Happy International Women’s Day. This year’s Celebration is themed #Choose2challenge, so today at Shake Africa we are challenging harmful stereotypes around women’s sexuality. You know that’s what we doooo!
For a very long time, we have been made to believe that women have a non existent or lower sexuality than men. The obsession over a purity standard over women’s sexuality, is so strange This culture which is deeply rooted in patriarchy has over the years promoted shame, sexual ignorance as well as sexual violence.
My parents never had the sex talk with me, they also never mentioned anything about keeping myself until marriage. It was as if the word sex was non existent.
I however I attended a Christian secondary school where I was constantly reminded that that my very nature is sinful.
I had my first sex talk at 15, which was given to me by one of my Hostel mistresses. Sister Tolu went on and on about how keeping myself pure until marriage was what made me a woman of value. I remember her comparing my body to different objects, she mentioned a thing about squeezed oranges and plucked flowers and how they lose their worth, and how I would also lose my worth as a woman if I ever had sex before marriage. I felt very bad and shameful after the conversation.
I started thinking there was something very wrong about thinking of sex or for even finding a book like that exciting. I heard the same teachings over and over again all through my stay in the school. So for a very long time I lived a life assessing my worth against the moral pedestal of the ‘virginal bride’, which negatively affected my self esteem.
Even though growing up, I was very curious of so many things including the changes in my body, and how I felt towards the opposite sex, I knew the subject of sex had always been a taboo which is spoken of “quietly”, so I just kept those thoughts to myself and learnt how to live for society’s approval. It didn’t matter what was natural to my body, or what's best for it. This created a disconnect from myself and for a very long time I became stripped off of my authenticity.
This is the story and experience of majority of women and girls in this part of the world.
Regardless of these unhealthy teachings, a large number of women and girls still engage in all forms of sexual activities. Unfortunately, we do this with very little or absolutely no knowledge of it, causing us to make very unhealthy choices about sex. We tend to understand our sexuality as what we wear or how we look when in reality, we should be focused on enjoying our body’s own responses and what makes us happy. This clouded image of sexuality often wrongfully leads us to also see ourselves as sexual objects.
Instead of this toxic cycle of perpetuating shame in women, how about a society where a healthy sexuality is encouraged, where women and girls are made to understand safe sex practices, like waiting until we are ready to have sex and not being coerced or manipulated into having sex, understanding the concept of Consent generally, exploring our personal feelings about sex, and ultimately maintaining a healthy, as well as a satisfying sex life, and the importance of abstinence.
Yes that’s right, abstinence is also an important part of embracing sexuality.
So you see, sexuality is much more than having sex.
Women are not oranges, or cars, or flowers or whatever object we are being compared to on a daily basis. We are human beings with autonomy and sexual desires. We are people with existing sexuality, which is an important part of who we are, which can help promote or inhibit the development of our personal identity, well-being and health.
Discovering and embracing our sexuality as women can be a very liberating, exciting and positive experience.
Even though society has done a number on us, we as women need to start challenging these stereotypes. We can embrace our sexuality by recognizing shame, accepting our desires, and considering the biological nature of sex. We have to learn to normalize our bodies and feelings of pleasure as completely natural, because sex is not a dirty or inpure thing as we have been made to believe. Sex is very natural and normal, and enjoyable when done under healthy conditions. We should not let conditioning and oppressive teachings dictate what we should or should not do with our bodies.
Happy International Women’s Day
From SHAKE Africa
Kenny is the Social media manager at The SHAKE Africa Project