Rebecca Jacobson
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A Series on Religion, Part 2: Sex and the Bible

September 2, 2010 @ 3:53 AM | Permalink

Malawi’s population is overwhelmingly Christian, and conversation often turns to religion. I, unfortunately, seem unable to clamp my maw when talk swerves this way (see Part 1 of this series, in which I discuss my mother’s exit from the Catholic Church). Here is Exhibit B.



As part of my research on gender issues here, I spend time with a group of young women in Ndirande, Blantyre’s most populous township. As a foreigner in Malawi, I’m often assumed to be an expert in every imaginable field, and the women call on me to answer difficult questions. Once, as they crowded into a bedroom to compare pregnancy stretch marks, one turned to me with a solemn look on her face. “Rebecca,” she asked, “is there a medicine for this?”

During another meeting, a few of the young women asked me to confirm a Biblical detail. I hedged the question. “Interpretations vary,” I said, the consummate liberal arts graduate. Mistake. Especially because the women had just asked me about masturbation. I have no idea how this entered the conversation—the discussion was in Chichewa, and I made feeble attempts to follow along—but suddenly I found myself explaining that while some might consider masturbation a form of sex, others may not. I should have stopped here, but, again, I carried on. “Some may say only intercourse is sex, while some include…uh, other types of sex,” I fumbled. And still I didn’t shut up. “Like, uh, oral sex, or…uh—”

“Anal sex!” the matriarch of the house interrupted. The young women roared.

Oh no. How did our tame discussion about problems in Ndirande turn into this? I hastily attempted (and failed) to divert the conversation.

And then, inexplicably, came the big question—“But Rebecca, you still believe in God, don’t you?”

I handled this query better. “Let’s discuss this another time,” I said.

Across the room, I could hear the matriarch chuckle. “We need to get Rebecca to church,” she murmured.

I sighed and sank into the overstuffed couch, swatting away a fly.



Coming next: the women succeed—I make it to church.


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Rebecca: I love the ending and I LOVE the second picture with the bright blue guy and the sepia tobacco. Angela

Angela Allen on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-29

Thanks Angela! The second photo is my favorite as well.

Rebecca Jacobson on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-30

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