By Thuso Malete
IN many African schools and homes today, conversations around sex are usually taboo, negative, and in hushed tones, with younger people receiving warnings that they will get diseases, carry unwanted pregnancies or even die if they have sex.
However, Ghanaian author Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is determined to change that narrative with her newly published book “The Sex Lives of African Women”.
In the hard-hitting book which has received wide reviews in Africa, Europe and America, Sekyiamah demystifies issues around sex as she brazenly explores women’s experiences, unleashing what she calles “a sexual revolution that’s happening across our continent.”
Perhaps the origin of the book itself shows that Sekyiamah might be right that patriarch and colonialism have denied women in Africa the freedom to discuss one of society’s hottest issues: sex and the bedroom life.
Speaking recently at the book’s adaptation at the Alliance Française theater in central Nairobi, Sekyiamah revealed that the book was born out of a beach trip she had with women friends in her native Ghana a few years ago.
“Everyone discussed issues to do with how they enjoyed or would enjoy sex better, and how society was taking away their voice on matters of sex as patriach remains a common troublesome issue across Africa’s diverse cultures.
Henceforth, Sekyiamah set out to give the women their voices, and she has done just that, if not more.
Immediately after the beach trip, Sekyiamah sought to continue the conversations with more women across Africa, so she started a blog. In no time, the blog grew as more and more women felt comfortable sharing their sexual experiences, frustrations and preferences under anonymity. It is those revelations that form the basis of book “The Sex Lives of African Women”.
A total of 32 such “confessions” by Africa’s women, including that of Sekyiamah herself, form the core of the book. One of the accounts is that of a woman navigating a tricky polygamous marriage in Senegal.
Another is that of a woman in Egypt who has to deal witha gay lover in an overtly conservative Muslim society. Yet another mind-blowing account is that of girl child in a sexual abuse scam disguised as a marriage in Ethiopia.
Among top African women who have reviewed the book include award-winning Zimbabwean author Noviolet Bulawayo, Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo and top journalists from the continent and beyond.
Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian-American author of “The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls” and “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution”, said Sekyiamah has generated a welcome “sexual revolution” that Africa’s women desperately needed for so long.
“Sex drives are important to us too,” Eltahawy said. “Pleasure, and owning your pleasure, and wanting to liberate yourself sexually, is not a white woman’s life adventure. It belongs to the rest of us.”
Sekyiamah says the book achieves liberty for women to demand a voice in how they enjoy sex, and hopes that Africa’s socities continentwide will pay heed to how women want their sex issues handled.
On her part, Sekyiamah also says the book has been an eye-opener, helping her understand how women with disabilities and those who have experienced female genital mutilation want to enjoy sex.
Published last year in London, the book this year got published in the U.S. and has been taken to 100 other territories. It’s an amazing feat for a subject considered taboo for so many centuries.
Nana Sekyiamah is the former Director of Communications and Tactics at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (@AWID), a global feminist organization with more than 5,000 individual and institutional members from 164 countries.
She was a member of the Black Feminism Forum Working Group which organized the historic first Black Feminist Forum in Bahia, Brazil in September, 2016.
Nana Darkoa co-founded the award-winning blog, Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, has written for The Guardian, Open Democracy, Feminist Africa and This is Africa.