Zimbabweans are generally a conservative lot and although we belong to different tribal groupings – there is a lot of commonality in our customs and beliefs especially in the area of sex education.
There was a time, I dare say, when people took pride in the sexual ignorance of young people; equating such naivety on sexual matters with chastity and sexual purity.
The less a young person knew about sex and where babies come the more commendable they were for demonstrating that they were not inclined towards “naughtiness”.
In fact where ignorance about sex could not be imposed; our elders in their wisdom crafted clever lies to strike the fear of sex into the tender hearts and nubile bodies of the youth.
These clever lies are some of our Zimbabwean taboos drawn from various tribes and cultures and this post is written to remind us of them and to ask (tongue in cheek) – Who’s scared of a few taboos?
Who remembers the time when young girls were taught (and they believed these teachings) that:
Do not let a boy play with your breasts; because they will grow as big as pumpkins.
Do not have sex with boys; because you will develop pseudo-pregnancies
Do not look at the private parts of somebody; or else you will grow a boil on the eyelid.
Do not engage in sexual intercourse otherwise your sexual organs will turn into a frog or a chameleon.
Do not indulge in sex or else your sexual organs will move to your forehead.
Do not play with boys because you will fall pregnant.
A girl should not indulge in premarital sex because her parents will suffer from backache.
As a rule of thumb, human private parts were not to be exposed or looked at and the manner in which girl children sat was strictly monitored to ensure that their sitting posture did not expose their private parts.
Girls were always reminded to ‘sit properly’.
And of course the elders went to all the trouble of concocting these lies just to preserve the virginity of girls that “priceless” commodity tucked neatly between our legs. (Do I sound a bit irreverent?)
This brings me to the irksome topic of virginity testing since the virginity of girls was closely guarded as a matter of family honor and pride.
In some tribes, virginity tests were conducted randomly and usually the venue for these inspections was the river.
Some tribes relied on shaming the deflowered girls. If you failed the virginity test and it was discovered that you had been deflowered; you were made to carry a half-full clay water pot to your home as a sign to your mother that you’d been deflowered *cringe*.
Other tribes employed scare tactics to force a confession from a deflowered girl and this would involve asking the ‘suspect’ to suckle someone else’s baby. A virgin would not refuse but a deflowered girl would immediately confess and refuse because taboo had it that if a deflowered girl suckled a baby – the baby would fall sick and die.
Then there were the more hectic tribes that employed some really mysterious tactics to ensure that the girls’ prized virginity was not tampered with.
The families would simply “doctor” their daughters and the girls would have no idea that they were “fenced” such that when a young man had sex with them that young man’s stomach and genitals would swell (I kid you not!).
To avoid dying, the culprit would have to confess to the girl’s father ask for forgiveness, be cured by the girl’s further before being forced to marry that girl and be banned from having sex with any other woman and if he refused, he’d die.
Yeah…so that’s a bit on our Zimbabwean taboos and I know some of them will be considered outmoded because no young person these days will buy into these taboos but it’s always nice to reflect on the wisdom of old and acknowledge – they had a good thing going before modernity in the form of the internet, Google, TV and porn magazines ruined it!