Sex Life is an anonymous Zikoko weekly series that explores the pleasures, frustrations and excitement of sex in the lives of Nigerians.
The subject of this week’s Sex Life is a 27-year-old heterosexual woman who was celibate until she got married. She talks about enjoying sex with her husband until she discovered she was pregnant.
What was your first sexual experience?
My first sexual experience was not consensual. An uncle who lived with my family raped me when I was a teenager. I had just returned from school and none of the adults were back from work. I hadn’t even started menstruating yet.
It was a violent experience that I was going to hide from my parents. My grandmother observed that something was wrong with me and asked my parents to prod. That was how I told them what happened. They got really livid and invited the police to arrest him.
My parents were going to press charges, but it never got to court. I can’t remember the details, but it seemed that either some distant family members or the police decided it was best to bury the matter. The uncle never lived with us again though.
I’m so sorry. Did you receive any kind of support after this happened?
Yes. My parents are nurses, so they were kind of aware of the kind of support I needed. Although, It wasn’t full-on support because they were also ashamed of the whole situation and wanted to bury it. So, apart from sexual health support, my parents sent me to a purity camp that their church organised.
What was that like?
It wasn’t that bad. The camp had its issues in the kind of message it preached: girls were to save themselves for marriage only for the benefit of boys. They told us that abuse wasn’t our fault, but that we also needed to be careful about what we wore. They also told us oral sex was a sin.
I would have swallowed all of these if it wasn’t for the friends I met who were opinionated and asked our tutors questions that left them stammering. The good thing is the friends I made are still my best friends today. It was through them I was able to form my own opinions about sex.
What were your opinions?
That I hadn’t sinned because I was raped. That it wasn’t my fault I was raped. That saving yourself for marriage is not for the benefit of a man. And a bunch of other things. It all sounds simple, but it was actually hard to reach these opinions. I was doing a lot of reading and studying of religious texts. I was also trying to remove the stigma and shame I felt anytime I thought about being raped.
How did these affect your sex life?
I decided to abstain from fornication and save myself for marriage. So, while I made out with people I dated, I didn’t have sex with anyone until I got married.
When did you get married?
About a year after university. I got married to my longtime boyfriend. We started dating sometime in university. We always knew we were going to get married. We were both celibate.
How did you deal with being in a longterm relationship and not having any kind of sex?
It was very hard, but we tried. We hardly spent time together alone in private spaces. If we had to, we always had some kind of third wheel with us.
So what was married sex like?
Even though I had been reading about sex since I was a teenager and was kinda ready to have it, I was still pleasantly surprised. My biggest shock was that it wasn’t painful. I can never forget the pain of being raped as a teen. That pain was in my head when we started having sex.
The first time was actually bad. We weren’t lubricated enough, so we just got frustrated and went to bed.
Then there was the problem of not knowing what worked for the other. There’s a bit of beauty and frustration in discovering someone’s body for the first time, and that was pretty much what it was like for us in the first few months. We got to discover the power of my clitoris only after a month of being married. We were having sex quite regularly, but half the time, it was rubbish.
Once we got the hang of each other’s bodies and understood what worked and didn’t work, it was amazing from there. And we explored too, as long as it was not against our beliefs.
What do you mean?
It’s hard to find useful information or tips to make our sex lives as Christians more interesting, so my husband and I had to come up with our own idea of fun and exciting.
We once went on a vacation outside the country and had sex in a public space — not public, like market or road. Forest public. We did a lot of that since we both find it exhilarating. Sex in the car, sex in water, at the office, etc. We sometimes role-played. We were very big on finding new sexual positions and made a game out of it.
You use the past tense to describe your sex life. What’s it like these days?
When we got married, we never planned to have children. Not until my early 30s at least. But somehow, we got pregnant and didn’t know until I was five months in. If I had known earlier, I probably would have gotten an abortion.
Having a baby was going to ruin my career and other parts of my life. I got married early, so I really wanted to be very independent and build most of my career before I turned 30. Interestingly, I didn’t even consider that having a baby would mess up my sex life. It did.
I started hating sex around the time I was 8 months along. My husband tried everything he could, but I just found the thought of sex quite repulsive. But before this time, we were still really enjoying sex and with my pregnancy, the number of times I could orgasm in one round was anything from one to four. There was no time I had sex that I didn’t orgasm. I was also really energetic and was having sex a lot.
Then all of a sudden, there was nothing. I wasn’t responding to my husband’s touch or even trying to initiate sex. We decided it’ll pass after the baby came. It didn’t. At first my husband was very patient, and I was very worried. Then he became frustrated and I became indifferent. He wanted me to go to the hospital and I really didn’t want to because what exactly would I say? I had been googling it and most of the stuff I read said it was perfectly normal.
So you’ve not spoken to a professional about it?
Well, I did, very reluctantly, recently — that’s practically 9 months after giving birth. The first doctor I saw told me to give it time. He even laughed it off as stress. I saw a couple of different doctors that said something similar. Then my husband said we should see another doctor in a different hospital. A woman.
First thing she told me was that I’m not crazy, that a lot of women experience this low sex drive after or during pregnancy, after menopause, etc. She prescribed drugs that didn’t really work, then referred me to a therapist who suggested I might have something called hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
So it’s basically a disorder where you don’t feel motivated to have or initiate sex. In some cases, you might lose all sexual attraction to your partner. She says it might have been triggered by pregnancy and childbirth, but that she also believes being raped when I was young has a connection.
What are your symptoms?
In my case, I just don’t want to have sex, it’s repulsive. Anytime I have sex, I’ll just be counting down. I actually once told my husband to go and have sex with someone else out of annoyance. I didn’t care.
The therapist prescribed some therapy exercises, like us just spending really physical and intimate time together without having sex. We’re currently trying them, but it’s too early to say if it has solved anything.
She said if this doesn’t work, we’ll consider options. I’ve been reading obsessively about the condition online and asking ‘why me’ — after going most of my life without sex, this happens? Anyhow, in all, we thank God.
So how would you rate your sex life?
Maybe 7/10 because when I was having sex, it was lit. I’m just praying that this problem is resolved.