How to Please Your Man “Zambia Style”


Imagine you’re a 17 year old middle class Dutch girl. You just cycled home from another boring day at school. Trapped in the conventional humdrum of the day, you are deprived of the stirring type of high school tales that you often watch. Back home, you switch on the TV and stumble upon a rerun of Spuiten en Slikken (“Shoot and Swallow”), a sex and drugs focused talk show that broadcasts sexual experiments every week. You don’t feel like it, though. You can always watch the episode online later. (This shouldn’t be too much of a problem with a national internet accessibility rate of nearly 90%.) You decide to call your friend and see what she has been up to. When you pick up your smart phone (a device that 80% of your peers have) her Whatsapp message just pops through, “My mum is dropping me off at my boyfriend’s place now, will call you tomorrow”. You can’t help feeling somewhat begrudged. Even though you are allowed to regularly sleep over at a boyfriend’s place, as is 2/3 of your peers, and your mum put you on birth control ever since you got your first period, you haven’t found your ideal sex partner yet. But God knows you’re ready for it. Thanks to the endless chat sessions with online sexual experts and youth forums, you know exactly what to expect, how to react and when to retract. Nevertheless, still unsure and unsatisfied with the wealth of information available at the click of a mouse, where on earth do you go? Dutch documentary maker Kim Brand has you covered: Zambia.

In her latest film, ‘Onder Vrouwen’ (“Among Women”, click to watch it), Brand travels to rural Zambia to find out what “liberated, spoiled, but also insecure” Western women can learn from their African counterparts. By participating in rituals, she hopes to answer those types of sex and relationship questions that have puzzled her for years. How to please a man without losing yourself? How to build a long-term relationship and simultaneously keep the sexcitement at an acceptably exhilarating echelon?

She admires the high degree of practicality in the love lessons that the young Zambian girls get from their ‘aunties’ as preparation for adulthood. It makes her realize that in the ‘Free West’ (her inverted commas) you basically have to find it out all by yourself. But in Zambia, “she is part of a world of rituals, intimacy and guidance of a woman’s group who support each other whenever they need to”. This kind of female trust circle, the life lessons and most importantly the love lessons are exactly what she so fervently misses in the Netherlands. She takes home several Zambian lessons, such as how to move her hips to optimally satisfy a man and how to clap her hands as a sign of gratitude after the deed.

The documentary is not the first manifestation of the centuries-old Dutch fascination with black sexuality (most recently, a casting agency put out a call for “white girls who are exclusively into black men” for a new reality show).

It doesn’t matter whether it’s existential confusion, employment fatigue, stress or sexual frustration. No matter how out-of-sync and contextually detached it gets, to Dutch twenty-somethings, there’s an African solution for every Dutch puzzle.

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14 thoughts on “How to Please Your Man “Zambia Style”

  1. Brilliantly done. The few sentences were teasers and the last sentence of the first paragraph knocked it out of the park…..

  2. Is this the same documentary film maker who went to Uganda to find out about “sexual empowerment through rituals in Uganda”

  3. Interestingly Zambian ladies are doing a roaring trade on the hen party circuit in Joburg. They get hired to provide brides to be with all the advice they need to keep their husbands satisfied and make their marriages work. At R1500 an hour it’s great business.

  4. Anyway, I think ‘western’ people do have those ‘rituals’ – it’s just that they don’t label them as rituals, because since its done by white people, its normalised. I see my friends/students do this ‘ritualised welcome to the adult world of sex’ all the time. Different mores, different instructions, different settings. One may see it as ‘informal’ sex talk, but it has its rituals.

    • Yeah, but half of them seem to be getting their information from either Cosmo or pornos, leading to some unfortunate situations I’d rather not describe here, and where the website MakeLoveNotPorn.com becomes almost necessary.

      I’m not saying there aren’t some unfortunate sex norms in dear Zambia (dry sex, anyone?) but I think the West has got them beat for dissemination of bad information.

  5. I enjoyed reading it a lot as well. Good post. However, I am not sure if this is the whole story. I know that in most African countries boys are initialized by men as well. These news shed a bad light on initials rites in South Africa where young men regularly die during initialization.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19256839

    However the point I want to make is another one. In my eyes the post glorifies the African culture of sexuality. I am aware that  generalizations are often just not the right thing, but I would dare to assume that in many African cultures women learn how to please men but it is not a cultural belief that men should please the women. In consequence men are not taught how to please women.
    Case  I am right and initialization and sexual culture is men-centered in Africa- out of my eurocentric perspective – I still, prefer the european option of getting lost in anonymous web based services but living in a society where the belief that good sex implies both partners enjoying it seems to be more wide spread.

    Last but not least the data comparison would be interesting if including Zambia as well. How many young women have phones, and how many access to family planning services etc.

  6. Interesting and wonderful read. I will download the documentary and watch. Just one question, why is it always ‘Dutch’? There were two other female Dutch film makers that did a documentary on sexuality in Africa versus Dutch sexual mentality.

  7. @Maria, Busi.. Looks like we’re onto something here, doesn’t it? Thanks for your comments..To be continued, I’d say…
    @Neelika, you are so right. I guess that divisive binaries /categories are simply too much fun to break through ( yet I think we should totally give it a go in a next post)
    @KaSa… Appreciating your thoughts, I don’t think we’re quite on the same page here… ( I, for example, don’t understand what you mean by ‘the African culture of sexuality’ and don’t think ‘European society’ is all that focused on pleasing women… )

  8. OK, wait: There’s a Dutch show called Shoot and Swallow? Sweet jesus, it turns out I am a prudish conservative American after all.
    But second, I can’t tell from the tone of the article whether the author thinks the show was ultimately exploitative or not.
    I understand how important it is not to fetishize African sexuality–or sentimentalize African culture, more generally–but it is altogether inappropriate to suggest that the Zambians might be on to something? Don’t they do a better job at some things than we (West European types) do? For example, taking care of their elderly, making sure that no one’s isolated and alone? Couldn’t we–and our teenagers, in particular–stand with a little more ritual, a little more community, a little more guidance from elders? What I can’t tell from the article was whether the show in that vein, or was more blacksploitation genre.

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