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At first I couldn’t understand why these beautiful women with great bodies were going around dressed in outfits that made them look homeless. They kept saying to me that they didn’t want to be sexy or attract attention. I didn’t really get that, because I think if I look good on the outside, I’ll feel good on the inside. And let’s be honest, some people can’t help but look sexy, especially if they are well put together. It’s not even about having to show any skin, but if you have a good body and your clothes fit you well, and you carry yourself with confidence and class, someone will think you’re sexy right?
I didn’t really get what the big deal was until I went on a date last week. It would be an understatement to say the guy was easy on the eyes – you could look at this guy for ours and be in awe, he is in short an adonis. What started out well enough went horribly wrong when it soon be came clear that he was more interested in getting into my pants than getting into my mind (and initially I had thought he just wanted to pick my brains as we are in the same line of work).
By the end of the date I was pretty peeved off. It’s always flattering to have someone be attracted to you, but it is frustrating when all they actually see is T&A. In fact when I remarked that it would be nice to date someone who didn’t want to have sex with me, he’s snorted, ‘with that body? good luck!’. And it dawned on me then and there why the women I’d previously mentioned decided to play down their God-given assets.
I really try not to over-analysis every situation – but let’s be honest, I’m a woman, of course I do! – I couldn’t help but wonder if this is why a lot of women in Zambia end up in situations they don’t want to be. 1 in 5 women in Zambia report having experienced sexual violence in their lives. And this is probably just the more obvious sexual violence cases. I wonder how many people think of reporting coercion. It’s such a subtle form but when you feel you have to have sex with someone even when you don’t want to, it’s never a good idea. But I digress.
I hope one day men, especially in Africa, learn to respect a woman – whether she’s saying no or yes. Because that’s the other side of the coin. If I’d met this fine man and was sexually attracted to him, then it would still have been a problem having sex with him on the first night – as a woman, either way you’re screwed (no pun intended).
Sometimes I wish I lived on a deserted island, where nothing is that complicated. Or I wish people would understand that I simply don’t care about what other people think, because either way, if people don’t understand you, they will always have an opinion of you, so why get worked up about it? Aaaah because society isn’t that simple. So back to desert island it is.
I’ve spent the last week in Nairobi listening to stats on HIV there during the day – women are up to 4 times more likely to be infected than their male peers and women in their 20s disproportionately affected etc – and at night, my Kenyan family and I are hitting the bars and clubs. Bend over Thursdays as it was known, thanks to the popular song of the same title – no longer exists but doesn’t mean you can’t go to a club on Thursday night (Thursdays are the new Fridays) and not hear Bend Over come on. As soon as it does, the young women in there go crazy and bend over, and thats when you see some all out daggery that leaves your mouth open.
I get it is a dance, a sexual dance no less, but it is just dancing. Though sometimes that dancing can go a bit far. I’m not a prude at all, but as I hear the stats, I can’t help but wonder how our sexuality plays into all of this.
My issue isn’t so much that here in Africa (or is it even many parts of the world?) we, as in black people, seem to be oversexed, my issue is that we’re made to think this is a bad thing. Cultural as a woman (in many African cultures) we are told to say no to sex, we must never be seen to want sex. But at the same time, women continue to be objectified as a sexual object. Is there any wonder than rape and sexual violence continues to occur? Sometimes women not even fully understanding that they have been raped as isn’t their role to serve a man? Or the misunderstanding that occurs when men believe the no to mean a yes?
Thankfully more and more men are choosing to err on the side of caution and accept no to mean no. But this still doesn’t empower women to say yes.
I look at the sexual health messages that are put out, all about the dangers of unprotected sex – which with our HIV rates is still necessary – but no one is talking about sex as a pleasurable act, not even in healthy relationships. So you have the guilt element coming into play. What is wrong with me if I like sex? Am I a slut? Does this make me a bad woman?
I’d like to say things are changing. In Kenya, I was shocked to hear about just how ‘empowered’ women are. Women choosing to have sex when they want to and with whom, including being bisexual or bi-curious. This seems great, until I hit the clubs on Thursday night.
The sexual energy was intense – it would be if you’re dancing to Bend Over I guess – but was it a healthy one? These so-called empowered women, demanding the sex that they want are wearing outfits that made me wonder, are they really empowered or is this just a trend?
