Enough! I Will No Longer Be Disappointed by African Men in the Bedroom

Rufaro Samanga reveals the three kinds of African men you'll meet in the bedroom and why they all lead to bad sex.

Many times I've heard the tales of African men's legendary sexual escapades—always from African men. But my own empirical experience suggests these “mad skills" in the bedroom may be simply legend.

Picture this: A dark and handsome young man with the intellect and confidence to match. We're in my apartment and tensions are mounting. The urgency is electric. Among the flurry of hands, I am relieved to find that what is not legend is how my African man is well-endowed where it matters. But before I can appreciate my good fortune, I'm thrown onto the bed and after ten minutes of thrashing about, I'm left wondering, what happened? Was that us having sex? Variations on this scenario are experiences that African sisters like myself know all too well—bystanders to sex that happens to us instead of sex that we partake in equally and enjoy.

In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "We teach girls that they are not sexual beings in the way that boys are." And so I have had to navigate this space largely on my own. Far from a single occurrence with a dark stranger, disappointment in bed has long been a part of even my most committed relationships. In the spirit of social progress, I will share with you my findings. In particular, I want to discuss the startling emergence of roughly three types of African men in bed.

First up, we have the ones that could definitely take a page (or a few or just the whole damn book) from the Kama Sutra for all the imagination they lack. I've found that these African men simply refuse (or perhaps they're scared?) to explore, opting rather for the plain old missionary with the lights off and the pillows fluffed just right—day in and day out.

In close pursuit are those men who could use their Kama Sutra-esque moves a little more considerately. These men will toss me about in all sorts of directions without so much as asking how I'm doing while they happily hammer away.

The last of these African men (and dare I say the least), may have the D but they desperately need to get a handle on their ABCs—the absolute basics. These men have had me holding their hand trying to help them make that hole-in-one and yet, still not getting it quite right.

What I've also observed is how these men all have certain unsavoury traits in common. Chief amongst them is the issue of foreplay or rather the distinct lack thereof. The African men in my study are really averse to foreplay and I'm not certain if this is because of their general ignorance of the female form and the extra effort required on their part to get us turned on and into it or if they just couldn't be bothered—I'm personally betting on the latter.

I have experienced the horrifying abomination of fingers being hurriedly shoved into various uncomfortable places. But to the African men who may be reading this and are guilty of this lackluster effort, it's pretty clear to us that it's an afterthought and one that you pursue as such; a formality that you simply want to get out of the way.

Secondly, is the issue of reciprocity. Put simply, if I'm heading all the way down south on you then best believe that I expect the same of you too. African men have the exasperating ability to conveniently forget about this when it's time to return the favour and it has me asking myself why I'm even going through the trouble in the first place. Lastly, and as always, the male physiology still decides when sex ends which means on so many occasions—no orgasms for me.

The thing is, I really want the big O. Sure, African men have upped their endurance game and added a few more minutes to that clock but their sole motivation for that has been born out of wanting to compete with other men instead of using that extra bit of time for our benefit. Naturally, African men are selfish in that regard and I'm calling them out on it.

For all the pressure that we as women put up with: having to look like a Victoria's Secret model, having to constantly shave and be a wildcard in the bedroom, we're certainly not going to be putting up with below-average performances from men who constantly blow their own horns about a sexual prowess they simply don't have.

Gone are the days when women smile in silent acceptance of bad sex—wearing the hidden badges of their sexual frustration like martyrs. And so, for all the bad sex that has been endured by our mothers and their mothers and their mothers' mothers, us young and empowered African women are saying 'it is quite enough.'

Lastly, to all my African men, this may seem like a dagger to your egos, but we cannot allow you to continue to claim that you know all there is to know about the sexual needs of the women you're having sex with more than the women themselves. There is an African proverb that says that wisdom is like fire and it is taken from others.

So take it from me, women are in conversation about this and we will be heard whether you personally choose to pull up a chair and listen in or not. But in all honesty, there really is no sex like good sex especially when it's good on both ends. So do yourself a favour and pull up a chair.

Rufaro Samanga is an intellectual, aspiring literary great, feminist and most importantly, a fiercely passionate African.

Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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