SOCIAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE, Volume 37, Number 8: Pages 989-994.
October 1993.

Dry and tight: sexual practices and potential AIDS risk in Zaire

Brown JE, Ayowa OB, Brown RC

Institut Medical Chretien du Kasai,

Both men and women in central Zaire like a 'dry, tight' vagina because it increases pleasure during sexual intercourse. In focus group interviews, they described wiping and washing procedures, as well as 30 different substances, mostly leaves and powders, that women can insert into the vagina to produce the desired effects. Women who use leaves said they crush them, insert them for several hours, then remove them before intercourse. Women who insert powders leave them in place during intercourse. Individual interviews with 99 women (half of them unmarried prostitutes and half married women) showed that over one-third of each group had used intravaginal drying or tightening substances at some time. Vaginal examinations by a physician revealed that several of the substances cause inflammatory lesions of the vagina and cervix. Furthermore, some products cause extreme dryness that could foster epithelial trauma during coitus, both for the woman and for her partner. Breaks in the epithelium may promote the passage of organisms that cause AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. Thus the sexual practices of drying and tightening the vagina may be increasing the risk of infection.

(File revised 2 December 2006)

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