Guest Contributor Funmi Balogun: Sex and the ‘Oldish’ African Woman Series: Choice and my possibilities are endless®

The title of this blog is a rearrangement of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Byline, ‘From Choice, a World of Possibilities’ as it is a byline I most identify with and within which I want to locate my thoughts on sex, sexuality and the aging woman!  I like the byline, it seems very innocuous, and we have even been challenged that it does not speak to people nor does it reflect clearly what we do at IPPF where I work, which is making sexuality and it’s practice, safe, pleasurable, based on choice and providing the tools to do so – contraceptives, sexuality education, support for safe maternity, preventing unsafe abortions, identifying different forms of sexualities and supporting them and sex that is practised without coercion.  But for me, that byline resonates very powerfully.


Choice and what it means is not what we always think about, we just make them – from the mundane, what to wear each morning, to the school we would want to go to given a choice, choices about careers, everyday decisions, everything is based on choice and the freedom to do so.  Supposing then, we were not given the freedoms to make these choices?  There are countries where women are not allowed to show their faces, their legs and pretty much about everything else for example, the choice we take for granted in choosing what we wear very morning then does not really apply to them – can you imagine, not to have the choice to choose whether you want to cover up all your body or expose it as you wish, ready for any consequences, but still a choice.


There are countries and families where people are not allowed to choose spouses, spouses are chosen for them and so the choice to look around, know someone and choose a partner, good and bad are taken away, there are many countries where fornication is a sin punishable by death and the rampant sex by choice that I imagine African people are having (or insinuated) especially amongst young, unmarried people, choosing who to see, have sex with etc would have been taken away!  Most of us don’t even reflect on those denied choices and rights when choosing our sex partners – we do it without even thinking about it – who to love, and how to love, but imagine how it must be for lesbian and gay people, because of rampant homophobia, gay people are often forced into the closet, have to be furtive about who they love, often have to pretend to be what they are not because they do not have freedom to choose.  So many women and girls are illiterates simply because they are women and not given a choice of whether to go to school or not, they are just stopped and told that schools and presumably knowledge is not for women/ girls!  So you see why this byline thoroughly speaks to me? Choice is a fundamental right that we all take for granted.  Ok, so why does it apply to an aging woman?


These days when you do work on sexuality, there almost seems to be a dichotomy, older women are targeted for their reproductive functions, while young women are targeted for their sexual health.  In case you don’t know, the implied belief behind this dichotomy is that young women under 30 are having sex for pleasure while those over 30 are having sex to have babies! So then where does it leave women who are over 45, not having children anymore but still having sex, pleasurable I would imagine?? So the question is, what is the choice of an ageing woman like me in terms of accessing sexual health information and rights in order to have pleasurable sex without having to pretend to be a young woman who is under 30?


In talking about access, one has to discuss the whole notion of the way we view older women’s sexuality in Africa or at least in my corner of Africa (I have to let you know that this is not an academic treatise, just based on anecdotes, and all other things that cannot be verified ‘scientifically’!).  Older women are often respected in Africa once you hit a certain milestone.  As chronological age is not often efficient in Africa, most women are supposed to stop having sex when their children start having children – in my culture it is a taboo to be pregnant when your child is also pregnant.  So if we go back a few decades, we can safely deduce that this will be around 37 and 38 (yeah, can you imagine stopping having sex at 38??).  My deduction is that if you start having kids at 18 given that women didn’t go to school anyway, and you have a daughter first, by the time she is 18/19, she is also married and starting to have kids which the effectively stops you having sex at 37/39.  You might risk it, but given that there was no access to contraceptives, the chances of being pregnant were very high so I can imagine the number of women then as it is now, who risked getting down, got pregnant, went through unsafe abortions and lost their lives – who says sex is not a death sentence for some?


So back to me, what is an ‘oldish’ woman like me supposed to do for good sex?  How do older single women who are still dating navigate sex safely and for pleasure?  I am sure a few people reading this are already making judgements, why are you over 40 and single anyway?  If you are single, there must be something wrong – you could not find a man because you are or were bad when younger (so should know about sex anyway, wink, wink) or was married and no longer married (again, bad!).  But of course as with all things concerning me, I always ignore naysayers and traditionalists anyway.


