SEX AND SEXUALITY

The Power of the Pussy

Kagure Mugo, Feminism, Masturbation

By Kagure Mugo

Have you ever sunk your fingers into yourself? Not in a flurry of horniness, or during some sexy time with a partner or out of boredom at 30, 000 feet during a flight (if that is your thing). Not rushed it but touched yourself slowly, deliberately so that you really understand what the feeling between your legs is all about? Allowed yourself to submerge into yourself?

You should.

It is important to explore the depths because the vagina is a magical, largely unexplored wonderland, and powerful place. Not only is it wildly misunderstood but the vagina, like its female host, can bounce back from intense trauma as you do not call it the miracle of child birth for nothing, the miracle being how does one even begin to do anything with it again. This miracle aside there is also the, equally important, fact that it is an all engulfing, all consuming, vortex of pleasure that one can literally get sucked into.

Kegel muscles are a very real thing. You contain the cosmos between your thighs, feel the big bang.

I have increasingly become enraged with the idea that women are secondary consumers of pleasure with men being the target market and us picking up the scraps. I also understand that in the general scheme of things this may not be the most ‘important’ thing to be angered about when it comes to the fight for women globally however, issues of pleasure and sex tie into matter of agency over one’s body. If one cannot negotiate a sexual transaction with a partner what more can one negotiate from a place of power in other sectors of your life?

Understanding the importance of sexual agency, I went looking, trying to find out about women and pleasure. The first thing I properly learned about the power of female sexuality was baby sexology 101.

The clitoris.

It is criminal to mention sex and women and not mention the clitoris. Which is why a great number of men (and some women) need to be be brought up on charges of corrupted coitus. Driving the dick under the influence of ignorance.  More often than not people will think of pleasure in terms of simply filling a woman up with a swollen appendage and not stopping to think of the numerous erogenous zones doted around the female body, one of the most important ones being that little bulb of desire between her thighs.

A great deal of the information I found about loving your vagina came from very western sites. I was given all the usual advice. Touch yourself, do a weeks worth of stretches and get into a yoga type pose and have a good look at your pussy. Know it well enough to pick it out of a line up if it was arrested. However, the inner traditional farm girl in me was reluctant to go all the way.

I needed to ground the knowledge of knowing and owning my sex and sexuality in something. Thus my Afrocentric nature refused to allow me to stop there. The notion of the power of women and pleasure could not have started as something in a ‘Journal Of Sex’ published somewhere in the States. There had to be something here, on the continent, that had gotten us to a point where women’s sexuality had to be so seriously policed that the aforementioned clitoris was in some places cut off.

My search led me to find AfricanSexualities: A Reader, with information about Osunality, an Igbo-based belief in the goddess Osun. She was the goddess of childbirth, the life cycle and most importantly pleasure. Osun represents ‘a female centered, life transforming energy that courses through and animates life’. It is a force that is ‘highly sensual and sexual’.  The paper ‘Osunality’, by  Nkiru Nzengwu, states that women who embody the Osunality force ‘brandish their sexuality openly and quite unselfconsciously.’

The notion of the phallocentric nature of sex was actually birthed in Ancient Greek philosophies, with the local context being a little more female friendly. Other traditions from within various African countries and contexts recognised the vagina not as being penetrated but as engulfing the penis, able to completely drain it of its power but still able to continue even when it is sexual partner is deflated. This idea of the vagina flips patriarchal notions of sexuality on their head, and allows for a new conceptualization of the agency of women within the sexual ritual.

So outside of all the socio-historical research and rights rhetoric what does it mean? It all means that you should be having amazing sex. Epic sex, mind blowing sex. Because understanding the power of the vagina means that you understand that it should be getting first class treatment. To waste the sensual power of the vagina on bad sex is the equivalent of using a nuclear power plant to power a couple of street lamps.

