Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

“Really, we need to communicate what gives us pleasure. If he’s going to come in bed and demand sex, I want to at least be pleasured.”

My face turned white. I looked up, stunned, and listened as the sixty year-old retired teacher continue to talk about her sex life. Men and women in the room started to chime in.

“It’s true. For the men and women, too. It’s no good for a woman to just lay there when her husband comes calling—that is why men go outside [the marriage]. Both want pleasure.”

The room nodded in agreement. I smiled out of discomfort and a sort of bewildered amusement. I did not expect such a conversation at a human rights workshop and my surprise was obvious. My co-fellow looked over and laughed.

Sex is not a subject we discuss candidly in America. Especially not in a formal workshop on human rights. And especially not in a group full of strangers—young, old, married, single strangers.

We don’t say the word sex out loud in America.  And we certainly don’t say pleasure. But I was in Western Uganda, and not America. And here was a group of ex-felons, teachers, mothers, and reverends discussing the most intimate details of their sex lives without the blink of an eye.

It was refreshing. And absolutely necessary.

In a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS and in the region with one of the highest infection rates (11.7% prevalence), sex matters. It really matters. In fact, it is a matter of life or death. Sex has destroyed lives in unimaginable ways in Uganda—crippling families, economies, and hearts alike. And yet, there is this strange dichotomy because people here like sex. People everywhere like sex.

So they talk about sex. Discussing sex in the public sphere allows people to protect themselves by sharing who is infected, who is unfaithful, who is at risk. And it also allows them to restore their faith in sex, an act demonized by the AIDS epidemic.

So, in the spirit of the reverend and the teacher, let’s talk about sex, baby.