So back to the issue of over 40 woman and sex.  The first challenge is of course finding the man to have sex with!  In the West, a lot of people are on their second or third spouses, always freeing up potential partners for men and women of all ages to marry or at least have guilt free sex with.  In Africa, people marry and stay in their marriages even when they have not spoken to their spouses for 20 years, much more, having sex with their spouses!  What this means is that in Africa, finding single and not crazy men over 40 is almost an impossible task!


So what is a single older woman to do?  Simple!  You just include men in bad marriages, men who are just adventurous and have never taken their marriage vows seriously anyway and men 10 years + younger than you in your sex ‘pool’!  So you have all of them there, how do you choose the one that can if nothing else, provide sexual pleasure?  To make this slightly analytical while also trying to help you, we will go through each category of men I have described above and eliminate them (let’s see where it leaves you and I).  Ok, let’s take the man in an unhappy marriage, he is in practice a single man, he is not engaging with his wife and so has the emotional capacity to fall in love with you, and you fall in love with him.  He is very available like a single man, you can take holidays together (you can assuage yourself by believing that the wife is also not sitting around, moping), and he can certainly satisfy your sexual needs.  This of course only works if you do not want marriage, do not have any hang ups about sleeping with a technically married man, no religious beliefs or religious and fundamentalist friends to remind you of the hell you are surely going to go to, or you do not really believe in marriage anyway.


Of course polygamy complicates it a bit.  If you are very African, actually let’s make it an African man, you really can decide to have a ‘2nd or 3rd or 4th wife’, (even in lenient Africa, going above 4 ‘wives’ will be generally frowned upon’!).  So in a way, as an older African woman, looking for sex,  love and marriage, – not necessarily in that order, and not fussy about your number in the scheme of things, a ‘good catch’ if you want all three might actually be a boyfriend who is married to ‘only one woman’ unhappily and so very eligible! (An aside – reminds me of the former beauty queen in Kenya, in her 30s , so ideally should not be ‘oldish’ and slightly desperate like the rest of us, and beauty queen to boot, who ‘fessed up to being the ‘2nd wife’ of a famous and young politician.  Her piece resistance, she is very happy as long as the man does not abandon the 1st wife and kids for her (the irony!).  So another advice to my fellow ‘oldish’ other African women looking for sex, love and possibly marriage, make sure the man you are hooking up does not abandon his other wives for you!  You don’t want to perpetrate the notion that we are ‘men eaters’!


The second type is even trickier!  To all that know him, he is very happily married even though his closest friends know of his escapades. He woos you like he is single, but you can only see him at 12 midnight occasionally or maybe if he is really in a ‘happy’ marriage, he might only be able to get down in the middle of the afternoons in some friend’s place (he needs to be home at 7 latest to be with his wife and kids, and keep up the pretence!) and you will be very lucky to get holidays.  As he is a player, you should at least be able to get pleasurable sex out of a whole sordid affair if you to use protection to protect you (and his poor wife) from sexually transmitted diseases/HIV to making sure you do not fall pregnant.  You really do not want to tell him you are pregnant (believe it or not, it’s becoming easy for women over 45 to fall pregnant these days – I have two friends who i will protect here by not revealing their names who got pregnant at 45 and Halle Berry who is currently pregnant was born in the same year as yours truly!).  And I cannot imagine a worse thing than going to a gynaecologist and asking for an abortion at 47.      With this kind of man, you should never expect marriage (even if the wife drops dead and he becomes single, he won’t marry you!), you should not fall in love which is a bit difficult as women mostly can’t make love without feeling something regardless of what women say (except those in sex work and porn, but that’s just work).  Your expectations should not go beyond sex and seriously, you must insist that the sex is good – he must give you the full works – oral, good sized penis, clean and buff body, ready to experiment and put you first – it has to be very good!  If not, please let him stay with his wife.   As with the first type, you must not have strong religious beliefs about hell or marriage, nor tell friends who do or have common sense to try and make you disengage.  This type if you ask me, should only be used for stop-gaps – when you are desperate for some action and he is available, and he is a stopgap until you find your man (he would have provided so much pleasure that you will know how to guide your ‘ideal’ guy when you find him!)


