If a Rwandan man is dating a woman, sometimes they will ask you, “wara kunye?” which translates to “did you stretch?”.
An interview with Gabrielle.
Gabrielle | Age: 26 | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | Born: Rwanda | Occupation: Sales assistant | No. of sexual partners: 10
Why did you take part?
Because I’m very interested in empowering women and inspiring the world. Women are the foundation of family, the foundation of happiness.
What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?
Actually in Rwanda there is a cultural practice called gukuna which means elongation – to stretch your inner labia outwards. When I was 12 years old, at primary school, a friend of my mother’s came to my house and told me she wanted to talk to me. I was very curious because she was very concerned about that conversation. She told me “we have to talk, just the two of us, without anyone else”. She took me into my bedroom and she said “there is something that I have to teach you. Now you see we are growing older, and we want to be proud of our kids in the future, as a family. You will make us happy because you will be having a nice, happy family. That’s why I’m going to teach you this.” I used to love that woman - we called her Mama Kanyana - so much, like my own mother. I responded “please teach me, I want to be like you!” She started telling me, “as a Rwandan woman, you will have to make your partner happy in the future (not now) and you will have to show the man you will marry that you are coming from a family that raised you well.” I asked her how? She replied, “I’m going to show you something you are going to be doing by yourself, when I’m not here, which will give you respect in the future and which will help you to enjoy the family when I will not be here.” I was very curious. She told me to remove my panties. I asked her, “really, Mama Kanyana!?” She told me to relax and remove. We used a traditional medicinal herb to help. She had it in her hand. She told me you can show me your pussy, I’m going to show you, and she started to stretch my inner labia. She told me to relax. She told me “you will be doing this early in the morning”. I started to follow her instructions. In 20 days, she came back to see how far I had reached. She looked and she told me “now you are ok, you can stop there.” Because I had the result. My inner labia were big. I was very happy. I understood that because I have done this, my family will be proud of me, and the family of my future husband will be proud of me. Actually, if a Rwandan man is dating a woman, sometimes they will ask you, “wara kunye?” which translates to “did you stretch?” Traditionally, if you didn’t stretch your inner labia, it would look shameful, like you didn’t have enough education from your family. Mama Kanyana told me that with stretched labia, sex will be so much better when I have a partner in the future.
Later, on my own, when I got older and had my period, I went in a group with four girls and we started to have a conversation about Gukuna. Everyone was asking each other, “did you stretch your labia?”. Some said no, others said yes. We said “let’s see, let’s see!”. We said we are going to see and we are going to help each other. In Rwanda, we have a name for a group of young girls going together like that which is “guca imyeyo”, which translates to “cutting the brooms” (from the long grass in the fields outside). Which means to go and practice gukuna together. It was fun, you know. In our school there were some girls who were older than us, so they knew what we were going to do. They knew that we would be directing some of the other girls who didn’t know about it. To help each other. We went to a cave (as I grew up in a village), hidden place. We were laughing and talking about our boyfriends. One girl was older than us, and she asked us all to tell who had stretched and who had not. She was very straight with us, she directed us “Ey! You, all of you, remove your panties!” She wanted those of us who had practised gukuna to show the other girls who had not practised it, what to do. Everyone was shy, but because we were all the same age, there was no way we could hide from each other. It was like fun for us – “show me, show me and I will show you!” In Rwanda to share these intimate things is something very friendly for us. As long as you are around the people your own age, you feel free, totally free, to discuss, to be naked. When someone is older, you feel that they could teach you a lot of things, so you will give them respect – like when you see an old woman who is carrying a lot of things on her head, we have been told by our parents that you will stop that old woman, and carry those things on your head to wherever she needs to go. Whatever you will be told by any older woman, you will respect. She showed us and she was also the person who told us that if a man is playing with your labia, you can ejaculate. I listened and I was happy because I was thinking that in the future I will see the result of my efforts to do gukuna. But I didn’t believe that it could really happen to me. She was the only girl who had spoken to me about these things at that point. But the time I went on holiday I met another woman who was older. She was telling me that women who did not stretch their labia will not ejaculate. I asked her, “What does it mean to ejaculate?” She told me, when you have the long labia and a man plays with your labia, you can make water come out of your pussy. In Rwanda men who know what to do will take their dick and put it on top of the labia and he will kind of shake those labia with force. It’s more fun, it’s more enjoyable, you can’t imagine how nice that is.
