Why Do Women Go To Painful Lengths To Please Men Sexually?

One of my favourite short story collections by a Nigerian woman is Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad by Damilare Kuku, a writer, actress and radio presenter. 

The collection explores themes like infertility, emotional abuse, infidelity and the ties that bind men and women in a city like Lagos.

It is a book I return to when I need stories about women told in a light hearted yet unflinching manner.

In one of the stories titled First Times, we see in real time what happens when young women are taught to prioritise men’s sexual comfort even when they are in heart wrenching pain. The main character Ivie had a boyfriend Idris who kept badgering her for sex. Ivie’s mum also ran virginity tests regularly on her and so she decided to opt for anal sex with him.

That scene of her having anal sex with Idris with no prior knowledge or sex education about the steps taken before engaging anal was a very painful and discomfiting read for me. She was clearly in gut wrenching pain but she gritted her teeth and moaned like the women in porn videos.

Without spoiling the story further, nothing she ever did pleased him and it took her over a decade before she left him for someone who respected her.

I have provided this backdrop to ask why women are raised to sacrifice our comfort even in sex which is supposed to be about mutual pleasure.

Why do some women who want nothing to do with acts like choking say nothing when a man tries to do that to them? Why do some women buy things like throat numbing gels to erase any pain their bodies alert them to when giving a man head? Why do some queer women who have no plans of engaging in threesomes subject themselves to that in order to please their male partners even if they are uncomfortable?

Why do some women engage in “rough sex” and BDSM even though deep down they know that those acts make them very uncomfortable? Why is it that in the quest not to be shamed as “vanilla” by their partners, some women subject themselves to things like slapping, extreme hair pulling and the involvement of foreign objects that are not sex toys into their vaginas?

Why is it that in talking about sex education, we don’t teach women that it is also important that women do not engage in acts that they are not comfortable doing? Why is it that sexual liberation discourse has now become one where women are encouraged to have sex in order to “prove” a point? 

This is such that women are engaging in activities and men they would rather not do because they want to be seen as “liberated”. Instead of encouraging women to have sex with anyone who so much as bats an eye in the guise of “liberation”, why don’t we teach women and girls to only engage people they are truly comfortable with? 

Why don’t we teach women to only accommodate people who respect women both in and out of sexual relationships and people who are intentional about our desires being met and will never be comfortable with women gritting our teeth in pain as they seek an orgasm?

Speaking with Evangeline Okafor-Ifeatu, a feminist and student, she believes it boils down to how women are conditioned.

In her words: “I think this is largely due to conditioning and internalized misogyny. A lot of women have been conditioned or groomed to see and put the needs of men first, even at the expense of their own comfort. There are women who view sex as something which is given to me as opposed to it being something to be mutually enjoyed. 

These women see sex as something which is done ultimately for the satisfaction of a man, thereby relegating their own need for sexual pleasure and comfort. Men do not subject themselves to half the pain women do to satisfy them sexually.”

She went on to say: “It also has something to do with how there’s this expectation from women to perform, even in pain, for men’s satisfaction. To me, I think it’s dangerous in a way that it reinforces the notion that sex has to be painful to be enjoyable. 

Regarding sexual safety and comfort, I’ll tell younger women that, in engaging in sexual relations, prioritize your sexual health. Do only what you’re comfortable with, and only when you’re ready. Get tested regularly, you owe it to yourself. No man is worth going through pain in order to satisfy them sexually. Don’t give into the pressure to perform, even in pain, to satisfy men sexually.”

For Raheemat, a writer and feminist, she says that it still “largely owes to satisfying men’s ego”.

To quote her: “It still largely owes to women satisfying men’s ego. Or even prioritizing a man’s pleasure over their own safety. I mean if not that why would some women be taking all sorts of concoctions and drugs just so they can be extra wet for sex. 

Wasn’t it on the internet that someone was talking about how some ladies are taking Clotrimazole for wetness or so? Your safety and health is much more important than a man’s pleasure. You should be able to enjoy sexual activities without doing things that are at your own detriment.”

Idayat, a writer, feminist and designer also highlighted the wrong side of how sexual liberation is being framed in feminist discourse.

She said: It’s often in the name of sexual liberation. It was common about a few years ago in the feminist cycle. That women must have a hoe phase to show they are sexually liberated. 

But who are they showing? Themselves? I doubt it. It’s to prove to men, and I think it is highly unnecessary.”

The last woman who gave her opinion was S.M who said: “My own is simply that they should abolish that throat numbing thingy. If it’s causing you pain, detach from it! He can fuck your…other holes. If your mouth hurts you that’s not a sacrifice to make. Your wellbeing is not on the market, think really, what are you getting in turn? (slim chance it’s an orgasm, I’ll tell you that)”.

More women need to understand that sex should not be about endless pain. We must never subject our bodies to trauma in the name of pleasing men sexually. Instead, we must endeavour to teach young girls to leave situations that do not serve them and their pleasure. 

If this is not done, we will continue to have cases where women are unhappy and even exposed to danger all because they are afraid to voice discomfort.

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