There is so much potential that is lost with current ideas of sex, furthered by porn, and widespread ideas of men being the main consumers of pleasure — ‘giving it to her’, ‘pounding the pussy’ and ‘having a third leg’ takes power away from the vagina and places sex in an extremely phallocentric light. Sex becomes all about the penis and how whenever it turns up to the party then it becomes the shindig of the year. This takes away from the fact that the female body has so much, and needs so much, and can do so much, all on its own.

A woman can have multiple orgasms and the vagina can rejuvenate and reinvigorate itself after marathon sessions. The female body is built for pleasure, in so many ways however this has been suppressed not only physically but mentally. Not only is there the physical manifestation of women not needing pleasure (a survey showed that only 54 percent of heterosexual women experience regular/any orgasms) but women themselves have been wrapped into cognitive notions of sex being a ‘chore’, ‘duty’ or something that is supposed to happen in a relationship or interaction that can sometimes be enjoyable.

This thinking needs to be dismantled. The sexual act is more of a personal, spiritual, and social journey to get women to the point of being able to know about, own, and have the sex they want.

Some men do understand that there is sex outside of the penis but so many men (and women) still believe that a penis is the only thing that makes sex, sex. Those who do understand that there is more to life than that make amazing lovers. They are the ones who their partners speak about their trysts in hushed tones over glasses of chardonnay and giggles. They are the ones who make their partners shift their hips when the memory of the last night the spent together floods them. It is the partners who high-five themselves for giving head or knowing that they need to stroke the clitoris to make a woman’s knees weak that secretly rule the world of sex. They are the ones who understand the pure, astronomical force of a woman’s sex outside of the penis and for that they are silently saluted around the world.

For the women with these astronomical organs it is about finding out what makes the big bang happen. It is about finding what it is you want in bed, no matter how much or how little. How ordinary or how weird. It is about understanding the path to power is a personal one, not only is it about suddenly becoming a sex goddess, it’s about knowing what you want or do not want.

The power is in the choice made in knowledge, not the act.

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SEX AND SEXUALITY

Touch Yourself – Because it’s good for you

Kagure Mugo, Feminism, Masturbation
Kagure Mugo

By Kagure Mugo

‘Get your hands away from there.’

This is the reprimand we have gotten since we were small girls, curious about what was going on between our thighs.

Boobs? Sure. Legs? Cool. Hips? Fine. But this vagina thing…with its ability to change temperature, moisture levels and make you tingle all over, what is it? What is it about?

Unfortunately we were never allowed to know.

There is a need to have conversations around all the taboo around masturbation to break that taboo down. So this is for everyone who touched themselves and felt bad about it. Everyone who was told off for digging for pleasure, everyone who was told only boys spank the monkey. For every woman who heard they would grow hair on the palms of their hands.

Masturbation is vilified. You know it’s bad when even the boys are not allowed to do it, and they are seemingly allowed to do anything. But gender relations aside the idea of masturbation is so powerful it had to be shut down and fast. Because with masturbation women can make sex fantastic.

And then the world might end. And anarchy will ensue.

Or not.

With the idea of pleasure being marketed as a male dominated activity and women seemingly picking up the scraps there is a need to change the phallocentric approach to sex.

The vagina is a powerful cosmic space which people must respect and understand, especially those who have them. You need to be well educated in the way it works but you cannot get an education without taking some classes. And unfortunately some things are better learned on a practical level.

Masturbation is sex with someone you should love, deeply and wildly. It is about taking back your sexual power and your sexy and knowing what makes you tick so you know what time you are coming.

This chat is to tackle that stigma surrounding masturbation, give some tips and open the space to have that conversation. Because late at night, when you just want a little taste of your own awesome and you take it, you are really not the only one.

So you really should go right ahead.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Or do, if that’s what gets you off.

 

Join in the dialogue this evening on masturbation. 7pm South African time. Follow the hashtags #TouchUrself and #SexTalkNaija

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online Pan African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman.

She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay.

