I’d always been aware of my vagina as a growing girl in spite of the few words available in isiXhosa to refer to it in a pleasant way—usisi, inhenhenhe,ikuku,umphantsi. It was functional insofar as my menstrual cycle and all other biological functions and I was happy with that. It took a boy’s curious hands to help me understand what my vagina is really about.
I was in my early teens and had been experimenting with boys in a mickey mouse kind of way, kisses and maybe touching of breasts but nothing below the waistline or anything that involved taking clothes off. In Grade 9, our Bible Education teacher at school went through the whole process and implications of exploring sexuality with boys. It was never overtly communicated, but the message was that we should never let boys use us for their gratification because males are physical and females are emotional and that is how we respond to sex. The prospect of ever enjoying what happens between a boy and a girl was simply not an option lest one should risk being labelled as “loose”(the question of homosexuality wasn’t even addressed).
It was also in my early teens that I had a chronic case of what my friends and I called “The disease to please”. Symptoms of this illness meant that the girl (me) was incapable of asserting herself at the advances of boys so any boy that showed an interest in me and made advances on me was bound to get the answer he was looking for. There had been a radical shift from the primary school girl who had been labelled as “playing hard to get” and I can’t explain how this happened. Partly curiosity and partly searching for some attention at that point in my life. This also meant I was a very early bloomer in relation to some of my friends.
I had heard about people talking of “being fingered” (in the crudest form), but no-one went into the details of how and when etc. So when the encounter happened with the boy I was somewhat shocked and unprepared. It seems dirty describing the process but dare I say, it was somewhat a pleasant surprise. The feeling of being touched and enjoying the experience meant I was one of “those girls”. I don’t remember if the boy was my “official boyfriend” or not at the time, we had met at a rugby match and I thought he was cute so I gave him my number. He called and whenever we went out we ended up kissing. He didn’t talk much which is why I’m not sure if he was my boyfriend or not.
The next step from kissing to touching was not communicated, it just happened. While we were kissing his hands managed to find their way to my vagina and I remember sitting in a position that made it easy for him to venture “down there”(reference from Vagina Monologues). Later he ventured to kissing my vagina, an even more pleasant surprise. I never realised that my vagina, that had been so insignificant before these encounters, had the possibility of evoking a good feeling. I had never been scared of what was “down there”, but the experience with this boy (and a few others later down the line) meant that I became acquainted with the silence around sexuality: the prospect that it is not infact dirty, but something that can be enjoyable.
The somewhat unsettling part about these experiences is that when girls “let” boys touch them it is a bad thing which means one is a bad girl. Seeing as I didn’t want to be a bad girl for the rest of my teenage years, my experiences with being touched were short lived and I soon learned to restrain myself, mostly by not being with boys (now men) I find remotely attractive lest they should venture “down there” and release a flood of emotion and sensations and this is taking a lot of work undoing because the reality is, I am a woman with desires that I shouldn’t be afraid of.