Let’s talk about S-E-X!
Did that get your attention? 😉 Today, we have one of my favorite Instagrammers, Lolo Cynthia, talking to us about various topics, such as sexual health, the role of women in a developing society, and much more! She’s a force to be reckoned with and her content is thought-provoking, insightful, and delivered in a manner that allows us to have dialogue!
Hello! My name is Lolo Cynthia and that’s what I prefer to go by!
I have my Bachelor’s in Public Health Sciences and a post-graduate in HIV & Health Management at Monash University. I resided in South Africa (SA) before coming back to Nigeria.
Growing up in Nigeria, issues about sex and sexuality were covered with secrecy or portrayed negatively to deter people from it – you’d see in movies things like a girl has an abortion and she dies or if she gets pregnant out of wedlock, their mother is shouting at them. No one talks about condoms or really anything related to sexual health and sexuality.
Living in South Africa, I noticed it was quite the opposite. They were very outspoken about sex and HIV – these were topics that people did not shy away from. In bathrooms in my University, condoms were available for picking so it was engrained in the society really. The contrast and linked experiences opened my eyes to the possibilities of what we could do in Nigeria for sexual health. That’s something that triggered my passion for sexual health and sexuality.
My upbringing is pretty simple – I am the first child of six. I have four younger sisters and one brother. Some live in SA, some live in Nigeria. My last sister is 12 years old so I’m like a second mother! I went back and forth between SA and Nigeria, lived in boarding House, was in SA for University, where I lived alone for 5 years then finally got back to Nigeria.
Importance of talking about sexual health, especially in African societies
It’s painful that it’s a taboo topic because our sexuality is literally one of the biggest factors of being a human being. Of the driving forces of every human being, sex is always in the top three. So when you take away that element that makes us whole, it strips you of other parts of you. In Africa where they believe that only men should have (they only strip it from women – and when they give it back to you, it’s for you to serve men, it’s never for your own enjoyment or use) – for men, they have been given that right and privilege, it’s their birthright actually, that’s the way it’s portrayed to see themselves as sexual beings.
The way you see yourself as a human being and the way you connect with other people because sexuality is not just about sex, it’s about how you connect with other people.
When you have been robbed of that – let’s take the example of when you’re walking down the street and your body moves. It’s taken as something that’s bad – it’s not understood that your body is meant to move. When you create shame around that and make women feel guilty for things their bodies naturally do, by slut-shaming essentially, you rob them of their full spectrum to be human.
The reasons why we need to talk about sexual health are endless. If we take HIV as an example, the fact that Nigeria has the highest rate of HIV-born kids on the continent – talk about maternal mortality with abortion being the major contributor – these are preventable deaths. It’s because people don’t have access to contraceptives and they continue to be infected or die from abortions because they don’t have access to safe care (i.e. abortion services).
Teenage pregnancies are avoidable too- girls, not just boys, have access to condoms and boys are taught that sex is not something you take. Having these conversations allows for a healthier society.
Lack of information and knowledge has given room for stigma and ignorance. A young girl going through puberty and is more developed than some of her peers will be seen as loose or a bad girl because it’s assumed if a man touches your breasts, then they grow. So that lie is perpetuated and used to slut-shame developed young girls for no reason. Ignorant beliefs lead to shame for young girls who don’t understand. Again, it goes beyond sexual health and sexuality – it goes into how we connect with other people. The sexual script is that women are meant to not initiate or want sex – even if a man approaches her, she can’t give in too easily and she must be persuaded or coerced. She’s not allowed to want sex on her own or she’ll seem loose.
When we think about things like consent and the MeToo Movement – there’s a reason why things like this have been going on for so long (it’s still very Hollywood and hasn’t reached the non-West by the way) – is because dangerous social norms are being perpetuated. That’s why discussing sex and sexuality and sexual health is so very, very important. We can talk about virginity concepts and so much more. For example the idea that if you put an egg into a girl’s vagina, the egg will drop — all to shame women. It’s never-ending.
