“School lets us down” – Sex and Pleasure co-host on sex ed

8 March 2023

“School lets us down” – Sex and Pleasure co-host on sex ed

The first episode of the Showmax Original Sex and Pleasure is now streaming, with new episodes every Wednesday until 26 April 2023. Hosted by writer Kim Windvogel and journalist Romantha Botha, the adults-only documentary series will take a broader view of what South Africans get up to behind closed doors, and, well, everywhere else too. 

Honestly, this is a hundred times better than I had thought it would be,” says Izak de Vries on Litnet. “I loved the way Kim Windvogel and Romantha Botha normalised sex talk. This is not a dirty little thing to watch under the blanket. Every parent, every teacher and every partner can learn from the experts, who explain things in a way even I can understand.” 

Watch the trailer for Sex and Pleasure

Learning about the birds and the bees

The first episode features a diverse range of South Africans talking openly about their first experiences of sex and sex education. It’s aptly called Clueless. 

Whether it’s Moonchild Sanelly talking about her first blowjob, Siv Ngesi talking about losing his virginity or Lesego Tlhabi (aka Coconut Kelz) talking about browsing porn on her school’s computers before she learned to erase her search history, it’s clear that many South Africans simply aren’t prepared well enough. Some of the interviewees weren’t even prepared for their first periods and pubic hairs, let alone their first sexual experiences.

For many of the interviewees, sex is not something they ever discussed with their parents, or, in many South African homes, with the grandparents who were their primary caregivers. 

We hear from a dad whose daughter is 21 but is still waiting for the right time to have the sex talk, which he hopes means she is not having sex yet. But according to a study of 10 000 South African pupils, 40% of teenagers have had sex – and 13% of those were under 14 years old. In 2021-2022, there were over 90 000 teenage births in the public sector alone. 

If you don’t talk to your children about sex, someone else or something else will teach them instead, with Cosmopolitan magazine, porn, books, TV and graffiti all getting credit from interviewees. As Kerline Astre, a parent and sacred BDSM practitioner, says, “People who are parents know that you aren’t the only person raising your child.” 

More than just mechanics

Leaving this to your child’s school is risky. “School lets us down so much,” says Romantha. “Like all we knew was reproductive organs and what goes where.” As interviewees say, sex education at schools has tended to focus more on sexually transmitted diseases than sexual pleasure, and has been better at explaining how to handle a condom than a clitoris. Queer sex often isn’t discussed at all. 

According to Dr Mpume Zenda, even studying to become a gynaecologist didn’t involve learning about sexual pleasure. “It’s literally a blip of a chapter about sexual dysfunction, nothing more, nothing less,” she says. “The whole curriculum revolves around reproductive health, and yet the core of it, nobody really talks about.” 

”I think the lack of a sex talk made me very vulnerable in terms of my own sexual experiences,” says Nthabiseng Mokwena, a parent and intersex activist. “You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you need to do. You don’t know what this means. So you just go out there and completely freestyle, right. And freestyling can lead to, you know, like very negative consequences. And even with those negative consequences, you don’t have anyone to talk to. Because you’re talking about something that should not be spoken about in the community, in the household, in the family. So it just creates this loop of bad sexual experiences.” 

Equipping kids to protect themselves

Some of the interviewees share stories that are every South African parent’s nightmare, of grooming and rape. “I’m sorry to say that unfortunately a lot of children who are not prepared properly do end up in the offices of lawyers like me,” says public attorney Sanja Bornman, a gender law and public policy specialist.  

”The more you learn about sex, the more you know about your body, the easier it is to identify when something is off, as well,” says Lesego. “The more we educate ourselves on these topics, even the fun stuff, that then helps you with the important stuff, which is knowing when you are a victim.”

The wide-ranging episode also chats to parents who were prepared for the sex talk, but didn’t expect the gender talk, and explores how to parent an intersex child.  

Each subsequent episode will explore tlof tlof in relation to a different topic: love, sex work, pills and potions, orgasm, disability, age, and spirituality.   

Kim and Romantha co-wrote and conceptualised Sex and Pleasure with director Ayanda Duma, who was also a producer on the South African leg of Planet Sex with Cara Delevigne, which you can binge on Showmax now. SAFTA winner IdeaCandy (Steinheist, Devilsdorp, Stella Murders) is producing the eight-part series, which includes playful motion graphics by Mbali Hlatshwayo.

So how should you talk to your children about sex, gender and their bodies? How can you be more like Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng’s mother, who clearly did it right, rather than the gran who told her granddaughter to ‘lie back and think of England?’ Watch Sex and Pleasure on Showmax to find out.

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