by Eromo Egbejule, for YNaija
Cherry-popping undergoes a 2.0, reports Eromo Egbejule on a recent trip to Abuja
You can eat your cake and have it these days, it seems. Nneka Dike (not real name), a 20-year old undergraduate at the University of Abuja, recently tested the limits of the wisecrack.
Together with two of her girlfriends, she had gone to one of Abuja’s popular nightclubs, this month, to, in her words, “catch some fun” and probably forget about the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike that had brought her home.
A break from dancing and, one random conversation after, she and her buddies were being propositioned by a new friend – to buy an artificial hymen.
Of course, a coalition of society, religion, and what feminists would call double standards have made a woman’s virginity until marriage an issue, as a symbol of virtue.
Enough to make 2face Idibia shout for join in his sophomore album: “I can’t believe she’s still a virgin!”
The singer would feel right at home in Swaziland, where, early next month, the Umhlanga reed dance will return, with over 80, 000 virgins dancing topless in the royal village of Ludzidzini. It is a significant ritual to underscore the importance of a girl’s virginity to herself, her family, her community and her God. The irony of baring it all to prove you haven’t only a small detail ignored in the service of the greater good.
And, according to some accounts, Palestinian women who do not have the ‘tokens of virginity’ can be killed, thrown down wells or murdered in the most brutal ways, by relatives. In Nigeria, cases abound of young girls who have committed suicide after being raped in their communities, to avoid the shame that comes with losing one’s dignity.
(Hy)men from the East
From the Middle East and Asia comes succour.
Originally produced by Asian sex toy company Gigimodo, an interesting toy sometimes called a ‘designer hymen’ is sold at $30 (N4800) per piece on its website and shipped in by retailers who then sell for between N9, 000 to N15, 000.
Plastic and shaped like a sac, it is a flat object that expands to fit when placed inside the vagina, leaking an optimal quantity of a blood-like liquid, after penile pressure, thus simulating the act deflowering. It is meant to be inserted about 15 minutes before sexual intercourse, with hands – insert joke here – washed clean.
It comes with a manual and can only be used once. There are – thank God for small mercies – reportedly no side effects.
The Krystal ball
The nightclub where Nneka and friends were offered the product is the popular Krystal Lounge at Abuja’s Wuse 2, notorious for ‘officially’ allowing prostitutes and escorts into its walls.
“When you mention that club, everyone presupposes all the girls that go in there are whores”, affirms a popular OAP at hip radio station, Cool FM Abuja who asked not to be named.
A fact-finding mission a Friday night found the place bubbly and noisy, expatriates and elderly men trooping in and about. It was saturated with young women, their barely contained bodies mocking gravity. According to my companion, between 3am and 5am, one can negotiate to take a girl here home for free, the only payment being for ‘transport fare’.
Not that there are any official confirmations – and certainly not for the matter of the female virtue. Nary a bouncer at the gate or the six guests this reporter asked – one exclaiming, “Jesus!” after the question – under the literally red lights of the club’s reserved area could hide shock at the suggestion that women peddling fake hymens have made the club an outlet.
A sliver of hope came from one of the bartenders, who gave his name simply as Abu. He claimed ignorance of the trend, revealing that girls have been known to bring in ‘weird sex toys’ and female condoms, marketed out of their handbags. “They carry these things from abroad to sell here and make profit,” he said in Pidgin English, his mouth turned to allow a mischievous smile. “Na coded things. So this thing fit dey.”
The retailers are usually undergraduates who sell to people in clubs, at pool parties, universities and other locations that combine a likely customer base with an absence of prying eyes, further questions revealed.
Extremely secretive to the point of denying their goods, these girls sell independently and sometimes leave no contact, the better to vanish at will. They collect numbers from customers who purchase in bulk, then call intermittently to find referrals.
The customers are usually an assortment of the breed of university-based budding commercial sex workers, or as street culture has christened them, ‘runs girls’. The other bloc is soon-to-be-brides.
Sonia Gyang, a Political Science sophomore at the University of Abuja, Gwagwalada – it’s ‘Gwags’, she says – sitting by herself on one of the Lounge’s stools insists she is not one of those ‘runs girls’. Not that it stopped her from propositioning this reporter to take her home as she took me into the toy trade – her product of choice being dildos.
“9k, 15k… Chicken change for Abuja people. I invest 1k for the gate fee and get good profit,” she said, a walking Nollywood caricature; chewing gum loudly at night, fake lashes darting across the room. “I don’t know anyone selling that hymen thing but you can take my number. I’ll let you know when I find one.”
– Additional reports by Kelechi Udeogu
*The concluding piece will be published at 8pm