CURRENT AFFAIRS, HEALTH, SEX AND SEXUALITY

SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT AMENDMENTS ON TEEN SEXUAL ACTIVITY AND THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTER

Press Release – for immediate release

Tuesday 03 February 2015

Released by:

Childline South Africa; The Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape; The Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria; and the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children; and the Women’s Legal Centre

 

Today the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services was briefed by the Department on an amendment bill to the Sexual Offences Act, which deals with the issues of consenting sexual activity between adolescents and with the placing of the names of child offenders on the National Register for Sex Offenders.

The Committee indicated that they have received over 400 submissions on these issues at this stage and most of the discussion in the meeting focused on the issue of consenting sexual activity between 12 to 15 year olds.

 

Consenting sexual activity between adolescents

The bill does not change that any sexual activity without consent remains the very serious crimes of rape or sexual assault even when committed by adolescents.

The bill does not change that any person over the age of 18 (adult) is committing an offence of statutory rape or statutory sexual assault when they engage in such activity with a person from 12 to 15 years (between 12 and 16). For this reason the bill does not lower the age of consent from 16.

The bill does seek to protect adolescents 12, 13, 14 or 15 year olds from being criminalised when they engage in consensual sexual activity with each other. It also adds some protection against 16 and 17 year olds being prosecuted if they engage sexually with other adolescents who are no more than two years younger than them.

Currently the law criminalises adolescents from 12 to 15 for engaging in any consenting sexual activity including kissing, sexual touching, heavy petting as well as sexual intercourse. The fact that it is a crime has extremely serious negative effects on these adolescents. They may be arrested by the police, questioned or interrogated by police and prosecutors, and stand accused in criminal trials. If they are found guilty their names are included in the sex offender register which can have long term effects on their employment options as they reach adulthood.

“This issue raises an emotional response and many people get extremely concerned at the idea that these acts should not be a crime. The most common misconception is that by de-criminalising we are encouraging adolescents to have sex. No one is encouraging adolescents to have sex, in the children’s sector, organisations agree that we need to discourage unhealthy sexual behaviours. These are behaviours for which adolescents are not developmentally ready, which may expose them to STIs, teen pregnancy, and emotional distress or psychological trauma.” Explains Shaheda Omar, director of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children.

Our organisations, have seen that criminalizing adolescents can result in public humiliation, shaming and deep long term psychological distress for some adolescents.” Stated Omar.

The current provisions affect girls more negatively than they affect boys, girls are likely to experience greater levels of public shaming and humiliation as a result of being criminalised.” Argues Sanja Bornmann an attorney at the Womens Legal Centre

Vivienne Mentor-Lalu of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape argues that: “the consequences of this consenting behavior being criminal are extremely severe and are not rational in light of the behavior that is being punished, the current law does more harm than good”.

The Constitutional Court has looked at the issue in great depth and ruled that the law as it currently stands is a violation of adolescent’s rights and that there are more effective and less invasive measures that the state can take to respond to adolescent sexual activity when it is consensual.” explains Prof. Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria.

Organisations working to promote child protection and children’s rights agree that criminalising consenting behavior is not the best way to protect children and that it is a waste of scarce resources which could be used better in the child protection system. They argue that state intervention regarding unhealthy sexual behavior should not be dealt with in criminal law, but rather through laws that require the state to implement programmes to support children, their families and other professionals to help adolescents make healthy and age-appropriate decisions.

Dumisile Nala, the Director of Childline South Africa argues that: “The evidence of what has been shown to work to delay the age that adolescents start having sexual intercourse is not by making it a crime, it is implementing programmes to support parents, teachers, and health professionals to communicate with children and adolescents about relationships and their sexual decisions without judging them.

 

Children on the National Register for Sex Offenders

The bill also addresses the process that should be followed in placing the names of children who are convicted of sexual offences on the Sex Offender Register. Currently the SOA says that any person who is convicted of a sexual offence must have their name placed on the register, this also applies to children. Once a person’s name is on the register they may not be employed in any circumstances where they work with children or people with intellectual disabilities, nor may they foster children. Names may be removed from the register after a number of years under certain circumstances and if the person has only been convicted of one offence.

