/ 17 January 2017

​That awkward but vital sex chat with your kids

Four girls walk to school near the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret
Four girls walk to school near the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret


The sex advice parents give is often very basic — usually the biology of it and little else. Sometimes the threat of pregnancy and HIV are mentioned. Jesus will be watching if sex happens outside of marriage is another warning, which gives one the feeling that our Lord and Saviour is standing outside the window judging your naked ass.

Some of the stories I have heard about young women (and some young men) speaking to their parents about sex involved advice such as “If you hang out with boys too much you will get pregnant” and “HIV is real, my baby” plus the classic comment “Why are you even talking to boys?”

This is then fast-forwarded to the inevitable “When are you bringing a nice man home?” Exactly how one does this after having been told to avoid the nice young men like the plague is not clear.

The fearmongering style of sex education by parents leads to some problematic ideas about sex. But the question is: Why do not speak practically to our parents about sex?

There was a tradition of teaching safe, healthy and pleasurable sexual practices. Now people get their sex advice from porn and random movies.

On a personal level, some of my earlier “this is so good” noises mirrored the women I saw in some of the more risqué media — until I woke up and realised this was not what my pleasure sounded like.

It is not only a problem when it comes to sex in marriage but also when we are in our teenage years.

We cannot escape the fact that teenagers are having sex and falling pregnant — and the fact that the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the African continent. What about the fact that there are an estimated 4 960 320 people in Ghana with an STI or 1 968 800 in Rwanda? How about the 2 634 815 living with an STI in Zambia?

Studies among pregnant women have shown that 6% of women in Tanzania and 13% in Cape Verde have chlamydia. In terms of gonorrhoea, studies of pregnant women show rates ranging from 0.02% in Gabon to 3.1% in Central African Republic and 7.8% in South Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, the highest increase in the rate of curable STIs per 1 000 people is in sub-Saharan Africa.

On Twitter, I recently saw how a woman nearly destroyed a 10-year-old boy who hit her niece after she refused to twerk for him.

This is a strange and worrying example of a huge pandemic of sexual assault in schools. A Human Rights Watch report on South Africa, titled Scared at School, spoke about how rape, sexual harassment and abuse were “an inevitable part of the school environment”. An example further afield is in Mozambique where girls in high and primary school have spoken out about how teachers will ask them for sex in exchange for grades.

These are the experiences that form young people’s views about sex, which they then take into their teenage relationships and marriages as adults.

The resounding silence that we have about talking about sex when we are young makes for tense, awkward and often dangerous situations later on.

We need to start having open and frank conversations at home, no matter how much talking about cunnilingus with your parents feels like some sort of fresh hell.

Kagure Mugo is the co-founder and full-time curator of HOLAAfrica