SEX on display at the Stevenson

SEX is the stimulating exhibition curated by Lerato Bereng is currently on display at the Stevenson gallery.

Sexual Narratives: Themba Siwela’s Temptations on Madlala’s pension day fictionally depicts social commentary about black South African sex. Photo: Hazel Kimani

Sexual Narratives: Themba Siwela’s Temptations on Madlala’s pension day fictionally depicts social commentary about black South African sex. Photo: Hazel Kimani


SLICE OF LIFE: Does it always have to be about sex?

Riante Naidoo

Riante Naidoo

by Riante Naidoo

It seems to me that for most young couples today, sex has become an integral part of relationships.

Although I believe it is entirely up to each individual as to when they start having sex, the general trend has certainly picked up in recent years, leaving our generation with the attitude that it is a relationship norm or requirement.

I beg to differ. I only discovered the general view of most students on campus when a friend assumed I had been sleeping with my boyfriend of four years. Dumbfounded by her assumption I sat and gave the notion serious thought. ‘Did they not see me as normal’ and ‘how can people just assume that’ were the questions that raced through my mind.

I wondered why girls complained endlessly about their ‘bae’ not being romantic or thoughtful enough, when they were all too excited to respond to his ‘booty call’.

On the flip side however, I find it is not only guys who centre their relationships around sex, but girls too.

Although, in some instances, it may be peer pressure or the need to feel desired that may push one to have sex, I feel it is directed more at a lack of self-respect or ignorance.

Sex is certainly not a need. As educated people, we have the ability to empower ourselves by whatever means necessary.

No matter your gender, whether your partner threatens to leave or pulls the ‘do it to show me you love me’ line, leave. Leave with your dignity still intact and your morale a little stronger.

After all, if you are the kind of lady who expects your husband to be pure enough for you, you do not want to be walking into that relationship with a hideous reputation or trail of ‘baby daddies’.

For those who are mature enough to maintain relationships which exclude the ‘sexual requirement’, there are so many perks of being young and in love. It is the time to enjoy the sillier side of life with your partner.

When I was 18, holding his hand, hanging out with friends together, sneaking into his lectures and waking up to his texts every morning was what made it exciting.

Our generation needs to re-discover what it is like to be embarrassed over being called out in his lecture and being teased by friends instead of falling pregnant after a drunken hook-up.

The idea of sex bogs me down with seriousness. Call me old-fashioned, but yes, it does carry a sacred value and level of intimacy I can wait for. Let it be something special you experience, one day with the most important one.

Despite all the aspiring Christian Grey’s or Anastasia Steele’s out there, who believe they are in their sexual prime, I assure you, there will be enough time for handcuffs and rose petals in between the sheets.

It is completely normal for young couples to be in relationships without sex. It is possible to be together where the other is not ‘getting it someplace else’ just because the two of you are not sleeping together.

This is the time to make memories. To go on road trips with friends, join campus societies and hike a mountain or invent something crazy. After all, Facebook was invented by a group of university students.

Make the real moments matter and just imagine what a legend you will be at graduation!

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

The Seventh annual Sex Actually festival produced by Drama for Life (DFL) is here, with the theme “Love, Intimacy and Human Connection”.

A plethora of theatre performances, workshops, sex talk series and community dialogues are taking place at the Wits Theatre. The festival started this week and runs till the end of the month.

It will offer a platform for audiences to critique social change interventions in sex-related issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and abuse.

In the opening address for the festival, DFL director Warren Nebe, said the festival was launched as an initiative to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa.

He said the aim of the festival is to explore human connections in all its shapes and forms. DFL wanted to create a festival thats transcends race, class, gender and sexualities.

Tarryn Lee, Sex Actually festival director, said this year the festival is a public intervention looking to use exciting mediums to talk about sex, relationships and HIV/AIDS since it is often viewed as a heavy subject. They use dialogue to break the silence around the stigmas attached to taboo issues.

“In South Africa specifically, sex is often a very heavy subject in our society … It’s not always a celebrated subject and is also filled with many myths and taboos,” she said.