The third type is the man 10+ years younger than you (ok, i know it is very hard to call the someone who you could sire a ‘man’, but trust me, I have been told off by a potential amorous partner who was 12 years younger than me.  When I questioned his ‘manly’ credentials, I was told – “I am a grown man, I work, earn my own money and have my own apartment – if that is not being a man, what is?  If you have sh*t issues dealing with a man, then deal with it.”  So of course I looked at him differently after that – won’t tell you what happened after – this is a guide, not my life story!)! If you are brave enough to date the younger man (be ready for people asking you how old your son is, and if you are lucky, asking if he is your brother!), the man might be a good match and catch.  But remember you are over 40 so it’s not likely to lead to a family of husband, wife and two children.  Forget I mentioned Halle Berry and my friends, your probability of having kids after 40 decreases significantly (except of course you attend miracle churches, then you can have kids even if you are 100, but for the rest of us, very unlikely).  I’m yet to meet a young African man who is 30 and does not want marriage and children.  He will be attentive to you, might even fall in love with you and you with him.  You probably have to hide the relationship as people are more judgemental of older woman dating a much younger man.  There’s nothing that screams desperation more than that.  There will be a million people asking how you are sure he is not after your money?  You will of course be richer and more accomplished so will put gender roles out of the window.  If you expect a man to take care of your bills, please don’t date a much younger man except he inherited lots of money, and if he did, he would probably be dating a much younger woman who is as smart as you are J and if he does date you, it will be novelty factor and would hardly count as being your ‘boyfriend.  Even though he is single, you can’t readily introduce the younger man to friends and family (they might start thinking of planning an intervention for you) and you definitely do not want to take him to office functions.  We are African women, remember, this oyinbo/muzungu thinking does not work at all – no one will respect you if you turn up with a ‘boy’ as a boyfriend.   There is the risk that those you supervise might not trust your judgement anymore. And you certainly don’t want to be fodder for office gossip.  If you are a brave woman and the young man is very confident in his own skin, this can actually last more than a lot of your other relationships.  You are not dating a married man (at least one ‘sin’ has been eliminated and you should ideally be getting good sex, if you get past the fact that your body would have aged considerably more than his and might not be able to keep up with his ‘moves’).


Your final option is single, successful, close to your age, takes time to fall in love with you, pleases you and might even want to spend the rest of his years with you.  (Ok, in my dreams, let me know when you find him!).


I am going to talk about ‘oldish’ sex next time – what do we need to do when we find the appropriate or inappropriate man (get out of here, I just want sex!), but writing this has made me think about my choices again, maybe I don’t have as much as I think I do?  Maybe if I had let my father or older male relatives take this choice out of my hands now, I might actually have a ‘half’ man who might save me a lifetime of forced celibacy.  Although knowing the marriages I know, I am not sure a lot of married women are getting sex either.  But if as a result of forced celibacy, I do not commit any sin (yeah, the greatest sin if you believe our religious fundamentalists is to have pleasurable sex outside marriage – instinctively I think they will be more forgiving of you if they think the sex you are having is bad) and then find myself in heaven, who knows if getting down will be allowed there and the more important question, with whom???


P.S: Follow @funmiB on Twitter

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22 comments On Guest Contributor Funmi Balogun: Sex and the ‘Oldish’ African Woman Series: Choice and my possibilities are endless®

  • Wow, thank you very much Funmi for your eye opening post and for keeping it real! I’m not’oldish’ (I’m 28 years) & sometimes, I wish there were older women that would honestly give me advice about relationships & tell me the way things truly are. A lot of older women that I know in Ghana (where I live permanently) don’t do this because they believe that they must advice young women to get married at all costs (even if they themselves are in unhappy marriages). Currently, my 2 older sisters have been very supportive & Nana Darkoa too (I email her sometimes) & other women on this blog like Saffron have been really supportive & given me a lot of good advice. About finding a partner when you’re 40 plus: my darling mum is in her 60s & single (widow) & she always says that it’s not easy to find a man in Africa when you’re ‘oldish’ because all men are partnered up etc. but she swears she’s gonna find a man anyway because she needs to give birth to twins, lol. She also says that society expects women to be perfect but that’s not always possible & so if it’s love/ sex that you need & you meet a man who’s partnered & you don’t mind, you can pursue that & there’s nothing wrong with that & I agree.

