Love, money, friends – Njoroge and I had a great marriage. Although it was an arranged marriage, we’d never run into any trouble. We had a son, both of us were happy with our work, we hardly ever had fights. Arguments, yes. But never one of those ‘episodes’.
But there was one secret area of our life that was different. It was a topic we weren’t even allowed to mention.
We’d both grown up in conservative, middle-class households, and had subjects about which we weren’t supposed to talk openly or clearly. One of them, obviously, was sex. Sex was never an organic part of our marriage. It had always been this kind of ‘extra’. It was never meant to be an expression of our feelings for each other.
Sex would happen only when my husband wanted it.
There were so many things I saw in our sex-life, but I didn’t have the words to describe them because we never discussed it.
In the first place, sex would happen only when my husband wanted it. I never initiated it. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to – it was just not in the grammar of our relationship.
Secondly, there would be times when I just didn’t want to have sex, but he would have his way anyway. Not violently. Not cruelly, either. Just like that – because it was an unwritten rule for the woman to oblige.
Role play and bathroom sex
And when he was in a mood for experimenting, he would never ask for my say before trying out his ideas. Whether it was role play or bathroom sex, he would just assume that I would be okay with it.
I only began to get my head around these patterns recently. The change began when Njoroge got a promotion. Suddenly there was extra workload and stress, and less time and attention for the family. This was most obvious in our bedroom: sex virtually stopped altogether.
I was desperate to talk about it, but I just didn’t have a way to express my feelings.
Then one evening, I was browsing the internet when I accidentally stumbled upon an article about women in arranged marriages and their lack of sexual freedom. I read about cases much more gruesome than mine. About how wives were forced to have sex even when they were ill with a fever, or pregnant. Women in our society have too little say in the sexual side of their marriages, the article argued.
'You've been brainwashed!'
I could certainly recognise myself. Fascinated by the topic, I started avidly reading anything I could find about it, from magazine articles to research papers and feminist literature. I began to ask myself why I was like so many other women – suffering in silence. The time had come, I realised: I had to raise the topic with my husband. It was time to talk about sex. Time to have my say.
At first he said I’d been brainwashed by all the stuff I’d been reading, and become a wannabe pseudo-liberal.
But I stayed firm with my arguments, and little by little, he did begin to see my point.
So at last, we started talking about it. But unfortunately I still wasn’t seeing any difference in his bedroom behaviour.
Daring to talk about sex
Having come this far, I was determined to take the next step. I proposed we see a marriage counsellor. He refused. I persisted. At one point he even wanted to divorce me over it. But I was determined, in the end he agreed, and we went.
The idea of talking about your sex life to a total stranger horrified him (and even me, truth be told). But gradually he also started to question why we didn’t have an equal say in our sex life. And this time, it started translating into action.
The results were great for both of us! Not only did have sex a lot more often, but we also became more communicative and expressive about our needs and feelings, both before and during sex.
Today, Njoroge’s transformation is almost 100 per cent. It seems like a miracle, given that not long ago I didn’t even dare talk about these matters to myself, let alone to my husband. Njoroge now acknowledges that he used to treat me like a sexual object, as if I had no feelings of my own. And today, he’s only too happy to enjoy my input into our sex life!
I’ve learnt that conversation alone can be the starting point for every woman like me. Despite all my university education, I was bound by a way of thinking in our society that forbids women from talking about sex. The sooner we involve our husbands in this conversation, the faster we will see progress.
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