My first lover didn’t know the right way to play with my clit and my labia, so nothing happened. I lost my virginity to my boyfriend when I was 20 years old. I met him at school, we were in the same class but he was older than me and he knew about sex already, more than me. We were very good friends before he became my boyfriend. He was always the first in the class, and I was the second, or vice versa. We would help the other students together. I fell in love with him first. But I couldn’t express myself. I was shy and inexperienced. I liked him too much. I waited until he developed feelings for me and told me about them before I expressed my emotions. In the holidays we went to his uncle’s house during the time his uncle was away from there. We were alone. He treated me so well. We kissed; we told each other we loved each other. Then I went back home. The second visit was when we did it. He was 28 years old. He took my hand and took me into the room and we start playing, he fought with me to remove my panties, he told me “let me remove these panties, I will not hurt you, be free, just let me see”. He played with my clit and my labia and then he entered. I was in pain. There was blood. Afterwards I couldn’t walk.
I had my second lover when I moved to Kigali (capital city of Rwanda) from my village. I worked for an accounting and auditing firm for 2 years. I met a guy during that time that was crazy about me. I was 23. He was in his 30’s. He took me on a trip to Kibuye (beach resort area) because he used to live with his parents. It would have been unacceptable for him to take me to his parents’ house, and I was living with my aunty who cannot accept me to bring a man into the house. In Rwandan culture we are expected to be virgins until we get married. If it is known that we have lost our virginities before marriage, it is shameful. Sometimes if a man has had sex with a woman before marriage, he will report it to his family immediately, and then he will keep her in his house until they are married. There was nowhere for us to be together, just the two of us. He took me away and we stayed in a hotel. This was a better sexual experience than with my first lover. This man knew how to take his dick and play with my labia and my clit to make me ejaculate. It happened and I felt so nice, so good. I felt like I had arrived in the real world. I was proud of myself. He was also very happy. He liked it so much when he saw me ejaculate. He became so serious about me. Something changed about his feelings towards me after that time. He started to call me every day, he introduced me to his friends and he introduced me to his mum. He wanted to marry me. His family wanted him to marry me. But I wasn’t ready, I didn’t accept him. As I became older I realised that no two men will ever treat you the same.
After I ended the relationship with the second lover, I met a man who wanted to hit-and-run. A one-night-stand. He spoke nicely to me, he acted like an angel. He told me he was a friend of my family. We met in a club. I was drunk. He took me home. I showered and my body was ready, because of the conversation and the way he was touching me. We were excited. I told him what to do to please me, how to make me feel good, because I was experienced and I knew what I wanted for my sexual pleasure. I was comfortable telling him because I had been talking with him all night and I wanted to enjoy the moment to the maximum. I knew he wasn’t serious about me, and no woman can really be happy with this bullshit hit-and-run kind of event, but I wanted to enjoy the moment. I told myself I am going to do this for the sake of my own happiness, no shame. He treated me with respect. That was what attracted me to him. In the morning he woke up early and prepared breakfast for me. He spoke nicely to me. We had sex again.
Now I have many lovers. People should know, we live for happiness. We should all find something to make us happy. I find sex is something nice, I can’t avoid it, I can’t limit it. Sex is life. Eventually, as a beautiful woman, and every woman is beautiful, many men will come into your life. There are jokers, there are those who want to stick around and build a life with you. I have met many different types of men. I met a guy at KFC who would not eat his meal, he was busy asking the waiter to get my phone number, then he was talking to me in the same restaurant as me, complimenting me. After some days he called me, he asked to meet me. I had to go and hear what was in his mind. After meeting him I went to see another lover. I will never say no to any man who can talk to me. It doesn’t mean I will say yes and give my body to him, but I will not reject the opportunity. These men want my pussy, I will make them wait for it, I will see what is in their mind and what they are going to do to achieve what they want with me. I have to know that there is happiness in a man. A man who is all about business and money, acting like Bill Gates, can spoil me, but the sex will be boring.
I am in a long-term relationship with somebody who lives in Europe. We have been in a long-distance relationship for the past two years. I love that man. He loves me. The sex is different with him, it is emotional. The way I see him, for the person that he is, there is no way the sex with him is going to fail, or to be fake. The sex with him is real. He has returns to Africa thrice in a year for me. He is also very jealous. He doesn’t know about my other lovers. He could kill me, or kill himself, if he knew what I was doing while he is away. No man who loves a woman can accept that she has another partner, it will never happen on this earth!! But he is so far away from me, and while he is away I feel a need for sexual connection, and I have a lot of demand - many men want me. I have to have my happiness. But I have to protect my relationship at the same time.
