South African women ‘dry’ their vaginas with bleach to make sex more pleasurable for men

The horrific practice putting women at increased risk of HIV: African and Indonesian women ‘dry’ their vaginas with sand and bleach to make sex more pleasurable for men

  • Practice of ‘dry sex’ involves drying out the vagina to increase friction
  • This is supposed to make sex more pleasurable for men 
  • Women use substances from sand to pulverized rock to achieve dryness
  • They also douse with detergents, bleach, antiseptics and alcohol
  • Leads to vaginal cuts and sores and can increase risk of condom breaking
  • These factors increase the likelihood of the woman contracting HIV
  • Campaigners are calling for more education on sexual health for women

Women around the world are carrying out a practice which not only leaves them in pain but at increased risk of HIV.

‘Dry sex’ involves women reducing moisture in their vaginas in order to make intercourse more pleasurable for men.

This can can lead to cuts, sores and inflammation in the vagina, and increases the chance of a condom breaking, says Daily News Uganda Health Correspondent.

These factors in turn increase the chance of the women contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

Dry sex is known to be carried out in South and Central Africa, and Indonesia.

It is borne out of a cultural belief that men find sex more pleasurable if a woman’s vagina is dry, and that men will reject women whose vaginas have been ‘stretched out’ by sex.

To achieve dryness, women insert, chalk, sand, pulverized rock, herbs, paper or sponges before sex, according to journalist Ms Syfret, who has reported on the practice in South Africa.

They also douse their vaginas in detergents, antiseptics, alcohol and bleach.

Women in Java, Indonesia, even ‘smoke out’ their vaginas by standing over burning herbs.

In other areas of Indonesia it is common to insert a cigar-shaped stick made of a plant root.

While World Health Organization consultation papers show global health officials are aware the problem exists, most of the research on it is decades old and there are no broad figures on its prevalence.

A 2009 study looking at how dry sex spreads HIV in Zambian women found knowledge of the practice was widespread.

Around two-thirds of the 812 women polled had used traditional dry sex medicines at some point in their lives, and about half were currently using them.

But a reluctance to discuss sexual health meant the practice was not debated.

The researchers concluded: ‘Most of the available information has been anecdotal, speculative or inadequate – mainly because of cultural reluctance to discuss or investigate personal sexual issues.’

WHAT IS ‘DRY SEX’?

Dry sex is a practice where women reduce moisture in their vaginas in order to make intercourse more pleasurable for men.

It is borne out of a cultural belief that men find sex more pleasurable if a woman’s vagina is dry, and that men will reject women whose vaginas have been ‘stretched out’ by sex.

To achieve dryness, women insert, chalk, sand, pulverized rock, herbs, paper or sponges before sex.

They also douse their vaginas in detergents, antiseptics, alcohol and bleach.

Women in Java, Indonesia, even ‘smoke out’ their vaginas by standing over burning herbs.

In other areas of Indonesia, it is common to insert a cigar-shaped stick made of a plant root into the vagina.

Not only is this practice extremely painful for the women involved, it can lead to cuts, sores and inflammation in the vagina, and increases the chance of a condom breaking.

These factors increase the chance of the women contracting HIV.

The practice is known to be carried out in South and Central Africa, and Indonesia.

Similarly, a sexual health clinician and campaigner in South Africa told VICE most people are aware of the problem but it is not talked about, and hasn’t received enough attention from the country’s Government for policies to be drafted.

Dr Marlene Wa​sserman, commonly known in South Africa as Dr Eve, said the continued practice of dry sex shows the lack of education relating to equality and women’s rights in the area.

‘It’s definitely a class issue,’ she told VICE.

‘Basically, a woman’s reputation depends on the size of her vagina.

‘Among women who are less informed and less educated, there’s an unbelievable ignorance around the idea the vagina adapts to the penis.’

She explained that both men and women fail to understand that the vagina is capable of expanding during sex – and then back to its usual size afterwards.

There is also an incorrect cultural belief that if a woman has a partner with a large penis, her vagina will remain permanently ‘stretched’ – and future partners will think she is promiscuous.

The practice is ingrained in culture, passed between generations of women, she added.

She continued: ‘Men aren’t saying to women, “Put Dettol in your vagina”.’

Instead, they insinuate a woman is promiscuous due to the state of her genitalia, she explained.

For women dependent on their boyfriends or husbands, attaining commitment and pleasing them is extremely important.

The idea that pain is normal or acceptable during sex has taken hold, she adds, and most women in South Africa would not think of sexual pleasure as something they necessarily have a right to.

Dr Wasserman said: ‘I’ve been part of a task force with the World Association of Sexual Health, and we’ve launched the declaration of sexual rights – the right to pleasure – and we’ve been really pushing that.

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