New Vision (Kampala)

16 December 2012

Uganda: Dealing With Sex Phobia in Marriage

One of our readers sent us a heart rending email recently.

"I have been with my partner for four years and he is the first person I have slept with. At first, I was scared to even to touch his penis, but I overcame it. The fear of sex still remains. I insist on him wearing a condom because I do not want his sperm inside me. I am usually too dry and I do not look forward to the whole intimate time because it gets too painful. Have you any suggestions on how I can get over this? My partner is supportive, but at the moment I find the idea disgusting," the email read.

This may seem like a silly question, but is it possible to have fear for sex? Is it possible that you can be put off by the idea of having sex?

Strange, but the fear of sexual intercourse goes on quietly among many married couples. "I love him, kissing me and doing everything, but when that time comes, I feel so bad. I have tried to pretend, but it is nasty" one married woman, confided to friends in one of the Facebook forums for Ugandan mothers.

There are many reasons why sex phobia occur. Some of these reasons stem from health problems that are beyond our control.

According to Beatrice Nandawula, a counsellor with Makerere Youth Counselling and Guidance Centre, the issue cuts across both men and women.

She says the biggest problem among young men is premature ejaculation or the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

"Many of them, through my counselling sessions, say they fear embarrassment, yet sometimes, it is because they are stressed or have other health problems," Nandawula said adding that today, drugs like Viagra and its generic copies may allow men to enjoy sex, but they do not always work. "In the end, one is disappointed, and shuns sex," she says.

For women, the fear of sex may happen because a disorder known as Dyspareunia renders the act itself incredibly painful.

Dr. Onesmus Kitenda, a general medical practitioner in private practice in Entebbe, says dyspareunia is caused by several infections in the vagina, the cervix and the fallopian tube.

"There are women who have cysts and they probably do not know. They have infections like candida or surgical tissues that are playing up," says Kitenda.

Kitenda further says other women may suffer from a pronounced loss of libido. This can be due to changing hormone levels caused by a number of conditions like menopause, pregnancy and menstral periods. These can affect the way a woman views sexual intercourse.

A case of frigidity?

There have been jokes from the social circles, many people tend to blame women for being frigid because of a man's hygiene or awful smell. But psychologists and psychiatrists consider the idea of a "frigid woman" to be a myth.

Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangyi, a psychiatrist at Mulago and Butabika hospitals says the coldness and disinterest that may signal a fear of sex can often be traced back to the other facets of a relationship.

"It can be a symptom of poor communication with a partner, lack of romance and excitement or stimulation in relationships. Once one step is missing, it affects another," she says. Nandawula also agrees: "Generally speaking, if someone feels "frigid", they are simply not matched with the right partner. Sex drive is wired in all of us. With the right person, the state of "frigidity" and fear disappears."

Ndyanabangyi also says sexual abuse can cause sex phobia. It is quite common for people who have suffered abuse to turn away from any sexual intimacy, because it reminds them of what they suffered.

"In sex, trust is key. When there is fear instead of trust, psychological problems and phobias may begin,' she says.

Sometimes the threat of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections can also lead to sex phobia.

Experts recommend that one should visit a psychiatrist or psychology to trace the root of the fear of sex. Sometimes, anti-depressants may be required to ease anxiety, but this should be on advice vy the doctor.

"The earlier you open up the better, otherwise your marriage breaks if there is no intimacy," says Nandawula.

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