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What hap­pens to African sex­ual de­vel­op­ment in a global vil­lage awash with pornog­ra­phy, asks

There isn’t much writ­ten con­tent on the com­pelling sub­ject of tra­di­tional sex­ual prac­tices in African so­ci­eties. But scratch­ing around does pro­duce re­sults and, for me, raises the ques­tion: how do Africans have sex?


The first time it hap­pened to me, I had no idea what it was and I felt hu­mil­i­ated. I was 23. The shame I felt took me back to my bed-wet­ting, seven-year-old self, but the per­sis­tent plea­sure de­rived from this mys­te­ri­ous, odour­less, tow­el­re­quir­ing and com­pletely ar­bi­trary new ex­pe­ri­ence left me con­fused and wary of it.

My part­ner at the time, a fool in hind­sight, wasn’t so keen on it and not long after this dis­cov­ery, we weren’t too keen on each other.

In Rwanda, kunyaza, the cul­tur­ally sanc­tioned sex­ual prac­tice that fa­cil­i­tates fe­male ejac­u­la­tion, or what is called squirting in the West, has not only been used, but en­cour­aged be­tween part­ners for cen­turies. The men in the Great Lakes na­tions of Uganda, Bu­rundi, Congo and Tan­za­nia have long been in­duc­ing fe­male ejac­u­la­tion.

What is a rel­a­tively mod­ern trend in Western sex­ual con­scious­ness has been used by th­ese men to the de­gree that fre­quent fe­male ejac­u­la­tors are col­lo­qui­ally re­ferred to as shami ryi­ikivu, or “put a bucket un­der her”.


A 2012 short film called How Do Africans Kiss? by Zina Saro-Wiwa in­ves­ti­gated, but most of the talk­ing heads in the 11-minute doc­u­men­tary con­cluded that Africans don’t re­ally have a kiss­ing cul­ture. Re­gard­less of whether this is true or not, the sub­ject in­trigues me.

In the his­tor­i­cal con­text of sex­ual prac­tices be­fore The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful soapie pop­u­larised the French Kiss in black com­mu­ni­ties, could it be true that kiss­ing is un-African? Are con­tem­po­rary bed­room sta­ples like fel­la­tio and cun­nilin­gus (or the now main­stream anilin­gus) in­cluded in Africa’s oral his­tory?


In the glob­alised world, sex has not been ex­cluded from the univer­sal In­ter­net of Things. While the in­ter­net can be blamed for en­abling the dark side of the sex business – child pornog­ra­phy, hu­man trafficking – it has also, quite sur­rep­ti­tiously and un­wit­tingly, fa­cil­i­tated the egal­i­tar­ian con­sump­tion of pornog­ra­phy for mod­ern hu­mans, which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bad. No longer con­fined to the at­ten­tions and trousers of dirty old men and ado­les­cent boys, pornog­ra­phy is so ubiq­ui­tous that it has seem­ingly tran­scended its char­ac­ter­is­tic de­prav­ity.

I want to de­clare it dull, but that would be di­min­ish­ing its im­pact on our glob­alised so­ci­ety’s sex­ual prac­tices and at­ti­tudes.

A his­tory of pornog­ra­phy is a his­tory of the me­dia: from re­pro­duc­tion of erotic draw­ings and a de­mand for printed prod­uct to the in­ter­net’s early pop­u­lar­ity.

Glob­ally, Cos­mopoli­tan mag­a­zine has played its part in lib­er­at­ing women’s ideas about their own sex­u­al­ity, but has also done some dam­age by sex­u­al­is­ing sex too much. The monthly sex fea­tures have a very pa­tri­ar­chal, phys­i­cal and goal-ori­en­tated ap­proach to hav­ing sex.


Tra­di­tional Nguni cul­tural prac­tices such as ukumetsha, where teenage boys and girls would be al­lowed to en­gage in sex­ual play that in­volved gen­i­tal stim­u­la­tion but not pen­e­tra­tion, are no longer known or prac­tised in ur­ban black com­mu­ni­ties.

Th­ese prac­tices en­cour­aged the un­der­stand­ing of de­vel­op­ing bod­ies. Ex­plor­ing the plea­sure of youth­ful sex­u­al­ity was not marred by the Vic­to­rian at­ti­tude of shame to­wards sex.

To­day, the way ur­ban chil­dren and young adults un­der­stand sex is largely in­flu­enced by me­dia and pornog­ra­phy, where women are slut­shamed just be­cause of their gen­der and their bod­ies are used as lit­eral cum buck­ets by the vir­ile brand of mas­culin­ity that pornog­ra­phy sells.

In its popular for­mat, porno sex is an in­trin­si­cally ex­ter­nalised and phys­i­calised dis­play, and is all about per­for­mance and the goal of reach­ing an or­gasm.

If a child’s un­der­stand­ing of sex were to be re­alised through hours of con­sum­ing pornog­ra­phy, bar the misogyny train­ing and a haz­ing brand of mas­culin­ity, when that child be­comes a sex­u­ally ac­tive adult, his or her un­der­stand­ing of sex will largely ex­ist within a frame­work that is de­void of the love in love­mak­ing.

The emo­tional, spir­i­tual, men­tal and even in­no­cent path to be­ing a fully re­alised sex­ual be­ing is some­thing that ex­ists out­side our me­dia’s dom­i­nant cul­tural dis­course around sex. This is a prob­lem.


While porn can be fun and stim­u­lat­ing for cou­ples and in­di­vid­u­als to watch, if it isn’t sup­ple­mented by an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach to sex and sex­u­al­ity – one that ac­knowl­edges the vul­ner­a­bil­ity in­volved in the act of sex – its con­sump­tion has the ca­pac­ity to in­hibit the pa­ram­e­ters of a tra­di­tional so­ci­ety’s sex­ual code about what in­ter­net porn in essence prop­a­gates, which is mostly ex­ploita­tive of women and un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive of men.

If we can use the in­ter­net to broaden the cur­rent scope of our sex­ual dis­course, if we can use it to reimag­ine sex and sex­u­al­ity to in­clude ma­te­rial that teaches clos­eted and proud porn con­sumers the sex­ual prac­tices of dif­fer­ent an­cient and con­tem­po­rary cul­tures, then the cul­ture in our bed­rooms stands a chance of not be­ing bor­ing and con­ven­tional.


SEXY IN THE CITY Ethiopian-born Amer­i­can rap­per, model and

ac­tress Lola Mon­roe

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