Getting woke about getting laid: A HOLAAfrica sex positive experience

Sex is f**king serious.

This (pun-ny) statement has some truth in it and also a great deal of myth. Societal conversations around sex usually centre around the fact that it is some taboo dark powerful force not to be toyed with outside the confines of commitment or something that we simply cannot engage in without giggling like pre-teens looking through an adult magazine. The balance in engaging with sex as a normal everyday act, sometimes necessary and often messy, is more often than not missing from many spaces and interactions.

Societal conversations around sex usually centre around the fact that it is some taboo dark powerful force not to be toyed with outside the confines of commitment or something that we simply cannot engage in without giggling like pre-teens looking through an adult magazine.

This is coupled with the context we find ourselves in as African women, gender non-conforming persons and sexual minorities -- one in which our bodies and lives are heavily policed by religious dogma and cultural structures. There is a lot of conversation about what constitutes ‘a good woman' and what does not, what bodies deserve respect and protection and which do not. These ideas, as they pertain to sex and sexuality, are increasingly being challenged. As our feminism within the continent continues to grow it also continues to take on different shapes and intersectionality is coming more to the fore. We are beginning to conceptualise and incorporate a variety of experiences, and some have begun to carve out space for taking the conversation around sexual and reproductive health rights further.

 

Sex positivity as a movement has sought to change that and HOLAAfrica (HOLAA!) as a platform is riding that sex-positive train all the way to Sexy Town. The HOLAA! platform originally begun as a space in which queer African women could speak on their life experiences, after realising that the documenting of the African queer woman’s narrative could be summed up in one sentence: ‘they were gay and then they died’. As the years rolled by and the platform grew it became increasingly clear that there was something everyone wanted to talk about, know about, read about: sex. Much as there was so much to see on the platform people came for the sex. From themed days such as the infamous #FreakyFriday (that has had the Facebook page pulled down on a number of occasions) to posts about ‘eating pussy like a champ’, having hot safe lesbian sex, fighting lesbian bed death, or finding the perfect sex toy, the space seeks to use edutainment a means of ensuring that women (especially queer women) are living happy healthy sex lives.

The HOLAA! platform originally begun as a space in which queer African women could speak on their life experiences, after realising that the documenting of the African queer woman’s narrative could be summed up in one sentence: ‘they were gay and then they died’.

Queer people wanted to see their butt naked activities reflected back to them in true fashion.

HOLAAfrica (HOLAA!) as a platform is riding that sex-positive train all the way to Sexy Town.

Scratching deeper under the surface the team realised that this need for information was not because the HOLAA! community was thirsty but because there was very little information available to them. Not only was the material for women thin on the ground, especially for those within the African context, and the material for queer women was virtually non-existent. With some platforms seeking to shoulder the burden, these were always western based and sometimes far removed from the context that the queer women community found themselves in. The more conversations continued online, the more those within HOLAA! realised that often a great deal of problematic information was being spread within the community on everything from the myth of immunity to STDs and STIs to crooked ideas of consent.

Scratching deeper under the surface the team realised that this need for information was not because the HOLAA! community was thirsty but because there was very little information available to them.

Since then HOLAA! has grown the sex-positive aspect of its activities seeking to fill the gaping hole of comprehensive sex education for queer women and GNC folks. Over the years the focus has begun to zero in on how to create and disseminate the much-needed information around positive and healthy sexual experiences within the queer African community. #PleaseHer #QueeringTheCloak and The Wildness with Tiff & Manda podcast are three elements in the HOLAA campaign to bring sex and smiles to the queer realm and make sure that sex-positive knowledge is being spread like a pair of legs.

 

Over the years the focus has begun to zero in on how to create and disseminate the much-needed information around positive and healthy sexual experiences within the queer African community.

