Why Sex Therapists are misconstrued –Sharon Anene
Anene Sharon Ifeoma is a professional sex therapist. She became a therapist in the year 2020 and made it official in 2021. From all indications and her increasing number of followers on social media, Sex Therapy must be a lucrative job. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, Anene, who was the best graduating Geology student in her department in University of Port Harcourt, speaks about the job of a sex therapist, the misconceptions about the job, why there is so much sexual violence and the signs to note when someone is gradually becoming a sex addict
When should people or someone seek out a Sex Therapist?
I always say immediately you have a problem. Do not wait for some time to figure it out. That is the job of a Therapist. When you feel sick, you go to the hospital and the doctors tell you the problem. You don’t try to guess right? It’s the same thing. Once you’re raped, harrased or have sex issues with yourself or partner, don’t wait; talk to a Therapist immediately.
You know the mind is a very powerful tool. When you dwell on it, try to analyze, maybe talk to the wrong people, you build up anxiety, shame and guilt. You start getting triggers.
There is no shame in what is happening. You be amazed to know you are not alone. Compulsive Sex Behaviours (CBS) is another area people feel shame because of misinformation. Please speak to a professional immediately. We are so many in Nigeria.
Why do some men resort to rape before they can get satisfied?
There are many theories out there that give some explanations to the causes of sexual violence which include rape, molestation, sexual harassment, stalking etc.
A few of these theories are: Sadism traits, power, anger, socioeconomic, ethical standards, laws, evolutionary pressures etc. It has also largely focused on men and has ignored female perpetrators and oh, they exist! Rapists can be any kind of person. Diverse backgrounds, social status and different personalities and mentalities.
Most of the times, it is one or more of these that can cause someone to resort to rape: Lack of empathy, narcissism, feelings of hostility, toxic masculinity, anger and aggression towards women because they were wronged, rejected or abandoned by women or because they want to dominate or show power. Peer pressure too can also set men up to become offenders.
Paedophiles and Child Abuse is on the increase. What can be done so that children who have been molested would not become perpetrators in future?
A child, who is abused, is more likely to abuse others as an adult, so that violence is passed down from one generation to the next. It is critical to break that cycle of violence. The first thing is to take the child to therapy. Parents or guardians and even the public should avoid child maltreatment. Do not abuse or beat the child. Be supportive emotionally, physically and mentally. Also, teaching them about the laws governing us.
Let them know that offenders go to jail.
As a Sex Therapist, have you encountered some of these challenges people open up on in your own sex life?
Oh Yes! That I am a Sex Therapist doesn’t make me less human. I am flesh and blood too. I have experienced dry spells in my sex life. I have been raped too. It is one of the main reasons I also became a Therapist. I, first hand know the feelings. How it can change you. I healed and I’m better today.
So, my goal is to help every victim heal, but most importantly, help the perpetrators stop that evil act. They are my core focus. I have experienced a lot. That is why I am real and big on Therapy.
We have heard people being called Sex Addicts, nymphomaniacs. Are they mental illnesses?
Can it be cured and at what stage can someone say a person has become a nymphomaniac or Sex Addict? Hyper sexuality/sex addiction is an obsession with sexual thoughts, urges or behaviours that may cause distress negatively. It can affect health, jobs, relationships etc. The person finds it hard to control compulsion towards a sexual activity, extremely frequent or suddenly increased libido. Initially, it was still controversial whether to call it a mental illness until recently, around 2018/2019, it became a pressing issue and this year 2022, we would now say it is A Mental Disorder.
It is a very rare Mental Health Disease. Usually, it is a right brain anxiety driven sexual OCD. We know all addictions begin at least, as short term anxiety relief. Nymphomania and Satyriasis used in women and men respectively are becoming out dated words. Let’s stick to Hypersexuality or Sex Addiction. Yes, it can be treated but the person is required to visit a Sex Therapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist or a doctor.
Treatment plan may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, Group Therapy, Support Groups, Inpatient Treatment, Couple Counseling and Marriage Counseling, Eye Movement desensitisation and Processing (EMDR), one on one with a Mental Health Professional. Medications too may be involved like selective Serotonin reputable inhibitors.
There is a lot of work involved. So, you see why Professionals must be involved. It’s not something only prayers can work. Some of the signs of Sex Addiction include: Obsessive Sexual Thoughts, spending excessive time on sex, feeling shame, regret or depression, masturbating excessively, excluding other activities, excessive cheating on partners, committing criminal sex offences, engaging in risky (unsafe sex or inappropriate sex behaviours) constant visit to sex workers, multiple partners without emotional attachments.