The Constitutional Court ruled that SOA violates the rights of children in conflict with the law. Although the register is an important tool to help us protect children and people with intellectual disabilities from sexual abuse, children who commit sexual offences are more likely to be rehabilitated and are less likely to pose a risk to children in the future.

“The Sexual Offences Act includes such a wide range of different crimes and some of them when committed by children do not have the same implications as when they are committed by adults against children. For example an adolescent who takes a ‘selfie’ and sends it to their boyfriend or girlfriend can be convicted of two offences and their name must be placed on the register for life, this is unacceptably harsh.” explains Samantha Waterhouse of the Community Law Centre, UWC.

In addition research indicates that child sex offenders, even of more serious sexual offences, are not necessarily likely to continue to commit sexual offences in adulthood and that they are more likely to respond positively to rehabilitation. The Constitutional Court has stressed that children are developing beings and that the law must take this development into account and not treat them in the same way that it treats adults.

For these reasons organisations are arguing that although some children’s names should be placed on the register, this is not true of all children convicted of sexual offences. They are arguing for there to be a process included in the law in which a court has discretion to order that a child offender’s name be placed on the register and that it should not be automatic. To achieve this they are arguing that children must be assessed by a professional, before the court makes this decision.

The Portfolio Committee plan to hold public hearings on these issues on Tuesday 10 February, however they have indicated that due to the volume of submissions they may have to extend the dates for oral submissions.

Ends.

 

For further comment relating to either of the two issues above contact:

Dumisile Nala Childline 082 868 3000
Prof Ann Skelton Centre for Child Law, UP 082 443 2702
Carina du Toit Centre for Child Law, UP 071 603 8292
Shaheda Omar Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children 083 557 3720
Vivienne Mentor-Lalu Community Law Centre, UWC 082 494 0788
Sam Waterhouse Community Law Centre, UWC 084 522 9646
Lucy Jamieson Children’s Institute, UCT 082 388 4815
Sanja Bornmann Women’s Legal Centre 083 522 2933
CURRENT AFFAIRS, GENDER POLITICS, LAW, SEX AND SEXUALITY

Keeping women “safe” can be dangerous

Joy Watson
Joy Watson

by Joy Watson

 

Rape stats not improving, court stats even worse

The recently released crime statistics indicate a slight drop in the number of reported cases of sexual offences, from 66 387 in 2012/13 to 62 649 in 2013/14. Over the course of the past few years, the trend has been to drop, then increase again and then drop again at different points in time. In 2004/05, for example, there were 69 117 reported cases. By 2007/08, this had dropped to 63 818. In 2008/09, it increased again to 70 514, dropped to 64 514 in 2011/12 and then increased to 66 387 in 2012/13.

The pattern that emerges is not one of a steady decline as a result of a coherent, targeted strategy to eradicate sexual offences. Equally concerning, is the fact a small fraction of the total number of reported cases eventually go to court. In 2007/08, 6.8% of the total number of sexual offences went to court. Of the total number of cases reported to the police, 4.5% resulted in convictions. This improved marginally in 2008/09, when 7.5% of the total cases reported went to court and 5% of the total cases reported resulted in convictions. For the next two years, there was no reporting on the related statistics. In 2011/12, there was a marginal improvement with 10.7% of the total number of reported cases going to court and 6.97% of the total cases reported resulted in convictions. The subliminal message is abundantly clear – a rapist has to be extremely unlucky to get convicted.

The reasons for the vast majority of sexual offences cases not going to court varies. Some cases are eventually withdrawn by the victim, largely as a result of secondary victimisation in the criminal justice system. In other instances, the National Prosecuting Authority will drop a case if it seems as if though there is not enough evidence to support it. This is a contentious matter as forensic evidence is an important part of deciding whether or not a case can potentially be won in court.  Yet, there are significant delays in securing forensic evidence and even where it is secured, the accused can argue that sex was consensual.

