Putting My Sexuality On A Pedestal... Where It Belongs
By SGWrites on September 08, 2013
Growing up as the first daughter to Ghanaian parents in America usually meant that I was “different.” The food that was packed for my lunch was different, the clothes I wore out to parties on the weekends were different and more often than not, the music blasting out of our dad’s used Oldsmobile was very different. As a teenager, I struggled with these outward differences – it’s not always easy to find where you fit in when you sometimes feel like you’re living a double life. But as I get older, I realize that the truly difficult differences that I learned to navigate were those that were fostered on the inside.
Image: ketrin1407 Flickr
From a very young age I was taught that women are to be treasured and put on a pedestal. This isn’t because women are some ethereal creatures (although this can be argued), but because women put in an obscene amount of work in everything they do! Farming, child rearing, doctoring, entrepreneurship – they do it all and they do it with grace. We are regarding as strong, beautiful, feminine, headstrong, wise and loyal. On top of all of this, there is a special type of respect given to the gender that brings life into the world. Finally, my culture is a matriarchal one; your bloodline is traced through your mother. All of these were factors into the lessons that were taught to me as a child.
Women are invaluable in our society and should be treated as such. Now, all of this sounds amazing, and it is, but with great power comes great responsibility. In the same vein that I was taught to expect to be treated by a lady, the bigger and more forceful lessons were in acting like one. As my parents put it, Ohemaa 3y3 Ohemaa (a Queen is a Queen). Simple, right? I didn’t realize it back then, but that statement became the cornerstone of my identity as a woman in every sense, not the least of which is as a sexual being.
I truly believe that one of the reasons I’m fairly in tune with my sexuality is because of the phases that are emphasized in the Ghanaian culture, even though I was born and raised here. There are specific points of childhood that turn into womanhood, and at each point, one is forced to reflect on who you are and what it means to be a woman. Some of the major ones are when a girl first becomes a woman, when a woman gets engaged, married and when her first child is born. Each has a separate ceremony – each comes with symbols that stay with you forever. Every single one is a large, public affair that is a physical manifestation of the beauty and appreciation of a woman. Each is a reminder that you represent something larger than yourself and all of these things keep you in balance. I want to feel as though I’ve earned every single one.
Beyond the ceremonies, there are daily reminders. They are as simple as the type of waist beads you wear, and earning the right to change the types of beads that adorn your waist. The little things serve as a constant trigger of the woman you are striving to be. It may seem silly, but I always think about a man seeing my waist beads in an intimate setting. It’s a decoration that is meant for your husband – knowing this definitely helps in my decision making: is the man I’m currently engaging someone I’m truly comfortable with? Is this a man that has proven he deserves to see a marker of my womanhood? Ohemaa 3y3 Ohemaa – Am I acting like the woman I should be striving to be?
In this day and age, when a woman’s worth is often measured by the amount of skin showing in her avatars, it’s nice to know that I’m grounded (if not frustrated). There’s comfort in being deeply rooted in my morals, even if I sometimes feel like the "odd woman out". Now, this isn’t to say that all Ghanaian women are pristine – I’m not even saying that I’m pristine because that would be a lie. What I am saying, is that my upbringing has challenged me to think before I act and has probably kept me from making a slew of decisions I would later regret. The biggest lesson I have learned is to value my womanhood so that I can find a man who can see, love, nurture and appreciate that same value. I’ve learned that there is power in my sexuality, and I’ve decided to prize it and to put it on a pedestal of sorts, where it belongs.