Let’s be honest, it’s one of men’s biggest fantasies to see two women at it, and who better than to feed that fantasy than women. Doesn’t it immediately make you more attractive to men if you entice them with that fantasy? So my questioning really became a matter of are women doing this because they want to and makes them happy – i.e. they are empowered – or are they doing it because it makes them more attractive to men?
Until we become absolutely confident in who we are as sexual beings and being comfortable with that, can we really, and honestly be sure about the sexual choices and decisions we make? And to support that level of security, we need the society to enable it, not by condemning sex as some moral issue, but embracing it as a healthy and positive experience, that can be enjoyed safely and responsibly.
I truly believe that once we can give young people healthy messages about sex can we then begin to see a change in our sexual behaviours – so that people aren’t hiding or feeling ashamed of their desires, but enjoying them safely. Yesterday I learnt that only 7% of young people in Zambia use condoms, there have been safe sex messages here for as long as I can remember (er over 15 years), so what isn’t working?
For now we’ll continue to see younger and younger girls doing daggery on the dancefloor and hope that’s where it stays.
Another interesting day in the office that led to the topic of masturbation. It actually started by talking about women in their late 20s never experiencing an orgasm and how possible that was. Which led to the debate about how believable (or not, as the case might be) that some women don’t masturbate.
I personally am a big advocate for masturbation. I think that it teaches people to appreciate their bodies – you have to touch yourself, which some people find weird – and it’s also a great form of safe sex. It’s also something that you can do on your own or with a partner.
In many countries around the world it is still so taboo, but I think if we encouraged more young people to masturbate they might not feel the need to have sex, and can hold out until marriage, or whenever parents and/or society deem it to be the appropriate time or age to do so.
And if you’re sexually active it teaches you what you like and what you don’t like, and therefore have a more pleasurable sexual experience with your partner. Or at least that’s what people say, I haven’t actually figured out how this works.
But that last point actually took the conversation in the office in a different direction when someone suggested that they learnt what they liked and didn’t like from porn. Well, not literally. They used porn to educate themselves on what they should be doing sexually and then tried it on their partner, and those experiences taught them more about what turned them on and off.
Well I don’t know about that, but I guess people get ‘sex education’ from many different sources, so we need to be educating through those different sources. It’s nice to see that there are some porn films (programmes?) that use condoms, because those is another way of normalising using condoms – for the people who get their sex education from porn.
But I’d still encourage masturbation – you get comfortable with your body, it’s pretty safe (unless you’re sharing toys), and allows experimentation without actually having sex. It’s interesting that people are still uncomfortable talking about it though.
Twitter is interesting. I used to think it was a tool for narcissistic people, of course now that I’m on it, I’m not singing that tune anymore. While I’m still trying to learn the ins and out of it – what is the hashtagging about? – I have found it very interesting to learn stuff people I respect and admire tweet about.
One of those people is Reverend Run. I usually love his tweets as they’re inspiring and motivational. Something that I like to read when I get up in the morning and right before I got to bed. However, the other day he tweeted ‘Fellas:::If she’s amazing she won’t be easy, if she’s easy she won’t be amazing -Jamal Bryant’.
I see where he was going with it, (and I suppose I must clarify that it is someone else’s quote), on one hand he can be seen to be empowering women to be more virtuous. On the other hand he’s reinforcing women with low self esteem who do have sex easily to be kept down.
I’ve seen it too often, young girls who got caught up in a bad situation – be it some form of sexual abuse – or just not loving themselves enough to say no, or peer pressure or something else that made them make that one decision to have sex when they didn’t want to. On the first night too. It’s hard to come back from that.
It takes real strength to break that cycle of having sex with men who don’t deserve you, and to say that if you have sex that easy you’re not worth much is pretty irresponsible if you ask me.
Black girls especially have it really hard as it is, sexualised in the media, not many examples of black men loving black women and treating them right (thank God for President Obama), that it’s easy for us to suffer from lower self esteem, dysfunctional perceptions of our bodies and believing we’re nothing more than a show-piece or sex toy for our men. But it’s time we change that.
First of all we need to show young black girls that being beautiful doesn’t mean you need to be half naked (Beyonce please put some clothes on in your videos), and also celebrate our diversity. There is not one definition of black beauty. Once we can instil that love, pride and respect within them we can move onto sexuality.