You have to display a pattern of sexual activity as a reaction to their period of trig-gering moods. For example, when they feel depressed and use sex as a way to deal with stress. The person must have tried to stop it when it’s becoming a problem but have failed when it has also interfered with relationships, works or other important aspects of life. At this point, you are an addict and should be bold to seek help.
Did your parents support you when you said you want to be a sex therapist?
Oh! Yes. My parents were overly supportive. I told my mother first and she was strangely excited. I expected them to react differently but they shocked me. Every time I have discussions with my parents, they always say this your Therapy job is good o. So, yes, they have been supportive and proud of me.
What made you become a Sex Therapist?
So many things but to keep it short, I will say that empathy is majorly the reason. I always had people who felt free to talk to me about their worries or issues they were facing generally and I would just give an honest opinion. Almost all the time, I got a good feedback afterwards.
Does it seem awkward to tell people what you do for a living, when someone asks?
Not at all! Actually, I’m more excited to tell you about my job than worried about what you feel. It’s usually even amusing for me because I like to see the expressions on their faces; the surprise, the curiosity, mixed feelings. They usually want to know more. So, I end up doing free education about Sexology and the long list of jobs in my field. To be very honest, being a sex therapist is not an easy job. I wouldn’t use the word stressful because there is some passion in it for me. So, it comes with a grace and ease. Remember, we are talking about people’s lives here. These are their true stories. I just try to help them live their lives in a more effective, happier, satisfying way. I enjoy every bit of what I do, no apologies or regrets at all.
For many people, sex is a taboo topic to talk about. How do you get them to talk, especially in Nigeria where we aren’t vocal about it?
Yes, sex is a difficult topic to discuss, which is not supposed to be. Different factors come into play that make people shy away from talking about sex, religion. Social, cultural factors are among the many reasons. Sex should be a regular topic; the same way we talk about politics, religion, beauty, etc.
The easiest way to start the conversation is be the first ambassador of my job. Once you see me, you will somehow know what I do. It is not something I try to mask. I’m very vocal about Sex Therapy. Along the line, you get comfortable if you were initially stiff. Naturally, I’m open minded, non- judgemental, open to learning, empathetic. People want to talk to people that won’t look at them in a certain way and can correct them in a kind way.
So, that has helped me get people to loosen up. On Instagram, I give funny sex Education, talking about real things in a funny way. So, you laugh and learn. Sex and its discussions should be fun, not abstruse.
What do you say to a young man or young girl new to sex?
I always say, be of age and be ready to handle sex. Sex has its complications, and it’s responsibilities. If you are of age, when you find a partner, mutual consent is key. Respect is important; then, communication, listen and talk, share mind before body. Be involved. Focus on enjoyment and not the performance.
What are the biggest or consistent sex problems you have heard?
They are Rape/Assault, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, circumcision in ladies, Sex Addiction. Those are the regular issues I get to handle. ‘
What is the most weird problem you have seen?
At the moment, it’s Paraphilic Behaviour (sexual disorder). There is a wide range of about 500 or 600 different sex disorders. We have “Necrophilia”, which is the desire to have sex with dead body.
“Paedophilia”, which is more common, the urge to have sex with kids. “Bestiality”, this has been happening but recently came to light in the Nigerian media, which is sex with animals. The only way to curb it is to stop the perpetrators’ physical behaviour and that is Therapy.
What are some of the challenges that comes with being a sex therapist? Hmm!
This is the part that is the downside of the job but I am speaking for myself. Some strange people don’t understand sex therapy is a proper job. Like your bankers, engineers, doctors, Lawyers etc. Sex Therapy is a professional job. Most times, they confuse you for a sex worker.
Other times, you have the group that just want to book for therapy, hoping for a relationship but one of my rules is that I do not date my clients. It is that serious for me. Let’s not talk about what my eyes sees in my DMs on social media. So, there are down sides, but people are coming around with proper education. They are learning. Ignorance is actually a disease.
Any last words about the myths people have about sex?
Sex isn’t a sin or a crime. Discussing sex doesn’t make you a bad person. So, seeking help too makes you smarter than the rest. Empathy would help us build a better world and to those fighting something daily. You are not alone and you will definitely get better. Start the step today.
Which part of Nigeria are you from?
I am from Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha-South LGA of Delta State. I attended Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary school, Port Harcourt; then Junior and Senior Secondary was Federal Government Girls College Abuloma, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. University was Uniport, studied Geology and emerged the Best Graduating Student in the department.
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