In our society, the common narrative is that sex is something that should only happen within the ‘confines of marriage’. The last phrase itself shows how marriage, as it is practised around here, is seen as a prison-like contraption that traps people within it. But we all know that this is not so, as Nigeria is one of the places where gay porn is watched the most on the African continent.
The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS within the heterosexual and homosexual communities between the 1980’s and early 2000s, and the population explosion within this same period led to Nigerian government finally taking an interest in the ‘sexual health’ of its populace, but even at that, the focus is on avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive health.
Abstinence became a buzzword that was spattered on billboards and jingled in our heads constantly over the radio. Instead of instituting comprehensive sexuality education from primary school upwards, Nigerians were admonished to practice ‘abstinence’ until they found a ‘marriage partner’ and then they should stay committed to this partner. In case of failure, male condoms were made practically freely available, while women were offered contraceptives. With this action not only did they define gender as binary, but they also ascribed roles—men as the ones that should experience pleasure, women should have sex only for reproductive reasons because till today female condoms, mouth guards etc are not only difficult to access and they are also pretty expensive. What the government has done is hand over the sexual safety of ‘women’ over to male partners, so what happens to lesbians and gay people?
Sexual health is not only about avoidance of unwanted pregnancy or diseases, but it is also about physical, social and mental well-being. A sexually healthy person has a positive attitude towards their bodies and that of other people. It is the ability to have and enjoy sex without emotional or mental baggage, to explore one’s bodies or the bodies of others without guilt or violence. Sexual health is seeking enthusiastic consent, being comfortable in one’s sexuality enough to have pleasurable and safe sex that is free of coercion, discrimination or violence.
For a society that refuses to discuss sex, still shares revenge porn, and consider sex-workers criminals, Nigerians have a whole lot of sex which can be seen in the population explosion, the regular occurrence of rape and the rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Gender is a spectrum, and human beings have one or more combinations on the spectrum, gender is fluid and affects our ability to have and enjoy sex, with whoever is as wildly attracted to us as we are to them. But to be able to enjoy the diverse ways in which we can give or get pleasure, we also have to unlearn shame, gender roles and fear. We need to claim our bodies and own our kinks. Without sexual positivity and well-rounded attitude or knowledge of sexual health, we are fucked… metaphorically.