 

#PleaseHer: A safe sex and pleasure project

One of the biggest projects to emerge from the decisive shift towards actively engaging in sex positivity was the #PleaseHer project. After too many "we can't get STIs" and "consent is a murky concept" conversations online, HOLAA began the work of trying to find out exactly how much people knew and how wise they were about their sexual health, sexual risks and sexual practices. Outside of the fact that many people wanted to know the basics (having sex with another woman is not really covered in many sex-ed classes), a lot of people were blissfully ignorant about all the risks of sexy times that mainly involved vaginas. Once pregnancy was taken off the cards as a possible risk a whole host of people thought all other risks too went out of the window. The #PleaseHer project started out as a series of dialogues that eventually grew into the #PleaseHer safe sex and pleasure manual and workbook (all available for free download and use) and also to workshops that were conducted around the continent. The campaign centred around informing queer women and GNC folks about everything from chlamydia to climaxes to lube, from kink to consent. #PleaseHer focused on centering the sexual experiences of queer women and GNC persons in a way that focused on their sexual needs, risks and desires, to fill the gap in knowledge.

#PleaseHer focused on centering the sexual experiences of queer women and GNC persons in a way that focused on their sexual needs, risks and desires, to fill the gap in knowledge.

The Wildness with Tiff & Manda: a podcast run on wisdom and wine

"A podcast by two African queer girls just trying to get through life." That is the tagline for the latest of the HOLAA! sex positive projects, a podcast by Tiffany Kagure Mugo and Amanda Hodgeson in which they tackle all sorts of topics about sex, pleasure, sexuality and identity over a couple of glasses of wine. This is an informal space where the two women can discuss an array of topics that normally make people blush in polite company. From squirting to naming our vagina, to BDSM and using food during sex the podcasts zeroes in on topics that are taboo and sees them through the lens of queer African women. From time-to-time, the two co-hosts have guests from different places in the continent to add some extra flavour and insight to the topic but generally, the podcast mirrors a conversation between two friends sitting and chilling, taking the overly serious scary nature out of sex-ed. The point is to create a space where women can discuss topics around sexual and reproductive rights that are important to them in a way and that they can engage with and reflect on.

The Wildness Ep 16: Bring Forth The SQUIRT! by The Wildness with Tiff & Manda

 

#QueeringTheCloak

Although this initiative looks at violence within the queer community, it was initially created to unpack the issue of sexual violence between two women/ gender non- conforming persons and how this is often silenced. As issues and incidents involving sexual assault and violence increasingly form part of the public conversation, stories of sexual violence within queer communities (including queer feminist social justice communities) began to emerge. In light of this HOLAA! saw the need to document and have discussions around this and what was initially supposed to be a couple of pieces on the topic grew to become #QueeringTheCloak where every Wednesday the platform would seek to tackle a topic that some within the community even claim "does not exist" or ‘is a "non issue". Every Wednesday HOLAA! uses their social media channels to post material sourced from around the internet well as publishing their own series. Pieces published include "What happens when you miss your abuser?" "Dealing with violence and abuse in our feminist spaces" and "Your abuser is a woke radical feminist, what next?", "Pt III: The silence when she assaulted me" and "Why we need to speak about lesbian rape".

What was initially supposed to be a couple of pieces on the topic grew to become #QueeringTheCloak where every Wednesday the platform would seek to tackle a topic that some within the community even claim "does not exist" or ‘is a "non issue".

This part of the work HOLAA! sought to pull back the cloak of silence and force such conversations into the light and into the everyday, so that people would have to confront the dark underbelly of their community. The part of queer sex that is not all multiple orgasms and pleasure at your fingertips, and is a reality that many queer women and gender non conforming women silently face.

 

Conclusion

HOLAA! is seeking to add to the symphony of voices that are trying to have a new conversation about what it means to own your sex and what it means to actively engage with your own body and sexuality, all the while centering queer women in the conversation. In a world where many still remain vulnerable to violence, more specifically sexual violence, sex-positivity is taking up the mantle to have the hard conversations and highlight important notions around bodily and sexual autonomy. Through the use of digital ongoing campaigns, the conversations can continue and the information can flow ensuring that people are not only safe from violence but living their best sexual lives.

Sex-positivity is taking up the mantle to have the hard conversations and highlight important notions around bodily and sexual autonomy.