Featured
Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner.

A Wild Goose Chase Named Orgasm

'I had always assumed that my sexual abuse trauma was to blame for my lost orgasms', writes Christy Chilimigras. 'But is it just the trauma?'

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

We rely on Netflix's algorithm to tell us what to watch next. We'd sooner check an app than open our curtains to know what the weather outside is looking like. We want sex, companionship and attention on tap. Thank you Tinder, thank you Grindr, thank you to the perfectly timed and tactfully worded Instagram DM. We are horses who want to be led to the water, and we'd prefer it if you'd spoon it into our mouths once we get there. We don't want to have to search for the things in life that make us feel good. We'd like them right there, beneath our fingertips at all times.


We especially don't want to have to wade through our trauma – to work our way slowly through it. We want to blow it up, and then bury every last piece of it.

As a sexual abuse survivor, I didn't want to have to chase something that the movies would have me believe flows more freely than unsolicited dick pics I didn't want to have to run a race I felt I'd been entered into against my will.

That something was the semi-mythical feat: the female orgasm.

My lone orgasm happened unexpectedly one day in my teen years. I'd spent years faking both my orgasms and my history with my first boyfriend – I thought my silence would starve my trauma to death.

As we settled into a lazy, spooned, Sunday sex session, I didn't think much of the occasion.

And then his finger settled on me in just the right way, at the perfectly wrong moment.

Perfectly wrong because, while it was the moment my first orgasm erupted into reality, it happened with thoughts of my childhood abuse at the hands of my father peering out of an unhinged door at the back of my mind.

And I will tell you this: the orgasm was everything the articles and movies had told me it would be. It was fireworks and a waterfall and a million zinging and ringing sparks going off in my every cell.

It was the most delicious thing I'd ever felt, and it was utterly awful. Because of the unhinged door. Because of the face that came to the forefront of my mind as I came.

I haven't cum since.

I remember being 13 years old and sitting with my four best friends under a Johannesburg tree. The kind that would spit liquid on your heads while you sat eating sandwiches and samosas. I asked them when they first started masturbating. Growing up in a home which was drenched in the inappropriate, with an abuser who masqueraded as a dad, I didn't know how much was 'too much'. I didn't know that in other South African homes, these things were never discussed.

They didn't answer me then, nor for the next ten years. At 23, I often still felt like that 13-year-old girl with butter lettuce in her braces, asking her friends against their will for confirmation that she's not alone.

I had always assumed that my trauma was to blame for my lost orgasms, and I was desperate for someone to confirm or deny. Please sex therapist, please big sister, please Carrie Bradshaw.

And so, my years dedicated to manic masturbation began, somewhat begrudgingly, as I entered the workforce. I was an editorial intern at Cosmopolitan South Africa, who would later become, of all things, a sex writer. Vulva beneath fingertips, most times. Vulva beneath a gold vibrator shaped like a diamond, sometimes.

I called that vibrator, the gold one, Beyoncé. Because, of all the sex toys I'd been given to review while working as COSMO's sex writer, it was the most beautiful of all. It was all straight lines and sharp edges, and if a man or a wearer of Paco Rabanne Lady Million had to spy it on my bedside table, they'd mistake it for something else altogether.

As I walked along those grown-up hallways lined by framed magazine covers, I felt like a complete and utter fake – like the poster child of imposter syndrome. I wondered if they could tell I'd only ever had one orgasm before; that I didn't know where my abuse ended and my genuine love of sex began. I am the sex writer who can't cum, I'd think. I'd wonder if they could smell it on me.

Whether alone or with a partner, when the wave swells and begs to crash, and then when I reabsorb it into my belly.

When I am the sex writer who still can't cum.

Is it just the trauma? Because here's the thing about the female orgasm; for every woman who can graze her clitoris along her favourite pillow and achieve climax, there's a woman next door, ankles raised to the heavens, trying some new method she read about and praying to Mother Nature that she's not one of the 'broken' ones.

No one will tell me, and few people will talk. And so I devour podcasts and books and articles and audio porn and porn porn. I masturbate sitting up and lying down and if I could do it while standing on my head, it's safe to assume that I would have by now. But my body just doesn't balance that way.

And yes, now 26-years-old, I still ask my friends, 'Are you cumming?'

I can't be silenced by conservative homes and what they've taught these women for much longer.

They are doctors and project managers and teachers and writers, just like me.

'Are you cumming?' I ask them.

Half of them are, it turns out. Half of them aren't.

The latter tell me this like they've been holding their breath, like they can finally breathe.

And so I begin to pull at a thread of the story I've been telling myself for years; that I am a broken thing.

I consider that I may be normal, whatever that means.

A normal result of a girl's abnormal upbringing.

I consider that many women may be touched by a lingering hurt of some kind, in some way – a delicate splinter you don't know is buried in the sole of your foot.

