An anthology on the sexual lives of African women

This content was published on May 11, 2022 – 07:35

Lucia White Grace

Nairobi, May 11 (EFE).- “You don’t mind if I take off my dress, do you?” Says Ghanaian writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and, while changing for an event, explains why she wrote “The Sex Lives of African Women” (The sexual lives of African women), an anthology about sex, affection and freedom.

“The stories I heard about African women in terms of sex were very limited and often stereotyped, especially in Western media,” the blogger and author of one of the continent’s latest editorial phenomena explains in an interview with Efe in Nairobi.

“Either we have female genital mutilation or we don’t have access to pads or we are unhappy. I know that’s part of the story, but there’s also much more to it,” says Sekyiamah, who works as a communications officer at the Association for Women’s Rights and Development (AWID).

The book -published last July- is a journey through the beds, desires and bodies of more than thirty women from the African continent and the diaspora, from Kenya to Senegal, passing through South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, France or the Caribbean.

For five years, the author – who recently participated in the literary Moto Books and Arts Festival in Nairobi – interviewed African and Afro-descendant women from all over the world until she compiled a unique compendium of first-person stories that manages to make voices often relegated universal. to the margin (or south).

SEX IS NOT JUST SEX

“The first time we met (in person), we spent four days together in a hotel. All we did was fuck and pray (sic) ”, explains Nura (not her real name), a 42-year-old Kenyan who, after converting to Islam, lives in Senegal with her husband and the rest of their wives in polygamy.

This is the first chapter of a book where stories of trauma and pleasure are mixed, because for the author, “there is not a single story when we talk about sex.”

In fact, many women interviewed also talk about faith, “as if sexuality and spirituality were two sides of the same coin.”

“For many people, they are connected. For some, especially Christians, it is a source of trauma and explains why they cannot enjoy sex, but for others, it is almost part of their spiritual practice,” says the activist.

In another episode, Alexis (this time, a real name), 71, “queer” and born in Harlem (New York) with Afro-Caribbean roots – she was a teenager when the civil rights movement began in the United States – talks about fall in love in old age and compares sexual pleasure with that generated by good food and drink.

The work also includes stories of abuse, which surprised the author because of how common they were. Sekyiamah herself was a victim of sexual violence by a relative of hers during her childhood.

“At one point I stopped asking the questions that could trigger those stories because it was too much to listen to and because I didn’t want to write a depressing book,” he admits.

For some of the women, the writer was one of the first people to whom they explained these experiences and, “in the end, there was a kind of relief after being able to share them with another person”.

This is the case of Mariam Gebre, a 26-year-old Ethiopian woman who suffered abuse from a neighbor, a teacher and a relative when she was just six, a trauma she only became aware of as an adult. Now, she is betting on celibacy to regain her control over her sexuality.

Another chapter stars Philester, a 32-year-old Kenyan sex worker with HIV who defines herself as bisexual and founded the Kenyan Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA). In her story, she explains how she has managed to make a living and continues to fight for her rights.

An unexpected twist: her son has become a Protestant pastor, something that has not made him respect his mother any less.

A POLITICAL ACT

According to Sekyiamah, although each story is different, all the interviewees share a common factor: “there is hardly any sex education beyond basic knowledge of biology. Women are not encouraged to explore their sexuality, neither in African countries nor in the diaspora.”

For this reason, for the Ghanaian author, “when you present sex as something pleasurable and playful for no reason, it is a political act”. The book becomes even more important in a context of threat to the rights of the LGBTI community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual, intersex) on the continent and in the world.

In his own country, the Ghanaian Parliament began to debate last November a bill that would toughen prison sentences against homosexuals for up to ten years and would criminalize activism in favor of that community, among other measures.

Almost like an act of resistance, all the interviewees also share “the desire to have a better sex life, to feel free in their bodies, to own their identity,” says the activist.

And the reaction of the public confirms it. Not only women have rushed to buy the book, but also some men go to bookstores, perhaps looking for advice and lessons, “although most do it at the end of the day, just before closing,” he confesses to Efe smiling. a bookseller in Nairobi. EFE

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An anthology on the sexual lives of African women