In 2009, 41-year old Ghanaian feminist and blogger, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and another colleague, Malaka Grant launched a project to spark conversations around sex and sexuality.
The aim at the time was to create a platform for African women to freely talk about their sexual experiences.
A website for that was launched and for ten years now the digital platform has been a space for many women, who regularly write about their experiences in their bedrooms.
Thousands of women have equally visited the “Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women” website to read about other women’s experiences.
In Africa the issue of sex is treated as a coded item – which means, talking about it openly is often frowned upon.
It is even worse when it comes to women getting the liberty to talk about how they feel sexually.
In some societies in Africa the woman – whether single or married isn’t given the chance to express herself sexually.
In many marriages, women don’t have the freedom to choose how to have sex and enjoy it or complain about the inefficiencies of the sexual act.
For unmarried women, they had to battle a lot of prejudices to explore their sexuality and enjoy sex even without a partner.
A political project
Nana Darkoa told Africa Feeds in her home in Ghana’s capital Accra that starting her website was a “political project” because “we realized that there was no space for African women to talk openly about sex, about sexuality.”
“We recognized that growing up we didn’t have access to comprehensive sex education. All we were told was that don’t do it and nobody ever really said what there it was, so we kind of just have to figure it out as we were growing up.”
Darkoa who has been a known activist for women’s right in Ghana and beyond explained that she and her colleague “wanted to do something different, we wanted to create a space where women can come together virtually because it was sort of safety online, that sometimes we don’t feel like physical spaces and lets have open and honest conversations.”
She said it is important to “talk about pleasure. I think it is actually a human right. I think it is a huge issue that there are soo many women who don’t get pleasure from sex.”
The woman’s body
In many societies across the world and significantly in Africa, women are often viewed by some men as mere reproductive objects when it comes to sexuality.
Such views and orientation means women hardly get the chance to seek for pleasurable sex and may not even enjoy it at all especially in marriage.
Nana Darkoa told Africa Feeds “I think it is about power relationships, it’s about, men if they are sleeping with men being selfish, not centring the women’s pleasure. It is about our societies thinking the women’s body is only for reproduction and not as vessels that are actually designed to give us pleasure.”
She said changing this narrative means sparking conversations in ways that could pool a lot more women to the realization that there is more to their bodies than just giving birth and satisfying men sexually.
For many women growing up, comprehensive sex education was unavailable so talking about sex was considered bad and immoral unless they were married.
Darkoa said even in marriage women are told they “were doing it for the man’s pleasure or to have children. And we are actually saying no, sex is pleasurable and we should just have sex if we want to have sex because it is pleasurable, because it is enjoyable, because it is good for our health, because it makes us happy.”
Impact of advocacy
For many women having access to what some of their colleagues say about happenings in their sex lives could be life changing.
Many of those who share their stories on adventures use pseudo names for now, again to avoid unfriendly reactions for talking freely about sex.
But Nana Darkoa said readers of her website are getting the needed help for a happy sex life.
“I have had like a young married couple tell me that because of your website we have been able to have conversations that we couldn’t have had as a couple. Because they got married and nobody ever spoke to them about sex. It always makes me happy to hear that,” she said.
“I have been to an event in Nigeria where a young woman came up to me and said being on your website was like having aunties I can talk to because she couldn’t talk to her own mother or to her own aunties. So these are some of the feedbacks that we have received from people.”
There have been negative reactions to what Darkoa and her colleagues do with their website and advocacy but she rather wants to call those opportunities to push further and not really stumbling block.
She said “I don’t want to pretend that speaking about sex and sexuality has no negative consequences in a conservative country, it does but I personally feel I have protection just because of the kind of person I am.”
The sexuality conversation
For Nana Darkoa, there is an emerging trend of many people now wanting to talk freely about their sexual life.
She said the reaction she gets from visitors to her website shows that people are interested in such conversations and want to be heard – that makes it an important topic.
“I think it is absolutely important on the African continent to talk about sex and sexuality. In West Africa married women are the most at risk of HIV/AIDS. Married women, not single women.
Because married women are unable to negotiate condom use. If you don’t talk about sex and sexuality how do people know about these things?” she added.
Sex is not for only the married
For many religious groupings and conservative societies, sex is for married people and doing it outside marriage is considered offensive.
But Nana Darkoa said that is wrong. She said “sex is for human beings not everybody wants to get married, not everybody needs to get married, you know we are human beings, like we say body no-be-firewood”.
She said not everyone appreciates this position on sex and sexuality but what must be done is to keep talking about it.
“I tackle it by continuing to speak about this and I also don’t just speak out online, I also speak offline. I have done readers, where I have done pieces from the blog, I have participated in activities.”
In December 2019 Nana Darkoa and some of her friends are planning on putting together a live event to talk about “sex, sexuality and relationships. So we are also looking to expand what we do.”
She is happy others are joining in to also talk about sex and sexuality in Africa. There are now emerging feminist groups creating the awareness about sex and sexuality.
Film Series on sex and sexuality
For the future, Nana Darkoa and her team are planning on creating a film series inspired by adventures.
She said her team “actually got into the Independent film makers project in New York which is a really amazing platform for independent film makers. And we were one of ten projects that were selected to be supported.”
“We are actually working to put adventures on the screen. So in terms of where we see adventures in five years times, even before five years’ time, I am hoping it is going to be on the big screen. Because we all know the importance of audio-visual content.”
Darkoa also hopes to create podcast about the sex stories of women and launch regular live streaming on social media to talk about the matters that affect women’s sexuality.
The vision for her is to put the position of African feminists across when it comes to the subject of sex and sexuality “which is really about freedom for everybody”, she added.
Nana Darko also cautioned about stigmatization against people who may have different sexual orientation that those considered traditional in conservative societies. She wants people to respect the diversity of others.
The Ghanaian is also urging women not to shy away from talking about sexuality saying “anything they tell you not to talk about is very powerful.”
She wants people “to start by speaking to themselves, writing about your own thoughts in a journal. You can start by joining a community online.”