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SEXUAL HEALTH: Decoding bedroom body language

Saturday March 16 2019

Many couples are unable to read their partner’s sexual cues, resulting in frustration. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Many couples are unable to read their partner’s sexual cues, resulting in frustration. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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I have come to contend with the fact that values on sex are as varied as the people who are sexually active.

As such, some prefer marrying a virgin while others have to engage in sexual intercourse during courtship.

I was therefore not surprised when Jack came to the Sexology Clinic to seek help for what he described as a crisis of a lifetime.

“We have been dating, and we have even set a date for the wedding but I am sorry it won’t take place unless she allows me to have sex with her beforehand,” he explained.

The two love birds had known each other for two years. James, a lawyer, was 28 years old and working for a private law firm. Janet was 25 years old. She had graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree but was yet to secure a job.


“So I presume your values are different in this respect, maybe Janet would only want to have sex in marriage,” I said, trying to figure out what the diagnosis could be for this couple.

Jack, however, shook his head vigorously in response.

“This woman has had sex before, she has had a boyfriend before,” he quipped.

I asked him to bring Janet along for the next appointment. I needed to get to the bottom of this matter to be able to offer help.

Janet, an elegant soft-spoken lady, was the opposite of Jack in terms of personality. She was shy and calm.

“I have never refused, he is the one who avoids me,” she explained, “I have felt rejected, and have actually been wondering if he is normal.”

After about 30 minutes of interrogating the couple, I concluded that they were experiencing what most couples suffer these days — difficulty in knowing if your partner wants to have sex. In many relationships, couples go for days on end, each party hoping that the other will make advances. They end up in sexless marriages, emotionally drained and feeling rejected because their lovers are not making the first move. “You see, I would not want Janet to accuse me of forcing her to have sex,” Jack interrupted, “can you imagine being accused of rape by someone you intend to marry?”


Janet stared into the distance, obvious embarrassment painted all-over her face. She avoided eye contact with me.

“I have made sure that we are alone and vulnerable in private places but he simply stayed away from me,” she said, “what else was I supposed to do?”

Her eyes welled up with tears. She fetched a white handkerchief from her bag, blew her nose and wiped the tears. She was for sure frustrated.

But the issue of consent for sex has become more complicated these days.

Many couples feel that it is not romantic to verbalise and pronounce to your partner that you want to have sex.

At the same time, some women say it is in order to occasionally push the man away because ‘always making yourself available and ready can be misinterpreted to mean that you are cheap’. Yet still, when a woman says she does not want to have sex, it can be misinterpreted to mean that they want to be persuaded. Some men will therefore be a bother because the more a woman says no, the more they push harder for sex.

Many people, however, hope that their partners can read their sexual cues. This may be in the way they talk, show care or dress. They hope that their partners notice these cues and take action. For them this is giving non-verbal consent.

“I have tried all that but Jack just does not have a clue of what a woman’s seductive moves are, I still think he is a bit abnormal,” Janet said.

“Do not say that,” Jack interrupted, “we have had a court case where a man had sex thinking that the woman was inviting him and in fact the lady never said no to his advances; the judge convicted the man of rape, ruling that not saying no does not necessarily mean saying yes!”

But our culture also plays a role. Most women will not initiate sex because it is not culturally appropriate. At the same time a man may not be able to read the cues, and thus keeps off.

The result is a sexless relationship, frustration or even divorce.

“Can we agree that whenever I feel like I want sex I will go ahead and initiate it, and you will not join the #metoo campaign?” Jack asked referring to the global campaign against sexual violence.

Janet nodded shyly avoiding eye contact.

“And if you can talk about your feelings to each other, that would be for the best to avoid misinterpretation of your partner’s intentions,” I said as Jack hurriedly fetched a wedding invitation card from his laptop bag, handed it over to me and waved goodbye, while literally pulling Janet out of the room, seemingly eager to go and put to action what they had agreed on.