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TALK SEX: Drama For Life students perform Ships by Night by Megan Godsell in the opening of Sex Actually festival at Wits Theatre. Photo: Anazi Zote


Lee said the myths and taboos around sex need to be de-mystified and brought to light so that sex-related issues “are challenged in our community, our families and work space”.

South African National AIDS Council (SANCA) Deputy Chairperson, Mmapaseka Steve Letsike, appeared at the official opening of the Sex Actually festival. Her opening address started by praising women for their fight for human rights.

“By talking we facilitate dialogue and conversation about the certain taboos that encircle our society,” Letsike said.

Although she highlighted the triumphs of women who fought political struggles she said the current fight over HIV/AIDS is prevalent in young women aged 15-24. According to the Mail & Guardian, the rate of HIV amongst females is four times higher than that of males in the same age group.

“We have committed to really focus on young women,” said Letsike, adding that SANCA had also  launched the Zazi campaign, which is about knowing yourself, embracing yourself and knowing your status, ” Letsike said.

Zazi is a Zulu word meaning “know yourself”. It reminds women to know their inner strength, value and what it means to be themselves so they can overcome adversity. The programme was launched at the University of Johannesburg  on Soweto campus in partnership with the Department of Social Development.

In the meanwhile, Wits students at DFL take pride in this year’s festival performances because it raises awareness on issues which continually face youth. Damilola Apotieri, Masters student at DFL, thinks the festival is a good opportunity for students to lend themselves to different conversations around sex and relationships in hopes to generate more knowledge on these issues.

“Personally, I will recommend that all Wits students attend as there can never be any better platform to engage with such issues,” Apotieri said.

Witsies unimpressed with free flavoured condoms

Witsies are underwhelmed by the new colourful, flavoured condoms which will soon be free from the government.

 This week Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, announced the new condoms after a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council showed that condom use in South Africa had decreased.

 The survey also showed that boys were starting to have sex at a younger age, young people were sleeping around more and becoming less knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS.

SAY “I DO”: Students think twice before doing the deed using Choice condoms. Government hopes this will change with the new condoms.   Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

SAY “I DO”: Students think twice before doing the deed using Choice condoms. Government hopes this will change with the new condoms. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

But the new condoms are unlikely to make any change to the sex habits of students, according to a number of Witsies approached by Wits Vuvuzela.

 “Choice sucks and they [condoms] stink, so even if they make them colourful and add flavour to them, it won’t make a difference to me, I won’t use them,” according to Zama Mthunzi, 1st year BSc.

 Aurelia Dako, 3rd year BA, said it was better to use bought condoms than the free condoms provided by government. “To me, the difference is that they [government condoms] are free. A person shouldn’t mind spending [money] for their health instead of getting them for free.”

 Young women say they are sometimes reluctant to have sex using the free condoms, even going so far as to stop in the heat of the moment when their man pulls out a Choice condom.

 On the other hand, one young woman said she would not spend money on condoms and that Choice condoms were better quality than those sold in shops.

 Some of the men said they would not mind using the free condoms if they did not have enough money to buy their preferred brands. The price of condoms varies from R12 to R38 for a pack of three. The most popular brand among young people is Durex, according to the students approached.[pullquote] “Choice sucks and they [condoms] stink, so even if they make them colourful and add flavour to them, it won’t make a difference to me”[/pullquote]

 Despite the different colours and the flavours, young people say they still prefer store-bought condoms because of the texture variations like studded, ribbed and ultra-thin, which students claim makes the sex more pleasurable.

 Choice condoms are available in most campus toilets but, in his statement, the minister said students were not using them. Approached for comment, spokesperson to the minister, Joe Maila, said: “We suspect young people prefer fancier condoms so our department wants to make the Choice condoms more appealing, make them cool and funky.”

 The department hoped the rolling out of new condoms would help control increased teenage pregnancy rates and HIV infections.

 Maila said the department would use the same budget it was granted for the current condoms to produce the new ones. “Even if we use one cent more than our initial budget, this is an investment, we are preventing the spread of disease and creating productive, healthy members of society.”