How I got started with my videos and educational content creation
I started in 2014 – with a webcam (while I was pursuing my 2nd degree) – I wanted to do a talk show which failed horribly (laughs). But I was inspired by people like Makinwa – I saw her video blog and thought I could do that too!
At first I was talking about relationships and throwing a little bit of sex in there (I talked about how to masturbate – haha I went all out). Topics like how do you masturbate and dealing with being an independent woman who still gets lonely. Those were some of the things I talked about at first in 2014. As I began to grow, the topics became more complex. I started to talk about feminism and social norms – I felt I could do more. I wanted to talk about the roots and causes of things, not just be superficial.
Over time, I realized that people were eager to learn about sex and sexuality. To be honest, I shied away from it at first because I didn’t want to be put into a box of “oh look at her, she’s talking about sex na, how does she know?” You know how they are! It’s a stigma so I would always dabble and talk about the educational aspect of it too. I realized that was my calling. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. It’s taken a few years for me to get here but it’s been since 2014.
Handling negative feedback
If you look at my Facebook, I get called names like prostitute, cheap. I am pro-choice which is something I wear boldly, and because of that, I hear things like I hate children and I am teaching women to be loose. But I know that when I’m talking about sexual health, people receive that knowledge. They’re eager to learn about STIs, how the penis works, how the clitoris functions – more of the educational aspect of it. There’s a disparity – they want the facts but not necessarily commenting on the cultural aspects of it. But like anything, if you’re talking about taboo topics, you’re going to get negative and positive feedback. I’m used to it all now.
Role of women in society
Women are the cornerstone – I cannot overemphasize – in most countries, women make up almost 50% of the total population – it doesn’t make sense to eliminate or silence the voice of 50% of your population. There is no way the country can develop. Apart from talking about feminism and sexual health, it’s literally just common sense. Women have a huge part to play when it comes to development. Our realities, views on life, and perspectives are very different from men. We widen the perspective – economic, health, financial, all of it. It’s no coincidence that some of the most developed countries have women’s right at the top of their priorities – it’s common sense, it just makes sense.
If half of your population is not empowered, you cannot get to the top of your game. Period.
Role Model & Life Mottos
I know it sounds narcissistic but I am my own role model.
Of course, there are other people that I look up to like Linda Ikeji (her experiences are similar to mine); she’s a Nigerian, serious business-woman that stands strong despite the backlash she receives. Oprah Winfrey of course is an inspiration of mine. I also admire Mo Abdul for how she shapes media and carries her business.
But I really am my own role model – I admire people and respect and follow their work but I am my first role model.
My two life mottos are:
The only constant in life is change
Connect the dots
The two are inter-connected. No matter where you are in life and how things are going, you can be somewhere different tomorrow and when you look back, you realize that everything happens for a reason and everything that happened is what got you to where you are today.
I’d like to share a little anecdote with you.
Growing up, I wouldn’t say I was crazy but I was quite wild/outspoken! No one who knows me now would have guessed this is where I would end up or believe that I was a girl when I was 17. People made their assumptions that I was going to end up pregnant and cut me off, assuming my future would be bleak. After a few years and maturing, I realized that 17 year old me led to me being who I am today. It’s why I have insights into some of these taboo topics – I’ve been there and lived with it. I have chilled with sex workers and thugs and not be afraid to engage in conversations with them. Those guys used to be my friends and I had influence with them. Now, I’m channeling it into the right way and educating others. So I was able to connect the dots and my life now is certainly influenced by who I was a few years ago. I had the power to change and the power to say “no.” I’m not gonna be who everyone is assuming I will be because I know I can do more. Those are my two mantras!
I am so honored to have had Lolo Cynthia with us this week share her story, passion, and wisdom with us! For far too long and still to this day, topics like this are considered taboo in African societies (with the exception of a few). The idea that talking about sex promotes it is something we need to eradicate in our societies and it all starts with talking about it! Thank you again Lolo Cynthia for your time. For continuous and amazing content on sexual health topics, follow her in Instagram at @lolo_cy!
❤ Learn. Preach. Share. Educate. ❤