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BDSM in Nigeria. An illustration of a pear, a pineapple, and a cucumber wearing fetish gear.

Illustration by Marta Pucci

Culture

Exploring BDSM in Nigeria

I spoke to people about their experiences in a scene that is emerging, but mostly online and underground.

by Martha Laraba
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Bruce* is in his 20s and lives in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. He searches for sex on Twitter: on his profile he posts photos of himself dressed in feminine clothing, seeking dominant women for sexual encounters.

Bruce became part of a small BDSM community in Abuja four years ago. By chance, he met a European diplomat at work. She invited him over to hers the same day they met.

“I never experienced anything like that before then,” Bruce says of their first encounter. Their chance meeting bloomed into a two-year sexual relationship, during which he also attended orgies organized by his dom.

Though BDSM has probably been a feature of Nigerians’ sex lives for many years, discussion of BDSM in public spaces is still emerging, primarily in Abuja and Lagos, and mostly online. There are a few signals that the presence of BDSM might grow in the near future—but whether it will become an accepted part of sex lives here is not certain.

Since the diplomat’s tour came to an end two years ago, Bruce has experienced a sexual dry spell. Not due to a shortage of sexual partners, but because his new partners in Abuja are mostly into vanilla sex. “I have been finding it difficult having orgasms with other people since she left,” he says. Difficulty finding partners was a common theme for the people I spoke to.

Biola Ojo, the owner of a sex toy shop in Lagos called Mahogany, says that while there is a BDSM scene in Nigeria, it’s hard to find evidence of it in real life. “The majority of Nigerian kinksters are noncommittal, so you would hardly find real-life groups, pods, or community for kinks,” she says.

Most of the demand for fetish toys at her store comes from three cities: Lagos, Abuja, and Owerri. “The Nigerian community frowns upon sex, public displays of desire, affection, and sexual preferences, so naturally, kinksters stay on the low key,” she says.

Social media plays a big role in connecting those who are curious. Twitter, for instance, is where I found Bruce and other people in the scene, some of whom I met in real life.

Ladi, 27, events producer in Lagos

Ladi tells me that she was never one to subscribe to gender norms, especially when it came to sex. She always wanted to be in charge, and sought out men who would let her be herself.

Ladi discovered BDSM when she stumbled upon an article about it. She realized that she had already been playing the role of a dom in most of her sexual relationships.

But she says that in the BDSM community, men expect her to play the role of a submissive, which makes it even more difficult to find partners. She mentioned that she recently joined the online community BDSM Nigeria, without much success so far.

BDSM Nigeria and a similar site, BDSMU Nigeria, might be useful for those who are curious and Googling their options. But they are not necessarily proof that the local scene is growing—they are both part of global networks of dating sites, and are managed by an American company based in Florida.

Jacob, 30s, civil servant Abuja

Jacob realized while still a teenager that he was aroused by the smell of feet. But he learned to suppress this desire, until he left for Malaysia in 2007 for his undergraduate studies—and an education in kinky sex.

His explorations began in Malaysia, then led to Thailand and Germany. He traveled across Europe for expensive BDSM sessions with dominant women. “I tried to try everything,” he says.

While he now wishes he hadn’t spent so much money, he says he has no regrets about these experiences. Now that he’s back Nigeria, he has difficulty finding partners.

Jacob is a switch, which means he can be either dominant or submissive. He says that Nigerian women in the scene, from his personal experience, are more likely to assume submissive roles than dominant ones. Even though he has enjoyed one or two casual encounters with dominant women in Nigeria, he says he’s not completely satisfied.

The future of BDSM

In addition to social media and the BDSM sites hosted in the U.S., curious Nigerians can also find each other on FetLife. This is where several active location-based groups are hosted, and where the organizers of an educational event called the Eko Kink Series first found each other.

A woman who goes by Dr. Coco, along with a man named Oga Kunle, organized the Eko Kink Series in the summer of 2018—perhaps the first real-life gathering of kinksters in Nigeria.

Kunle tells me that for some people, secrecy is a major part of the lifestyle—visibility isn’t really needed. Does this mean that Nigerian kinksters are likely to remain in the shadows for much longer? Kunle thinks yes, and understandably, he adds. “It is not a known and practiced culture in Nigeria.”

There are more real-life events on the way, though. Emeka Eziakonwa, the owner of Hush, a sex toy shop in Lagos, is organizing an event in April. He says the event will be aimed at bringing people interested in BDSM together to socialize, network, and learn. “Because there’s more to BDSM than just rope and whips, and not all BDSM play leads to intercourse,” he says.

*The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

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