Today I saw a tweet about 60-year-old women not needing sex, and I shook my head not just because this is ridiculous, but because it applies only to women.
My mum called me one day and as we talked, she mentioned that a certain member of her church (where I grew up) was remarrying. I was shocked. “Is it not yesterday Aunty died?” I shouldn’t have let that come out of my mouth; I should have known what would follow. “Hmm, my dear, that’s men for you o. If it was sista do you think she would even have remarried, not to talk about this quickly?”
I had been mildly upset that he was remarrying so quickly, but my greater annoyance at the end of that phone call was not with him. It was with us, women, and the role we unwittingly play in perpetuating the myths that keep us bound. From the time I was a little girl, I heard and saw things that I struggled to make sense of. I would sit around while older women talked about issues, and learn things that made me wonder how I would ever fit into society. From a tender age I suspected they were either myths, or I was strange.
“If tosay na woman wey hin husband die, you think say she for marry again?” “For where!”
Listening to the discussions that usually followed such assertions, you would draw the following conclusions; women don’t really like sex, and they just do it to keep the man satisfied. Consequently, whereas a widower would need to remarry- sometimes quickly- because of his sexual needs, a woman has no such needs and should therefore stay unmarried for the rest of her life. Also wrapped up in this is the fact that the woman is nobler, purer and more worthy of praise than the man, because she does not need sex.
When I was a newlywed my mum always reminded me, “Never deny your husband sex.” And I would laugh, and laugh, and laugh, because I couldn’t say to her, “Mummy forget that thing, I need am pass the guy sef.” She would be mortified.
I know there are many women who have yet to embrace their sexuality. One wife told her husband, “I’ve given you a son, I’ve given you a daughter. Sex for what again??” When he tried to make her see reason, she said, “Please I am not one of those spoilt girls.” If I hadn’t heard this from the frustrated hubby himself I wouldn’t have believed it.
A few weeks later I was at a meeting for women and an older woman seated beside me pointed to the lady who had just taken the microphone and whispered, “She ought not to have remarried, because of her position and her age.” I was aghast. The lady in question was a widowed ordained minister who had married a widower gentleman, in the Lord. I did not even know she was in her early sixties; she looked to be in her late forties. Who made these rules, I wondered? Had she stopped functioning as a woman simply because she was a minister or because she had reached 60?
Am I saying every widow should remarry? No. I am just saying that a woman who remarries is not committing any crime, and neither is the one who chooses not to. Women have physical needs just as men do, and people are different, male or female.
Some women remarry not for physical intimacy but for financial stability, or companionship. There’s nothing wrong with that.
A lot of women also have valid reasons choosing not to remarry, many of which I applaud. Some stay unmarried to safeguard the future of their children (many African cultures are complex and usually not in a widow’s favour), some stay unmarried for the simple reason that no other man they have met can fill their late husband’s shoes.
But please, don’t come and tell me you felt no need to remarry because you don’t have sexual needs and that this makes you more virtuous than the woman who does.
Acknowledging and celebrating your sexuality as a woman is one of the most important things you can ever do. How did we embrace this “sex is for husbands” rubbish?
I blame the older women for this. I understand that female genital mutilation tampers with a woman’s sexuality, hence many of them did/do not enjoy sex. I also understand that some husbands are unskilled and their wives get little or no pleasure. What I do not understand is the perpetuation of the notion that women who love sex are not normal. One older woman actually told me, “Those ones are dogs.”
No be all old women sha. I remember living in the home of a couple who are close friends of my parents, about a decade ago. I spent most of my time with the children, but their octogenarian paternal grandmother (now of blessed memory) was living with them, and the woman had stories! Mostly stories about the places she had travelled to as a young woman, but sometimes funny stories like the time she went to fetch water and a guy asked if he could look at her breasts. It was the relish with which she told those stories that amused me. She took such delight in them, I suspected she had been a sensual young woman. Then one day, she confirmed my suspicions.
My mum came into town to spend the night with us, and she didn’t come out of her room till late morning. I knew she had been praying, but Mama didn’t even think about that.
“Ah, you’re finally out. I didn’t know your husband was around o.”
I think my mum knew where she was headed but feigned ignorance. “Ah, Mama, what would my husband being around have to do with my not coming out of the room? I was praying o.”
“What kind of question is that? I thought your husband was around and you were having sex.”
“Since morning, Mama?” My mum asked.
“Yes now, when my husband was alive, even after he was done I wouldn’t let him come out. I would ask him to stay inside.”
The look on my mother’s face was priceless, hahaha!
Mama wey sabi! Rest in peace ma’am!
I wrote this article last month. It was first published on sabinews.com