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 today’s Sex Life is a 26-year-old heterosexual woman whose obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has affected her ability to have sex, explore and maintain romantic relationships.
When did you first become curious about sex?
When I was 19. From the moment I could tell what sex was — which was when I was about 10 or 11 — I told myself that I was never going to take part in it. This wasn’t even about waiting until marriage. I just found sex flat-out disgusting. But when I finished university — at 19 — I felt like I’d wasted my life playing it safe. ‘So what if it’s disgusting’, I asked myself. ‘Do people die from it?’
Do you know why you found sex so disgusting?
When I was 10 or 11, I watched a porn clip at my cousin’s house. It just seemed so dirty, so painful and generally too much. I stopped watching it immediately and subconsciously decided to never do it, even though my cousin kept insisting that it was nice and she couldn’t wait to grow up and try it.
So, why did you feel like you’d wasted your life at 19?
Lots of things. But the tipping point was answering an essay question on my Masters application: “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done recently?” I know they didn’t mean it in a sexual sense, but it got me thinking about my life in general. I had played it safe in a lot of different ways and I was tired of being safe. I had never even made out with someone at 19, when my younger sister at 16 was making out with different boys on the regular.
Wait. You had never even made out?
Yeah. Saliva irritates me. My relationships never lasted because I wasn’t interested in making out. At some point in university, I just decided to stop dating. There was no point.
Yeah. So when I decided I was ready to stop playing it safe, I started reading about sex. Funny thing is, I didn’t read a lot about the actual act once I realised the number of diseases I could get once I started having sex. These things never really clocked before, but reading the articles online, I started wondering why anyone actually engaged in sex at all, given all the risks.
As I was reading, I remembered that porn clip I’d seen years ago; in my head, I was the woman. I couldn’t break away from the thought. I tried, but I couldn’t. When I finally could, my body felt sore; there were goose pimples all over me and I was so irritated. I instantly went to take a bath.
Wow. That’s interesting.
It felt pretty normal to me back then. I didn’t realise or think too much about it until I went to school for my Masters. I was telling a classmate who wanted to be housemates that I don’t think I can live with anyone because I’m a clean freak. And she asked, “Is it that bad?” I told her about how I didn’t eat my mother’s food because I just wasn’t sure how she made it.
I told her that I scrubbed my house clean every other day. This is a whole ass story on its own, but, thinking now, I should have suspected that I had obsessive compulsive disorder. But nope, it didn’t click. Not even when this classmate I was talking to brought it up. I was like, that’s white people stuff. She’s white, but wasn’t offended. I immediately apologised though. I was quite ignorant.
So you have OCD?
I do. But I didn’t know this for a few years after. After that conversation with my classmate, I went to research OCD, but I dismissed the possibility. I told myself I didn’t have it. A few months later, I met someone who I liked in class. We spoke for a while and then I invited him over. I really wanted to have sex. Everyone was going on and on about sex and I wanted to know what was so special about it. Then we started kissing and I suddenly felt like throwing up. It was so embarrassing — I did throw up, first on him and then in the toilet.
Oh wow. I’m sorry.
I felt awful. I didn’t come out of the toilet for long until he left. Then I just took a good long bath and washed my mouth. Ask me if I stopped there.
Nope. I invited him over again. Told him that I’d had a bad case of food poisoning. I apologised. Before he came over again, we flirted a lot. He told me all the things he wanted to do to me and I started to look forward to it. I got a lot of beer — even though I didn’t drink — because I wanted to be a little tipsy while having sex.
Did it help?
Yeah. It did. That and blindfolds. I just had to wear blindfolds, I didn’t want to see what was happening. I made sure he wore a condom too.
How was the sex?
It was good. Not great. Good. I spoiled the mood by crying when I came. I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t explain why I was crying. It completely killed the mood, so he went home after. I then decided that yeah, maybe sex isn’t for everyone. So I didn’t bother again.
Has that changed?
Somehow. Being diagnosed really helped. While I told myself, “maybe sex isn’t for everyone”, it was simpler to say than to believe. I truly felt like I was abnormal. I’ve had people tell me to go see men of God. Not just because of the sex, but due to my all round fear of stuff. Identifying the problem and getting on medication has helped.
How much has medication improved your sex life?
Only a little. So I started taking medication three years after school. And because I started to feel less anxious and obsessive about stuff, I decided to try dating again. I went on my first proper date at 24. I didn’t tell him I had obsessive compulsive disorder at first, so he took some of my nervousness as first-date-nervousness. When I did tell him about my OCD, he was so kind. He’d do things to make me comfortable like take his bath and brush before and after sex. We only had sex at my house, never at his. I really liked him, so I also tried to let my guard down, to meet him halfway.
How was the sex?
Really good. Great actually. I curl my toes every time I think about it. The first time was great because the head he gave me was amazing. I enjoyed kissing him. Subsequent times were good, but that first time? I’d kill to have it again and again. Unfortunately we broke up for something unrelated.
Did the relationship last a long time?
8 months.That’s my longest relationship till date. Second man walked away when I told him I had OCD. It was subtle, but I knew that was why he was no longer interested.
Not as bad as the one guy who wanted me to go down on him in the thick of the moment even when I explained that I just couldn’t. For context, he already knew that I had obsessive compulsive disorder and that while my symptoms had reduced due to medication, I still couldn’t stand a lot of things.
He acted like he understood, but when I refused to go down on him, he forcefully made me give him head. He probably would’ve raped me if I didn’t start crying at some point and his erection died.
I’m so sorry you had to experience that.
Yeah. I see people romanticizing OCD all the time, but they don’t know the half of it. All this I said is just about sex, but what about going out in public? Hanging out with friends? There are so many things I want to do but can’t do just because of this thing. I want to be able to explore, to date and be happy. But I can’t.
I’m so sorry. So you’re currently not dating?
Not after what I experienced with that guy. I mean there’s someone in my life, but I don’t know if it’ll ever become more. Sometime late last year, I started experiencing a side effect of my OCD medication: lack of interest in sex. It occured at the same time I’d wanted to start exploring masturbation. But it just wasn’t happening.
So I went online to read about this. It is a common side effect. In the course of doing that, I somehow learned about cognitive behavioral therapy and how beneficial it was. So it’s basically like exposing me to my triggers and then learning how to deal with those triggers. My dad actually paid for me to go abroad to begin treatment but then Rona happened.
Eesh. Speaking of Rona, here’s a question unrelated to sex: how has Coronavirus affected you?
It’s been super crazy. The lockdown started in March, but I haven’t gone beyond my street since mid-January. Every time my parents or siblings go out, I use the safety guidelines used for health workers on them. I clean almost every day too. On the other hand, it has also pushed me into learning how to manage my symptoms. I don’t respond to every single fear. I deactivated my Twitter, so it suddenly feels quiet in my head. I journal and do yoga. I recently ordered some dildos and I’m hoping that I’ll actually be able to explore masturbation soon.
That’s good to hear.
Thank you. I know your next question is how I’ll rate my sex life, but the truth is I don’t rate it. I hope it gets better when I start CBT. I’m not very optimistic, but we’ll see.