I was offered membership in a women’s social welfare group, popularly known as ‘chama’. Not that I have changed my sex or gender. No, I am still a man, a real African man.
The women granted me special membership to attend meetings on special occasions, when sex was the topic of discussion. I attended the first meeting last weekend, and it was a fun mix of business and chit-chat. We talked about low libido.
“Nightfall is a depressing time for many of us because we know our partners will demand sex, yet we do not feel like it,” said the chairlady while introducing the topic.
“Last week I just couldn’t do it,” interjected another member, “we ended up quarrelling and I was accused of sleeping with other men,” she said.
“Lucky you,” blurted another, “mine just raped me! I still feel bitter about it.”
I realised I was in for a very difficult moment, as the vice-chairlady chipped in, “I pretend that I am enjoying it just to please him.” You could hear a pin drop. “At least, that is what my mother, aunties and grandmother taught me, not the fantasy and the orgasm fairy tales some of you read or talk about everyday.” They all burst into laughter.
Putting it straight
I felt privileged to be part of this ‘chama’ but I needed to put certain facts straight. The desire for sex, also called libido, lust, sex appetite, or sex drive, varies from one woman to another. Even in the same woman, there are days when libido is high and others when it nosedives. It may be a response to the life situations a woman finds herself in.
Consider, for example, the difference in desire when you first met the man you love and years later into the relationship.
The desire was definitely high in the early days. As you continued relating, you got used to each other and the fire started dying. His touch no longer produced any sparks and in the absence of creative ways to spice up the action, the guy became no different from your brother.
For some, low libido may be due to the type of socialisation they were grew up into. It was constantly drummed into their consciences that sexual intercourse was sinful, that good girls were not supposed to have sex, and that those who had it would not be successful in life, etc. Then came the time when they had to relate with a man and have sex. All senses were already dampened and the desire was kaput.
Common in our communities today too is sexual violence. All women, married or not, are at risk. Some have been assaulted during childhood, others in adolescence, as young adults, in middle age or even old age.
It could have been molestation, gang rape, or incest. It could even have been a teacher who threatened to make you fail unless you obliged or a boss who promised a job or promotion in exchange for sex. These are painful experience that women do not like to remember. They may lead to low self-esteem, depression, and other forms of mental torture that diminish sex drive and even lead to sex phobia.
A more prevalent killer of sex drive is relationship problems. Unlike men who are mechanical in their approach to sex, women’s sexuality is closely linked to their psychological state. If a woman is not happy with you, it is unlikely that they will desire to have sex with you unless the problem is solved.
In recent times, fatigue has also become a major problem. This includes stress at work, college, or social circles.
Fatigue drains energy. A tired woman needs rest, not sex. If the man is not keen enough to notice this, he may accuse the woman of denying him his conjugal rights.
In fact, sometimes the woman may not even be having a sex drive problem. It could be that the man’s demands are overwhelming. This discordance in demand and supply is a common cause of relationship problems.
Naturally, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childcare require a lot of attention from the woman. Reduced attention to the man and a reduction in sexual desire may result from the woman putting her energies in these activities. Unfortunately, menopause follows as soon as childcare is complete. Menopause in itself leads to changes in hormones and this can also cause reduced desire for sex.
Another cause of low libido is pain during intercourse which could be due to a number of medical conditions. In addition, some medicines used to treat diseases such as depression and other psychological stresses reduce sexual desire.
Although many women are not alcoholics, those who drink know that liquor does have an effect on sex drive. A low intake of alcohol may cause excitement and increase desire, but as the intake increases, the desire wanes.
My ‘chama’ members were all attentive. We now had an idea why some of them could be having low sexual appetite. One woman wiped away tears. She told us that the discussion had reminded her of some painful childhood experiences.
It was also important that we explore possible solutions. The first solution is communication. Let your man know that you love him and you do not have another lover, that you really care and know he wants to be intimate with you, that you appreciate his love for you and would love to reciprocate.
Let him know that your spirit is willing but your body is letting you down. This open communication alone can revive sexual desire.
Also important is to solve relationship problems as they come. Do not pile up problems and hard feelings towards your partner. Let him know that a woman’s sexual feelings are closely associated with her psychological state and you would like to have a good relationship with him for a fulfilling sex life.
And if there are problems you cannot solve on your own, talk to an expert. Some problems need personalised care. A sex counsellor or therapist could be of great help. If we have to solve libido problems, we have to evolve from what our communities traditionally believed — that sex should not be discussed openly. It helps to talk about sex matters.
The women present promised to go and try out some of these ‘tricks’.
It was now time to end the meeting. Members had to go home early enough to attend to domestic chores and nurture relationship with their men to ensure satisfactory sex lives.
Questions concerning reproductive health? Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org