No Shame, Just Sex. By Africa Brooke
(As originally featured in the Spring / Summer 2023 Issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine)
We spoke to London-based mindset coach and free thinker Africa Brooke about her journey with sobriety, and what it takes to have a healthy and grounded relationship with sex. Follow Africa Brooke on Instagram for more insight and resources on sexual liberation, shame, sobriety, and healing.
TA: You’ve talked about your journey of sobriety, and how it allowed you to release sexual shame you had been holding onto. Can you describe a moment when this dynamic revealed itself to you?
AB: It was in early sobriety when I found myself struggling to reach arousal with my long-term partner. I got sober in our relationship, and I was suddenly aware of the fact that I’d been using alcohol to numb my insecurities and sexual shame. I was shown that alcohol had been a crutch for me to get sex “over and done with”.
TA: How did you first navigate sex without the crutch of alcohol, and what helped you create space for frank, constructive conversations with sexual partners?
AB: Before having conversations with partners, I had to have the difficult conversations with myself. My sense of self was fragmented, I didn’t know my body well. I had never explored my body intentionally in solo or partner pleasure. So that’s where I had to start. Reclaiming myself as a sexual being, then getting curious about my desire and arousal in a way I’d never done before.
TA: What tips would you give someone to be honest with themselves about their relationships to alcohol and sex?
AB: Instead of giving classic tips, I’ll pose some questions which can reveal something more profound:
- How do you feel when you have sex sober versus when you have sex under the influence?
- What would it look like for you to feel truly confident during sex, without alcohol?
TA: For people who don’t have a problem with alcohol, how might they embark on a journey of shedding sexual shame? What actionable things can they incorporate into their daily life?
AB: First, get to the root of the shame, only when you do this can you then find the right strategies to support you. Two books that helped me massively in my journey were Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston and Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski.
TA: After getting sober, what is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?
AB: I’m actually more introverted and simpler than I thought! It was a shocker because I had become very good at playing the role of “Fun Time – Always On – Always Out – Party girl”. But I love nothing more than being on my sofa with a good pot of loose-leaf tea, a book, and a snuggle with my partner.
TA: You’ve spoken about the fact that you could only express yourself as a sexual being when drunk or high. How have you gone about expressing your sexuality without the “protection” of alcohol or drugs?
AB: My sexual expression starts with how I see myself, how I treat my body, how I touch my body, how I speak to and about myself. All of that has been a practice, a practice of reconnecting and holding myself to a high standard. This then translates to sex – I practice being honest about what feels good and what doesn’t. I talk to my partners in detail about our sex lives, and I share my desires and fantasies, which gets easier and easier the more I stay open and lead with vulnerability and courage. No alcohol needed! But it’s taken time.
TA: What’s one thing that you discovered you enjoy without substances?
AB: Having an engaging conversation with a group of people without using social anxiety as a reason to drink myself into oblivion.
TA: Many of us feel stuck in our routines around sex. What is something you were only empowered to try after getting sober?
AB: Tantric sex; practicing slowness, sensuality, eye-gazing, being deeply intimate and honouring the raw vulnerability that came with it.
TA: Alcohol and drugs are epitomic symbols of self-destructive behaviours, but there are countless ways to sabotage yourself: toxic relationships, obsessing over your appearance, shame, etc. How do you go about identifying what behaviours are self-destructive?
AB: Start by being honest with yourself. Are the results you’re seeing in your life in support of your well-being, or are they working against your well-being?
TA: You talk a lot about discomfort and celebrate it as a part of the process. What’s an example of a growing pain that you had to endure in order to evolve?
AB: It would have to be accepting that just because I was sober, it didn’t mean that people I’d hurt in my past needed to forgive me. This realisation allowed me to prioritise my growth and new chapter, while also holding respect and understanding for the people that still chose to support me from afar, or not at all.
TA: If there’s one thing you could tell yourself before you got sober, what would it be?
AB: Your life will not always be this way.
TA: Many women learn to see sex as something done to them, and not a shared act of intimacy in which they can actively participate and claim space. Do you think alcohol plays a role in that false narrative?
AB: Absolutely, it’s the message we get in movies, in porn, in various forms of media – we rarely see women being respected and honoured for taking charge of their sexuality. And when they do, typically they are vilified or shamed for it.
TA: When we talk about sobriety, it’s about changing the narrative. Whether you’re going sober or not, what are things you do every day to break the cycles that don’t serve you?
AB: Bear witness to your negative self-talk and commit to speaking to yourself in a more supportive manner. Your habitual self-talk can have a negative or positive ripple effect depending on what you choose to nurture. Pay attention!
TA: What questions should we be asking ourselves and our partners in order to create real intimacy and healthy sexual relationships?
AB: How do you like to give love?
How do you like to receive love?
What makes you feel the most liberated in your body?
What can I do to support your sexual liberation?
What would you like to do more of?
What would you like to do less of?