Our bodies are our temples, or should be, but we have to be more clear about that message. If a woman who loves herself, has self-respect and high self-esteem generally wants to have sex with any number of men, should we persecute her? Why does that make her less amazing a person?
How can a person be defined by the number of times she opens her legs, or to the different number of men? She could be an amazing person who has had bad things happen to her in the past, or she could be an amazing person who just likes sex?
Makes me wonder how come there are enough male celebrities who claim to be sex addicts but no female celebrities – could this possibly be because they’d just be labeled sluts. It is a double standard. Should we not then be saying than man-whores are not amazing men (well generally they aren’t), we just need to hear it more often – and not be the scorned woman.
Though maybe I misinterpreted the quote and what he meant was that it takes work to get and keep an amazing woman! That she has standards that might be high, but that’s what it takes to be with such an amazing woman. I’d prefer it if that is the message, so I’m going with this version, so that I can still keep Rev Run as one of my inspired personalities to follow on twitter.
Of course it’s also spurned me to think that there might be something else I should be doing. Watch this space.
I actually mean the global south and north here. Over the last few months (for some reason I’ve been more mentally aware of my surrounds in this period) I’ve realised how different cultures can be and the impact this must have on young people split between them.
I was born in Zambia and spent my formative years split between London and Stockholm. I moved back to Zambia as a teenager and then relocated to London in my early twenties. So I’ve moved around a fair bit and I’ve always been grateful for this because it opened my mind. As a teenager, my sexual education was influenced by living in the liberal city of Stockholm, this actually made it easier for my sisters and I to launch the sexual educating magazine, Trendsetters, in Zambia.
But the respect and values I came with to the UK were from my Zambian culture. So sometimes I still recoil when I hear a child talking back to their parents (disrespectfully I mean). It also affects my perception of ‘appropriate attire’ – I was going to say covering your modesty, but hey who am I kidding, I used to love my mini-skirts! Though I was erm, ok not really 18, I may have had some suspect outfits at 16! Still, I find it disturbing to see some of the clothes people leave their houses in, during the day or even going to work in.
Though my point comes when I think about how some things are so much more acceptable here than they are for our cultures back home – or at least people make it seem like it is. One one hand young people are encouraged to embrace their sexuality and that it’s ok to sexually experiment. Hell, babies having babies are ok. When my other Zambian friends and I get together we do joke about how if this was Africa, such and such wouldn’t be happening – and brush it off.
The other day as I was recounting an incident where I thought a man was having a relationship with a very young girl because he was touching her, what my African upbringing would suggest inappropriately, turned out it was his daughter, I realised just how different these cultures are. Most of my western colleagues didn’t think there was anything wrong with a father putting his hand on his teenage daughter’s thigh while they were talking, whereas that would be a huge no no in Zambia.
All this got me thinking – how do teenagers, more specifically the African youth in the diaspora bridge these gaps? How do they manage to choose the good from their cultures back home – because let’s be honest, there are some parts of the African culture that really undervalue women and we don’t need that – with the good part of the western culture (back chat not included)?
My friend and I laugh at our different experiences of wearing shorts in front of our fathers – another no no after a certain age – hers was her aunt telling her off (though she pointed out that if her dad bought them in the first place, why shouldn’t she wear them), mine was my father actually telling me it was inappropriate – I always forgot though, I’m sure on some occasions he just walked out of the room (Lol). Then I think of a visit to my aunt’s house (here in the UK) and finding her son’s girlfriend sitting on his lap and kissing him in front of her – shock horror! And they shared a bedroom the whole weekend I was there. It sounds ridiculous when I write it – because I’m thinking of it from a Western perspective, but I’m not sure that even at my age I’m having my boyfriend sleep in my room at my parents house… maybe if we’re engaged it would be ok, maybe.
This is something we sometimes forget when we’re educating young people – how various cultures influence their lives. Be it because of where they go to school, where they live or even because of the TV programmes they watch. If you don’t speak to them with those cultural influences in mind, how can you expect the message to sink in? You may not agree with it, you may even want to mock it, but if you want to make a difference, try to understand where they’re coming from.
