‘Dry Sex’ Is the African Sexual Health Issue No One’s Talking About
December 2, 2014
By Wendy Syfret Vice
I first heard about “dry sex” when one of my friends returned from Malawi, where she was doing work with women and cervical cancer screenings. Dry sex, she told me, is the practice of reducing moisture in your vagina in order to seem tighter and cause more friction during intercourse. This is believed to be more pleasurable for the person with the penis, but for the women involved, it’s incredibly painful. It’s an idea linked to the perception that a tight vagina is one that hasn’t been stretched out by overuse, which speaks to the low level of sexual education in the region.
It gets worse. To achieve dryness, some women insert chalk, sand, pulverized rock, herbs, paper, or sponges before sex. Douching with caustic liquids such as detergents, antiseptics, alcohol, and bleach is also common. The use of these substances, in combination with un-lubricated penetrative sex, can lead to vaginal abrasions and increased condom breakage—which compounds the spread of HIV.
Looking into the trend, I found that information was thin. Most of the studies I did find were more than a decade old. The impression was that the issue was endemic, but hard figures were few and far between. For all the efforts put into HIV awareness and prevention campaigns in this part of Africa, none seemed to address dry sex or its role in the spread of the disease.
After much searching I found Dr. Marlene Wasserman, popularly know as Dr. Eve in South Africa. She’s a sexual health clinician, advocate, and host of a radio program on which she attempts to dispel the country’s rampant misinformation around sexual health. She believes that the silence around the issue isn’t due just to ignorance but also to a massive hole in sexual education relating to pleasure equality and women’s rights.
VICE: Why aren’t people talking about dry sex?
Dr. Eve: There’s on-again, off-again discussion around it, but you’re right. There isn’t enough. It hasn’t got attention from the government to that level where policies are being put in place.
And it’s because it’s about vaginas—it’s way too real to talk about. We can talk about penises and circumcision, which we do all the time, and the government puts policies into place. But dare we talk about vaginas? I’ve been doing radio for 20 years and the only time I’ve been reported to the broadcasting commission was when I referred to vaginas. [Go to full article]