Friday, December 4, 2009

Our very own senga

Getrude Mungai, the Nairobi sex therapist, during the interview with Lifestyle in her office on State House Avenue, Nairobi. PHOTO/ CORRESPONDENT

Getrude Mungai, the Nairobi sex therapist, during the interview with Lifestyle in her office on State House Avenue, Nairobi. PHOTO/ CORRESPONDENT  

By CAROLINE NJUNG’E

She sparked quite some interest, and controversy, when she introduced her ‘unusual’ trade in a considerably conservative society seven years ago.

When Getrude Mungai introduced herself as a sexologist, many Kenyans probably had to reach for their dictionaries to find out exactly what the term meant, because this was an unheard of profession in the country – why would anyone want to make a career out of teaching others how to have good sex?

“When I came onto the scene, there was a lot of interest, and skepticism in equal measure – a little of this still remains,” says Getrude, disclosing that as much as she has a considerable following that appreciates and respects what she does, she has to battle opposition almost on a daily basis.

For instance, some mothers wouldn’t allow her to talk to their daughters while a number of schools have denied her permission to talk to their students. They politely rebuff her by asking her to go through the Ministry of Education.

“I am not only a professional, I am also a mother and the last thing I would do is teach children the art of making love – I am a firm believer that sex belongs in marriage, however, the fact is that our children are having it, and someone needs to give them a sober talk about irresponsible sex,” she says.

As if on cue, her phone rings, and excusing herself, she answers it. She listens for a few seconds then says,

“Anne, you’re too young to be having sex…how old is your boyfriend? 17…he does what when drunk? Are you sure he’s 17?...he’s 28?”, the conversation goes.

When she eventually hangs up, Getrude informs me that the teenage girl wanted advice on how to handle a boyfriend who sexually assaults her whenever he takes alcohol.

“This girl is just in Form Three and is already in an adult relationship with a man who’s much older.”

This, she discloses, is just one of the many agony phone calls from youngsters that she receives on a daily basis and is an indicator that young people are desperate for information which they are not getting from the very people who should be giving it to them – their parents and teachers.

“The girl-child’s future looks bleak and unless we stop the denial and start giving them some hard facts about life and sex, they have nothing to look forward to nor fall back on.”

A few weeks ago, Getrude again took the less trodden path and launched a DVD targeting women who want to “improve their marriage, and spice up their love life”. The DVD, titled Modern, Sexy Woman, was unveiled in a well-attended gathering at a Nairobi club.

It covers a host of topics, all targeting the woman and include how to look presentable and attractive for your husband, how to turn the fireworks on in the bedroom as well as how to handle finances.

In a segment that might raise a few eyebrows, a couple simulates several sex positions and in another, a young woman performs a suggestive pole-dancing routine. But Getrude believes that those who might have a problem with this are just being hypocritical.

“Many Kenyans pretend to be holier-than-thou when it comes to bedroom matters yet in the real sense, we long crossed traditional sex boundaries – today, we have countless strip joints for instance, couples practise swinging; ( swapping sex partners) it is no secret that married people, who record the highest rates of HIV/AIDS, have multiple partners - just what is conservative about us?”

To understand more about Getrude and what she does, we engaged her in a Q and A session which turned up interesting insights on the Kenyan woman, her man, and her marriage.

Just who is Getrude Mungai?

I am a wife, a mother and a business woman. I am married to Peter Mungai – we just celebrated 11 years of marriage this year. I am 35. We have two boys who’re 10 and six years.

I am passionate about cooking and in fact studied food and beverage production at the Kenya Polytechnic years before I started doing what I now do. I have a restaurant in Westlands called Mla Leo. I come from the Coastal region and grew up in a small town called Frere.

It takes two to tango – why do you target women alone yet it takes the contribution of both husband and wife to make a marriage work?
Women are more receptive and more willing to learn–most men believe that they know it all and to them, seeking advice or paying for a session is akin to admitting that they have a shortcoming.

However, I believe that by imparting my skills to women, I reach their husbands too since there’s no doubt that they will share what they learn. It is also important to point out that even though they’re reluctant to meet me face-to-face, men call me more than the women and visit my website more.

What are the common marital challenges that women consult you about?

Infidelity comes up a lot, and many women blame themselves when their men stray. This is unfortunate because there is no ‘good’ reason for a man to cheat.

Those who blame themselves feel that they don’t give their relationship their all due to factors such as a demanding job which gradually makes them lose touch with their husbands and children. These women normally want to know how they can rescue their marriages.

Money is also a major issue. A frequent complaint is that men are poor providers and due to this, women end up paying all or most of the bills in the home. The result is a bunch of resentful women who no longer respect their husbands. There’s also poor communication – many couples just don’t know how to talk to each other, which creates misunderstanding.

