I write queer poetry and tell queer stories
Writer, United Nations Fellow, Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights advocate
Thoughts on Society
Should we have Period Leave?
Real Talk, June 2018, Cosmopolitan SA
Growing up I thought a period is this thing that stains your panties.
I shrugged off ideas that my mood swinging was the result of fluctuating hormones, because there were people with bigger issues, people who could physically feel their menses being worked out of their uteruses like somebody repeatedly punching them in their abdomens.
I called my pain-free experience 'period privilege'. Being able to go about your work physically without feeling incapacitated, ignorantly forgetting that the symptom of emotional drainage is sometimes as difficult as physical incapacity.
In the name of empowerment, our society tells menstruating people that they're capable of everything. I don't disagree: We have fought wars like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, we literally run the world like Beyonce, but this narrative can silence a lot of menstruating people's experiences mentally, emotionally and physically.
A period is your womb cleaning itself on a cycle. How can this not affect the way we move and feel? Once a month our hormones fluctuate so severely that it changes the way we view ourselves and the world around us. Therefore, period leave is necessary. Menstruating people must rest when it becomes overwhelming. This day shouldn't be confused with standard sick-leave. Our periods, whether they're regular or not, come and go almost every month and doesn't mean we are 'sick'. Period leave should be separate to standard sick-leave; something that everyone already has access to, because everyone gets sick, but not everyone experiences menstrual cycles & its symptoms. Granted, symptoms include Dizziness, Lower-back-pain, fatigue, nausea, and a drop in iron levels to name a few, but it still doesn't mean that we're 'sick'.
Period Leave should be for everyone, domestic workers, miners, care workers. Of course this is in an ideal world, we live in a neo-slavery society and rules like this will probably be afforded to the elite.
Internationally speaking, Zambia is a guide in this field. 'Mother's Day' although riddled in gendered language, is a day where menstruating people can call in on any day of their period and request an off day due to menstrual cramps and/or emotional well-being because of their period. The topic has divided Zambians. Many are against the law, stating that it encourages laziness. On the other hand employers say that productivity has gone up and overall wellness of menstruating people is on a better level than before.
In China, the province of Ningxia provides menstruating people with 2 days of self-care. Period leave is not unfair to those who do not menstruate as those who do not menstruate simply do not have the symptoms of someone who menstruates. Additionally, those who menstruate would not be forced to use their leave. If you don't feel your symptoms are incapacitating, then you can continue attending work. This leave isn't mandatory.
Period Leave wouldn't be for running personal errands, but a day to recuperate, to rest, maybe go to your therapist or to do the things in the name of self-care we call a middle-class thing. If it becomes a law, we should all be able to access it, right?
In this fast-paced world where the period is shrouded in ignorance we should do more to support menstruating people, we should do more to know how to manage periods and the commanding lives this world enforces on us: starting with a day off in the name of Period Leave, sounds like a good place to me.
Unedited version of Real Talk, June 2018 issue for Cosmo SA
By Kim Windvogel
Can you be body-positive and actively want to lose weight?
Real Talk, September 2018 Issue, Cosmo SA
Body-Positivity isn’t just a phrase. It's a layered ideology that seems to have even the most educated baffled as to what it truly means. The phrase is usually thrown around only when spoken about in relation to supposed fat people, myself included, (who love their bodies regardless) when in fact, body-positivity has nothing at all to do with weight. We live in a society that tells us to hate our bodies, whether you are as skinny as they come, whether you have thick thighs, a tight ass, a snatched waist with no arm fat. Society will still find a reason to neatly serve, on a platter with deep-fried calamari rings, all the reasons why you should hate yourself or feel a burning desire to alter yourself. To me, body-positivity means that you love your body regardless of its size, regardless of what society tells you it should look like. Of course, I’m not saying that the moment you start losing weight you can’t be body-positive. What I am saying is that thinking that body-positivity is reserved for fat people is misguiding. I used to date someone who desperately hated their skinny frame and wanted nothing more than to gain weight at the pace I could. Body-positivity deserves to thrive within those people too. I believe that we, as a society, should focus more on health and treat weight as a secondary factor. If we can do that, our bodies, minds and spirits will fall into their natural order and shine in the way they are supposed to, whether that be thick or skinny, heavy, muscularly or fat in size. So no, I don’t believe you can want to actively lose weight, while still being body-positive, because weight is but one aspect of health and if that is your sole purpose you will always face disappointment. Focus on your health, on moderation, and self-esteem so that you can love and admire your body in all its stages.
