I have taken a while to follow up on my project to offer some sex ed for men and boys on these virtual pages of your favourite blog. I wanted to see if the moral security forces would come after me. Among these is included the House of Traditional Leaders, the African National Congress Women’s League and the religious bodies (strange bedfellows, are they not). I thought there may be a chance someone would ask the real security forces to have look at me as a corrupting influence on the young. Happily, whatever you think of South Africa’s government under Jacob Zuma and the Nkandla scandal, freedom of the mass and social media as well as freedom sexual expression remain rights.
And so, following up on the blogpost I titled “Even as We Face Sexual Violence, Young (and Not So Young) People Still Need To Know Some Things Before Having Oral Sex (With Thanks to Cheyenne and Gurl.com)” which I posted on December 9, 2015, I would like to say more about why we totally need good gender-transformative sex-positive sexuality education.
In their article with the enviable part-title “The Fellatio ‘Epidemic”, Bruce Curtis and Alan Hunt wrote that
by the 1990s, after a century of work, discussion, debate and promotion, what was earlier known as the ‘genital kiss’ had become a mundane element in the repertoire of sexual practice in most western countries… Recently, however, in North America and other English-speaking parts of the world especially, fellatio by heterosexual adolescents has come to be the focus of much publicity, concern and anxiety.
Isn’t that phrase totally orgasmic? Genital kiss. So old-world. Such an upstanding word. Like something you say to a Madrassa sex class for newlyweds, if you have those in your neighbourhood.
When I read Curtis and Hunt, I wondered if the “genital kiss…had become a mundane element in the repertoire of sexual practice” in African countries? Has there been discussions, debates and interventions in the field of sex in Africa that have been going on that I had completely missed?
My own observations tell me that, on both counts, it is doubtful. The genital kiss is not a routine part of sexual play in many bedrooms, washrooms, kitchens, or forests in African countries. If there have been many discussions, debates and interventions, I am clearly reading the wrong books and journals. I hope I have, and need guidance.
However, there is no study on sex practices that I am aware would definitively answer the question whether there has been a fellatio epidemic, and from the point of view of heterosexual men and queer women, a cunnilingus epidemic, in any African country.
But, again, I could be wrong. Please come to my assistance by writing to me about your own experiences.
Of course, there are some studies on sexual attitudes and behavior. For instance the South African Demographic and Health Survey as well as the Human Sciences Research Council’s Youth Survey contained some data on sexual activity. But the data tends to be in the context of HIV/Aids, sexual debut, pregnancy, or, an important point here, sexual violence.
However, with respect to the question that partly prompted this post, I am keen on the sort of pioneering sexological research that Lionel Nicholas in South Africa did a while ago. Since then, there have been work by, for instance, Durex, Dr Eve, also known as Marlene Wasserman, who published the book, “Dr. Eve’s Sex Book for Young People”, and Pharma Dynamics. But not much else.
We absolutely need much more. Particularly, we need work that connects sexual knowledge and gender transformation of social norms.
Back to the beginning: why do we need good, gender-transformative sex-positive sexuality education? Besides the fact that knowledge is empowering?
We need gender-transformative sex-positive sexuality education because although my own work on men involves researching and giving talks on men’s sexuality, there is so much more we need to do about the sexualities of different genders, from vanilla to nomadic, shack to sea-facing mansion. For instance, I would like to see a study on the average pornography consumption habits in relation to gender among young women and men today. The context for this is the penetration of smart phones in South Africa. I don’t know of and would be keen to see a project that examines and intervenes in the hypothetical relationship between amount of fellatio or cunnilingus one gives or receives on the one hand, and, on the other, sexual and gender based violence victimisation and perpetration. The underpinning question here is, is there a link between men’s/women’s healthy or unhealthy sexual views (for instance, do you believe that genitally kissing a woman/man is dirty, and do you believe that women have a right to initiate sex) and gender power?
About oral sex, the interesting thing is that many people who do practice – do you say practice, give, receive? maybe indulge is better – indulge in fellatio or cunnilingus care less than naught about gender transformation. A woman can been expert in fellatio or cunnilingus but still evidence patriarchal views about women and men. A man can been great going down and still be violent towards women and other men.
Thus, it seems that even if the genital kiss is a customary activity in many homes and public places in African countries, we cannot get around the need for gender-transformative sex-positive sexuality education.
To coin a slogan, no gender equality negotiations, no genital kissing.