We have all heard that sex sells. And we see it everywhere we look too. It is the basis on which many Kenyan women, particularly the tech savvy, are building their brands. A quick peek at the television and the internet, it is easy to think that because they are basking in their sexuality, women around the world are utterly fulfilled in the bedroom. But is this the case? With regard to sexual intimacy, is the Kenyan woman truly living her best life?
To find out, we took to the streets talking to women of all ages around the country. From our conversations with these women, we stumbled onto a rather depressing secret – The Kenyan woman is feeling dissatisfied and insecure about her sex life. And that when it comes to intimacy, many see the men in their lives as having lack-lustre skills.
“I need two things to feel fulfilled. There is the emotion and then there is the technique. I have had amazing connections. The technique on the other hand, is a story for another day,” confesses Rachel N., 29.
“I have faked sexual fulfilment through entire relationships,” shares Linah Hawi, 32.
“I’m just going to say it. There are movies and videos out there and a lot of talk but when it comes to the bedroom, most of those I’ve encountered seem to have no idea what they are doing,” shares Maureen Wangeci, a Nairobi based Deejay.
The phrase ‘maintenance sex’ is what Shiro, a married mother of two from Nakuru uses to describe how sexual intimacy has been for her the last decade.
If findings of a recent study conducted on women around the world are anything to go by, the grass isn’t greener on the other side either as mediocre sexual experiences are a problem the world over. According to the Women’s Wellness Survey conducted by Website Everyday Health, women the world over are feeling unsatisfied with their sex lives. This is 63 percent of millennials, 69 percent of generation X’ers and 75 percent of boomers.
With racy images all over social media and even our television and the society evolving into more liberal relationship dynamics like polyandry and throuples, it would add up that desire is not a problem for the Kenyan woman. So what is the problem?
It was different with other generations
The little research available shows that things with our fore fathers might have been different. A few generations ago, sex and sexual health were openly discussed in sanctioned spaces or through song and dance. As they entered adulthood, young men and woman were taught about what counted for as acceptable behaviour in adulthood as well as their sexual anatomy and sex not just for reproduction but also as a means of pleasure. Kamba young women, for instance, learnt from their grandmothers and aunts not only what to expect sexually but also sexual enhancement. Through these spaces, men and women who were sexually confident were created.
This was before missionaries docked our shores and we developed a prudish attitude towards the topic making sex a taboo topic. Today, little is taught to youngsters about sex beyond abstinence and pregnancy and STI prevention. With all this mystery sexuality has become a thing that young people can only explore from either their peers or the internet.
This means that young men and women are entering adulthood without even understanding their own reproductive anatomy.
According to a recent study by Intimina, a Swedish woman’s health company, after interviewing 2000 women across the globe, only one in 10 women passed the anatomy quiz. A whopping one in four could not properly name and locate parts of the external female sexual organ. This is where the problems begin.
Knowledge based technique
Last year, as reported by Daily Nation, Patrick Holt the Pfizer director of regional health announced that Viagra, known medically as, vasodilator, was among the most ordered drugs on Kenya’s online pharmacy platforms. Viagra is approved for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in Kenya and a Prescription-Only-Medicine (POM).
In January last year, the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) also warned the public against the use of sexual enhancement drugs without the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. This warning came amidst a string of reported deaths of men from all around the country from the use of sex enhancement drugs.
“That so many men are dying means that these drugs, originally intended to treat erectile dysfunction are being misused by many who do not have erectile dysfunction seeking to nip their performance anxieties and prove their virility,” sexual experts note.
“Two years ago, I dated a man who leisurely used Viagra. He thought it would make him better in bed. He thought that the quality of our relations was pegged on how long he could last in bed and the longer he lasted, the prouder he was. It’s an experience, you can’t reduce it to just how long he lasts. I didn’t know how to tell him this,” shares Grace Miana, a 33-year-old hotelier in Kiambu.
Like Grace’s short-lived boyfriend, the Kenyan man seems to be confusing virility also termed as having a strong sex drive and being able to last long and applying other skills during intimacy, with their partners being fulfilled.
According to the Kenyan women and the experts, they are wrong. Maurice Matheka, a Nairobi based sexologist lays out two factors responsible for the quality of sexual intimacy – knowledge based technique and emotion based intimacy.
“Knowledge-based technique is a combination of the physical factors that come with intimacy and the mental aspects like knowing what to say to them and the timing on when to say it. It’s also about learning to delay your climax to give them more pleasure. This one can be learned and improved through personal experiences,” he says.
Matheka further explains: “Emotional intimacy on the other hand, is the closeness and sense of safety that you feel with your partner. This one is not learned but can be improved over time. While knowledge based technique can result to a fulfilling experience, the most wholesome intimacy performance happens when these two factors fall together.”
