Let’s Talk to Our Teens About Sexuality not Sex

One evening in 2006, I boarded a City Hoppa to take me home after a long day at work. A lady I had never met before sat next to me and immediately engaged me in a conversation about her new born baby girl. I thought she was a con trying to solicit some money from me, so I attempted to ignore her by responding to every of her comments with a shrug. But she went on and on, telling me how she wouldn’t want anything to happen to her daughter, especially sexual abuse. Being a woman myself, I related to her concerns and I had no choice but to listen to her keenly. Out of the blue she shared a story about her neighbour. A story I will never forget.

Her neighbour, a middle aged mother of three had separated with her husband. The man had walked away into the arms of a younger woman, leaving his wife to take care of their children. As the months went on with the hope of her husband’s return waning, the woman decided to move on with her life. To fulfill her sexual desires, she purchased a couple of sex toys which she kept hidden in the closet of her bedroom when she wasn’t using them. One day when she was away at work, her teenage daughter on school holiday went snooping in her bedroom and stumbled upon a vibrator. She must have known what it was for because she didn’t hesitate to use it on herself. So pleased was she with her discovery that she used it over and over again, making a point of returning it before her mother came home from work. Too excited to contain herself the girl went about sharing it with her friends from school. They in turn convinced her to steal it and bring it with her once school opened.

And so it was, that when school opened, the girl sneaked in the vibrator all the way to her dorm. Information spread fast about the toy and soon, the school’s lesbian group (the girl included) began using it, oblivious to the health risks involved. Initially, it was shared privately among couples, but then the idea of having an orgy of sorts was introduced to the foray. It worked much the same way Puff Puff Pass does. So the vibrator was passed on from student to the next without little effort to clean it.

A couple of weeks later, a number of students started falling ill. A cough here, a fever there, and a host of other symptoms presented themselves. Attempts by the  matron to medicate the affected students became futile and eventually some girls had to be admitted to various hospitals while others had their parents called to come and pick them up. As each parent sought the best medical care they could afford for their daughter, a hushed rumor started doing its rounds back in school. It was evident among the rest of the students that members of the lesbian club, about 20 of them, were the ones falling ill. Several tests would reveal any parents nightmare, their children were HIV+ . Apparently, some of the sexually active, girls in the group had been infected over the holidays when they had had unprotected sex with men. They passed it on to their peers during the vibrator orgy. The ones that couldn’t fathom this occurrence were the ‘virgins’ in the group. They told their parents that they had never had sex (with a man) before, leaving out details of their sexual orientation while in school. One of them finally spoke out about the vibrator. Parents stormed the school to demand how a vibrator had passed through gate inspection and who had brought it. The girl responsible, stepped up and there in front of the gathering said she’d stolen the vibrator from her mother.

I’ve heard stories that I can comment on, but this one still leaves me dumbfounded every time. Who’s to blame for what happened, you may ask. I don’t know. Was it the husband that left? Or the mother that bought the sex toy, just so that she didn’t have to slut herself around? Was it her daughter who brought it to school? Was it the girls that started the lesbian club and the lesbian orgy? Or perhaps it’s the principal who ignored rumours of lesbianism in her school. I don’t know. But I want to relate this story with the other two that have been in the media this week.

The first relates to the five boys who were charged in an Eldoret court for raping their Form 2 female colleague. You watched on the news as the girl narrated the ordeal. How the boys held her down and covered her mouth, while one looked out and the others defiled her. After the act, when the girl reported the matter, the principal chased her away from school. The second incident occurred in Kirinyaga. This time, two girls molested a Form 1 girl after she resisted an attempt to induct her into lesbianism. They cornered her, held her down and inserted a metal bar in her private parts. Unwell, and urinating on herself uncontrollably, she reported the matter to the principal who refuted the claims saying that girl just didn’t want to sit her end term exams. When she finally was admitted to hospital, the principal visited her and warned her against speaking about the incident. The girl is due to have surgery to remove the metal bar.

Now, it’s evident that we have a moral issue in our schools. We can choose to ignore it and call it a one off incident but we know better than that. All the school strikes we know began as a one off incident, shortly students all over the country started burning down their schools. When that became boring, they began burning their prefects (remember the Nyeri High School incident?) Now they are raping, sodomizing and molesting each other.

The Nime-Chill Campaign has played a significant role in urging students to abstain from sex until such a time when they can deal with its consequences. I don’t know how successful these campaigns have been and how many students can claim that they are chilling. But at least someone somewhere is doing something to ensure they don’t have sex. My concern however is that perhaps we are not doing enough to talk about sex with teenagers. And I mean sex in all it’s forms and expressions no matter how bizarre or immoral we may think certain sexual acts are. Those of us born in the 80’s and 90’s can attest to the fact that there was and still is homosexuality in schools even when the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents and religious institutions want to deny it or bury their heads in the sand. We cannot hide our children from the world when they are in school to explore it. Everywhere they look, there are sexual undertones and we cannot blame the media for this.

Our social structures have come to accommodate various expressions of sex as displayed by the neighbour with the sex toys.You may dislike Esther Murugi for giving Kenyan homosexual a platform to voice their concerns but please note, the future gay or lesbian could be your son, daughter, brother or sister. There’s nothing you can do about the choices they make, neither can we deny them their constitutional rights once they attain adulthood. Many of Kenyan gays and lesbians (whether born that way or otherwise) explore their sexuality in a conducive environment – boarding school. It starts from somewhere, but we self-righteous adults choose to ignore it and then complain when the damage has already been done. I am not speaking against Homosexuality and neither do I subscribe to it. But I worry about the consequences of sex no matter how simple, especially where children are concerned. Parents, Principals, Teachers, NGOs and the Ministry of Education need to wake up and start talking to teens about Sexuality, not just Sex. Our religious leaders need to put their rosaries, holy water, collars and frocks aside (or to better use) and help parents and teachers talk to the teens in this country. But dare they condemn and castigate them (as school principals are doing) and we’ll have  bigger problems than we can handle.

Those of you that aren’t parents can also help. At my place of work for instance, I have colleagues who cannot talk to their teenage daughters and sons about sex especially when their children are about to join boarding school. As younger colleagues, we invite their children over and talk to them on Saturday afternoon. We also encourage open discussions between parents and their children so that they can talk freely even when they are at home. It’s something small, but it seems to be working. You too can do it. Talk to a teen about Sexuality, not just Sex. You’d be surprised how much they know and don’t know, and how vulnerable they are.

Daily Dozen – 30/3

Here's to finally coming out of the closet a la Ricky Martin...

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Gay In Kenya

I have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be the last time this topic comes up…..

There are few places more burgeoning with adventure and gut wrenching reality than public buses and shuttles. Matatus are cool, but they don’t provide ample space for people to be complete idiots. In buses, there is legroom. And ironically, leg room is how I found myself in the middle of the most passive aggressive feud ever.

This is going to sound like a joke but…a preacher, a policeman and 2 gay dudes walk into a bus. Continue reading