Reasons for a sexless marriage

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023 10:20 | By
Love & Lust: How to deal with emotional disagreement
Couple In Bed. PHOTO/Internet

When Ruth* and her boyfriend felt amorous, Ruth was swift to mute illumination from windows and light fixtures in their shared apartment.  Her explanation to him was simple and believable: She was creating a sensual environment for both of them. This was not true.

In fact, Ruth’s frantic effort was to obscure her boyfriend’s gaze from her body so that she could relax.

“Intimacy was just impossible for me unless it was done in ‘darkness’. I would be completely disengaged if it happened where I was seen. I was too embarrassed to tell my partner,” she candidly revealed.

Towards the turn of 2022, her three-year-old relationship terminated sending the 29 -year-old to a counsellor who instead of helping her reconcile with her boyfriend’s departure, helped her unpack her sexual dysfunction.

Societal stereotypes

It was established that her uneasiness and inability to surrender to sexual intimacy was a result of growing up in a family with strict, conservative ideologies of sex, which continued to shroud her adult life.

“We have grown up in a society with different stereotypes that will influence our outlook on sex. If you grow up being told sex is dirty and immoral, you will have inhibitions when expressing it to your partner. You will not freely give yourself to a partner,” said Prof Catherine Gachutha, counselling psychologist and chairperson of the Kenya Counselling, and Psychological Association (KCPA).

Prof Gachutha shares how a good number of Kenyans are plagued by sexual malfunction or are unable to completely yield to a sexual experience.

Data from the US-based National Library of medicine shows that about 43 per cent of women and 31 per cent of men experience sexual dysfunction.

The causes are broad and interlinked according to Prof Gachutha who classifies them as either biological, medical, psychological, or physical. The most obvious ones to the layman are erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low libido, painful sex (dyspareunia ), vaginismus (uncontrolled closure of the vagina ), and age.

Others that are less apparent include past sexual trauma, unhealthy relationships, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and chewing miraa, which significantly impact sexual activities.

Sexologist and relationship therapist Josephine Kioko terms sexual dysfunction as the inability to achieve sexual fulfillment for a period running three weeks of being sexually active.

Sexual trauma

Experts attempt to measure sexual dysfunction using experiments from past studies that explained sexual function. One of them by Masters, Johnson, and a team of researchers identified excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution as the four stages of sexual response.

The research is viewed less favourably against that of Rosemary Basson in year 2000, which is more comprehensive stating that desire can be responsive to something (or someone ) or spontaneous and may come before or after arousal.

It also recognises that orgasms have the potential to contribute to sexual satisfaction, but are not necessary— and that one can be satisfied with non-sexual rewards such as feeling safe and closer to a partner.

“Sexual trauma such as rape and sodomy may deny an individual the ability to be with a partner,” said Josephine.

She continues: “So, when trauma happens at a young age and these people do not get psychological support, they develop anxiety that runs throughout their life. Such people will either not sustain an erection or likely experience vaginal dyspareunia (painful penetrative sex for women).”

Women and men experience sex differently- men are aroused instantly, while women are ‘led to desire intimacy’ offers Josephine.

“About 75 per cent of women will not get an orgasm through penetration. I advise men in relationships to get to know their women well. To engage in foreplay, form warm cordial relationships to satisfy the women,” she advises

The same is true for men whose libido is substantially swayed by the nature of their relationship. “If as a man you come home to a wife who yells at you, is disorganised, fails to take care of you. The desire to have sex with them will not be there. And that is why you see a lot of men hanging around in clubs until late because their homes are not peaceful.”

Josephine further says she sees numerous cases of unhealed FGM procedures that have left women sexually traumatised and unable to engage in sex.

“Majority of women who have undergone FGM end up healing poorly. In turn, their libido is low and they lack vital organs for sexual stimulation,” the sexologist says adding how such women may develop psychological vaginismus among other complications.

She shares how she is increasingly seeing cases of people who present with premature ejaculation as a result of chewing miraa (khat). “You could be chewing miraa and just begin to ejaculate this extends to sex where you ejaculate prematurely,” she shares

Spread of STI /Aids

Because of these barriers to sexual satisfaction, Josephine says the likelihood of the sexually transmitted disease is heightened as individuals move out of their committed relationships to partner with people whom they perceive to be sexually compatible.

“You could be in marriage thinking that you are safe, yet your husband or wife is out there having sex because he/ she does not feel satisfied by you,” she says.

She goes on: “It is important to know your partner’s sexual energies and date people a bit longer before you get married so that you do not end up with extremely varying sexual interests.”

There is hope for sexual malfunction and in most cases, it can be reversed using therapy, diet, and abandoning some practices and vices.  “As a society, we should not shy away from such topics, we need to talk about them. There is therapy, and medicine to address most of these challenges,” she says.

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