    • Voluptuous Voltarian

      This is going to be long but bear with me.
      Reading Funmi’s post has made me wonder if whether there is a bigger underlying reason why older women in Ghana whitewash marriage in order to paint a rosier picture for younger women: perhaps it is not because they want to advocate for marriage at all costs but perhaps because they know the alternatives are not so much easier to navigate.

      I mean in Funmi’s post she makes it very clear what the choices are for sex and companionship past a certain age in our societies (which though by no means homogenous are reasonably similar in some social aspects) and for the averagely brave Ghanaian woman they don’t sound very ak)n) do they? Either you are sleeping with a married man and either facing social censure for it or keeping it quiet to your own community which also has its problems in terms of how much ownership you can really take of the relationship OR you are sleeping with a married man who is hiding you like a dirty stain on his white “dross” and and who you have limited access to anyway thus ensuring you cannot get closer to him emotionally than a fuck buddy or a one-night stand OR you are sleeping with a younger guy who the relationship cannot progress with past a certain point cos he will want to get married and have children and that ship has sailed for you biologically, I mean none of these are easy choices for the average woman.
      Let’s deal with them one by one: unhappily married man who you can form a deep connection with cos his marriage is in name only—you can hardly ever have a fully fair relationship with him because even though your whole life might be open to him (he’s met your friends, your kids if you have any, all the people who are important enough to you that you risk their judgement to introduce him to) his life is not open to you in the same way (he might be a great dad and consider his children an integral part of his identity but you can either never meet them cos it will be awkward or will have to meet them under some different pretence from who you really are; he might really love his mother and share everything with her but you can’t really form a close relationship with her without having actively declared war with the wife etc); you have no real social ownership of the relationship because you are keeping it a secret from certain people and even if you aren’t and are flaunting it you still at the end of the day have less rights and access to him than his wife in society’s eyes. Anybody who has trouble understanding what I mean should read Chimamanda’s story in the African Love Stories anthology where this woman is dating this married man who she falls for very hard and is very happy with. Then he dies and she is lost because not only is she without the love of her life she has no social space in which to mourn him—it’s not like she can go the funeral as anything more than an acquaintance and acknowledge publicly that her grief is just as real as his wife, children and family’s cos she and him had a deep intimate connection; she can’t have anything of his to remember him by except what he left in her house or car or whatever cos it’s not like she can go to his family house and ask for mementos; she can’t explain to the more conservative people in her family and social circle who she was hiding the relationship from why she is so sad and who is she is mourning so she can’t even get the necessary support from her own family— basically she is denied access to the social acknowledgement (and accompanying emotional support that comes with it) of having the right to grieve which is a very emotionally damaging position.

      Then scenario two: happily married man who wants to have his cake and eat it too—You are, in some way, almost regressing socially cos this type of relationship is usually the mainstay of young Ghanaian women when they have a sugar daddy who they see once in a while, fuck, and are kept a secret by except to his friends when are they are shown off as the trophy chick that they are. This situation usually works for young girls because it’s a transaction; in exchange for sex and the pleasure of your company the man showers you with gifts, money etc and makes your financial life easier and you don’t mind the lack of access to him cos it allows you to pursue relationships with your own peer group or other sugar daddies and have a life outside of him cos there is no expectation of building a lifetime companionship with him. So, really, you are getting what you from him the same way he is getting it from you. But say you are an older woman who is not in it for financial sponsorship and is not building relationships with other men outside that one (cos this dude IS your peer group lol) then you are pretty much stuck with a fuck buddy who is on top of it not always accessible when your itch needs to be scratched cos he has to keep up a façade for his wife.

