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Durban - Black people need to be more open about their desires with their partners, to enhance the sexual experience and curb straying outside the relationship for satisfaction, traditional healer Makhosi Rose Phakade, says.

“Gone are the days when sex was just about reproduction. Sexual satisfaction grows love and strengthens a marriage – we talk about marriage because we don’t encourage sex out of wedlock,” she said.

However, because of societal patriarchy, even in this day and age, women still found it difficult to express their desires, said Phakade. She was speaking at the African Society for Sexual Medicine in Durban on Friday.

Also on the panel were traditional healers Sizani Makhoba and Protas Cele. They narrated how historically – during puberty – boys and girls were taught to respect their virginity, and have non-penetrative sex between the thighs before marriage.

“Girls were taught to love and affirm themselves and not look to boys or men for validation,” Makhoba said.

However, even after entering marriage, sex was still so taboo that women did not initiate sex, ask for or guide their husbands to try new things, she said.

“A man’s role as the head of the home extends to the bedroom, the fear is that if, as a woman, you express dissatisfaction or the desire for something different, you will be accused of infidelity and having learnt these things from another man.

“The thinking is that since you entered the marriage an inexperienced virgin, you should not know anything else. But we all know that satisfaction is not taught, your body tells you and you should be able to tell your husband,” Phakade said.

She said in her own practice, she encouraged people to come with their partners. “It can be more damaging to the relationship for one party to find out the other has been seeing a traditional healer behind their back. And because two people are involved in sex, they need to address these problems together.”

Phakade has also undergone counselling training to help her better deal with clients, whose lacklustre sex life has threatened to break them up.

She said it was common for women to have a low sex drive, so much so that they blamed themselves for men straying. “We are not saying sex is the only thing that can break up a marriage, but it can at least remove one of the difficulties.

“I have herbal medicine for women to enhance their sexual pleasure and improve libido.

“My whole range is based on indigenous knowledge and scientific research, and not the black magic, voodoo bitter concoctions people think of when we talk about muthi. It’s tried and tested, like any other medicine out there.”

Phakade said the strongest testament to her traditional and scientific mixed method was that her clients included other races.

Bringing together indigenous and western medical knowledge was part of the work of Dr Ernest Khamela, chief research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council. He said this was vital as these factors did not speak in the same voice when it came to sexual health promotion.

“We may not want to admit it, but we live in several worlds: that of spirituality and religion, the traditional as well westernised way of life. “All of these different facets have a message about the same issues around sexual health but they are different,” he said.

This increased the confusion and insecurity, especially of young women when it came to bedroom matters.

“If we are able to streamline the message, we can better support, especially young people, to make better choices about their sexual health,” he said.

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