Rafaella Fiallo (left) and Dalychia Saah are trying to foster a more sex-positive black community.
Dalychia Saah and Rafaella Fiallo felt like they never got the sex education they deserved. After graduating college, they decided to do something about it.
“(It) gave us the feeling of, 'We cannot wait for this country to create the sort of sex education we wish we had,'” Saah says. “'Let's just do it.'”
In 2015, the St. Louis-based duo founded Afrosexology
— a sex education platform with the goal of fostering a more sex-positive black community.
Afrosexology started as a way to give others the sex education they always wanted and to personally confront the stigmas they grew up with — but what started as a way to liberate themselves and the community become much more.
“It's so easy to think of liberation as an individual, solo activity,” Fiallo says. “But if you're not thinking about other people and how you're interacting with anyone else, I don't think it makes sense. And it doesn't work.”
Saah and Fiallo met at Washington University. They never had class together, but they were united by a passion for sex education and black liberation. Feeling “motivated” (according to Fiallo) and “unemployed” (according to Saah), the two created the Afrosexology website.
They started attending conferences, hosting workshops and posting messages of sex positivity on social media. Now, Afrosexology has hosted over 50 workshops and has a social media presence with tens of thousands of followers. Their work has even been featured in publications like Glamour
, Buzzfeed, and Playboy
Afrosexology covers topics such as self love, oral sex, masturbation, relationships and much more. While Saah and Fiallo lead the conversations, they say everyone is both a learner and an educator.
“We are not the experts of your body and your experience,” Fiallo says.
While their workshops cover a variety of topics, Saah and Fiallo say it often comes back to the themes "Am I normal?" and "Is this okay?" For many who attend their workshops, sex is surrounded by shame and stigma.
Until Cheeraz Gormon attended one of their workshops, she had never had talked with so many black women about sex. She grew up with her own set of sexual stigmas.
“It was, 'Don’t do it, and don’t come home pregnant,'” Gormon, a writer and speaker, says.
As a black woman who identifies as pansexual, she struggled to feel comfortable with her sexuality and sensuality. She used to sit at work listening to Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” knowing the words resounding with her, but being introduced to Afrosexology showed her the real impact.
“These women are filling a real need,” Gormon says.
Now, she makes an effort to center pleasure in her sex life and her everyday life — which is one of the goals of Afrosexology. Walking through the grass barefoot, feeling the wind on her skin, being present, Gormon says.
“Pleasure is very intentional thing every single day of my life,” Gormon says. “They opened that door for me.”
Afrosexology says there are many parallels between someone’s sexual experiences and the rest of the world. Whether it's someone’s job, work life, our relationship to the government, etc. Saah says, “We are socialized to think that our pleasure has to come from outside of us.”
And their philosophy is if we won’t settle for less in our sex lives, why should we do that with any other part of our life?
“How can we build a world that is catering to our pleasures in a way that isn't trivial, but is very intentional about feeling pleasure in this world?” Saah says.
It’s a way of living that helped Saah a great deal. Working on Afrosexology inspired her to quit a job she felt unfulfilled in so she could start teaching at Washington University’s school of social work.
“Centering pleasure in my sex life helped me to reclaim pleasure in a lot of other aspects of my life where I had just settled for things because they were there,” she says.
As Afrosexology has grown, it’s kept Saah and Fiallo busy. They often find themselves on the road — conducting as many as 30 workshops in one year. They have even traveled to the University of Alaska for a workshop and they are expected to attend a conference in October in Cuba.
The two want to slow down a little bit so they can work on other projects — perhaps a book or maybe some collaborations. Not too long ago they released their own line of merchandise featuring clothing with sayings such as, “Less Oppression, More Orgasms” and “Ask Before You Touch.”
They try to make every part of their work as intersectional as possible. In their social media, Afrosexology makes an effort to feature artists and work of varying gender identities, sexualities, ability, body type and much more. Trying to represent as many people as possible, they say, is the best way to have a holistic conversation about sex.
“Not having any representation, in general, is like saying they don't exist,” Fiallo says.
Saah says she and Fiallo created Afrosexology out of a selfish desire to liberate themselves, and the work has grown them a lot. But, to them, the most inspiring part is seeing how others are impacted.
“It feels beautiful to see people returning to this version of themselves prior to them being shamed, prior to them internalizing and normalizing all this sexist, racist, classist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic things that we've been told,” Saah says. “To see them be unapologetic and really comfortable within their bodies.”
“People are already on the journey when they find us,” she says.
More information can be found about Afrosexology on their website afrosexology.com
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