Opening up the discussion about sex with Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng.
Dani van der Horst
On Friday, 30 August 2019, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng visited the University of Pretoria. She was hosted by the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender and discussed her new book: A Guide to Sexual Health and Pleasure. Dr Mofokeng (more affectionately known as Dr T) is a qualified medical doctor who runs a women’s health clinic in Johannesburg. She is a contributor to 5FM and Metro FM’s Sexual Health radio features. She is the “Let’s Talk About Sex” columnist for the Sunday Times and has also been internationally published in The Guardian, Teen Vogue and Project Syndicate. However, over and above this long list of impressive credentials, she is an advocate for women’s reproductive rights and sexual health.
Dr T was joined by UP students, Refiloe Mofokeng (no relation) and Bettina Buabeng-Baidoo. Refiloe describes herself as an intersectional feminist who rejects the concept of virginity in its entirety. Bettina describes herself as a medical student who is passionate about female health and advocacy. Dr T is a firm believer in opening up the conversation about sex, this means that nothing is off limits and no question is too taboo. The discussion began with a focus on sexual health and progressed into a discussion of sexual pleasure.
For many of us, sex is a topic largely avoided by our parents and/or teachers during our childhoods. Everyone is given “the talk” but what do we truly take away from it? Usually, something along the lines of “abstinence being key” and that, if we do in fact want to have sex, we should use a condom. But what about those of us who are not conservative and actually want to know about sex? Where do we learn about the good parts of it, the pleasurable parts? Where do we learn to appreciate our sexuality instead of trying to hide it? Dr T’s book offers exactly that – an explanation. An explanation that is open and honest and incorporates her own experiences, both as a doctor and as a woman. Sex is a huge part of our human experience and we should talk about it. We should be creating spaces where people feel validated and confirmed. Dr T suggests a more comprehensive approach to sexual education.
“Sex is a huge part of our human experience and we should talk about it.”
Sexual health is comprised of many aspects and this discussion centred mainly around the treatment of sexual health in South Africa and how it should be prioritised. Medical practitioners should create spaces where their patients feel comfortable and free from judgement. People with disabilities or special needs should also be accounted for as sexual beings and discussions should be started to help them navigate their sex lives. The time for pushing conservative agendas, regarding sex, is over. It is impossible to expect people to have safe and healthy sex lives if there is no way for them to learn about sex – all of it.
Opening up and establishing the importance of consent should also be a major priority in sexual education. Consent does not end when someone agrees to sex. It is important to check with your partner before doing things and consent must be something which is present throughout the entire duration of sexual encounters. Ask your partner what they are comfortable doing in bed and establish boundaries. A healthy sexual relationship is built on communication, even if it is a slightly awkward topic to get into. Good sex comes from expressing what you want and then actually receiving it (and being able to reciprocate). Dr T expresses the importance of using lube – she says that it should be on your monthly toiletries list if you are a sexually active woman. Contrary to popular belief, lubricants are not only for women with medical issues, but are something that all women can use to experience greater sexual pleasure. Dr T also expresses the importance of self-pleasure as a way of figuring out your own body and exactly what it is that you like – there is nothing to be ashamed of. Sex is meant to be a pleasurable activity, so you should be allowed to figure out exactly what it is that works for you. There is nothing wrong with enjoying silent sex, but it is important to express to your partner when you are or are not having a good time. Sex is meant to be fun and so long as all parties are consenting adults – there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting and trying new things.
If you want to know more about sex and all that goes along with it, read Dr T’s book. It is available in bookstores, nationwide.
Images: Dani van der Horst