Back in the pre-colonial days, African men would emerge from their tents, after having sex with their virgin wives for the first time, with bloodied handkerchiefs and big grins to applause from the community that has gathered to celebrate the new union.
As patriarchal as that may be, instances like those were commonplace and served as a celebration of the most intimate human act of all - sex.
In the old Yoruba Kingdom, having a husband that could "lay proper pipe" was seen as an achievement. Women openly bragged about the capabilities of their men in the bedroom. Across various cultures on the African continent, men celebrated their sexual prowess amongst themselves and those who could not “hold it down” in the bedroom were considered inferior.
Then the missionaries came and nothing was the same.
Because religion is essentially a leash, the early missionaries - knowingly or otherwise - demonized open discussions about sex. Virginity became a commodity and sex became something to be discussed only among adults in hushed tones.
Fast forward a few centuries and that mentality has remained. Across Africa, sex is still not something that is openly discussed. Sex education is basically non-existent, something that has led to an increase in rape, AIDS, and other STIs. Mothers don't talk to their daughters about sex and fathers refuse to broach the topic with their sons. In the average African home, even music/movies with a strong sexual content is frowned upon - whether you're 15 or 28.
Sex is one of the most natural things ever. No matter what part of the planet you're from, you will formally experience some rudimentary form of sex education, in the least (remember Biology class?). Sex is the only way to naturally guarantee reproduction and, some people will argue, it is the most pleasurable natural act known to man.
That being said, it is safe to say that sex is a human thing. The core concept of sex has nothing to do with race, religion, or ideology. It is, quite simply, a natural act.
There are few places in the world where nature thrives like it does in Africa. From the vast deserts of the North to the pearly beaches of the South and the incredible rainforests of the West, nature does thrive exceptionally well in Africa.
Nature thriving in Africa is also not limited to just environmental factors. Africans love to eat (another natural thing) as is evident from the numerous diverse cuisines that can be found across our beautiful continent.
Africans have also been known to adapt, quite superbly - and maybe a little too easily, to situations and changes in every facet of African life. Finally (and most importantly, considering the topic of the day), Africa also has a sizeable population of 1.216 billion people, making it the second most populous continent on the planet.
All available evidence points at the fact that Africans are inherently positively predisposed to supporting and enjoying nature.
From time immemorial, Africans have been always open to talking about natural stuff. Hunting, farming, family, community, reproduction - are all concepts and ideologies which the average African has always supported and educated its future generations on.
Considering that most African youths become sexually active in their teenage years, the high rate of AIDs, unwanted pregnancies, rape, and other sex related issues plaguing Africa, one would think the importance of educating future generations on the impact and consequences of sex would've become apparent by now.
I have been fortunate to have people share stories of their first encounters with sex with me. From these tales, I have come to discover that experimentation and curiosity is the lead deciding factor in how most African millennials have their first sexual encounters.
Most people don’t know a thing about sex, what it feels like, what could result from engaging in the act, or understand the feelings that come with such an intimate act until they try it themselves, or hear their peers – who don’t know any better – share their own experiences.
This in itself births a generation of young adults who are largely ignorant about the ins and outs of sex – as a natural act and ideology. In the end, the result is a population oblivious to the dangers of unwanted pregnancies, the psychological effects thereof, infant mortality, the benefits – and potential dangers associated with certain sexual acts, amongst other things.
Africa needs to let go of its close-minded approach to sex. It needs to be talked about without fear of judgement or shame. What’s the worst that could happen?