Meet Antares Adjibi, a 33-year-old woman using sex accessories to fight a belief system that stigmatizes the desire for sexual pleasure among women in Benin.
Cotonou, the capital of Benin, is home to Abasik, a sex-shop Adjibi started in 2013 to enhance women’s sexual pleasure. However, this society is one that is struggling with the idea of accommodating a modern sex shop beside age-long traditions and diverse religious beliefs. In this part of the world, sexuality is a taboo; A belief that still threatens women’s freedom of expression.
In some other parts of West Africa, shops of this nature are growing rapidly but Adjibi has been faced with a lot more than the economic challenges of starting a business. An immediate unreceptive reaction followed the launch of the sex shop, with a flurry of negative comments online. Adjibi still believes she is on the right path; These systemic beliefs should be addressed. She has taken sexual psychology classes and holds free workshops to promote responsible sexuality.
Antares Adjibi is not alone in this battle against a gender-selective and suppressive belief. Veronique Tognifode, a specialist working with the Association for Education, Sexuality and Health in Africa (APESSA), visits schools across the country to answer questions about sex. She says there have been positive results over the last four years.
The internet is also playing a huge role, as it provides a channel for enquiries beyond the more frequent discussions on sexual health. Most people feel comfortable with alternate arrangements such as online shops where they access sex accessories and communicate via text. They can also purchase these accessories and pick them up in pharmacy backrooms. Adjibi expressed concerns over the new arrangement. She feels women need to be comfortable with their sexuality, without hiding behind screens or going to backrooms at pharmacies. She explained that this discrete approach does not solve the problem. It only reinforces the negative belief that hurts women and stigmatizes the idea of learning about their bodies and sexual pleasure. The signs are good and there are indications of further progress but Adjibis real victory will be reflected when women in Benin can freely and boldly embrace their sexuality.
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