unedited version of Real Talk, September 2018 Issue for Cosmo SA
By Kim Windogel
Masturbation & Guilt
a Christian Contradiction
I grew up in a Christian setting and for many years I guilted myself for masturbating. I remember on my 13th birthday, my parents took me to a restaurant in town.
Ten minutes before we were supposed to leave I placed my dark green blanket on the floor, took my teddy bear, folded it double and lay it down on my dark green blanket. I placed my teddy bear under my pelvis as the left side of my face came to rest against the floor. I did this so that I could peep through the bottom of my door to see when they would come and call me so that we could leave. I remember moving my pelvis fast as I saw my dad and my mother and my sister’s feet bustling around the house, getting ready for the night out. With two minutes to spare I finished and I turned around, lying on my back, tears streaming down the side of my eyes as guilt started to creep in. I lay there for a full few minutes, crying silently before I heard my father shout my name because it was time to go.
You see, when I was 8, something told me to rub my genitals against the side of my mattress. I didn’t know where this strong sense came from but it was so pleasurable that I didn’t care what my Christian upbringing had taught me. As I grew older and graduated to using my teddy bear’s nose, I started to ask my friends if they had the same feelings in between their thighs. They would laugh at me and just shrug it off with a: “Why must you be so crazy, Kim?”
In High School, when puberty was at its strongest I remember being around a group of my friends who were boys and them casually telling me how they had: “trekked draad” (masturbated) the night before. They laughed about it and the space seemed to be one of the few safe spaces to share these stories, so I chimed in saying: “Thank god you are all so chilled with this! I love masturbating too!”
Silence followed.Everybody looked uncomfortable. As blood came rushing to my face, I asked them why it was fine for them to touch themselves, but when I do it, they judged me. “Because girls aren’t supposed to do that!” one of them said. One by one they filtered away and I was left there feeling as confused as ever.
I didn’t understand these double standards and I refused to accept them, but I still felt unnecessary guilt because society didn't want me to live my best masturbating life. Masturbating in school helped me get to know my own body, it helped me figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like. Masturbating helped me to keep away from sex until the time came that I felt ready to allow someone foreign to touch me. Masturbating helped me understand the nuances of sexuality, sensuality and how to practice self-love on a level that is usually shunned by society and written in the never-ending book of taboos for womxn. That being said, if you do not want to masturbate than don't. Being sexually liberated means you have every right to say: "No" and every right to say: "Yes". That is the premise of consent and even if you decide to never have sex with yourself or anyone else for that matter, that is your sexual freedom.
A few things to know about masturbation:
- Wash your hands first. Dirty hands can spread bacteria.
- Just like after sex, make sure to pee afterwards.
- Your friends might frown, but chances are they are doing it too. It is nothing to feel guilty about. It is not gross and it is not only for boys.
- It is the safest form of sex, because you do not run the risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) or pregnancy.
- You might experience an orgasm: When the body is aroused (horny) your muscles tense up from pleasure. An orgasm is the release of all this tension and the happy hormone called endorphins is released into the bloodstream. Everybody will experience orgasm differently, not everyone’s toes will curl or backs will arch.
- Masturbation does not mean you are not a virgin, doesn’t matter how many times you do it.
- It is also important to note that being a virgin does not make you better than another person. If you choose to be a virgin, you have no right to shame another girl for choosing to have consensual sex.
I remember my first orgasm.
I was 8 years old and had just finished rubbing my genitals against the side of my mattress. It was quick and it was a surprise and when I stood up straight and looked at the space my pelvis had just occupied, the sheet was wet. I ran to my bedroom door and closed it quickly before my family would see what I had done. It had felt so good and I wanted to savour that moment on my own before I would have to eventually remove the sheet from my bed and hand to my mother to wash.