We need new strategies

The fact that there is no coherent, inter-departmental strategy on the part of the state to deal with rape is one of the main reasons why we see no real improvement in addressing the issue of rape.

Much of the state and media discourse in this regard has focused on the notion of protectionism, namely, that women need to be kept safe from harm and navigate their way cautiously in public spaces, particularly at night. Embedded within this narrative of danger is the underlying view that “bad” women ask for trouble, and that women who conform to the tacit rules of how to dress, where to walk, when to be out etc., will be “safe”. Restrictions on women’s mobility are therefore sanctioned by rationalizing that it is in the interest of their safety.

Yet, rape has confounded this myth. Even “good” women who conform to the rules have been raped and the disproportionate focus on the danger to women in public spaces appears to ignore the reality that women seem to face more violence in private rather than public spaces.

Furthermore, the language of protection and safety is couched within a problematic framework of concern for women’s sexual virtue. It obliterates the fact that the everyday acts of violence such as catcalls and comments directed at women on the streets are linked to more brutal forms of violence such as rape. These daily, repetitive acts of intrusion and harassment which women are expected to take in their stride, creates the kind of social context where more brutal forms of harassment can take place.

In the longer term, the better strategy is for women to enhance their claim to public spaces as notions of protectionism and keeping women safe ultimately limit life choices and restrict mobility. This in itself can be seen as a form of violence. In the process of doing this, violence is something that needs to be contended with and addressed at its roots, that of structural social inequity. This will require that we think differently about violence against women – placing it not in opposition to risk and pleasure, but alongside them and understanding what these terms mean in their own right and when connected to each other.

 

 

GENDER POLITICS, SEX AND SEXUALITY

Black bodies not for your abuse Osrin

Jen Thorpe, feminism, women, South Africa
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

Cape Town swimming coach Tim Osrin was arrested last week when he allegedly beat up a middle-aged domestic worker, Cynthia Joni, in the middle of the day without the two ever having said anything to one another. Osrin was driving his car along a road, saw Joni, and stopped his car to beat her up. She sustained multiple injuries. His explanation for this – he thought she was a prostitute. He is quoted as saying “I just snapped. It is a result of the years of stress of having these people in our area.”

To add fuel to fire, when charges were laid against him, Osrin said that Joni had ‘trumped up the charges’ because he was white, and was probably thinking “here comes my Christmas box.” A petition to Virgin Active to remove Osrin from their team of swimming coaches, and make true their commitments to a non-racist society, was successful. His case has been postponed to 27 November at the Wynberg Magistrates Court.

I think it’s important that we unpack this crime for the very many layers of ‘isms’ and wrong doings based on Osrin’s statements.He reveals particular prejudice about sex workers, black women,

1. “I just snapped. It is a result of the years of stress of having these people in our area.”

If you’re hearing loud sounds it’s because you’ve stepped on a minefield. Unpacking the layers of privilege in this statement could take all day but let’s go step by step.

A: These people:

In this statement Osrin was referring to his belief that Joni was a sex worker. Sex work is criminalised in South Africa. Whilst everyone is entitled to their own opinion about the decriminalisation/legalisation of sex work (if your opinion isn’t an informed one I suggest you engage with SWEAT) there are certain facts that are important. These are:

  • Sex workers are people and have human rights like everyone else including the right to be free from violence.
  • It is not acceptable to assault someone because you disagree with their career.
  • Someone being a sex worker doesn’t mean is not an explanation for someone else’s violence.

The point that Joni is not, in fact, a sex worker is discussed in B below. But even if she was, this doesn’t legitimate his violence.

B: These people in our area:

Osrin never explained why he thought Joni was a prostitute, and it seems the only marker that identified her as one of these people in his area was the fact that she was black. The assumption then is that Osrin had some misplaced belief that black people walking in Kenilworth don’t live there, or work there, and if they do work there it’s as a sex worker. This type of active stupidity is not exclusive to Osrin.

