BY Manre Chirtau
I was listening to a radio talk show a few nights ago, and the case study was a woman who apparently had not had sex with her husband since their wedding night. They have been married for three years and they were sexually active with each other before marriage. As is the case in our society, the woman has run to both her family and her in-laws to complain about what was happening in her marriage. She wants children and right now there is no hope of her getting any from her husband. Her family’s response is that divorce is not an option, while her in-laws are of the opinion that she needs to be ‘patient.’ This is not the first time I have heard of situations like this: where a woman is married to man who does not meet her sexual needs, and the response is pretty much always similar: “Be patient with your husband,” “don’t ask him for sex too much or you will irritate him,” and of course there is the prayer and fasting advice. In many of these situations, the men are also unwilling to discuss the matter, and would rather avoid it. What is most interesting though is that when the sexes are reversed, the response (and advice) to the woman is completely different: “Ah! You better give it to him o, or he will get it outside,” “why do you think he married you?” “How do you expect to give him children?”
I feel this is part of a greater problem related to how we view women’s sexuality. Women are seen as being somewhat inherently sexless. As beings without sexual drive or appetite. We are seen as vessels or recipients of a man’s larger sexual appetite. It is as if there is something shameful about a woman who recognizes her sexual needs and actually steps out into the world to fulfil it. If not why should a woman not ask her husband for ‘too much’ sex at the risk of ‘irritating’ him? As if our sexual needs are less important than a man’s: “If he is not complaining that you aren’t meeting his needs then you should be content.”
Or maybe it is a reflection of the masculine (read: animalistic) characteristic we attach to a man’s sexual appetite: When a man is horny he is like an animal without control so woman, do what you must to control that raging beast within him. While a woman is supposed to be more ‘feminine’: “You are controlled, you are demure, you are not an animal, surely you can control yourself?”
Or maybe it is a combination of both these things. I mean, two of the reasons why female genital mutilation is still very prevalent in our communities are because we want to either decrease a woman’s sexual desire or to enhance a man’s sexual pleasure. No matter which way you look at it society is always sending consistent messages using various mediums: (1) women’s sexual satisfaction is not and will never be a priority, (2) a sexual woman is an ugly thing and (3) it is okay to mutilate girls’ and women’s genitals to achieve this.
Well demureness and control is all fine and good, but where does that get you? Of what point is it being married (in a society that values marriage so much), with a husband that refuses to sleep with you? The few women who decide to stand up for themselves and resist this expectation; the women who are sexually liberated enough to take charge of their sexual life, who totally own it; are not viewed with kind eyes. But that is a discussion for another day.