“Sex is large, sex is life, sex is as large as life so it appeals to anyone that’s living, or rather it should” -Grace Jones
From virtual classes, to in-person interactive workshops, and seminars taught by sex experts — Afrosexology has taken the world of sexual exploration to new heights, and made a safe space for us, by us. I had the pleasure of sitting down with co–founder Dalychia on a sunny, chilly day in BK to discuss the roots of Afrosexology, liberation, and all things kink 101.
Dalychia Saah and Rafaella Fiallo were both graduate students at Washington University when they met at a party, bonding over their interest in discussing all things sex. Being two of the few Black students at a predominantly white university, the lack of unfiltered conversation surrounding Black sexuality became more prevalent to them. More specifically, the lack of conversation happening about self-pleasure and sexual exploration amongst people of color.
They wanted a safe space filled with like-minded learners and educators all with a common interest in liberating themselves from societal standards of what sex should look like or how it should feel. So they decided to create it themselves.. That year in 2014, Afrosexology was born. Nine years later, Dalychia and Rafaella have taken their interests to new heights and shared their love for love with over 100,000 people.
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TJ: Why specifically, did you choose to express liberation in the form of sexual exploration and pleasure?
Dalychia: “I was in a lot of activist-oriented communities and when we have conversations about freedom, about what we want, a lot of it is centered around the absence of pain, and not really the presence of pleasure. We want cops to stop killing us, we don’t want to be assaulted and raped. Our freedom is basically not having pain put on us all the time, and I want more than that. I want to have a good time with life so I figured out ways to get people to think and talk about what they want [sexually], what their fantasies of freedom are, and what it felt like sex.
The body and relationships were a good way to do that because people do want to talk about it! And the other reason is, so much of what we play out as individuals is based on a model society set for us. When you look at the foundation of this country, consent is nowhere to be found. Within sexual pleasure, there’s a lot of skills that we need to practice throughout society; we have consent, boundaries, and being able to ask for what you want. For us, sex and relationships feel like a really safe, fun and pleasurable place to really practice some of these skills that we see are missing from our society.”
TJ: For those that may not know about your message, how would you describe to them what Afrosexology is and what it represents?
Dalychia: “So our business goal is to create spaces for Black people to explore what feels good to their bodies in spaces that feel safe, shame-free and really center their pleasure. We never want people to feel like they have to be ashamed of their desires or the things that make them feel good. We want people to feel curious. We want people to feel safe to take risks and explore, and so we try to cultivate a space for us to be able to do that and to explore and share and grow together.”
TJ: Being that POC aren’t as widely represented in sexual liberation, and the kink community still being somewhat of a taboo, were you ever afraid of how your message would be received?
Dalychia: “I mean, I was definitely afraid of that because I didn’t grow up in a black community where people talked openly about sex at all…like at all. We were often taught that that’s private stuff and you don’t talk about it in public so I was nervous that it would be. I know most people know of Afrosexology because of our Instagram but, our first love has always been in-person experiences. When we started hosting workshops we were like are people even gonna come? Are they gonna trust us? And honestly, it was overwhelming love and support from the beginning.
People were hungry for these spaces and really wanted to be a part of these spaces, really wanted to learn and share their desires. We’ve had people ask why sex overall is so hard for them, why it is so hard to ask for what they want, why they feel so ashamed of masturbating, and because we don’t talk about sex, [they’re] struggling alone and feeling like something is wrong with them was hard, So, we’ve always had love. Our online community is one of my favorite communities, because our comment section is full of people sharing resources and sharing support with each other. It’s such a shame-free place on the Internet for me [and them] that I’m really proud of.”
TJ: When sexual exploration is discussed, the conversation often turns to activities that are outside the (vanilla) sexual norm. How would you describe what kinks are and how they differ from the type of sex most people are exposed to?
Dalychia: “That’s a good question, and I understand why many people have it. So, kink is really subjective and it changes over time, like you could probably talk to people a couple of generations back, and they would say oral sex is kinky. When I was growing up, people who were hetero were not eating ass and now talking about anal play has also become increasingly normal. We’re oftentimes taught, or what’s the model for us, is that sex is about procreation and that leads to the way the media shows sex where you kiss, there’s penetration, and then you orgasm, which is what I would consider vanilla sex.
I think kink really invites us to play, and to play with erotic energy in so many different ways. It invites us to be more creative and use our imagination more. For some people that could be getting a massage with a feather, being blindfolded, or role-playing different scenarios. This is where some people even experiment with pain and submission so it’s a chance for us to think about all the different things we can do with our bodies. Things are shifting and things that were considered kinky ten years ago are normal now. A lot of people are having kinkier sex than they think they are.”
