Today, I had to go to the market to find an appropriate vegetable for a condom demonstration. Last time I did a condom demonstration, we had some handy penis models that looked diseased and terrifying. This time, the penis models are in Dakar (and when I say penis models, please know that I mean wooden penis figurines, not men paid to model their penises), so a little improvisation is required. Hilarity ensued when I went to the market on this mission. Here is a sampling of some conversations I had, translated from Wolof.
Me: Oh hey homegirl, Yacine! My favorite vegetable lady!
Yacine: Mame Diouma! I haven’t seen you in so long! What’s up?
Me: Not much. I need a penis.
Yacine: What? You need tomatoes?
Me: No. I need a penis. (points to genital area). Man. I need a penis.
Yacine: You need... a penis?
Me: I’m teaching about condoms today and I need a vegetable to use as a penis.
Me: What do you think? Carrots?
Yacine: Yeah, definitely look at the carrots.
Me: But these turnips look like penises too.
Yacine: Yes, the turnip can be a good penis. 200cfa.
Me: I only need one penis. Which is a better penis?
Yacine: Hmmm... the turnip.
Me: You don’t think this turnip is too big?
Yacine: No. This one is a sweeter penis. (winks at me)
The fun continued later, when I realized I could walk around the neighborhood telling people I had a penis in my backpack. I think a lot of people assume that living in a predominantly Muslim country, sex is taboo. I guess having sex is kind of taboo, but trust me, there is no better way to earn the love and respect of neighborhood women than to start explicitly joking about penises and vaginas. And so this conversation happened:
Fatima: Mame Diouma! Girl! I miss you, I haven’t seen you in so long!
Me: Oh, I’ve been around.
Fatima: Are you going to the school to teach today?
Me: No, I have a community lesson to do. I have a penis in my backpack.
(Fatima gives me a blank look)
Me: No, seriously. I have a penis in my backpack.
Fatima: You have a penis in your backpack?
Me: I have a penis in my backpack.
Other random woman: HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH
Random woman #3: HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAH! SHOW US THE PENIS! SHOW US THE PENIS!
(I produce a black plastic bag. Fatima holds in her hands but seems hesitant to open it.)
Me: It’s for condoms. To show people how to use condoms.
Fatima: Whose... penis is it?
Me: Just open it and see. Just look at it.
Random woman: OPEN THE BAG, SHOW US THE PENIS!
Random woman #3: WE WANT TO SEE THE PENIS!
(Fatima opens the bag and reveals the turnip)
Fatima: What?! This turnip is way too big to be a penis!
Random woman: This penis is not realistic at all!
Me: Dude, the lady at the market told me it was the sweetest penis! I wanted to choose the carrot!
Fatima: This is not a good penis.
Me: Well I can’t return it. I’ll just eat it later, we can cook it with rice and fish.
Fatima: Next time you need a penis, come talk to me.
I’m glad I have such great friends like Fatima in the community. Hopefully, next time I have to purchase vegetables in the market that resemble penises, she can help guide me through the process. In the meantime, I’m still confident in my current choice, because I think it is aspirational and perhaps even a little intimidating. Today should be the best condom demonstration ever! Wish me luck as I embark on our weeklong Men As Partners tourney, where I’ll be working with other volunteers to host our Language and Cultural Facilitators in leading discussions for local men about health, sexuality, and being a man in Senegal!