From that moment, I have had thousands of orgasms. Some of them by my own two hands’ doing, some by my vibrator’s doing, some at the hands of men, some at the hands of womxn and others at the pure memory or thought of a heated moment in the past.
Let’s discuss first what an orgasm is.
When your body is sexually aroused the muscles in your body and that of your genitals tightens and the nerves expands. When you pay attention to that sexual arousal by either playing with yourself or allowing someone into your space so that you can play with each other you will please each other until, hopefully, your muscles go into small or big spasms and releases all of the tension that was caused by the sexual arousal. It is important to note that orgasm isn’t always the outcome and many sexual encounters have ended with not one person orgasming.
Sex is about pleasure, not about the guarantee of an orgasm.
In the same breath, it is vital that you are not a selfish lover. People with penises, especially, have the privilege of their pleasure being regarded as the most important in any sexual encounter. You are taught this at school and all throughout your life. Hence the reason why so many womxn in hetero relationships fake orgasms after their men have ejaculated because they fear that the man’s ego might be bruised. If you as a person with a penis ejaculate and you can sense that your partner is dissatisfied, do not think that your penis is the only thing that can provide pleasure.
You have fingers and a tongue.
Put it to good use.
An orgasm is also experienced differently by everyone. Some of us might scream in pleasure, others might moan, some might laugh, I have even been in bed with someone who cried.
Some arch their backs, others are dead quiet and you are not quite sure whether they are enjoying it. Always keep communication flowing during sex.
Asking: “Do you like this?” a couple of times during sex is not a turn off. It actually creates a safe space for your partner to say yes, or to redirect you to a position that might be more pleasurable for both (or for however many of you) involved.
The thing about all the orgasms that I have had is that they all were different. Some of them were really intense where I could not move afterwards, not from pain, but from endorphins that were swimming through my body and paralysing me while my body felt like it was floating on a cloud of some sort and I had a light smile plastered on my face for the hours following.
Others were because I was tired, yet could not sleep and had to do something so that my mind would switch off.
Others were quick and right before work and I had no choice but to get up and be active for the day.
Some were major disappointments, and others were hella surprising.
Others took too long and one was not consented to.
The first time I experienced an orgasm that would raise the roof was with my first partner who was a womxn. Prior to her I tolerated cunnilingus, but never truly enjoyed it. I think I was too conscious of my body. My friends would shake their heads in vehement shock when I confessed my ‘meh’ attitude towards it. “Someone ain’t eating you right” and we’d all laugh together.
After I fell truly and utterly in lust with, let’s call her, Luna, I remember going back to her room and she put on the movie Grease. As the song Grease lightening came on she started to go down on me and by the end of that song I was shooting fireworks from the tip of my clitoris. I will forever remember that orgasm as the orgasm that set the standard for the orgasms to come. Pun intended.
That being said. I have been making lots of posts this week about my own body and how I feel in regards to sex, and the notion of virginity, and masturbation and orgasm.
Please, my wish for you is that you figure out, by yourself, what you want, what you like, what you will allow and what you will not allow. Sex is not just about the comfort of your sexual partner, but about the comfort of YOU AND YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER combined.
Communicating about what you like beforehand and what they like beforehand is called respect and If there was no time for communicating beforehand because hormones got in the way, make sure to ask during.
People tend to think that we only moan, groan, grunt, and scream during sex. LIES.
Full on conversations can happen during sex, jokes can be cracked just as hard as a whip can be cracked in the bedroom.
The Myth of Virginity
when I was 19 years old, I fell in love with a man (before I realised that I am not straight) who I told myself would be my happily-ever-after. He was 7 years my senior and had me dripping diamond droplets long before we would exchange our first words, let alone numbers.
I was a 'virgin' at the time I say 'virgin' because I actually wasn't. I might have been a penetrative virgin, but I would realise years later that virginity is a societal construct realised to keep womxn from exploring their sexual freedom, by placing their worth in the amounts of times they were able to refuse sex with a penis before marriage.