This is linked to the racist patriarchal hypersexualisation of black female bodies, to white male privilege that says women are not allowed to choose what they do with their bodies, and to racism that assumes that black people do not have legitimate space in ‘white’ areas like Tim’s (see D below). All of this, is quite frankly, bullshit and should no longer be tolerated as an explanation or excuse for violence.

Deliberate ignorance should not be seen as a mitigating factor in his case.

C: I just snapped: 

Assault is not a legitimate response to frustration. So the excuse that he snapped, unless he had some sort of mental break that reduced his criminal liability (which I doubt because he was able to drive off in his car, and to give subsequent statements to the media), then he was directly responsible for his choice to beat someone up who had not instigated any violence against him.

If Osrin has in fact ‘snapped’ then he should be admitted for psychiatric evaluation before he can stand trial.

Importantly, it must be made clear in this case that violence against sex workers is unacceptable. Particularly because this type of violence can be considered a hate crime – it is motivated by hatred for sex workers as a group and sends a message to other sex workers that it is not safe in that area.

D: Our area: 

Public spaces, including streets, are, well, public. Anyone is entitled to walk in any area that is not access controlled. So it’s not actually your area Tim, it’s Kenilworth, and Joni has every right to be there.

E: The prevalence of sex workers in Kenilworth as a cause for concern

Sex workers are workers. This means that they often work in places where there is a demand for their services. I’m not quite clear on why this is a problem, and don’t agree that having sex workers in an area automatically brings shame/disgrace to an area.

However, Osrin alleges that the sex workers expose themselves to children in the area, and this is certainly not acceptable and criminal behaviour. In the same way that sex workers are entitled to be in public spaces, children are entitled to live in spaces free from violence. This behaviour, if it is happening, cannot be condoned.

So if Mr Osrin seeks to address the issue, perhaps what would be more useful than assaulting individual women, would be a community dialogue with sex workers, sex worker organisations, community members, etc to discuss why sex work is thought to be a problem, and how the community feels about it, given that sex workers are clearly part of the community.

I think that type of dialogue is an imperative after such an incident of violence, and that it should happen as soon as possible.

2. Here comes my Christmas Box

Osrin’s counter allegation is that Joni is trumping up the extent of her injuries in order to exploit him in some way. This statement points to some racist and sexist assumptions:

  • Black people do not tell the truth – of course, Joni couldn’t just be detailing her injuries.
  • Black people are out to exploit white people and see white people only as a source of personal enrichment – through laying charges, Joni wasn’t trying to achieve justice or prevent Osrin from assaulting other unsuspecting women, but was trying to get money out of him through a court settlement.
  • Women don’t tell the truth – her injuries were probably not as bad as she said they were (if you see the earlier links, he only slapped her once, so ‘any injuries she sustained were a result of her fall’).

These assumptions seek to undermine Joni’s right to report violence against her, and will certainly cause secondary vicitimisation. Women who are abused face discrimination from police often, and their injuries or lack thereof are often commented on in court cases. What is important is that this was a physical assault, and secondly it was an assault to Joni’s dignity.

3. Shock is not enough, we need action

It’s clear that Osrin is a complex guy – he is angry, violent, mistrustful, racist and sexist. Part of ensuring that incidents like this don’t happen again is removing the conditions for their acceptability – addressing the intersectionality (the ways that his various prejudices converged upon a black female body and not a white female body, or a rich black body, or a white male body) that facilitated this abuse. It’s important that stereotypes and racist and sexist assumptions like those that Osrin made are addressed at a community level.

I think it is vital for the Kenilworth, Harfield, Claremont village associations and ward councillors to host a discussion inviting all members of the community to discuss the following:

  • racism
  • violence
  • socioeconomic inequality
  • sex work

And I’m sure a number of other areas. If you live in an area where you face similar issues, then I suggest you contact your councillor and ask for a dialogue.

If you would like to do more, and participate in an event outside the court where Osrin’s case will be held on 27 November you can find details of one here.