I have recently been revising a peer group manual which covers an array of topics in regard to HIV/AIDS. In Zambia sex and sexuality are very taboo topics. Many myths and cultural practices exist around these issues which seem to affect women and children more than most men. Because Zambia is considered a Christian nation they encourage abstinence and seem to discourage sex education. However, if they do get exposure to education around sex it is brief and tends to be more from the prospective of don't do it. Many of the numbers show that adolescents and adults are engaging in risky sexual behaviors regardless of the teaching on abstinence.
As I was reading through the existing manual I kept seeing the words risky behavior. I asked a coworker if risky sexual behavior is more than just unprotected sex. She replied with a list of other behaviors and tucked in the middle was dry sex. Of course I asked what is dry sex (fearful of what might come up if I googled it on my work computer) and this is what she sent me.
Dry sex is a sexual practice of people having sexual intercourse with the woman not having vaginal lubrication. Vaginal lubrication can be removed by using herbal aphrodisiacs, household detergents, antiseptics, by wiping out the vagina, or by placing leaves in the vagina besides other methods.
The concept of the practice is that a dry vagina makes the vagina tight, which is supposed to increase sexual pleasure for the man. Some men who insist on dry sex regard "wet" women to be unchaste. However, dry sex is very painful for the woman. Dry sex is common in Sub-Saharan Africa and it has also been reported in Suriname among Afro-Surinamese women.
"Dry sex" worsens AIDS numbers in southern Africa
Sub-Saharans' disdain for vaginal wetness accelerates the plague.
By Hank HyenaDec. 10, 1999
Dry, abrasive vaginas are seen as desirable in sexual intercourse in the vast majority of southern African cultures, notes an article in Tuesday's Village Voice. Aversion to moisture in penetration has inflamed the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region.
Many men and women regard the smell of vaginal secretions as repulsive, the report says, plus they're embarrassed by the noise of wet sex. Dry vaginas that are swollen with friction are also tighter; this pleases the men because it makes them feel larger. One common belief holds that loose, slippery vaginas are evidence of infidelity.
Dry sex promulgates HIV/AIDS in three ways: The lack of lubricant results in lacerations in the delicate membrane tissue, making it easier for the lethal virus to enter. In addition, the natural antiseptic lactobacilli that vaginal moisture contains aren't available to combat sexually transmitted diseases. Finally, condoms break far more easily due to the increased friction.
Sub-Saharan women attain this dryness in various ways. Herbs from the mugugudhu tree are wrapped in a nylon stocking and inserted into the vagina for 10-15 minutes in a procedure that one woman described as "very painful." Mutendo wegudo (dry soil where a baboon has urinated) is a traditional Zimbabwean recipe. A crushed stone called "wankie" is also utilized, reports the Oct. 23, 1998, World African Network, as are potions called chimhandara ("like a virgin" in Shona) and zvanamina ("taste me only" in Ndebele). Shredded newspapers, cotton, salt and detergents are also used.
Young, educated, urban lovers are slowly slipping away from dry sex, but even in the cities, the practice is retained by 50 percent who regard wet intercourse as a Western import that seeks to emasculate men. Overwhelmingly, dryness retains its deadly lock in rural areas, despite attempts by HIV/AIDS activists to save lives through education.
As you can imagine I sat in disbelief and wanted to grab my crouch as I read this. This is so counter-cultural to what I know about sex. It is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that a woman could be of such little value to her partner. There are not words to describe the sadness I feel for these women... and these men.
Side Note: I would like to state this practice is not common among all Zambians. There are woman I work with that are Zambian and this is not a practice they would allow.