DR Congo boys discuss unprotected sex
Young Nyangezi Boys Talk Openly about Unprotected Sex
COFAPRI is committed to helping break taboos
When Bahati, COFAPRI's cofounder, was in the DRC, she arranged to meet the young boys from Nyangezi, a rural community in the east of the country. These boys' ages ranged from 14-19 years old. The aim of meeting them was to exchange information about HIV-AIDS issues.
This subject immediately touches upon sexuality, which remains widely a taboo issue in the DRC – and in Nyangezi, of course.
The boys were surprised to see a woman discussing sexual issues without fear, with them.
But Bahati told them that being a woman does not hinder her from educating the people in need, and that taboos are kept alive simply because people fear discussing issues regarding their full development like the question of AIDS.
She added that one of the main objectives of COFAPRI is its commitment to break the taboos that imperil some categories of DRC people.
Why Nyangezi boys reject condoms
Luckily, these boys were very open and easily understood the aims of COFAPRI – the reason why they got interested in the discussion and willingly told Bahati their attitudes regarding their sexuality toward girls.
This is because AIDS is the result of unprotected sexual intercourse.
These boys recognised that AIDS is an awful plague throughout the world and that it is mainly caused by uncontrolled sexuality, when boys neglect the use of rubbers during sexual intercourse with their girl friends.
In the minds of Nyangezi young boys, rubbers should not be used for the reason that they do not give them pride and respect toward their sexual partners during intimate acts.
For them, it is preferably good to go flesh to flesh sexually; the reason for this is that in general, boys think that this conveys their full force and maleness.
When Bahati wanted to get the views of the Nyangezi youth regarding this issue, some young boys revealed to her their opinions. They are COFAPRI youth members and they shared opinions under the condition that their first names only were used).
The aim of all this is to discover the reasons why adult men behave in magister dixit (the teacher has said it), which causes violence in the homes of Nyangezi by making women suffer more from their men’s coercion and brutality.
"I think Nyangezi boys do not have respect. I say this because some of us believe that they only want to have flesh-to-flesh sex. A young boy like me likes it, he sees no problems ahead.
Also some of us here just use date drugs to get a girl. Then when the girl is drugged, they all just have sex without using a condom." – Ezechiel:
"Young boys like us here think that flesh-to-flesh sex is due to a lot of peer pressure. You can hear them saying this openly, when they are talking and saying things like they 'don’t eat sweets in a wrapper'. The media also has a lot of bad influence in how young people behave, drugs and going to clubs." – Pierre
In the minds of Nyangezi youth, young boys are exposed to HIV/AIDS. They deliberately engage in an unprotected sexuality.
A celebration of masculinity?
For them, flesh-to-flesh sex remains the only sign of celebrating their masculinity and it veils them from perceiving the risk of HIV/AIDS.
In fact, the belief of dominant masculinity among the youth of Nyangezi sometimes shapes their violent attitudes and control that they exercise over girls who are their friends, which ultimately induces them to insist on such a kind of sex.
Nyangezi boys and girls discussing the issue of condom use, highlighted that using them reduces the sweetness, reduces the pleasure, and has a negative impact on the ability of the boys to perform the sex act in a way of satisfying the girl.
Nyangezi young men therefore express that such sexuality covers a wide range of meanings – the reason why they give it different names like: any youth needs to have 'meat-to-meat' or 'flesh-to-flesh', and even 'skin-to-skin sex' for making the girl feel she is with a strong boy; this will make the girl not to fall in the hands of another boy.
In fact, for these boys of Nyangezi, the hassle of HIV-preventative behaviour outweighs their perception of the personal risks involved.
This leads to the Nyangezi boys’ coercion toward their partners.
However, this is often mediated through subtle discourses of persuasion between boys and girls who are in love.
Nyangezi boys will use all the best tricks they have acquired in order to persuade the girl that using a condom means nothing except unfaithfulness to the girl – and that true love is symbolised by enyam’oku nyama, or better, omubir’oku mubiri, meaning, girl and boys' flesh-to-flesh sex.
Peer pressure encourages unprotected sex
For other Nyangezi youth, peer pressure is also one of the motivations that influence them to engage in unprotected sex.
In fact, they try to impress their peers with an account of their many and successful sexual performances with their girl friends.
The truth in all this is that Nyangezi boys are deviated by some wrong thinking – such as “you do not eat sweets in a wrapper”. Such a belief keeps the boys on encouraging their friends to have unsafe sex.
This means that the notion of masculinity is associated with an ideal of unprotected sex ‘flesh to flesh’ as being more pleasurable.
In the majority of the DRC cultures, dominant masculinities dictate the attitudes of the young boys in particular – and the men in general - the violent control over females and their demand for flesh-to-flesh sex.
In other words, boys link masculine identity to insatiable sexuality, and a manly desire for the pleasure of flesh-to-flesh sexual contact. All these are factors that put Nyangezi boys at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and particularly, HIV/AIDS.
Nyangezi boys are well aware of the awful outcomes of STDs. For this reason they call it “Sina Dawa = SIDA; in French, it means AIDS” meaning that “I have no medicine” to cure it.
They added that COFAPRI is doing well to remind them about such a plague and that together we can still find a way out.
They also thanked God to see that so far no one among COFAPRI members has contraced AIDS.
When they were asked if they can be ready to see the doctor about their status, all of them did not hesitate to say “we are ready”.
Bringing light where there is darkness
These youth thanked COFAPRI initiative for addressing the issue that is considered as a taboo in this area.
And in the same vein, one boy said that ‘COFAPRI is bringing light where there was darkness’. They expressed their wish for next time to meet with girls in the same round and exchange on this very issue. Bahati promised them she will plan another time so that she can meet with them together and exchange on the matter.
Overall, the meeting gave hope as the boys showed motivation, collaboration and openness on the issue at hand.