By Bola Mosuro*
Despite being bombarded by sexually suggestive photos, explicit lyrics and raunchy dance moves in the media, many women are brought up with the socially conservative attitude that “good girls” just do not talk about sex.
But Iheoma Obibi is leading a mini-revolution in bedrooms in the West African nation.
She became the country’s first retailer of sexual health products and erotica after getting requests from friends to buy sex toys on her annual trips to London.
“They were asking me to buy vibrators, nipple suckers, lubricants, water-based lubricants which were non-flavoured, specifically with a pH balance for the female genitalia.”
Realising there was a niche market, the former development worker set up her online shop five years ago.
It was not easy at first – and she had to build up a clientele while fending off the critics.
One became so threatening she needed police protection.
But luckily that is a thing of the past and she now caters primarily for women, and some men, whose ages range from 20 to 70.
Ms Obibi also provides sex education and awareness sessions online under the hashtag #Sextalk.
It is for anyone with questions or a curiosity about issues from how to find one’s G-spot to explaining an orgasm, even suggesting positions.
“Part of the problem we face in Nigeria and Africa generally, is that women are shy about negotiating their sexual pleasure,” she says.
“What we are told is you have to save yourself for your marriage and be a virgin. When you marry, you are there to satisfy your husband.
“You are not really told that you are there for any pleasurable fulfilment. You’re told that you have sex for procreation.”
But now some women are having conversations with their partners and the market in sex aids in Nigeria is growing.
The reaction of men is not always positive, some regarding this sexual openness with suspicion, derision, anger and even sometimes disgust.
Or it is a question of dented pride, not wanting to admit they have never quite hit the right spot with their wife or girlfriend?
Not surprisingly, sex-toy sellers admit to having many customers who buy and use aids in secret.
Anticipating a negative reaction, some women in search of sexual pleasure use other means to gain that satisfaction.
Some turn to the work of Chioma Ogwuegbu, a statistician by profession, who writes hard-core erotic fiction in her spare time.
She contributes to a Nigeria erotic website, and she and other writers cannot keep up with the demand.
Ms Ogwuegbu makes no apologies for the writing, which some might say borders on soft porn.
“It’s not an intellectual exercise. I’m not trying to win a Nobel prize,” she says.
“The first story that I published on this website, was one of the best stories. It had the highest hits. And the thing that struck me about that story is that it was focused on the woman’s pleasure.
“It was about the woman having orgasms.”
These fictional stories depict fantasies that many Nigerian women can only imagine.
She says it is content that mainly appeals to women who are in their 30s and older, who are more sexually mature.
“As I became more sexually aware, I actually became more comfortable in my decisions about sex and sexuality, being able to own them and say: ‘Fine I have sex, it’s OK, it’s not a crime to have sexual desires, sexual pleasure.'”
For JB Macauley, a man in his 60s who I spoke to at a social club in Lagos, acknowledging a woman’s needs is perhaps something the younger generation will take in their stride.
“I can believe that the younger guys are more experimental – we are just coming of the sexual darkness, but we’ll get there,” he said.
His younger friend agreed: “We’ve been brought up with the same sexual habit and the same environment, but I think our generation is prepared to be a bit flexible.”
Ms Obibi realises such views are probably in the minority.
But every day she is called by at least one new customer enquiring about the products she sells and how they can bring sexual fulfilment.
Many of her clients are still in relationships where it is impossible to even consider discussing or negotiating a simple touch – let alone a new position.
“For many women unfortunately it comes very, very late in life – the awareness that their bodies can give them pleasure.”