In Rwanda, a traditional sexual practice almost guarantees female orgasm when done right. Female pleasure is not shunned but celebrated here. When contextualized to the current world realities, kunyaza is the height of equality in the bedroom.
Photograph: Trevor Cole/Unsplash
The Legend of the Flowing Waters
It is said during the Third Dynasty of the pre-colonial Rwandan monarchy, the King went to war leaving the Queen’s bed cold and uneventful. Being a woman of power, the Queen sought out a momentary distraction which she found in a guard named Kamagere.
Poor, panicky Kamagere found himself in the Queen’s quarters, quaking, trembling and missing the vaginal orifice as any man in his position would. But you see, he was not really missing! Unbeknownst to terror-stricken Kamagere, he was shaking, trembling and accidentally rubbing all the right places. Before she could understand this new art-form, this hedonistic wizardry in her bedroom, the Queen’s waters gushed out. The sacred waters were a symbol of a sexual revolution that turned patriarchal sexual expectations on their head. The age of egalitarian and equitable sex thus began. Call it kunyaza after the rivers of sacred water that have flowed from the deepest, most sacred parts of Rwandan and Burundian women.
Confronting The Orgasm Gap
In 2016, Olivier Jourdain released Sacred Water, a documentary on “kunyaza” and captured the world’s imagination. That the practice is popular in Rwanda, a country that consistently features in the world’s top five in gender equality only made the story even better. Here is a country where women lead and get orgasms. In the 21st century this should not make the news yet it does because there is an a gender gap in work-spaces and an “orgasm gap” in bedrooms. Men are likelier to get high positions in public offices and they are also likelier to orgasm in private rooms than women. Fortunately, the gender gap in work-spaces has the attention of the big economic institutions but who is talking about the orgasm gap or taking it too seriously? Enter Rwanda, where addressing the orgasm gap is a tradition! From the centuries-old practice of kunyaza, the modern world can learn much about female pleasure and its beauty.
How Do You Do It?
Dr. Nsekuye Bizimana explains that there are two distinct ways of practicing kunyaza. Bizimana calls the first, the simple practice whereby the man rhythmically and continuously strikes the glans of the clitoris with the glans of his erect penis. The man moves in the same motion from top to bottom and vice versa or from left to right and vice versa before eventually making circular movements. During the complex practice of kunyaza, the man performs conventional penile-vaginal penetration before holding his penis and moving it from side to side or round and round to stimulate the vagina from inside.The man may then withdraw from the vagina and revert to the simple practice of kunyaza. It is clearly a very technical exercise that some people will simply fail to satisfactorily perform. However, in the olden days, failure attracted traditional censure. One Felix who was interviewed by the New Internationalist said,
“If a man couldn’t do it, the families would get together and discuss the matter. They would take back the girl and give you back the cow you bought as a dowry, because you are a weak man.”
Female pleasure and the ability to make a woman ejaculate were, therefore, defining features of traditional masculinity. So while it is convenient to claim kunyaza is progressive gender equality in the bedroom, the practice is really about the assertion of masculinity. Despite this philosophical link to patriarchal hubris, kunyaza still fully accepts female pleasure as a phenomenon to be embraced rather than feared and repressed. That excitingly counter-intuitive conception of sexuality is what makes it special. Female sexuality is not unsavory and dangerous but is, instead, a beautiful thing to be celebrated and explored. While kunyaza in its original habitat may be driven by patriarchy, it can easily be contextualized to the modern feminist milieu. Kunyaza is part of the solution to the orgasm gap and the world should pay attention. Female desire and pleasure are not vulgar!