      Then scenario three: the relationship itself might be deep but the ways available to you to navigate it are quite complicated in terms of the social implications, finances and earning power might be an issue, he might frequently feel condescended to because he is younger and as a Ghanaian woman you will have to overcompensate to protect his fragile ego and subdue certain aspects of yourself or personality for his comfort; you have to face the younger women in town who are resentful you have stolen one of their “prospective men” and who will do everything to undermine you physically and socially which might take a toll on your self-esteem and cause friction in the relationship; mingling friends and family with his is complex cos there are generational differences; if he decides he wants children and you don’t want or can’t have any then you have to navigate adoption, family, etc

      I think women are raised to believe that marriage and children for us are the defining sum of a full and complete life and that aging alone without a husband and/or children says something negative about the kind of person you are. Since many Ghanaian women buy into this maybe they look at what the situation down the road looks like and think “Chale, let me marry this man I met in graduate school wai. And even if I am not happy now I will get used to him eventually and have children born within the socially-acceptable bonds of marriage and then I will not be alone in my twilight years. And let me not paint a pessimistic picture about marriage for my younger sisters cos it is not like I can offer them a better alternative.”

      Which is really fucking depressing…..

      • Wow VV! If there was a like button I would have clicked it because your comment really analyzed the issue. You’re right. That’s the reason why most Ghanaian women would advice you to marry, stay married & have kids at all cost- because they consider the alternatives to be unpalatable & indeed, it may often be especially in our society, where if you’re not married, any man feels pompous because after all, ‘upon all your too known, they can marry you’. Is that not the reason why my ex treated me so badly at times, but I chose to ‘focus on his good points’ (which everyone has by the way lol) & kept coming back to him? I didn’t want to lose him because 90 percent of my female classmates are married & people claim that men are intimidated by women in my profession & I know a lot of older women in my profession who are still single. All these things are the reason why I get mad when guys rant that they don’t understand why ‘marriage is all women thing about’. Maybe if you were a woman for a day & saw how tough it is to navigate life in our society as a single woman, then you’d understand.

  • Loved this article Funmi!You know we really need to tell and write our stories like this. The line about what mzungu/onyibo women can get away with which African women can’t is so true!And the pretentious marriages..mscheeew!!

  • How can I count the many ways in which this post resonates with me? I am in an interesting space where to a lot of people (mainly people in their 20s) I am an older woman. And on the other hand many of my work colleagues and the people I associate with for work describe me as a younger woman (people in their 40s). Only a few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend about the lack of men to date in Ghana. I was saying to her I think I need to look for a guy in Nigeria 🙂

    My experience with guys in Ghana doesn’t differ too much from what Funmi has said. This year for e.g. the 2 guys I have hooked up with in Ghana were both 25 and single…the older professional men I meet who tend to want to have relationships with me are married. I rarely meet men in my age bracket who are single, and the few I know are single out of choice or are looking to date a unicorn 🙂

  • Voluptuous Voltarian

    I am particularly excited about your post because it talks about something which I don’t think gets talked about often enough when African sex and sexuality comes up and that is the social logistics of male-female relationships once the two of you are out of the bedroom and out in the real world. No matter how good the sexual chemistry is and how fulfilling the relationship is when it is the two of you are alone together in a bed with your fingers intertwined, once you come up for air, in the glare of full public view what are the negotiations you have to make? We focus a lot on the immediate negotiations that we make when having sex (I know my writing for this site does) but not enough on that and your post has spurred me on to start talking and writing about this stuff cos I have just realized that one can’t talk about sex and sexuality in a vacuum where it is just an immediate negotiation between two people for their mutual enjoyment and pleasure (that is where it starts and I think advocating for women to exert whatever measure of control they are comfortable with to achieve their sexual pleasure is worth it but for a lot of people, because we live in a communal society, the social currency of the relationship i.e the way the relationship is perceived by the public and the implications of the relationship on their own social worth or acceptance are very important). Kudos sister. A much-needed post.

  • My friend Funmi, thanks so much for this. So you discovered my secret place. Ha, Nana you let the cat outta the bag. Being single, mature and sexually active can be really stressful for many women as you wil always draw negative comments from mad relatives and by-standers (you know those friends that just give you stress and are horrid).

    It is a difficult place to navigate and negotiate because we still have not had that discussion about older women and sex. That is why it is still deamed acceptable if your husband has an affair when in his 50s and wrong if you have some stud scratch that itch for you whilst you are in your 50s.