In the early days of HIV prevention messaging in Zambia, the US agencies came in pouring money into the ‘talk to your parents about sex’ message. Because they didn’t ask (or maybe they didn’t do the right research) it took them awhile to realise that the reason that message never worked was because in our culture, you don’t talk to your parents about sex, you talk to your aunt – as a girl, or your uncle, if you’re a boy.
People know this in commercial advertising, I have no idea why it’s taken so long in public health. Ok I know a lot of campaigns do do this now, but there are still a few that make me say hmmmm.
It’s interesting how we’re looking into how we use mobile technologies in our HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns and that the latest ‘sex’ craze (for lack of a better phrase) revolves around using mobile phones.
I’m not sure why sexting is such a big deal right now – surely it’s been going on since people discovered texting – but I guess it’s getting more common and the fact that young people and kids are doing this as well. More people do need to talk about it because there are so many implications around it. The most obvious being having your phone captured pictures leaked online and/or distributed electronically through more texting, you just need to think of all the celebrity scandals over the last few months revolving mobile phones and text messages.
More than that terrible embarrassment and/or potential humiliation, it also allows for the easy and free distribution of child porn.
Today I was reading about some kid in the US who tricked and bribed kids, boys i think, to send him nude pictures of themselves, kids as young as 15! And then got them to perform sexual acts on him. Very disturbing to say the least.
It’s just another factor that makes it easier for young people to get sexually exploited and even more sexualised. It wouldn’t be surprising if young girls these days think its ok to send a graphic text or image than actually have sex with a guy. But again it’s this whole lack of understanding of what these messages or images mean or can do. And then it just snowballs to having full on sex at some point.
Responsible sexting can be a good thing for a healthy relationship so I’m not totally against it, but where you have vulnerable people, it can be really dangerous.
This is just another indication of how pervasive new technologies can be and those of us involved in sexual health communication or any type of education that helps develop people, need to keep up and in fact work at a faster rate to get messages out.
Using mobile capabilities to spread messages or a health message in some form has got to become a norm, but other than in South Africa with PopTech’s Project Masiluleke, I don’t really know anyone who is successfully using this technology.
It’s an interesting one to explore and see what develops. Maybe we can come up with some sexy but safe templates people can use for their sexting exploits (that’s a free idea for you to have – anymore, you need to pay me for!).
But sexting isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and its only going to get worse – as we’ve already seen – as mobile technologies get better with videos being filmed and sent at faster speeds and better qualities – and young people who are getting more and more sexualised every day.
Sorry I’ve been away for awhile, I’d gone away to help a friend ‘find herself’. As a ‘grown up’ woman, I do find it sad and hard to believe how many so called grown women are still battling with self-esteem issues. I suppose in a way we all have those feelings once in awhile where we doubt ourselves in one aspect or another. But this women, she seems to perpetually be in that state. On the surface, she’s a beautiful successful woman. She’s intelligent, and has a body to die for. But inside, it’s like she hasn’t caught up with that exterior. She’s like a young girl, stuck somewhere between being a little girl and being a woman.
This causes all sorts of problems for her in her personal life, she always seems to be caught up in destructive relationships – with men who cared nothing for her. If you meet her you’d think she’s a strong, independent, opinionated woman, but know anything about her relationships and you’d wonder if it was the same person. She tended to be with men who treated her like a plaything, often times these men had other women in their lives and only called on my friend when they wanted sex with minimal drama.
The problem was as a young girl, she was violated in the worst way possible, raped by two men who she knew – well two different occassions but within a few months of each act, amounting to three times in total. I think this pretty much screwed up any self love she might have had for herself, especially since she’d been an 18 year old already struggling with her looks. And I don’t think she ever recovered.
But the problem with her and other women with self-esteem problems is that because they don’t love themselves they put themselves in situations that can be harmful – like having unprotected sex with men they barely know. That was the thing that worried me about my friend – she’d know to get herself tested but even if the men she was sleeping with didn’t want to get tested, she’d still have unprotected sex with them.
Her story isn’t unique at all and this is what bothers me. We focus a lot of our prevention campaigns around using condoms, getting tested and saying no to sex. But the reality is we need to tackle the fundamental issues of self love. It’s already a hard battle for women in my generation (not that i’m that old!), but what about teenage girls growing up in a world where someone as talented as Beyonce is half naked in all her videos? Or even the videos where men seem to be talking appreciatively (until you actually listen to the words) of the curvaceous, skimpy clad girl dropping it like it’s hot?
