‘Our first sexual encounter was a mess. We were so anxious, neither of us could get an erection’: This is how we do it in Nigeria

Chibuzo, 22

We only touch behind closed doors

I have been with Ekele for nine months, but I have never so much as held his hand in public. We live in Lagos, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, so we only touch behind closed doors. Ekele dares to wear flamboyant clothing when we leave the house together, but I am more cautious. I choose muted outfits, and try to moderate the way I walk so it’s more masculine. If we both look overtly gay, people shout slurs at us in the street.

Before I met Ekele, I had only had three sexual partners, because meeting a potential date in Lagos is very difficult. Most gay dating happens via WhatsApp. Most districts in Nigeria have a secret queer WhatsApp group. If you’re hunting for a date, you scroll through the group and compare profile pictures, then contact people you desire. Dating this way is at least safe. Adding someone to the group means you are vouching for them.

Other ways of dating are more dangerous. I connected with a man on Grindr three years ago, and video-called him before I felt comfortable enough to risk going to his house. When I arrived, five men were hiding in his room, and they robbed me. My parents asked me about the bruises, but I lied about what had happened. These beatings are common in Nigeria. Gay dating apps are infiltrated by gangs, who know the men they rob will never go to the police.

Ekele and I met on X. I had an anonymous “burner” account I used for flirting, and we exchanged messages for months. The first time we met, the sex was a flop. We were both so nervous, we were struggling with the condom. Eventually, we gave up and fell asleep. I had never done that in my life before: slept next to a man, with my arms around him. I woke up convinced I was in love. We tried to have sex in the morning but I flopped spectacularly again, partly because we couldn’t stop laughing. We spent the day in bed, talking instead.

I’m no longer nervous around Ekele, so nowadays we do manage to have sex – but only occasionally. We have a new problem: we don’t have anywhere private to meet. Ekele currently lives with his parents, who don’t know about me, and I was recently evicted from my flat, because the landlord found out about us. Every two weeks, a friend – who is also queer – lets us stay with her, but we share her bedroom, so sex is impossible. We have to wait until everyone leaves the house, then do it as fast as we possibly can, while listening for the front door. I still count down the days until our meetings, because I love sleeping next to Ekele. We always drift off in the same position: he uses one of my arms as a pillow, and the other is wrapped around his waist.

Ekele, 25

I miss the intimacy of sharing living space, and being together, day and night

Before Chibuzo was evicted, I spent most of my time at his house. We were both working from home, so sex happened all the time: in the morning, between Zoom meetings, in the middle of the night. Our first sexual encounter was a mess. We were both so anxious that neither of us could get an erection. But in the first few months of our relationship, we gradually grew more comfortable, and learned how to please one another. All that stopped abruptly six weeks ago, when the landlord found out about us. Chibuzo was forced out, and I had to move back in with my mother.

These days, we are only able to have sex occasionally. We are hunting for a place of our own, but it’s very difficult. Chibuzo and I have to pretend we are siblings in order to get viewings, and if we do manage to secure a lease, there’s the constant danger of being discovered.

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Before I met Chibuzo, I was very lonely. Trying to date as a queer person in Lagos is risky. I was attacked at a hotel last year, where I’d gone for a Tinder date. The man tried to blackmail me, and because I had nothing to give him, he forced me to send a video to my mother, outing myself. I think my mother was hoping I had been forced by robbers to pretend I was gay, but when I finally got home I told her the truth. Her way of dealing with my sexuality is to ignore it. She would prefer to think that I’m “healed”, and have magically stopped being gay – so we never talk about it.

My main focus now is finding a flat. I miss sex with Chibuzo, but mostly I miss the intimacy of sharing living space, and being together, day and night. I loved being able to casually reach out and hold Chibuzo’s hand, or put my head in his lap, or touch his face. Perhaps once we finally get our own place, I’ll invite my mother round and introduce her to Chibuzo – but I’ll probably introduce him as my “friend”.


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