Lessons from the sex auntie

2014-09-15 18:45

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While most women associate their bridal shower with getting a bit tipsy and perhaps indulging in the services of a male stripper, in Kenya and Uganda it’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Across East Africa, women in both rural and urban settings are being prepared for the wedding night and every night after a series of sex lessons, which range from grooming to specific physical techniques to increase enjoyment during sex for both parties.

Led by professional sex consultants known as ssengas, or “sex aunties”, bridal showers are something of a crash course in sex education.

Ssengas are specialists in a blend of African Kama Sutra, pole dancing (or bed dancing, as it’s called), and some even specialise in teaching women how to moan and talk dirty in their mother tongue.

Across countries and ethnic groups, there are different poetic phrases that can be used to encourage and praise the man during intercourse.

This practice, which has been going on in rural spaces for many decades, has become modernised and glamourised over time.

In the past, women would have to consult ssengas at their practice, but now, particularly in Nairobi’s more affluent suburbs, sex parties are often held in the bride’s home.

Tradition and modernity Sylvia Tamale, who studies sexuality in Africa, discusses this issue at length in interviews.

“Today’s ssengas include both ‘conservative’ elements that refuse to bend from centuries-old practices and ‘progressive’ ones that move with the times.

“The age and education of the ssenga seem to be the influencing factor here, with younger, more highly educated ssengas leaning towards more liberal views than their older, less educated counterparts,” she explains.

What is interesting here, is that although some of the techniques taught to the bride-to-be are explicit – some ssengas are reportedly using actual couples to demonstrate at parties – these practices are clearly reserved for taking a husband.

Ssengas do not provide services to unmarried women with multiple partners, and some practices are considered to be sacred and therefore should never be used out of wedlock.

As such, there is a strange intersection between tradition and modernity, and the idea of the African female as quiet, docile and submissive is shattered entirely when one considers the type of bedroom tricks these women are taught to perform.

Love and marriage

Tamale believes that the lessons taught by ssengas enforce the autonomy of the woman.

“For instance, a ssenga would encourage her nieces to engage in some home industry or economic ventures in order to avoid total dependence on her husband.

“The ssenga also made it clear that a wife did not have to tolerate an abusive spouse; that she had the right to kunoba [leave the marriage],” she explains.

The practices have been modified slightly, and many women do not bother with going to the bush, but they are still taught foreplay techniques to keep their husbands interested.

In the past, the practices of genital modification could be performed on girls as young as seven years old, but in urban spaces, this has largely been phased out.

It is not clear what the position of ssengas is on the use of condoms, contraception and what authority the man holds in the relationship.

Women’s sexual enjoyment is certainly considered, but the foundational logic here is that women need to prepare themselves for marriage, and that if she is not able to perform sexually, this will inevitably lead to their men looking for satisfaction elsewhere.

But for those women just doing it to have a good time, it is an interesting and informative way to enter the world of love and marriage.

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