    Funmi, thanks for keeping it real.

  • Where is that like button Nana Darkoa? Some of us just cant get over the lazy bug illness. That being said, this is a very enlightening post Madam Bunmi…i’m young, meet lots of guys, but still only seem to relate well with the older, mostly married(ahem) ones. Social judgement, my friends tell me, will follow me from now (for being a “husband snatcher”) till i’m old, wrinkled, single( the family pressure is already mounting) and chasing younger guys( sugar mummy). Oh dear…is there really no socially-accepted alternative to marriage? To quote VV, fucking depressing!

    • @Naa Adjeley, I am now convinced, even more than ever that Adventures is NOT going to have a like button 🙂 How then would we get all these interesting comments? I was talking to one of my besties yesterday about alternatives to marriage and this is what I believe. What we really fear is being lonely. And old. And no longer attractive to men or women in this youth obsessed culture. We are scared there will be no one there for us. No one to talk to. Sleep in the same bed with. And if we don’t have children we will have no one to care for us in our old age. But marriage and children is no guarantee that we can avoid this kind of future. The more I think of my ‘old age’, the more I think that we should agree to create a feminist commune. So imagine this. A big rambling home with separate wings for each of us ‘wild women’. A separate wing because we can have privacy to be by ourselves if we so wish, shack up with a younger man, younger woman, older man, older woman without really worrying about our fellow housemates. We will have communal spaces – comfy seated areas- where people can congregate when they want company. So who wants to live in my commune with me?

      • @ Nana Darkoa: lol, all jokes aside, the commune sounds good- sign me up! But you’re absolutely right about the fact that marriage & children doesn’t mean one will never get lonely. You see, back in the old days when people used to live in villages/towns & children who married rarely moved far away from their parents, having kids & grandkids literally guaranteed that people would always be around you most of the time. Not any more- urbanization has changed all of that. Let me ask a question, how many of us live with/ spend a lot of time with/ talk regularly to/ schedule our activities around our parents or grandparents? I used to power-walk in the mornings when I was in Ghana & when I’d walk through Sakumono Estates, I’d see all these old men & women sitting sadly outside their homes while their kids/ grandkids prepared to go to work. These people were literally living with their kids/ grandkids but it was evident that they might be very lonely because their kids had their own lives & due to generational gap reasons they couldn’t interact much with their grandkids. I can’t count the number of well-to-do Ghanaian parents whose children are all living outside Ghana & they’re in Ghana alone. Talking about marriage- it is impossible to die together with your husband. Even if both of you are in a plane crash together, you each must go to the land of the ancestors/ paradise/ nothingness/ whatever you believe in lol, on your own because death is a process everyone experiences ALONE in his or her body. So, it’s one of two things- either you predecease your husband (which sucks lol & then he gets to marry an annoying hot chick once you’re gone) or he dies before you & you wind up alone anyways 🙂 It’s a morbid world

        • @ Nana Darkoa: I forgot to add that Buchi Emecheta’s book- “The Joys of Motherhood” is the first book that made me realize that although society tells us women that marriage & child-bearing is the only thing that will keep us happy/ fulfilled, it oftentimes doesn’t turn out that way. Nnu Ego, the protagonist prayed & pined for marriage & children (because she was initially barren & scorned by society) Eventually, she finds a husband & has multiple children with him but she ends up dying alone by the roadside because her first-born son (whom she worked so hard to push through school & whom she pinned her hopes on)gets a scholarship to travel abroad to study & abandons her.

      • @Nana Darkoa, sign me up for your brilliant female commune idea….or not. You see, we are society, and society is us. You would be amazed at the women who would love to live in such a free niche as you described, yet would not hesitate to slam or judge another person who indulged in similar behaviour, just because. Say for example, a woman who is straight might decide her vices are less than mine, because i swing both ways. Its not that the people who do the judgement are without blemish, far from that. Their problem is….well, i dont really know what their problem is! Lawd help us!

