The Story of Sarah Baartman

Understanding the sexualisation of bodies through the story of Sarah Baartman


How is rape culture not absurd?

Why is the sexualisation of bodies normalised?

Is there a difference between sex as a need and sex as an irresistible want that makes the rationale of humans unreasonable and the bodily lust and uncontrollable urge to have a climax, even at the cost of someone’s lack of consent, trauma or even murder, valid and justified?

The answers to all these questions seem obvious, but in practice are they?

They definitely aren’t

9th August is celebrated as Women’s Day in some parts of Africa.

There is a heartbreaking story from the continent that comes to mind – the story of Sarah Baartman. Her story highlights what the condition of women was, and continues to be.

Sarah (or Saartjie Baartman) was an African woman who had genetically big buttocks who was used as a showpiece in the UK- where she was kept in a museum and people paid to see her half naked body, and with a higher price, could even touch it.

She was used as an animal in France, where she was in fact kept with animals and was asked to perform tricks.

She was sold and resold as a commodity, even to the scientists who wanted to perform experiments on her as they assumed she’s a link between animals and humans!

She was forced into prostitution, was raped, vandalised and ultimately died at a young age, the reasons for which are “not clear”.

The saddest part of this story is that her remains, particularly her genitalia, were still on display and were returned 200 years later, when she was resting in peace.

The circumstances of this story point to the routine degradation that African women have to face, clubbed with colonialism, racism and capitalisation of humans.


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Akansha Khubchandani

Akansha is a political science student, content writer and an opinionated person with a wandering brain. She does not belong anywhere yet. She hates monotonous schedules, her mind wanders through the creative, intellectual, comic, romantic and all sorts of genres and she can keep talking about anything under the sun, but she doesn’t – her introverted self doesn’t allow her to.

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