They are being groomed to be a sexual object to be here to provide sexual gratification to a man, who if he really likes her will ‘spend it all on her and make her bed rock’.
I know we hear people talking about self-respect, but how do we instill respect in women when the media is full of images that promote anything but respect for women – whether it’s self-respect or from men (that’s another blog post for another day)?
If women, young and older, loved themselves, had higher self-esteem and self-respect, they wouldn’t be putting themselves in situations where they are disrespected or put at risk because of wanting to bend to a man’s sexual wants.
I’m happy to say that my friend finally acknowledged that she suffers from seriously low self-love after spending a weekend with a man who treated her badly – but had lots of sex with her – and she’s now seeking help. I have to admit, she’s one of the lucky ones, considering her sexual network – she’s very lucky.
The London Evening Standard did a survey asking people if they’d tell their current partners how many people they’d ever slept with. A surprising proportion of them said they would – ok it was about 10 people surveyed and about 8 of them said they would.
Sexual health dictates that we encourage people to talk openly about their sexual history and all that. But is there a way that you can do it without revealing your number of partners? Who doesn’t remember that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral when Andie MacDowell’s character counts off the number of partners she’d had and Hugh Grant squirms and sweats as the number progresses over 10?
Is that not still the reality? Men are uncomfortable hearing how many people (male or female) their girlfriend has had – though could this be because they’re worried they can’t live up to expectations of her experiences? And women worry about being labeled.
I think we should encourage people to talk about sex so that they can talk to their partners about sexual health issues, getting tested and even sexual boundaries (some people are into more weird stuff than others).
But do we really need to get into numbers? And do we start judging people because of that? I.e. would a more sexually experienced woman have an issue with a man who’s only had two sexual partners in his lifetime? Would a man want to be with a woman who’s slept with 20 odd partners?
I don’t know, I just think the numbers game is a very tricky one. I think the Evening Standard went on to say that because the people were more open to disclosing their numbers they’d be more open to talking about their sexual health and other sexual issues. But if that’s true it clearly hasn’t done much, because the UK still has among the highest – if not the highest – rate of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe.
So again, I ask, what is the point of discussing your numbers? Keep it to have you had any sexually transmitted infections, can we get tested together and what method of protection will we use? – straight to the point.
Of course it would be nice if we could get to a point where sex is not so taboo and people can discuss anything without fear of judgment. Until then, I’m keeping mum about my number of sexual partners. I’m guessing one or none is the ideal number your partner wants to hear, and I don’t like to disappoint.
sorry i have been absent. the last month has been crazy busy as we prepare to unleash four new productions this year – all of which i’m pretty proud of, some more so than others, but that’s to be expected.
so the craziness started when we decided to throw a black tie dinner to raise awareness of our Foundation and the fact that Travis McCoy had recorded a track called One At a Time, exclusively for the Foundation. the track is released on 1st December World AIDS Day. We had less than 3 weeks to pull it off and thanks to the Westbury hotel in London, and some great people, we did it. and it was hosted by the gorgeous Idris Elba
Three hours sleep and then i was off to Nairobi, Kenya to launch Shuga. The premiere there went down a treat. Everyone loved Shuga! so the question is – where’s the funding coming from to do Shuga 2?
While I was enjoying the fanfare in Nairobi, Georgia, the SVP of Social Responsibility for MTVNI, jetted into Zambia to preside over the launch of Shuga there.
If you’ve ever been to the Lusaka Playhouse, you’d be amazed as to how Media 365, who organised the whole launch in Zambia, transformed it. Even the VIP attendees couldn’t believe it! In short Shuga went down a treat.
Back in the office to oversee the distribution of programming – Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track, Shuga, Tribes and Embrace me – all for WAD – which at this point was in less than 2 weeks away!
But our premieres are not done yet. Ukraine will be unveiling Embrace Me this week – i just saw the offline and despite the fact that i couldn’t understand it, it looks good – hmmm some competition for Shuga?
And Ben, my trusty coordinator is off to Trinidad tomorrow to see the launch of Tribes. hmmm lucky him, i’m missing the sun already!.
I’ll have pictures from those events next week. But make sure you keep up to date with all things related to MTV Staying Alive Ignite here: http://www.staying-alive.org/ignite
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