“Dry sex” worsens AIDS numbers in southern Africa

Sub-Saharans' disdain for vaginal wetness accelerates the plague.

Topics: AIDS, Africa,

Dec. 10, 1999

Dry, abrasive vaginas are seen as desirable in sexual intercourse in the vast majority of southern African cultures, notes an article in Tuesday’s Village Voice. Aversion to moisture in penetration has inflamed the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region.

Many men and women regard the smell of vaginal secretions as repulsive, the report says, plus they’re embarrassed by the noise of wet sex. Dry vaginas that are swollen with friction are also tighter; this pleases the men because it makes them feel larger. One common belief holds that loose, slippery vaginas are evidence of infidelity.

Dry sex promulgates HIV/AIDS in three ways: The lack of lubricant results in lacerations in the delicate membrane tissue, making it easier for the lethal virus to enter. In addition, the natural antiseptic lactobacilli that vaginal moisture contains aren’t available to combat sexually transmitted diseases. Finally, condoms break far more easily due to the increased friction.



Sub-Saharan women attain this dryness in various ways. Herbs from the mugugudhu tree are wrapped in a nylon stocking and inserted into the vagina for 10-15 minutes in a procedure that one woman described as “very painful.” Mutendo wegudo (dry soil where a baboon has urinated) is a traditional Zimbabwean recipe. A crushed stone called “wankie” is also utilized, reports the Oct. 23, 1998, World African Network, as are potions called chimhandara (“like a virgin” in Shona) and zvanamina (“taste me only” in Ndebele). Shredded newspapers, cotton, salt and detergents are also used.

Young, educated, urban lovers are slowly slipping away from dry sex, but even in the cities, the practice is retained by 50 percent who regard wet intercourse as a Western import that seeks to emasculate men. Overwhelmingly, dryness retains its deadly lock in rural areas, despite attempts by HIV/AIDS activists to save lives through education.

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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