Skye O’malley! That was the first historical romance novel I remember reading as a child. It’s a 496 paged book about the eponymous lead character who was as fierce in business as she was in the bedroom.
I was in class five when I read this novel which translates to me being 11 years at the time. My folks liked the fact that I was an avid reader.
I read everything from African Writers Series, Nancy Drew Files, Sweet Valley, Harry Potter, Mallory Towers as well as the usual culprits: Mills and Boon, Zebra, Silhouette and Harlequin romance.
Nobody bothered to find out exactly the content of the books I was consuming and that worked for me just fine.
I would like to believe that reading helped me become the progressive thinker I consider myself to be. Quite apart from boosting my vocabulary and confidence in the English language, looking back now, I think all those books from my childhood doused any curiosity I may have had about sex.
Lessons from books
I mean I had read it all; the art of seduction, the power play, the performance of the act itself, the consequences or the resultant happily-ever-afters.
I had experienced it all through these fictional characters and that was about enough of it for me.
It was around the same time that rumours started spreading in my Junior High school about who was doing it and with whom.
I vaguely remember a gangbang kinda action (there are funnier terms for it in Ghanaian local languages like Ewe and Ga) going down involving a girl and three or four guys. I think they were sacked or suspended by school authorities.
That was around 2004/2005. Mobile phones weren’t common back then let alone internet access.
Those were also the good old days of fidgeting with the TV antenna outside to get the transmission of one of the few stations around at the time.
Once, my cousins and I were trying to watch a program on TV3 which wasn’t very clear in Ho (South of Ghana) at the time.
As was the drill, one of them was outside manipulating the TV pole and or the antenna while the remaining two of us had our eyes fixed on the screen to notify him if the signal was clear.
Shocker on TV
Out of nowhere, this scene from a porn video appeared on the TV screen.
For like five minutes, we couldn’t take our eyes off the action on display in front of our young, unadulterated eyes (I’m sure I can safely speak for them).
You see, it’s one thing reading about passionate lovemaking in novels and quite another watching the bruteness of a hardcore porn scene.
In secondary school, any semblance of sex education I had was taught by the Social Studies teacher.
The poor guy! He was visibly uncomfortable talking about the subject to a group of mid-teens some of whom were already sexually active.
He stuttered throughout the period and I doubt having that much fun at someone’s expense as I did the teacher.
Back in the dorms, gossip was rife about the girls who were at it with guys from our school or the neighbouring boys’ schools.
With those rumours came the even juicier gist about the abortions and the various methods girls were using to get rid of the evidence of their sexual escapades.
As a parent, you may well decide to deny your 12-year-old access to a mobile phone or the internet.
But there is a 10-year-old in your child’s school who would bring their phone to school and heaven knows what goes down during break-time or those boring French or Maths classes.
Kids need to know the truth
There’s peer sex education that we have all come to accept. But kids need to learn about consent, about protection.
They need to learn what constitutes inappropriate touching and not just what our mothers talk about when their daughters start menstruating.
Our boys need to know that not all women are into the kind of sexual acts they see in porn. I am not sure if this is what the GES has in mind, but I should think so.
My daily conversations with my mum these past couples of days, centre around this issue. Today for instance, she was all riled up over the fact that there was a plan to demonstrate condom use in front of five-year olds. I was rolling on the floor, clutching my ribs for dear life.
As prudishly conservative as we are, the thought of a Ghanaian teacher doing something like that even in a university lecture hall is enough to leave me gasping.
I see why the church and politicians would want to play the sensational card on this matter; the average Ghanaian has a level of sexual propriety only comparable to that of a devout monk.
But what it really comes down to in my opinion, is the deep-seated fear that our (can I use this pronoun though I don’t have one myself?) children would soon be in on our dirty secrets.
My mum writes me off as a crazy feminist. You should do same if you feel a strong urge to insult me.
Author: Tawakalitu Braimah (She is a Ghanaian, former broadcast journalist and currently a Masters Student in Intercultural Management at the University of Burgundy, France and Aarhus University, Denmark where she’s doing an Erasmus exchange.)