What do sex and nose-picking have in common? We do them but never talk about them.
Sex. This is a word everybody knows about but — for some reason — feels ashamed to speak about it. Growing up in Nigeria, sex was like an open secret. I know about it. You know about it. I know you know about it. You know I know about it. But we never speak about it. Ever wondered why?
My mind takes me back to my biology class in JSS1 (Nigeria’s equivalent to 7th grade), about eight years ago, when we encountered the topic of sexual reproduction. My biology teacher, Mr. Casmir, had barely scratched the surface of the topic, but at the slightest mention of words like ‘penis’ or ‘vagina,’ my classmates were already wriggling in their seats and chuckling noisily. This made Mr. Casmir much more uncomfortable teaching the topic than he already was. He then rushed through the topic and I never really understood the concept of sexual reproduction until I read about it on my own.
This clandestine evasion of the topic of sex goes beyond the classroom; we also don’t speak about it at home. In most African homes, sex is treated like college education. Parents know their kids are going to do it someday, but they are almost never prepared for it. Why?
I think we should be talking about sex. A lot actually. Very early on as well. Why?
I discovered that the leading cause of divorce in marriage is infidelity. What causes infidelity? It’s two things. One, blatant sexual promiscuity. Two, sexual insatisfaction. Guess what those two have in common? Yes, you guessed it — sex!
Parents never talk about sex with their kids and advise them to get into marriages virgins (which is ideal, tbh) but then they often end up unable to satisfy their sexually demanding partners. When their partner begins to look for satisfaction outside the marriage, these parents now surface to blame their child for not doing ‘it’ well. Really?
Growing up, my sister and I had lots of conversations with my mum about sex. I remember when my sister asked my mum one evening while she was about to take a shower: “How did you get pregnant for me?” At first, my mum stood still like she was trying to decide whether to tell her the raw truth or slap her with one of those hackneyed fairytales. She chose the former. My mother narrated everything; yes everything in detail and made sure my sister and I understood how it worked. She still didn’t forget to caution us against engaging in sex with anyone until we were married to that person. Although I already had an idea of what sex was about from the porn tapes I had seen in my dad’s bag (forgive my curiosity), I learnt a lot more about sex that evening from my mother.
Granted, not a lot of homes (especially African homes) can boast of parents who can have such conversations openly. But, we still seem to get so uncomfortable to talk about it even within our own circles. When one of us begins to talk about sex, soon enough someone throws in their sanctimonious irrationality to ruin the conversation.
I understand that some people plan to have sex only after marriage, but does that also mean we can’t talk about it until then? Unfortunately, our cheapening of sex by making something so beautiful and invaluable appear so ungodly and cheap has only weakened our argument for the need to talk about sex.
Most of us learnt about sex from TV. Those occasional moments in the movies where a stare leads to a kiss. A kiss leads leads to some touching. Some touching leads to more touching. More touching leads to two bodies going under the sheets or someone shutting the door as the scene fades out. Our creative minds are quick to make inferences and connect the dots to explain what’s really going on under the sheets or behind those closed doors.
This exposure to such frequent and reckless sex enhances our longing to “try it out.” We do it in secret but never talk about it until we throw caution to the wind and get diseases or get someone pregnant, then sex speaks for itself.
Our parents tend to speak about sex from an uncomfortable place. But they need to be able to have these conversations with their kids because most of their adult life will involve sex and sometimes the success of their marriage could depend on it.
Also, in our circles, we tend to talk about sex from a trivial place. But we need to first restore sex to its place of dignity and reverence. In a previous article I wrote, I explained that:
“Sex is…invented anew with the synchronizing of the souls of two lovers set on fire by passion, desire, and mutual vulnerability.”
Sex is a beautiful thing only if we do it right.
But before we do it right, how can we break the ice and get comfortable talking about sex?