When sex becomes mere duty

Friday May 22 2020

Many women who suffer defilement in childhood or rape early in their lives tend to go numb sexually. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Janet came to the Sexology Clinic because she was increasingly getting averse to sex.

Of late she had started dreading sunsets as they ushered in nights. Nightfall came with demands for sex from her husband.

She stopped his advances and many times they ended up in a bitter exchange. “And when did all this start?” I asked.

The couple was in their seventh year of marriage. Janet was 42, Luke, her husband, was 40. They had two children, the youngest being three. Janet’s problems worsened after the second delivery.

“I have always had problems with sex,” she explained.

Janet had never enjoyed sex right from the time she got married. She got married not because of love but because time was running out.


At the time of marriage, she was 35 and could not bear the pressure from her family. Hence, when Luke approached her for a relationship she quickly accepted, and soon after they got married.

“I knew sex is important for a man and I bid my body as a duty,” she said. “I wanted him to be happy in the marriage.”

Janet had never had an orgasm. Many times sex was painful because she did not have adequate lubrication.


Her endurance was, however, at its terminal end. She could not persevere anymore. She did not enjoy sex, did not have the urge for it, she suffered sexual pain.

Sex aversion was slowly setting in. She was beginning to get traumatised by the thought of having sex and wanted to avoid it at any cost.

The couple’s sex frequency had seriously suffered. It was becoming almost impossible to have sex once a month. Luke was already complaining and threatening to get into an affair to satisfy his needs.

I dug deeper into Janet’s sex history. The outstanding thing was that she was raped by her brother when she was eight. All through her teenage and youthful years, she avoided men.

She was not attracted to them. She did not have the urge for sex. She only got into the marital relationship because of family pressure.

“Would I, therefore, be right to say that you do not feel sexually attracted to your husband?” I asked. Janet nodded, her eyes fixed into the horizon, a tear rolling down her cheeks.

It occurred to me that this was a traumatised woman. She never recovered from the incestuous rape. Although her mind pushed her into sex as a duty, her body rejected it and she dreaded intimacy.


You see, you should never indulge in sex unless you are getting pleasure from it. Healthy sexuality is supposed to be pleasurable.

If the pleasure wanes it is important to seek help. It is, of course, true that pleasure will not always be the same each day. You may not have moods once in a while but it should not be the norm.

Janet’s case was a clear case of an unhealed rape experience. Many women who suffer defilement in childhood or rape early in their lives tend to go numb sexually.

They may never have sexual pleasure unless they undergo therapy. I booked Janet and her husband for therapy. “Must both of us go through therapy?” Janet asked.

Unfortunately, sex therapy requires one’s partner support. A non-supportive partner can worsen therapy outcomes. At the same time, sex problems tend to be shared.


When your partner is going through an experience you are likely to be affected too.

There are many situations where the one who seeks care in the Sexology clinic is not the index case for the sex problem, and the root cause of the problem only becomes clear once both partners are involved.

Janet and her husband went through 18 sessions of therapy. Janet came face to face with her subconscious and the pain of the rape.

She cried for many days and when she got over it, she came into terms with her situation and was ready to reconstruct her life.

The next sessions were more of a sex coaching than therapy. The couple learnt to give and accept pleasure. Their frequency of sex went up. A few weeks later Janet had her first orgasm. It was life-changing.