    • @ Naa Adjeley: maybe it’s time we all told ‘social judgment’ to go & … itself (I’m too polite to fill in the ellipsis lol). No, but seriously, sometimes, I look at my grandma, a woman who married & divorced 7 men (& this was in the 50s! I should blog about her no?) & she makes me realize that maybe I should develop a very thick skin & refuse to listen to whatever society tells me. Indeed, she’s the reason I decided yesterday to ditch my ex & cut off all ties with him because she taught me that as a woman, I don’t need to sacrifice my happiness & everything just to get married. & there may be no socially-accepted alternative to marriage but who said marriage in our society is always golden? My work with a pro bono organization in Ghana brought me in contact with several married women & made me realize how a lot (& I mean a lot) of people are suffering in their marriages in Ghana. As my very married sister says, there’s a reason why a lot of single women of a certain age tend to look hotter, dress better & act ‘freer’ than their married mates (please this doesn’t mean that there are no hot married women out there o! my sister is one & I’m very sure that the married women on this blog are all hot 🙂 )

  • Dear sisters,
    Thanks for your comments. The post is primarily to start discussions about our choices as African women in relationships and in demanding pleasurable sex no matter the age. Even though it is very difficult to talk about ‘our’ but we as African women have similarities when it comes to how our sexuality is perceived whether we are Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, Malawian, then I think ‘our’ is appropriate here.

    We have almost all internalized the notion that for a woman to be complete, she should have a husband and kids. It is like sex and African womanhood just do not go together. All images of African women are about hardships, fortitude, suffering, lots of burdensome children and sacrifice – never about pleasure, sex, self. It is no wonder women feel guilty about wanting more and those who have the African ‘perfect’ marriage ‘all suffering, prayerful for sinful husband, always there for kids and all other people above self’ always want other women join them! Who wants to be alone suffering and other women are seemingly enjoying singlehood?? It challenges all social constructions of gender and we fall for it time and time again, ‘I cannot be happy single’ and we fail to recognize all other wonderful things in our lives because of our quest to bag a man. So those of you being told to marry to be valued, its a way of society validating what it considers ‘African womanhood’ and making sure that we the singletons don’t confuse women who are experiencing it!

    I also wonder about the kinds of sex that goes on in ‘African marriages’ as this is almost never discussed, and if women in marriages are having sex at all given the number of married men who seem to be having sex elsewhere! But that is another topic for another day.

    For all women, the message is not that there are no single, secure, faithful African men, its just hard to find them! But at the same time, I do believe that women also have a responsibility to ‘make’ their men. Most men, at least the ones I come into contact with are good men, if they cheat or misbehave, its because they know they can get away with it. If they are with you, and you are clear about boundaries, about what you will absolutely not accept in a relationship and willing to walk if those boundaries are breached, I find out that most men actually would respect those boundaries. A man that does not go out of his way to respect those boundaries should not be with you in the first instance. I note that a lot of women don’t follow up on what they have set down as boundaries because they are afraid of being alone. Germaine Greer said in one of her fabulous books, I cant remember which one, that ‘there’s nothing more lonely than being with a man who has ceased to communicate/be with you’. And I agree totally – the worse thing that can happen to me as a woman is lying in bed with a man who I know is emotionally and physically with another and be calling that person ‘husband/partner’!

    Even married boyfriends can be forced to make changes – if they want to have you, let them confront their marriages first. Let them have the option of putting their relationships right (in some instances, divorcing their wives) before they get it on with you! If you are financially secure and do not need a husband at all costs, you will be surprised at how willing men are to actually confront their marriages when they get with you fabulous 40s women:) You might not get the man, but would have provided a better man for another sister. Don’t make it easy for him to compartmentalise his life.

    But my philosophy remains the same – we do not need to marry a man or even have an emotionally available man to have great sex! We need to get it out of our heads that once we have sex for pleasure, we must marry the person providing the sex, have kids and be happy ever after! Happiness is a lot of things, but it is definitely not submerging one into another. At times an inappropriate partner (read married or 18 years younger!) might be what is needed. Sex does not make or unmake a person, its just something that we do for pleasure and for reproduction. I am atheist in my belief that way. And once we do that, its amazing how many great guys then come our way. I like men but they do not make me and I could do with them as much as I could do without them!

    Let us continue to engage and reconstruct our sexuality as African women and maybe it will also force our men to look at us differently.

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