What does sex mean to you?
First of all, as a woman who is looking forward to getting married, sex means family. If the sex is very high quality, I can make a good family. Sex is happiness; it is life, to be living. If your mouth can eat, then your pussy can act. For a woman, sex is power. It can change a lot of things. I was working as a salesperson for Mitsubishi. Of course I wanted a car. I met a client, who owned an expensive car, and wanted to buy another, and he wasn’t sure what to do with the car he already owned. I told him, “If someone like you can have a nice car and you don’t know what to do with it, and you are here to buy another, why not support someone else who doesn’t have those things”. He was attracted to me and later he called me, he asked me, “who is it that I should buy another car for?” I told him, that is me. He was amazed, “how can you have this kind of power in your mouth?” I met him the following day. He bought the car under his name. But he knew I wanted him to give it to me. He continued to call me; he wanted to meet me again and again. He invited me into his home. He served me champagne. I told him, “don’t you see how I deserve to have a car?” he told me, “convince me”. I told him, “I know what you want, I don’t have a lot of things to say, but whatever you are seeing should convince you to give me that car.” He told me he was dying for me. I didn’t sleep with him. I didn’t give my body freely to him. I wasn’t going to exchange my pussy for the car. But he put that car under my name anyway. He wanted me to do something to appreciate him, but I didn’t give it to him. I told him he shouldn’t expect anything. Women are like flowers. Even to be near a woman, a man is privileged. And even flowers need water. Which is why I needed that car from him. We became friends. Even now we share a lot. We know each other’s families. In the same way that money is power for a man, sex is power for a woman. And actually, sex is more valuable, because it is something that you can’t exchange with anything.
What’s difficult about sex?
It is difficult when you meet a person you don’t like at all, but you end up sleeping with him. It makes you feel like it’s the end of the world. It happened to me once; maybe it can happen again. I met a man randomly. He invited me to have coffee and talk with him at home in his villa. I didn’t like anything he had to say. I was bored. It was so cold. I joined him in a swing chair, to make myself warm. He started touching my body. In my mind I was saying “Noooo…yessss…no…yes…no…yes”. I took a nap there and that made me feel free. I slept with him. I didn’t like him at all. At the end I felt like I was completely useless. I felt weak. I felt I had given a diamond away to someone who doesn’t deserve it. He called me the next day. I told him he wouldn’t see me again.
What do you most enjoy about sex?
Sex is life, I cannot limit it. I enjoy to have someone else involved in my orgasm. I like to ejaculate with a partner. I like to be on top of a man.
Do you orgasm?
Yes. I can orgasm within seconds if the feeling is right. Usually I have to be on top of a man if he doesn't have a tummy. But I do not orgasm every time. Not all men are the same. Not all men can give me an orgasm. With some it takes time; we have to be together for a longer time to get to know each other’s bodies. Usually I am comfortable with directing a man to let him know what can give me an orgasm.
How often do you have sex?
Around three times per week. But it is not regular. Without my long-term boyfriend here I can have no sex for two weeks. Sometimes with my boyfriend it is a lot more frequent, many times per week.
Do you masturbate?
How do you see female sexuality portrayed in the society and how does it make you feel?
Everyone has their own way to see it. But generally in our society we assume that when two people are married, they will have nice, quality sex. That is not true. Here, marriage represents female sexuality. When we can say this woman belongs to this man. But as a single woman, I believe your body deserves to be happy. Yet the society says that she must stay a virgin. She is not sexually free. I don’t believe men and women are equal here in our society. They say we are equal but we are not. People who know Rwanda will agree with me. We are not equal. For example, a man will freely go to the bar and come back at midnight. But if women do the same, there will be fire. However in the bedroom, women and men are equal. A woman’s pleasure is as important as a man’s. They will both work equally to please their partner. They say if a woman is good in bed, she can control a man. She can have everything she wants from a man – respect and value.
What’s your advice to women?
My sweet darlings, my friends. Know the value of what you are carrying. Know the power of your pussy. You have a diamond, it can take you wherever you want and you have to respect it. Not all men are going to have that diamond. Listen to your heart first. Think first about your own value, and then ask yourself where you are going with that man, before you share your body. Respect that pussy.
What’s your advice to men?
Treat your women like they are queens. Every woman deserves that.
Is there anything you want to explore?
I would like to try a threesome, with myself and two men. I have already tried a threesome with another woman, so I want to try it with men.