TJ: It’s funny because I remember having a conversation with my grandma and she mentioned that there was a point in time where women getting their p**** ate was not a thing, whereas now, it’s extremely normal, if not expected for some people.
Dalychia: “Oh that’s interesting! I love your grandma for that! When I think about when I learned that it was okay to get my p**** ate it was because of the song ;My Neck, My Back.’ And when we speak about musical influence we have to mention women of the Blues genre. Because of slavery, you had these black female singers that were unafraid to say what it was they wanted sexually and to take that power back.”
TJ: Kink can often be confused with fetishism. How do they differ?
Dalychia: “From a kink perspective, it’s more about not trying to place judgment on if something is good or bad to do. It’s more about the act being, and if a person wants to be fetishized for their weight, or their race, because there are people like that in the kink world. People want to play around with the differences between their bodies, but that’s always talked about and negotiated beforehand.
So to me, it’s really about communication. It becomes a problem when one person is seeking out someone else based on one specific characteristic they have and not being honest about what they want.”
TJ: What advice would you give to those who are interested in exploring the kink side of sexual pleasure but aren’t sure where to start?
Dalychia: “I love this question. A lot of us maybe don’t explore our fantasies as much, so take time to reflect on what it is that gets you excited. If you watch porn, what is the category you always go to? There’s so many clues in our erotic minds when it’s time to think about what we want, even look back on your sexual history and think about the things that people did that you really liked.
Another way is you can play with kink on your own and this is where I am always going to recommend for people to do solo sex first. One of the workshops we did with Jet Setting Jasmine, she showed us how to self-dom so, there are ways you can explore by yourself. You can go to a kink party if you find one and just observe. You don’t have to play if you don’t want to. So I would just encourage exploring your fantasies and trying out different workshops to help you get started.”
TJ: When searching for a more kink-experienced partner, how would one go about vetting a partner prior to any sexual contact?
Dalychia: “This is another thing I love about kink and the way that they play with power, specifically with BDSM. I think a lot of people feel like a dom person just does whatever they want to do to you, like if they want to spank you, they’re just gonna spank you and it’s not like that. Actually a sub is a person who says I want to be slapped or I want this. So, a good dom is someone who is interested in what it is that you want, somebody who understands what your limitations are, and somebody who is invested in communicating with you.
You want to feel a sense of mutual respect and open communication. A negative sign is just someone who has no regard for your boundaries or your safety because they’re more than likely not going to listen to you during play and that could be dangerous.”
TJ: What goes into sexual negotiations?
Dalychia: I think this is the most important part about kink, because we’ve been taught to have sex with just chemistry. There’s no communication, we just know what we want from each other, whereas if you are looking at people who are practicing in the kink world, there is so much communication. So when it comes to negotiations, you may ask what are we doing? What do we both, or all want to do? What do we not want to do? What are our limits? What are the things that we’re open to trying to see how it feels?
Safe words and negotiating safety are important too. Like if we’re going to tie each other up, making sure that you have scissors nearby in case you can’t get the knot undone or protecting each other from STIs by using condoms. For safe words, some people use red light, green light and yellow. Green means I want to keep going because I like this, yellow means we need to slow down and check-in, and red means I don’t want to do this at all. Essentially it’s about maximizing the pleasure for everyone.”
TJ: What exactly is aftercare and how does it fit into sexual exploration?
Dalychia: “Aftercare covers the things you do after playing with each other to restore balance and come back to a state or normalcy. There can be huge power differences in certain kink scenarios so, you may need to cuddle after and recite affirmations to one another. You may need to clean up or maybe we need to take a shower together or go get food. Some people may need a butt rub if spanking was involved. Often outside of the kink community, after sex people kind of just roll over or they’re on their phones so I love that kink creates a space for people to connect when playing is over.”
TJ: Many people forget that sex is a vital aspect of mental health. How has Afrosexology maintained the bridge between the two?
Dalychia: “We position sex as a part of your wellness. If you are a sexual person, that is a part of you feeling like your whole self. So with Afrosexology, we try to make sure we have more nuanced conversations like how trauma shows up in sex or how depression impacts sex. We try to talk about all these different things and how mental health challenges can show up in and affect your sexual self.
We definitely feel like sexual liberation, being connected with your body, and honoring your needs are all about being our whole selves. That is mental health.”
TJ is an Atlanta native and a senior at New York University double majoring in journalism and politics. When she’s not studying or writing she enjoys reading, indulging in the arts and traveling the world. TJ can be reached at via Instagram and LinkedIn.