Sunday , October 24 2021

She wants women to have good sex. So she started a site where they can talk about it (safely)


That was the question asked to the women in a post published earlier this year in a country that is deeply religious.

"Summarizing the story, I'm looking forward to some exciting and curious orgasmic sexual experiences this year."

It is the kind of response that would surely please Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, the Ghanaian writer who posted the call in African Women's Room Adventures, the blog she created 10 years ago with a friend, Malaka Grant.

Sekyiamah's interest in sex is less about being lascivious (although it's hard not to blush when reading some of the posts on the site) and more about health, empowerment and community.

Sekyiamah's office at his home in Accra.

In the East Legon neighborhood, in the coastal capital of Ghana, the spacious Sekyiamah bungalow is among much larger properties. Surrounded by photos of family, art and literature, she runs her website and works as communications director for the Women's Rights in Development, an organization that supports feminist movements around the world.

Sitting up with freshly made smoothies, Sekyiamah, who is in her early 40s, explains that it took her in her thirties to feel safe talking about sex and sexuality with other women.

The vacation of a decade ago with five other women – where the conversation continued to return to sex – led Sekyiamah to set up the adventures, as she refers to the blog. Their goal is clear, to provide "a safe space where African women can openly discuss a variety of issues of sex and sexuality."

The main posts include: an anthology of queer erotic writing; a blog exploring how to send nudes safely (spoiler: there is no surefire way to prevent your image from being used in an unintended way); and the 2011 evergreen post that reveals how much of a mysterious female pleasure might seem: "How can you tell when a woman orgasms?"

Sekyiamah displays some of her toys and erotic romances.

Sex is not hidden from view in Accra. It is everywhere. But, most of the time, it affects the desires and insecurities of men.

Radio advertising and posters stuck on electricity poles and concrete walls offer men remedies to heal "sexual weakness."

In one ad, the man described takes herbal medication, returns to peak performance, and when asked by his wife what he would like for dinner, he greedily replies, "You are clear!"

Some of the country's languages ​​and traditions, however, reveal an older and more generous understanding of sex and sexuality. The word supi, for example, refers to an intimate friendship between two girls, who may or may not be sexual. While the women of the largest ethnic group in Ghana, the Akan, say they have grounds for divorce if they are not sexually satisfied by their husbands.

There are also many government-run programs and international charities that focus on sexual and reproductive health, but, according to Sekyiamah, such programs tend to ignore pleasure.

"Within the discourse of international development, whenever the sexual and reproductive health of African women is mentioned, they are mentioned as vectors of disease, or the talk is about the need to control the fertility of African women," she says.

"This discourse leaves out so much of the importance of African women controlling their own bodies. Pleasure is linked to well-being and therefore comprehensive sex education is essential for the full development of women. body, what can you really have control over? "

Kobby Ankomah-Graham has been part of the Adventures community since the blog's launch, and he spoke on panel discussions with Sekyiamah, focusing on the role of men and boys.

Born in Ghanaian parents and raised in part in the United Kingdom, but based in Ghana, Ankomah-Graham lectures on the campus of Accra, an American institution of higher education, at Webster University. He also wrote about how gender roles are changing and how young Ghanaians seem unprepared for a new and more egalitarian reality.

Kobby Ankomah-Graham shares an intimate moment with his partner, Shari, and his young son.

"When you are privileged and this privilege is taken away, you tell what (like) oppression," he says.

"The boys feel hard hit by gender equality. Divorce rates are rising in Ghana and one of the reasons is the intransigence of men."

Ankomah-Graham draws on his own personal experience to act as a model, or at least an initial conversation.

"I have a father who had an interesting life when it comes to women: 12 children, eight women and four wives. But I am also the son of a women's rights activist (female genital mutilation activist Efua Dorkenoo OBE)," he says. .

"I definitely identify myself as a feminist so the boys can see it as possible. I try to explain to them that we have a long way to go, that they should be thinking about the fact that they are going to compete with women at work." They need to be prepared for it in ways that their parents were not. "

Maame Akua Kyerewaa Marfo is the kind of woman Ankomah-Graham is preparing for her male students to meet.

"I'm seen as that feminist mouth-to-mouth, but I have the most boring sex life," she says with a laugh. "I'm a virgin."

"It's not for religious reasons," Marfo adds quickly.

Singer Maame Akua Kyerewaa Marfo sits for a portrait.

After struggling with low self-esteem, the singer, who is also one of the organizers of the Young Feminist Collective in Accra, explains that open conversations about sex and sexuality have helped her on a journey to self-esteem and now she distrusts who she shares. space with.

"I've always been a dark-skinned black girl who said," You could be so pretty since I was 13 or 14. The amount of self-loathing that this can put on a body is astronomical ". she says.

"For me, sexual positivity has been thinking about how I can take this body back from everyone and make it something that I understand as desirable. I spent a lot of time becoming home in my body, and I feel comfortable inviting others to this house, but I do not want to leave my politics at the door. "

Given that, according to Sekyiamah, there were no online or offline forums for sex and sexuality talks 10 years ago, the Young Feminist Collective, which meets monthly, is evidence of how much has changed since the Adventures were launched.

Marfo describes the collective as a space for young women, regardless of sexual orientation, to understand that they belong to themselves.

"Their bodies are theirs, their sexual pleasure is theirs, and they can share it with whoever they should share it with," she says.

It is hard not to think about how much it costs women like Sekyiamah and Marfo to be so visible and vocal about the sexual pleasure of women in a religious country and where homosexuality is a crime. Marfo says she is "trilada" all the time on Twitter and admits that she is learning to choose her battles online.

"Christian fundamentalism is on the rise," says Sekyiamah, "and there are dangers to physical security." Gay women in Ghana need to meet privately and quietly and expect no one to tell the wrong person. events. "

Sekyiamah hosts a meeting of friends at his home to discuss various topics on sexuality.

There is evidence to support Sekyiamah's observations and the inclination for caution and secrecy among queer women. In the release of a Human Rights Watch report in January 2018, researcher Wendy Isaack said: "Homophobic statements by local and national government officials, traditional elders and senior religious leaders foster discrimination and in some cases incite to violence" .

But in the decade since Adventures began, the success of groups like Drama Queens – a theatrical company whose pieces deal with, among other things, rape, consent and same-sex relationships – is proof, says Sekyiamah, of what changes are happening .

The job of debunking myths and influencing culture, one post at a time, is slow, but Sekyiamah would not do otherwise. She tells the story of a young woman who came to her at a literary festival in Nigeria to thank her, saying that Adventures, in terms of spaces for learning about sex, was "like her mother, her sister, her aunt." "

"This is the kind of impact I'm interested in having," Sekyiamah says cheerfully. "It has always been a fear that people think of Adventures as a place for excitement, and that was not my intention. Of course, when reading about sex and sexuality it's natural to get excited, and of course we write stories that are sexy but , for me that was not the point.The point is that women need to know that they have the right to sexual pleasure. "

It seems that at least Laquo understood the message.

This story is part of Not yet satisfied funded by the European Center for Journalism.
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