There are some women making sexual pleasure a gender equality priority

There are some women making sexual pleasure a gender equality priority 


Accra, Ghana – Hauwa Adam is gorgeous and smart as a whip. She carries herself with the seductive simple someone comfortable in their skin and as she talks her left sometimes hangs at a right angle, palm up, neither beckoning nor rejecting. Her nails are red and match her lips and a strappy mini dress. Her hair, styled in faux locks, hangs right down to slightly below her shoulders; her big eyes glisten, and she or he laughs easily.

So, I am caught off-guard when this girl tells me, as those big eyes begin to water, that she spent years hating her body, hate stemming from all the pressure she felt to stay that body hidden away.

“I grew up during a Muslim house,” she begins. “The typical conservative Muslim house in Ghana where you could not wear trousers, could not wear short skirts, could not wear tight clothes because your body is sacred and likened to toffee,” she said.

“Your husband has got to unwrap the toffee to enjoy it, but if you have already showcased everything  the edges of your breasts, your hips, your butt what is there for him to enjoy?”

Adam, who is in her mid-twenties, recounts how she began dating only after leaving home for university. After two years together, she and her boyfriend had sex.

“That is when everything came back to me,” she says. “How much I hated my body. How much I could not feel good about what I used to be doing. The guilt of enjoying sex.”

I was in Accra within the summer year of 2018, trying to find other women who, like me, had grown up feeling as if their bodies did not quite belong to them. First, because we were meant to specialise in school and as in my case church, and then, once qualified, employed and a “woman of God,” we were to dedicate ourselves to our husbands, our youngsters and our community.

There has unquestionably been much joy and the satisfaction derived by many that living life this manner, and private faith is by no means irreconcilable with the fight for equality among the genders. But my hunch was that besides me, there have been many others deeply dissatisfied; who felt whether as a formed thought or simply a gnawing sensation in their gut that their lives, and particularly their sex lives, were not fully their own.

What is more, I could notice from years of covering international development and gender issues as a writer and editor, that Black, brown and poor women mostly the themes of reporting and not often enough the storytellers had to content themselves with their bodies being described as contested geographical spaces might be.

There are people, organisations and even governments fighting over whether you ought to access contraception or not; what percentage of children you ought to have; whether you ought to be veiled or not; what your gender or sexual identity can be; how you should be treated if you earn your income from sex work; whether your attire or attitude makes you complicit in your sexual attack; or at what age you will be married off and at what price the latter, often partially, determined by whether or not you are still a virgin. 

Like inhabitants of a besieged territory, women and gender non-conforming people are often caught within the middle, ignored as their very bodies are being debated.


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