Maurice equates our current state of things to having a chef and a random person walking into the kitchen to prepare a meal. The way he sees it, the food prepared by a chef will be tastier because the chef is trained and knows exactly what they are doing.
“It’s the same thing with sexual intimacy. We are reliant on being in love. We assume that because we are in love, the sexual experience with this person will be good. Knowledge and love should go hand in hand,” he says.
His prescription is that we all need to be re-socialized. Even as we emotionally bond with our partners, we all need to take classes where we understand our anatomy and condition our bodies for optimal experiences.
Other countries are doing this. In the US for instance, you will need to fork up to 275 dollars (Sh31,805) for an hour long kissing lessons. How keen are Kenyans on being trained on how to get intimate with their partners?
We threw this question to our dipstick study subjects drawn from all around the country– ‘Would you pay 3k an hour to be taught how tokiss?’ we asked. They all unanimously answered that they wouldn’t. Why? Because they assume that they know how to.
This is despite Google statistics showing that among the top searched topics in the last 15 years, ‘How to make love’, ‘how to kiss’ were a constant, sharing the same rank with ‘how to write a CV.’
That pornography consumption (and creation) has taken root in Kenya is old news as it’s now just a tap away on our phones. According to a 2018 report by Similarweb.com, which gives online traffic rankings, internet users in Kenya have a growing appetite for pornographic content and gambling. The world’s top four pornography websites rank higher among Kenyan audiences than their global averages.
Things have gotten so bad that last year, a bill was in 2021, Hon Aden Duale proposed bill in parliament seeking to block access to pornographic websites by all persons within Kenya. This hasn’t happened yet.
A spot check by Saturday Magazine revealed that for as little as Sh100, you can walk away with a Kenyan-made porn DVD from down town Nairobi. How does this easy access and subsequent consumption affect how we get intimate with our partners?
According to Nicholas Nasombi, a Nairobi based counseling psychologist, pornography consumption can lead to unrealistic expectations in the bedroom not knowing that many of these images in blue movies are staged and magnified.
“Porn sex is very different from real life sex,” he cautions.
Joy Sambu, a 31-year-old social media manager concurs.
“I felt like he did not see me, she says of a man she dated not too long ago who regularly indulged in porn.
He was constantly trying to practice the things he saw making their relations feel mechanical.
“There was no intimacy. There would be no touching, or cuddling and talking after,” she says.
Nelly Ng’etich whose current partner chronically consumes porn says that most of their intimacy encounters feel borrowed. Like they are not unique to their relationship.
“Sometimes it’s like we are following a script where he is aggressive and not patient enough and I am left hanging,’ she says.
Chronic consumption of porn comes with even bigger problems. According to Nicholas Nasombi, the counseling psychologist, too much porn can desensitize a man making it impossible for him to be excited by ordinary encounters. It lowers libido, finally leading to erectile dysfunction.
Recent benchmark research from Johns Hopkins School of Public health in the US found that up to 20 percent or erectile dysfunction cases the world over is directly linked to the consumption of pornography.
Body language is not communication
Sexual intimacy should be wanted and always consensual. According to Grace Kinuthia, a psychologist, sex therapist, NLP coach and the founder of Jitunze Wellness, for a woman, sexual satisfaction varies from age to age and many women will experience sexual dysfunction at one point or the other.
She attributes the current crisis to a lack of skill and peer pressure.
She reckons that peer pressure has men trying to keep score of their performance and trying to ensure that the experience is electrifying and earth shattering each time while women are under pressure to ooze sex appeal in unrealistic proportions all the time.
The other issue is making assumptions about your partner’s needs as they age or go through different life stages. The assumption that a woman’s sex drive declines as she ages, she says, isn’t true. For most women, the opposite is actually true. The only way for men and women to stay on top of things, it’s to communicate their needs through the different life stages.
“When someone asks you what makes you happy, most people will have a list of precise things that they like or don’t like, are you able to say the same about your sex life?’’ she quizzes.
“You need to talk about these things. Really talk. Remember body language, giving your partner a certain look is not talking,” she adds.
Nicholas Nasombi, the counseling psychologist adds that beyond the bedroom, these conversations should be had with the health providers.
“Despite what you may think, sexual satisfaction is part and parcel of your general health and wellbeing. You can’t just shove it in the back. If you’re having issues in your sexual health, you should bring it up at your next wellness checkup. If your gynecologist or your doctor isn’t able to offer a solution, they will definitely point you in the right direction,” he advises.
The sex life of the Kenyan woman might look bleak at the moment but it looks like with a little help with the Kenyan man’s skill set and clear communication from the woman, we might get back on the happily ever after band wagon.