I watched the Principles of Pleasure on Netflix a few days ago and it struck a chord with me because I could connect with many of the women in the documentary.
Growing up in an African home in Nigeria, sex was the ‘Bruno’ that we don’t talk about. The only thing my mum often hit repeatedly in my ears was “don’t do it”, “if you do it and get pregnant, I will send you to your husband’s house.” In Nigeria, many millennials grew up never discussing sex with their parents. We just got one piece of advice from them: don’t do it. It got worse when a girl child started her menstrual period. I remember some of my friends telling me that some of their parents went as far as telling them that if they touched a boy’s hand, they would get pregnant. Really? As a result, sex has become something that we are so terrified to discuss that we don’t even bring it up. Sex was a dirty act. We imagine it, think about it, but must never say it out loud.
But the thing is, sex and sexual urges are inherent in everybody. Even though we didn’t talk about it with people we trusted for the right information, as we grew older and became more aware of ourselves, we had to look outside for answers. We had reached the point when guys began to have wet dreams and take note of girls, while girls realised that when a boy they liked touched them, they had a ‘feel good’ sensation. No amount of not talking about it can change our biology. A kissing scene comes up while watching a movie with your Nigerian parents and all hell will break loose. But that didn’t stop us from trying it out. What we learnt was simply to keep it away from our parents.
What that (not talking about sex) did for me was leave me to rely on inaccurate information from friends, the internet, and others. I was left to figure it out on my own as if not talking about it will smoulder my self-awareness – it didn’t. I didn’t even know a woman was supposed to have an orgasm. I didn’t know a woman could experience an orgasm until I was about 25 years old. I thought only men do. I thought the woman’s role during sex was to just lie there and be an object for the man’s pleasure. I assumed that men were supposed to have all the fun and pleasure and that I was an instrument to help them obtain their ejaculation. I thought women have sex for two reasons: to help men feel pleasure and for reproduction.
I developed an unhealthy relationship with my body and suppressed my sexuality to the point that I didn’t know how or what to do when I was older and met someone with whom I wanted to share that part of myself. I was a Christian, so porn was off the table and churches do not talk about issues like this. I definitely couldn’t bring it up for discussion with my mother and the majority of my friends were just as clueless as I was.
My first sexual experience was horrible because I didn’t know what to do and after a few tries, I decided never to engage in penetrative sex again. I enjoyed the makeouts and foreplay but decided penetration wasn’t for me because it always hurt so much. I couldn’t get it out of my head and I was too self-conscious to enjoy it. I thought I shouldn’t enjoy it. I have limited myself in my mind and that affected my ability to enjoy sex. I would often say things like “sex is overrated because it’s mostly just pain. Only guys enjoy it.”
I didn’t realise what I was doing wrong until I started reading books and opened myself up to sexual research. That’s when I discovered more about my body, genitalia, and sexuality. That was when I learnt that women do orgasm and that we are supposed to want and enjoy sex. I became more comfortable with my body and sexuality and more open to talking about sex.
The truth is that, whether we like it or not, our kids will ask questions relating to sex, they will become curious about what is happening in their bodies. That is absolutely normal. I feel our parents did the best they could given their upbringing and degree of exposure to sex and other related issues when they were our age. We could do a lot better. We should build a more open channel for communication with our children so that they can come to us with these questions. And we should try not to give them ‘Bruno’ when they do.
We should feel comfortable talking about sex with our children. Boys who are not taught from an early age that their sexual impulses are natural, which can and should be managed, will most likely grow up to be sexual predators with no control over their urges. Girls who have never been taught that it is fine to desire to have sex but that it is preferable to wait until they are totally ready and have found the proper person will leap at any male who comes their way because they have never been shown a better approach.
I pray our generation does better and raises children, especially girls who have very healthy relationships with their sexuality and are comfortable in their bodies.
P.S: Every woman reading this should watch Netflix’s “The Principles of Pleasure.”