I had sex with a man for the first time at age 19. The only memory I have of that extremely short experience is that it was totally not worth it. I had the day off that day. Yes, I was already an employee. Menial job, hard labour, sucky pay but hey, what do you know about career choices at 19. On my one day off I went to visit a friend. Their home was what I always envision a frat house to be like, given by the story lines we get on TV, so yeah.
My friend’s house, you ask? Both her parents had died the prior year and it was just her and her siblings. Her eldest brother was 21 and was left to raise them. She was 17, her younger brother was 14 and her sister, the youngest was only 7 at the time. Death dealt them a cruel hand. Fuck you death!
Their house had no rules. They constantly had a parade of friends walking in and out, lots of unsupervised parties, complaints from the neighbors and of course lots of booze, sometimes drugs and plenty of sex. Looking back, I have always wondered if there was no other living relative who could have stepped up and taken care of them. I also wondered where they got money from; they had it in plenty.
Back to the sex.
That day was pretty calm, I recall getting there, we made some food for her sister and then we hung out at the dining table, drinking cheap Popov vodka and sharing a very ‘happy’ smoke. Before long the effects of all that had gotten into my system and I needed a nap before heading back home. I made my way upstairs and crashed on her bed. A couple of minutes later, someone else joined me. It wasn’t strange to find people sleeping in their beds, remember the frat house vibe I mentioned earlier? This body lying next to mine was someone I had seen around. I knew he was her older brother’s friend and he was fine as hell. My hormones were all over the place and trying to nap after that was a genuine struggle. When we both eventually woke up, we spent a bit of time in the bed just talking. I remember jack shit about the conversations we had. What do 19-year olds and 21-year olds talk about? Can’t blame it on the vodka or the smoke; or maybe it was the conversation, who knows? One thing led to another and a make out session ended up in sex. It was consensual and I was fully aware of what was happening.
Brief encounter. Ended very very very very very quickly.
As I made my way home I remember thinking, what was the big deal about sex? That’s it? That’s the thing our parents threatened us with eternal damnation in hell for? Who needs it? I didn’t have sex again for almost one and a half years after that.
Fast forward to 20 and I was the maker of all bad decisions when it came to sex. My hormones made every single decision for me. All sense of reasoning went out the window. I fell for every line. I took a lot of risks that could have had me narrating a different story today. From that very first sexual experience, never for a moment did I consider the need for using protection or asking about sexual history. And the majority of the time I was not 100% sober.
I don’t blame you for wondering, why is she sharing this very personal and low-key disturbing experience?
Remember I said I was 19 the very first time I had sex? According to the laws of Kenya, I am a legally consenting adult. I can consume alcohol, I can get a driving license, I should have a national ID. I can seek emancipation from my parents. Actually I don’t have to. I can move out and live on my own if I want to. I don’t even have to ask their permission! The law recognises me as a grown up who can make decisions for herself. Heck, they can throw me in adult jail should I break the law. Yet, looking back, all the decisions I made at that age and in my twenties put me at risk. That number 18 did not come with an automatic maturity button activated.
In the recent past, a government official, of professor status, playing a leading role under the Ministry in charge of our children’s education, saw fit to declare that banning pornography was the solution to decreasing the number of teenage pregnancies. Let’s all take a moment and let that sink in.
Statistics of teenage pregnancies recorded since the COVID pandemic hit and forced us into a worldwide lockdown have risen remarkably, in our country. These girls were from all over the country. These are girls who would normally be in a school environment for most of the year. They all are under 18, some as young as 12.
Let’s eliminate those who were forced into early marriages. Not that their plight is not equally important, this is purely to demonstrate my line of thinking. Then let’s eliminate those who were forcefully defiled by rapists. Rapists disguised as relatives, service providers, bobaboda riders, basically any adult man over 18 who, for whatever reason, may have gained access to this girl.
We are left with the girls in relationships. The pre-adolescent and teenage girls who have boyfriends either of the same age or not much older than them. Those who believe their relationship will last forever. Those whose hormones are raging and are all over the place. Those who have made a conscious decision to have unprotected sex and unfortunately ended up pregnant. Guess what? For as long as she was under 18 and gave consent, it doesn’t matter, the law categorises it as statutory rape. Thousands of girls in our country were raped and impregnated and the leadership thinks it as a result of pornography! Excuse me sir, your logic or lack thereof does not apply here in this your equation!
At my legally adult age I made risky decisons over my sex life. How much more confusing can it be for a girl aged 17 and below?
Banning pornography is not the solution here. Young people are having sex at a much earlier age than we care to admit. I can’t claim to know the numbers on this, but my laywoman observation is that children’s bodies are also maturing at a younger age. We have girls as young as eight years old experiencing menstruation. Conversations on healthy sexual practices a.k.a sex educaton need to happen sooner rather than later. Speaking to young people on consent, protection and the risk of contracting STDs/STIs is something that can’t be replaced with banning pornography and policing music videos. Implement the full extent of the law so that perpetrators will not live in the comfort that justice will not be served. This. Not blaming the rape suvivor and making it seem like it was her fault she was raped. Not shaming her for her unwanted pregnancy. Not listing her as just another statistic.
*FYI Clay Muganda has given a more detailed description on how systemic structures and institutions such as the church are contributing to the problem plus a whole lot more. Read it here
That news article took me back to that 19-year old girl who probably would still have made mistakes, c’mon she’s 19, but she would also have had the right information to make better decisions over her body.