Maybe she ran and played in the mud as a child; maybe her father told her not to get dirty and behave.

Maybe she got caught one night, introducing herself to her body; maybe her mother told her that's not how wives are made.

Maybe her friends were all told the same. Ladies who lunch on sandwiches and samosas and then as grown-ups, steaks and mimosas. Maybe there are many girls who grew into women who had never heard that lessons can be unlearned.

It took me years to realise that even the shiniest vibrator isn't a substitute for honesty. And so I started over, at the beginning. I waded in by asking my sister if she remembered. I went in deeper, I became braver, I blew it up by speaking out. And instead of burying the pieces, I picked them up, turned them over in my fingers, and allowed myself to look at them. And my reeducation began.

Love, none of it was your fault.

Love, you don't need to look sexy during self-love.

Love, it's okay to sound more like a wounded animal than a porn star.

Love, it's okay if you don't make a peep.

Love, you never have to perform your pleasure again.

Love, it's not the journey you asked for, but it's yours to enjoy.

Style
Photo: Adedamola Odetara

The Best Street Style from Chanel’s Debut Show in Dakar

From breezy silhouettes and bold colors to monochrome dressing, these were some of the stand-out looks from those attending the French house's Métiers d’art showcase.

There's a buzz in the Senegalese capital and an upbeat mood on the streets -- thanks in large part to Chanel unveiling its Métiers d’art collection on Tuesday. In the lead-up to the French luxury house's history-making show in Dakar, Dakar Fashion Week had just closed out with an all-white afterparty at the Phare des Mamelles, and a three-day cultural program to engage local creatives across art, film, and music captivated visitors and locals alike.

Keep reading...Show less
Film
Photo: Sundance Institute

Four Films We're Most Looking Forward to at Sundance 2023

These titles, selected from a record 4,061 feature submissions, make their premiere at the prestigious film event next year.

Last year's Sundance Film Festival gave us delights such as Nigerian American director Adamma Ebo’s debut feature, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul, and Oliver Hermanus' Living, a moving retelling of the Kurosawa classic, Ikiru. It also saw the debut of Nikyatu Jusu's Nanny, which went on to win the fest's main prize. The Sierra Leonean American director's film, about an undocumented Senegalese woman who becomes a nanny to a wealthy couple on New York’s Upper East Side, stayed top of mind for many critics in the months that followed after its premiere.

Keep reading...Show less
Events
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Why Are Concert Tickets in Nigeria Getting So Expensive?

Criticisms have trailed Asake, Burna Boy, and Wizkid's ticket prices for not being affordable. Industry insiders weigh in on what this means for concert-going in Nigeria.

In 2022, no newcomer artist ruled Nigeria’s music scene like Asake. Almost as if the 27-year-old singer-songwriter blew out of nowhere, his rise to fame came from catchy anthems like "Sungba" and "Terminator," emerging as the next correspondent of street pop.

His debut album Mr Money With The Vibe, released in September, cracked into the Billboard 200 at #66, making it the highest charting debut album from Nigeria. On Apple’s Nigeria Top 100, it became the first album to have all 12 spots occupied. The UK leg of his international tour had tickets already sold out.

So then it’s no surprise that December’s tradition of concert-going in Lagos had enlisted him as a main attraction. He’s leaned into the grittier side of afrobeats, making street slang and Yoruba lyricism sound glamorous. And this is what fans crave for at this year’s Flytime Music Festival, where he would perform as a headliner.

The show promoters, Flytime Promotions, are seemingly the right handlers. Yearly, they host the biggest concert franchise in West Africa, doing so since 2004. At a time where Wizkid, Tiwa Savage and Davido were entering the mainstream in the mid and late aughts, Flytime Music Festival (or Rhythm Unplugged, as known to many), became a crucial entertainment vehicle that brought fans closer to the artists they idolized.

Keep reading...Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

How Sandi Owusu-Yaw is Building a Slow Fashion Brand in Talensi

Using batik as part of its sustainable materials, the Ghanaian brand makes clothes for adventurous women while preserving an ancient artisanal craft.

Alice Diop's 'Saint Omer' Will Debut in January

The French director's riveting legal drama will be released in the US early next year.

Morocco Beats Spain To Advance To World Cup Quarter-Finals

The Atlas Lions keep Africa in the fight for victory, as their Spanish defeat leads them closer to the trophy.

Chance the Rapper Tells Us Why and How He’s Bringing a Festival to Ghana

The rapper details his and Vic Mensa’s vision for their upcoming art and music festival, Black Star Line, taking place in Accra.

popular.

Watch Red Bull's 'Uncredited: The Story of Afro Dance' Documentary

Red Bull TV's Uncredited: The Story of Afro Dance tells a story of Africa's unsung dance heroes.