Quite a number of women complain that their husbands don’t observe hygiene – they are reluctant to take a bath or a shower, and yet expect their wives to look forward to intimacy. Women would also like their husbands to spend more time with them instead of going out every night or every weekend with the boys.

What about the men?

They mostly complain that their wives starve them sexually, that they’re not good homemakers and that their cooking skills leave a lot to be desired.

What advice do you offer women on how to handle finances?

I encourage them to pool resources and use the amount to pay the bills, especially where the wife earns more. This way, it feels like a collective responsibility and the issue of who paid what bill doesn’t come up. Interestingly, money is rarely a problem where the husband earns more than the wife, but when it’s the other way round, a rift is likely to occur, in fact, some marriages break because of this.

So, are marriages where the wife earns more than the husband doomed to fail?

No…such marriages can work; there are many successful ones out there. However, whether it works or not depends on the woman’ attitude. She should be humble and refrain from letting everyone know that she gets the bigger pay and pays the bigger bills – this just alienates the husband and makes him feel insignificant. That she earns more should be a secret between her and her husband.

By now, you must have tapped into the psyche of the Kenyan woman – what would you say is her greatest shortcoming?

She’s too competitive with her man; one would think he’s her rival. Kenyan women are also too aggressive and want to have their way at whatever cost, and men don’t like this. She doesn’t want to be answerable to her husband yet when he cheats on her or leaves her for another woman, she wonders why.

Some women also have their priorities wrong. When they find out that their man is cheating, they go after the woman and some will even stoop as low as verbally abusing her or worse, physically beating her – My advice to such women is ‘open your eyes! The problem is your husband, not the woman he’s cheating on you with’.

But men do have their shortcomings as well?

Of course. Some men abscond their responsibilities at home and wouldn’t think twice about cheating on their wives. What they don’t know or don’t want to accept is that these days, their wives have turned the tables – they have picked up the art of dogging from the men and have perfected it, such that the man will never find out – in fact, he might just be raising children that aren’t his.

Where lies the solution?

Men should start meeting their wives or girlfriends half-way by learning to become better providers, better husbands and better fathers. Women, on the other hand, should make an effort to understand their husbands – understand his language of love. Some men show their love and appreciation for their wives by showing up in the evening with a big piece of meat.

If you don’t like his language of love, show him yours instead of sulking and accusing him of being unromantic. Put him first even if in your priority list he doesn’t come first. Treat a man well and he will move heaven and earth for you. Food is also important to a man, so put some thought into what you prepare.

What have you learnt about the Kenyan marriage?

That in spite of the challenges that couples face as they try to navigate their way through marriage, they genuinely want it to work and are willing to do just about anything to make it work. But a lot of women have unrealistic expectations about marriage; they think that it will be no different from dating. They also expect their husbands to do everything for them without them reciprocating.

Besides offering private sessions, you also get invited to bridal showers – what else can a wife-to-be hope to learn from you?

That she should never try to separate her husband from his family or try to stop him from assisting them financially. I always advise women to give their in-laws a chance and to especially go out of their way to treat their father and mother-in-law with respect, in fact, suck up to them if you have to. You don’t know what they sacrificed to bring up that man that you love so much, and for that alone, they deserve your respect.

Remember that your husband and his mother will always share a special bond, and you should therefore never treat her as a rival or force your husband to choose between the two of you.

My mother-in-law and I have a very close relationship, in fact, my husband knows better than to wrong me because all I have to do is turn up at her house looking sad because he’ll get a tongue lashing. As for brothers and sisters-in-law, I advise women not to hesitate to put them in their place when they cross the line.

Other topics include how to balance the relationship once children come into the picture, how to keep sex fun and exciting as it can get stale over time and how much responsibility a wife should bestow on the house help.

What is a sex contract?

This is where the couple gets to explain what they desire from each other. It is a loving, fun way of requesting what you want from your partner, and not just sexually, but in other areas related to marriage as well.

Your DVD targets the “modern, sexy, woman” – who is she?

This is the career woman who is also a wife and a mother, and has to balance all these multiple roles and still manage to fit in some personal time for herself. Fulfilling all these roles can get overwhelming, which is natural since there is only so much that one can do. But some women feel guilty when they feel like taking a break from their families.

My advice is to regularly take time off to recharge because you cannot give love if you’re constantly tired and bogged down by too many responsibilities. Go somewhere for a day or two, (with your husband’s support of course) and spend a little money on yourself, you’ll come back feeling relaxed and ready to focus on everyone else.

You often say that women should be a one-stop shop for their husbands – what do you mean?

She should be everything to her husband – his wife, friend, confidant, lover – everything. Why would such a man want to stray if you’re all these things?

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If you want to know more about Getrude and what she does, as well as how to get her DVD, visit her relationship website, www.tetezzo.net

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