable sexual life means access to sex education, as well as access to comprehensive family planning services.
So what’s an adult woman to do today if she didn’t have this kind of background that would create a sexually confident woman. A couple of things have worked for me including:
- Reading about sex. In particular I have found the literature by feminists around sex to be incredibly helpful. This has included some more academic/research-based literature like Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” and works of fiction including Alice Walker’s “By the light of my Father’s Smile”. Prominent African feminist Sylvia Tamale has also edited a comprehensive collection on “African Sexualities”.
- Learning what pleases me sexually. This is an ongoing lesson because what pleases you might change, or you might push your buttons and try an activity you thought you might hate and end up thinking, “Mmm, I quite like that”. Learning what pleases you sexually only comes from exploring. This can be with yourself (my first recommendation), and with your partner.
- Communicating with your partner. Because of our socialisation women tend to be uncomfortable with expressing their sexual needs so this may be something you need to push yourself to do. I wanted to stand up and clap for myself the first time I said to a guy (in the middle of action when he had started to put on a condom) “I am not ready yet. I need more foreplay”.
If there is anything I want you to take away from this talk when it comes to good sex it is this: Learn, communicate and practice.