This study examines the use of herbal and other agents prior to sexual intercourse. This practice is thought to be common in central and southern Africa. The study comprises an analysis of the behavioural and psychological aspects of the practice. Structured interviews were conducted with 63 Zimbabwean women, 33 were attenders at an urban health clinic, 30 were nurses. Eighty-seven percent of the sample reported using herbs and other agents regularly as a preparation for sexual intercourse. The health and social consequences of such practices are examined; the problems of cervical cancer and HIV and their relation to these practices is discussed.