The Woman Who Couldn’t Have Sex with a Taureg

As a teenager during the 1960s, sexual revolution, I wanted to be a prostitute in Amsterdam – where it was legal, regulated, and relatively safe. If I had to be a sex-object, I figured I’d go all the way.

Unfortunately, the thought of being kissed by strangers made me sick. But I figured it was a matter of time. I’d grow into it.

By twenty-five, my sex life had garnered all the excitement of a soap dish. But I didn’t give up hope. Surely, my great sex conversion was just around the corner.

Then, my mom organized a drive through the Sahara. Several Taureg men were our guides and caretakers.

Camels Riders on Desert Road by Jeanne Tabachnick via Africa Focus
Camels Riders on Desert Road by Jeanne Tabachnick via Africa Focus
Tauregs were warriors. They charged across the sand, swords raised, blue and white robes billowing, dark eyes flashing. When camel wars became unpopular, many turned to the tourist trade.

One day, we stopped under a stark, granite ridge. With my geology hand-lens, I went to look at rocks.

One guide, Embarek, was funny and intelligent, with strong, aristocratic features like polished wood. He joined me. We stared at rock pieces on the ground.

“Sex is good with a Taureg.” He flashed a radiant smile that bared brown and broken teeth. All the Tauregs had rotten teeth.

Sex with one of the warrior Tauregs! It was my big chance.

“Oh, look at this rock.” I scooped a shard off the ground. “Are those feldspar crystals?”

“You must try sex with a Taureg.”

I flipped another rock with the toe of my boot and held it up under the lens. “This doesn’t have any feldspar.”

So our conversation continued.

When we returned to the Landrovers, Embarek whispered in my ear, “Tomorrow in Djanet, I’ll take you to a dance.”

“I have to stay with my mother,” I mumbled.

Could I possibly be more lame?

Embarek showed me pictures of tourist women he had “given pleasure to”. One was a leggy blond: German or Swiss. She leaned against a Landrover in khaki skirt and romantic, wide-brimmed hat.

Desert Road near Ahaggar Mountains by Jeanne Tabachnick via Africa Focus
Desert Road near Ahaggar Mountains by Jeanne Tabachnick via Africa Focus

Unmoved, I handed the pictures back. References weren’t going to help. I wished I could be like the leggy blond. Only, wishing didn’t change anything.

From then on, my life was set. I was The Woman Who Couldn’t Have Sex With A Taureg.

Today with a third of African adults HIV positive, I’m grateful, but it seemed a dreadfully hard realization at the time.

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