Sex work activists encouraged an exciting and controversial talk in a “sex, culture and society” anthropology lecture on Friday, March 24.

Motsamai Mofokeng, a representative of sex worker movement Sisonke, was invited by professor Robert Thornton to a learning conversation with the students. 

Thornton said anthropology has been in the forefront of research about sex and “the best way to learn about how other people think and how other cultures and situations work is to talk to real people doing real things”. 

The students were very keen to discuss the topic. They asked a variety of questions, exceeding the lecture time. 

“I am sure that there are religious and conservative students in the class, but all of them seem willing to learn and to open their minds,” said Thornton, adding that Witsies are very open to sex debates. 

Rochelle Makweya, a 3rd year BA psychology student, said she enjoyed the lecture because it is something that affects all students. 

“I think students everywhere are doing it, people everywhere are doing it. Maybe it’s not a direct transaction but there is some form of prostitution taking place [at Wits],” she said.

Her classmate Tammy said she felt uncomfortable due to the way in which the topic was discussed. “This, in my opinion, is a topic which could have engendered strong debate.  

“However I felt that within this lecture the language used was crude, disrespectful and the topic was handled far too casually,” she said. 

Teaching assistant Ziyad Choonara, who is a volunteer at Sisonke, said our society is very judgemental. “People in South Africa, they are not free when it comes to sex. 

“People must try and be curious about it, try to understand what is going on, especially students,” he said. 

Students were expecting a sex worker as a guest. Thornton said they tried but were unable to bring a female sex worker into the class, so “perhaps another time”.

Sisonke’s activists fight for the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa.

About a month ago a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Chicago allowed a couple to engage a live sex demonstration in an optional after-class lecture. The couple who performed the act were part of a group invited by the professor to discuss bondage and sexual fetishes. – NEWS 24