From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Mrs. Ify Asia-Chiemeziem hosts writing seminars for young Nigerians. She is more widely known as a sex therapist. She has had over 15 years of experience in her field.
In this interview, she reveals the reasons marriages are hitting the rocks and how couples could oil the wheels of their sex lives.
You have been involved in guiding young people in terms of writing, how has it been?
When young people see me sell my books or when they download them, they always want to know how I do it; being that Nigerians are not into e-books yet, they are into printed books, they are surprised. But in a month I make up to N80,000, despite the fact that I have not done adverts. Also, somebody threw a challenge at me that I cannot survive on writing alone. For me, it is like a challenge I threw at myself that I can live on writing, that I can be successful writing books. I tell young people that it is actually possible to survive through writing. Another thing that should be considered is that you don’t have to write only what you want, you can write to impress.
Our problem as writers is that we are not into the business side of writing. Not even the publishing houses are into it yet. I am talking about novels and poetry that people will buy when you take it to the market and not because of your name. People buy books based on personality. For instance, there is a writer who won an award recently and readers ran to buy his books not because they like the book but because they wanted the book because the person won an award.
What I want to do is to change the mindset when it comes to books; which is that people should buy a book not based on the writer but because it is interesting. I tell young people to think about the business side of writing. They should ask themselves certain questions such as: Who do you write for? Will they accept my book? They need to have an audience, people and a market.
How would you compare the patronage of e-books and that of printed copy in Nigeria? Did you go into e-books because hard copies were not selling?
Not really. The first book I published was a paperback. And that was when I started my business style of writing. What I did was to think of an existing organisation to write for. And I decided to write fiction for the church.
People buy books in church without reading them. They do that probably because the priest or pastor compels or blackmails them (congregation) to buy because of his position as a priest or pastor. My father used to buy books like that and none of us would read it. Sometimes, the books are bought just to fulfill all righteousness. So I decided to encourage youths in the church to read by writing religious fiction for them; stories that surround religious legends. So I developed a style by starting with a series on the parables. I would take a story in the bible, create some fiction around it, mostly something that has to do with recent happenings. I wrote a book, “Our New Priest.” I am a Catholic. So, I know a lot about priests, how women used to chase them; I wrote a book on it, published it and took it to the church. I told them that I had fiction for them as a ploy to encourage the youths to read. What I am saying is that before you lure the youth to read you must put some structures on the ground. It is not just mouthing that you want to encourage the youth to read. I used that as my pilot project, printed some copies and gave them. To my surprise, they bought everything. In fact, they were requesting for part two.
Were you married at that time?
Yes, I was.
How do you combine writing and running the family?
When I met my husband, I told him about my passion. So, he knew that I loved writing. In fact, he was the one that encouraged me and even discovered things I should do. When he discovered that I had started writing, I developed a style, whenever I wrote a voluminous book, I would give it to him to read and he would approve of it. He went out one day and came back and told me that he saw an article calling for a meeting by Abuja Literary Society. We both attended my first literary society meeting. I went home and wrote a story. It took me one month to tinker with it to make sure it was perfect. Then I took it to the meeting and that was then I got my first applauds as a writer.
After that, he saw my passion. I kept telling him that even if I had all the money in the world, it wouldn’t satisfy me because I had not reached my dream of being a successful writer in my own right. And I have not achieved that dream of being a successful writer and a publisher whose books sell on the streets and in bookshops. He is aware of that.
So, whatever I am doing, he supports me. He encourages me. After the wedding, the challenges of the couple still struggling to understand some issues arose. So, I left writing for a while. But because I was determined, I went back to writing. This time, I was pregnant. In fact, my first ‘Naughty Wife’ series was written while I was pregnant; that was why it was painful when it was stolen.
Why did you delve into sex therapy in your writing; was it because other issues you were focusing on were not selling?
No, it was simply because I like it. When I was writing the other aspect, the thought of writing something that people would enjoy reading struck me. Mind you, people enjoy things that are erotic. My Facebook posts on sexual relationships revealed this.
Again, since I was already married and I had gathered experience in it, I told my husband of my intention to write on sex and relationships. I told him that people enjoyed reading those things and he endorsed it.
Did he not object, even when you used vulgar language?
Why would he? Doesn’t he have sex? It is hypocrisy. We have sex all the time yet we shy away from sexual discussions. It is like after eating akpu and when people start talking about it, we hide our face somewhere and even rebuke those that sell it.
As long as you are a person, you will have sex. Look at these companies that produce condoms; they know that it is not good to cheat on your partner or to get unwanted pregnancy, that is why they went into production of condoms for people to protect themselves. Even some brides get pregnant before the wedding, which means they have been having sex. So we should stop being hypocritical.
Most marriages are breaking up every day because of sexual issues. They would not tell anybody. They keep it to themselves until they divorce. So, before getting married, it is good for them to understand what sex is all about. Even as a virgin, you need to know what to expect on the first night, when you are to have sex.
Does it bother you that people may tag you as one who is wayward and wild?
People thought I was a wild woman until recently, when I started getting invitations from churches to teach sex. I have gone to so many churches. In fact, I have been booked this December also to speak to some married people. When they saw that I was unrelenting, people just accepted me.
Would you also say that many churches are failing in teaching the real truth?
Marriage counselling is different from sex counselling. Most marriage counsellors are not sex experts. Teaching somebody how to take care of the home, polish your husband’s shoes, cook good meals or how to relate with your in-laws is different. I don’t do that. The only thing I teach is how to solve sexual problems. There are questions I ask marriage counsellors that they won’t be able to answer.
For instance, many women don’t know that where the urine comes from is different from where the vagina is.
Since the bottom line is to make money, has it been good business?
It is good business. Sometimes, the way I make money while handling people’s sexual issues is by the selling books (on the issues at stake). But when it comes to helping people who have sexual issues, it is something I like doing, because many people can’t even afford to pay me as a consultant. So, I just help them by recommending some tips and urge them to buy some things. Some people can make a lot of money while solving sex issues. That is why you see that people who sell herbs are booming daily.
From your experience and training, would you say most married women are yet to know the role of sex in marriage?
When people call me, especially men, they complain that their wives don’t like sex. And I have discovered that 85 percent of them complain about the same thing. Also, I investigated it by asking young girls and married women what their problems are in marriage; I discovered that most young girls force themselves to have sex before marriage and after marriage the urge dies. And the men would start complaining. The problem is because they were not properly tutored before marriage.