Talking about Sex with South African Women

On September 17th and 18th, Jeanne Flavin, author of Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women’s Reproduction in America and 2009 Fulbright Award recipient, led all-day workshops with 67 young women and 30 public educators from the East London, Eastern Cape (South Africa) region about adolescent sexuality. The Eastern Cape province has the highest incidence of teen pregnancy in the country. Dr. Flavin was invited by the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, a non-profit organization with a specific focus on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights and the gendered nature of HIV and Aids.

Check out Prof. Flavin’s blog for her personal take on the experience:

One of my favorite parts was a discussion of how to get your parents (i.e., your mother) to talk to you about sex, when they don’t want to. (“Ask your mom, ‘Did you ever have a boyfriend? What was that like?'” “Tell your mom you have a friend who has a boyfriend and you want to talk about her.” “When they are watching television — and I speak from experience –really absorbed, stand in front of the television and say, ‘I think I want to have sex’ then grab the remote and run out of the room. Trust me, they will run after you.”)

The flipside of creating a safe space, though, is that you are going to learn hard things about their lives. You are going to hear from a young woman who became pregnant at age 14 and whose alcoholic father (whom she lived with) didn’t notice until the day she went into labour. You are going to have a young woman describe how she became pregnant one year when she didn’t want to. And then more recently, when she did. And had a stillbirth. You are going to receive notes that say things like “What would you do if your boyfriend beats you everyday at school?” “What if you have a boyfriend and you are a virgin but you like him and he promises you the world and I promised my parents that I will never have sex until I get to 21. Everytime I go to the guy’s house he want us to then I say no. What must I do?”

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