 Currently 23% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with HIV and only 14.5% of males between the same ages, according to the HSRC survey, quoted in Business Day. The infection rate among teenage girls between 15 and 19 is eight times higher.

 The condoms will be distributed for free at South Africa’s universities and Further Education and Training (FET) colleges.


Sex at “a certain age”


Catherine Burns, whose research interests include the history of sex, says people do not like to think of older people as sexual beings. She says older people are portrayed as being romantic or affectionate, never sexual. Photo:

Rosalind Jacobs cartwheeled onto the stage in the opening scene of her autobiographical play That Certain Age.

 She said she used to cartwheel everywhere as a child. It made her feel alive, proud and beautiful. Jacobs, who is 59, said she now looks “like a cushion that’s lost its stuffing. Breasts dangle hopelessly as if they just got tired of hanging on, as if they too had lost their sense of purpose.”

 Jacobs’ play, which was staged at Wits on Monday August 20 as part of Drama for Life’s Sex Actually festival, highlighted the issues of ageing and sexuality.

After the performance, the all-female audience of five discussed body image and sex in what Jacobs called the “invisible age” , when a woman is not yet “a lovely old little lady” but is no longer considered a “hot babe”.

The discussion was moderated by Dr Catherine Burns of the Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research (WISER). Burns, who studies the history of sex, said people did not like to think of older people as sexual beings.

She described the strong reaction her acquaintances had to The Mother, one of the few films which showed older people having sex.  In Roger Michell’s 2003 film, Daniel Craig plays a 32-year-old man who falls in love and has a sexual relationship with his girlfriend’s 65-year-old mother, played by Anne Reid.

Burns said: “Many people have told me it’s the most revolting film they have ever seen … They had to turn it off or leave the cinema because it disgusted them.”

The idea may be unpalatable to some, but older people are sexually active and they risk getting sexually transmitted infections. Burns said older women were vulnerable to HIV infection because their vaginal tissue was thinner and more likely to tear.

Older women might also be invisible to HIV/AIDS awareness campaigners, who often targeted the youth. They might lack knowledge about condom use.

She said negotiating condom use might also be difficult, since menopausal women could no longer tell their partners they wanted to prevent pregnancy.   

Audience member and Wits graduate Margaret Fish said: “Many older people don’t feel that they have a choice if they want to keep that man. And how are they going to say: ‘I’m afraid you might give me a disease?’”

Sex exchange

Men feel entitled to sex and obedience from women if they provide for them financially, according to a Wits researcher.

A recent study revealed how heterosexual men in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal perceived sex with prostitutes, their partners and other women. The study was published by a team led by Wits Public Health professor Rachel Jewkes.

Their research suggests that men, especially lower income, lower-educated coloured and black men, conform to the traditional gender role of the “provider”. Women are expected to offer sex in return for what men provide. This could be cash, items for children, school fees or money for bills, but it could also include food, clothes, cell phones, transportation, accommodation, cosmetics, or handyman work.

“It is very easy to see how these social expectations put pressure on men, especially in the context of unemployment, and may be strongly resented by men who have little or no money,” say the authors of the article.

Although exchanging sex for money and material items seems like a form of prostitution, these men view the “provider role” as very different from paying for sex from a sex-worker. Two-thirds of men engaging in such “transactions” denied having sex with a prostitute.

The authors suggest that women may use the conservative gender role of men to their advantage: “…it is possible for a woman to feel empowered by ‘exploiting men’ whilst the ‘exploited men’ view themselves in a conservative gender role.”

The study also found that men were unlikely to pay sex workers later in life if they had not done so at a young age. Their research confirms findings in the UK that “if a man had not paid for sex by the age of 25, he was less likely to do so in the future”.

Jewkes and her team say their study is important for South Africa because transactional sex and prostitution play a role in HIV infections. It is also significant because the country is in the process of reviewing its laws around sex workers.

Men have not been well research in this context, so understanding how men see themselves can help to reduce transactional sex by changing their perceptions.

Do you think men should provide for women in return for sex? Comment below.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, May 18, 2012