You see I have come to realise that virginity is entrenched in homophobia. Two people who love each other dearly, but possess vaginas and decide to have sex does not equate to 'losing' one’s virginity in this society. No, instead it is seen as experimenting and a phase they will soon grow out of because how can one 'lose their virginity' with no penis present? How can one enjoy sex with no penis present? Actually, per society, how does one have sex without a penis present?
Also, what is this rubbish of 'losing' ones virginity. You don’t lose anything anywhere.
You merely pass through a natural rite of passage, whether you are married or not.
I thought of my confused high school days, how could it be that being intimate with someone does not constitute having sex for the first time?
Sex is after all not about penis penetration, but about giving and receiving pleasure.
it was a windy day in April of 2010. I was wearing something ridiculous, because back then I had no style. we were making out and I had previously told him that sex would not be an option, but I was lit and there was no way I was not doing this so I uttered the words: "I am ready." while rolling myself over on his bed.
He didn't have any condoms, so I sent him to the shop. While he was away I started to panic. What have I done? My body was tensing up and although I wasn't scared, I was nervous and all these questions started foaming at the tip of my brain.
What is Jesus going to say when I die? That question was quickly replaced with, what if it hurts? That question was quickly replaced by me looking down at my hands that had started to shake from misplaced energy.
After ten minutes in the room all alone I could hear his key in the gate and my brain told my body to calm down.
We made love to Michael Buble's: "Lost" and since that time I have had an obsession with telling people that virginity is not all it is cracked up to be.
You know what is all it is cracked up to be?
Listening to your body, to your heart, to your soul and NOT YOUR ILL-INFORMED FRIENDS, googling questions you may have about sex (research), speaking to someone you trust that will not shame you for wanting to have sex or for just wanting to have the answers in case one day you find yourself in the situation where you must decide whether you are ready or not.
You know what is also all it is cracked up to be?
Protecting yourself when having sex is not only something that will keep you safe, but it will save you all the emotional trauma of having to calculate when the last time was that you had sex and when your last period came and whether you are pregnant and whether you can go through with an abortion if it came to that.
You decide when you are ready, you decide when you are willing. You decide with who. Whether it be with your best friend from primary school. The girl you came out to and she came out to you too and you both realise that you are lesbian and that you both want each other or whoever! You decide.
Not the person who wants to have sex with you. If you need to be played, manipulated against your own judgment, walk away. If you did not walk away and did it due to peer pressure etc, do not feel ashamed. Many of us have gone though that and the guilt is not yours to carry, it is society’s and how they have failed us when it comes to knowing our bodies and our sexual identities and our sexual rights.
If you were raped, then you also did not consent and that does not mean that you are not a virgin or should feel that you need to continue with anything you were never ready for in the first place.
Seek help if you feel you need it by calling this number for the Rape Crisis Center in Cape town, South Africa: 021 447 9762
You decide when and where and if and how and who.
If you have any other sex-related questions for educational purposes (for yourself) you can inbox Femme - Freedom of Education Motivates Empowerment . This is my non-profit and we provide Feminist Menstrual and Sexual Health Education to those who need it.
Sexually Transmitted Infections - GET TESTED
Do you remember how, at school, the teachers would freak us all out and tell us how Sexually Transmitted Infections would come with horrible symptoms such as burning, mould on your penis, pimples on your vagina, scabs, death and so much more?
Did you know that most people will not show any outright symptoms of having a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?
Studies in the US have shown that three quarters of people with vaginas had no obvious symptoms and therefore went through life unaware of being infected with Chlamydia or until they started trying to conceive and realized they were infertile due to this untreated STI. For people with penises the number was half of those who took part in the study.
The state of Sexual Health in SA is dire, and doing these tests annually comes with a price tag many can't afford.
Today I am going for my annual tests to ensure that I know my status, not just for HIV but for a variety of infections sexually active people may have without ever knowing.
For those who cannot afford a full test Triangle Project in Cape Town has a free testing facility for Syphilis and HIV: email the nurse here -
Marie Stopes has a test called Well Woman that includes testing for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, pap smear, urine analysis, breast exam for R1800 at their CBD (Cape Town) clinic or for R600 at their clinic in Atlantis. Call their TOLL FREE number here: 0800 117785
Take care of your sexual health, friends.