Thursday May 1 2014

Things don’t look that good in your neighbour’s bedroom

His authoritative gentleman stature steps out of his Mercedes S-Class, He walks through the corridors like there is a spring mattress beneath his Clarks. He carries a bouquet of flowers, a pack of Lindt chocolate and an occasional gift for his sweetie, as he prefers to call her.

As he walks into Tina’s office, his smart phone in hand, he smiles at everyone he meets, greets them by name, a tip here and there for the gatekeepers and cleaners, politely greets the receptionist and before his conversation ends, Tina flies out of her office, gives him a rib-fracturing hug, plants a hot kiss on his lips before the “Hi love,... missed you” exchanges start.
He hands her the flowers and chocolate. Her reaction is the same… “Thanks babe, what would I be without you?” A few tears roll down her cheek before he kisses them off and they head out to lunch. Jimmy is a true God’s gift to womanhood. Everyone at Tina’s office knows him and envies the girl.

Pheeeew! Welcome back to reality, because in real life, this is a movie script. Everyday, we are bombarded with soap operas (I don’t know any by title), erotic movies and magazines, all showing very beautiful women with great physiques, donning nice-fitting clothes, macho men with good jobs, driving sleek cars and with an excellent sense of humour. These couples are deeply in love. After a walk at the beach and a glass of wine, they retreat to their beach cottages, the corridor and bath tub littered in roses. The man then gives his partner an erotic massage, and then one thing leads to another.

For you, it is the total opposite. It is over even before it starts. Maximum sexual satisfaction is a story of the past or only for some lucky people, if you know what I am talking about. But do you know why there is a huge difference between you and these perfect couples?

Yes, these people are actors who have been trained and paid to act and you are paying to watch them. These people are not living the real life that involves respectful love, care, children in the house, school fees, traffic jam, extended families, beeps from wedding meeting messages, mother-in-law, the bad boss, pregnancy (how many such movies are acted by pregnant women?), rent, pot-holes, you name it. They live in a movie script.

Now, when it comes to sex, you will be surprised that Jimmy and Tina’s sex life is inversely proportional to their PDA (Public Display of Affection). It is very human and natural to want to be like Jimmy and Tina, but unfortunately, when it comes to sex, it is unrealistically overrated. Stand warned that what you see in public is not as true as it looks. PDA is not an indicator of true love and great sex.

I have been lucky to participate in and facilitate a number of forums where sexuality is discussed; bridal showers, couples’ retreats (mainly Christian) and women and men seeking better sex in their marriages. One very common trend I have noted is that people always create an image that all is perfect when it comes to their sex life. This leaves many listeners feeling helpless and inadequate.

Unfortunately, most people have the illusion that everyone else apart from them is having very good, pleasurable and enjoyable sex. Surprise, Surprise! You could be the only person in your environment having somewhat good sex.
On a daily basis, I encounter many men and women who express their feelings of inadequacy in their sex lives. Be informed that there is no gold standard for normal sex. Even sex therapists do not have a clear cut standard for normal sex. It is all dependent on the involved parties and who is assessing - the one who sees the glass as half-full, or the one who sees it as half-empty.
The movie Annie Hall is a great illustration of this discrepancy. At their therapist’s office, Mr Allen’s Alvy Singer complains: “We hardly ever have sex. Maybe three times a week.” Annie Hall then laments: “We are constantly having sex. My God, maybe three times a week.” And this is what happens in real life, not in the movies where everyone has the same sex drive.

So, what determines our sexual behaviour?
Sex is a mental process. It starts in the brain. It does not exist in isolation; a lot surrounds it. The quality of the relationship - the emotional intimacy, communication skills, respect, trust and understanding all contribute to good sex.

Our sexual behaviour is dependent on various factors; our attitude towards sex, our values - shaped by family and society, what we have heard from peers and what we have seen and read.
Psychological factors; If one has ever been defiled or raped, their orientation towards sex most likely is not the same as one who has not been in this situation before. This requires a very understanding partner.
Physical factors like the health status and hormone levels of an individual also determine their reaction towards sex.

Sex is not a football match where the two parties are competing for a trophy.
As Janet Wolfe says, “When we talk about having sex together, we are not just talking about the mechanical pushing of each other’s buttons. As long as his manhood and other sensory nerve endings are hooked to his brain,…. and your body and brain are in sync at that moment, then you are ready to have a great sexual encounter.”

How to get through
• Good and honest communication is the root of any successful relationship.
• Make it a habit to exchange pleasantries with your partner, this keeps them motivated and in a good mood.
• Transparency and honesty in all spheres of your lives including finances.
• Learning each other intimately, the turn-ons and turn-offs. This makes it easier to know when trouble starts creeping in and find solutions.
• Limit the impact that third parties have on your relationship such as relatives, work, and school.
• Seek help from experts when things go wrong!

what to do
According to, a fulfilling sexual relationship isn’t dependent on frequency or specific sexual behaviour. But strategies need to be derived to deal with a large disparity in sexual desire. This may require the help of a therapist, especially if the problem has existed for long. The therapist might suggest that the person who has low interest in sexual intercourse shouldn’t be pressured to participate. However, one way to deal with it involves the partner with the lower level of desire being willing to provide sexual satisfaction for the other partner in ways that don’t necessarily involve sexual intercourse.

Dr Phionah Atuhebwe is a sexual
& reproductive health specialist