How do Africans have sex?

2014-10-08 18:45

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

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, towel-requiring 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”.

How do Africans kiss?

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?

Internet of things

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 slut-shamed 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.

The shock of the old

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.

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