In a society where sex is not openly discussed, women do not have a voice. Often times all they know to do is what is expected of them. But what about their desires? What about their feelings? What about their wants? How can women get to a place where they can openly talk about sex not just among themselves but with their partners too?
I first saw this book on the pages of one of the Instagram accounts I follow (I don’t quite remember which one). Then my friend read the book and talked about the feelings she got from it. I knew I had to get it.
The Sex Lives of African Women is a book by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah that brings together women from different African countries through interviews. They share their experiences around sex, sexuality and freedom beyond any stereotype.
It is divided into three sections: self-discovery, freedom and healing. Everything is laid on the table, and as you read, you will see some similarities and differences around societal norms, religion, trauma, sexual abuse and the search for new narratives and identities on the path toward wholeness.
The women share their emotional stories honestly: what it’s like to navigate a polygamous marriage in Senegal, find gay love in Egypt, heal from child sexual abuse in Ethiopia and choose celibacy as a form of spiritual cleansing in the United States.
Through the stories, you will see that the quest for self-discovery may sometimes involve a journey – moving to another country for love or exploring the unfamiliar. Bravery and vulnerability are apparent in equal measures. You will see that heterosexuality and celibacy are just two of many options. While one participant is “pansexual, polyamorous and kinky”, others identify as bisexual, transexual, queer, or simply “a work-in-progress sexually free woman”.
This book breaks all barriers and amplifies the voices of so many women – not just those featured in the book. The ending may not be “, and they lived happily ever after”, but it is therapeutic.
One of my takeaways from the book is: “I’ve learnt to ask myself every day: Are you happy today? And if the answer is no, I make a change.”
I highly recommend this book. Like Sekyiamah, the author said, I also hope the book will give African women a window into the divergent ways they could experience pleasure, rediscover their sexual power and gain agency over their bodies. By reading the book, I hope it helps you find a community that would support you, understand your needs and help you navigate difficult circumstances.