HealthSex & Gender

benin’s new female pleasure shop angers conservatives

December 13, 2018
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Barring birthrate, African conservatism entrenches itself through all facets of sexuality. Africans are having sex but the reality is that frequency doesn’t account for quality, and African women are slowly but surely leaning into the pleasurable sexual experiences they deserve.              

“I am in the business of pleasure,” says Antares Adjibi, the owner of a sex shop in the heart of Cotonou, the largest city in a very religious Benin. “Sexuality is still taboo in Africa, particularly in Benin,” Adjibi told CNN. “Women don’t have freedom of expression. They are not free to express their sexuality.” Adjibi opened the store in 2013 to tackle the issue head-on, providing a sexual oasis with sensual lingerie cascading across the walls of her shop while sex toys, dildos, handcuffs and other sexual recreation toys reside on the shelves of a separate, enclosed room for Adjibi’s shyer customers.

Cotonou’s own patron-saint of female pleasure didn’t stop there though. Adjibi enrolled in sexual psychology classes so she can host free workshops for women seeking sexual advice. In the years since, she has counseled countess women and couples, turning the tide of female sexual pleasure one woman at a time.

Adjibi’s shop was such a novelty that she was invited onto radio where she spoke about it, inciting the ire of African men who only see women as baby-making factories. The trolls bombarded her social media with ignorant statements like, “What are you talking about? God created sex, so how could anything be wrong?” and Facebook kept flagging her pictures, even temporarily suspending her page.

These foot soldiers of the patriarchy still believe in the archaic notion of “purity,” and that a woman’s desire for sexual pleasure marks her as “loose.” Such attitudes don’t just die (although, “wow, could they???”) and that’s why the liberation of female sexuality should be considered a movement like any other, with grassroots activists like Adjibi doing the work to change hearts, minds, and sex lives.

It’s not like Adjibi is banging down the doors of possible customers – in fact, just the opposite. Her workshops are always full because the taboo around speaking about and engaging in pleasurable sex is disappearing, according to Cotonou gynecologist Veronique Tognifode. It’s not just millennials in the States saying “Thank u, next” to the possibility of starting families in this hellish socio-economic climate.

“Women have the power to show their partners that their job isn’t just to have children. They can be a life partner, a lover, an adviser,” Adjibi says. Sexual pleasure in relationships is the gift the keeps on giving because it emphasizes a partnership, and allows women to enjoy and not endure the physical aspects of their relationships. Enduring is for the stereotypical 1950s housewife who could take her frustration out on the grout between the tiles. Adjibi wants women to demand their pleasure with their chests, in hopes of a future where her customers won’t be shy to ask for what they want in bed — and in her dildo section.