Dry sex in Zimbabwe and implications for condom use

Social Science and Medicine, Volume 42, Issue 1: Pages 91-98, January 1996.

Civic D, Wilson D

Psychology Department, University of Zimbabwe.

'Dry sex' refers to the preference for a dry, tight vagina during sexual intercourse. Women in Zimbabwe and elsewhere have been found to use a variety of drying agents to achieve these effects. Previous studies of 'dry sex' have concentrated on documentation of the practice and investigation of any associated increased risk of HIV. In contrast, this study examines the impact of 'dry sex' on condom use and effectiveness. Focus group interviews were held with female HIV/AIDS peer educators in Zimbabwe who had a history of commercial sex work. Participants reported that drying agents had physical and psychological consequences. That is, agents were said to dry and tighten a woman's vagina, and also to serve as 'love potions' to attract sexual partners and ensure their faithfulness. Although vaginal dryness was not found to deter the use of condoms, some women were reluctant to use condoms for fear of blocking the 'magic' of drying agents. There was agreement among participants that condoms frequently broke when used in conjunction with drying agents. Participants primarily attributed condom breakage to excessive vaginal tightness. Lubricants were not routinely used during sex or with condoms. However, participants preferred the use of lubricated condoms when they used condoms. Implications of the 'dry sex' practice for AIDS prevention programs and development of new HIV prevention technologies are discussed.


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