Pamela Udoka, a Lagos-based sex therapist and clinical psychologist runs the Family Wellness Psychological Centre in Lekki, Lagos. She talks with so much passion about her job in a society where “sex talk” is a taboo. Popularly called “Pam, The Penis Whisperer”, Pamela also offers tips on how to manage masturbation. This sex therapist, who is also a children theatre practitioner, argues that it is better for parents to introduce children to sex education early enough in order to protect them from predators in the society. In this conversation with Festus Akanbi, she also talks about “child depression” and other challenges facing children. Excerpts
I Guide Men to Attain and Maintain Erection for Sexual Intercourse
What’s usually the reaction of your audience any time you introduce yourself as a sex therapist?
If I say my name is Pamela Udoka, I am a Sex Therapist, some people stare at me in utter shock, wondering what I am talking about. Some knowledgeable ones embrace the title and are okay with it. It even goes further. A business coach by name Steve Harris named me Pam the Penis Whisperer after I attended his coaching course. When you hear that, it jolts you into asking me further questions and then I explain that I guide men to attain and maintain erection for sexual intercourse. I am a certified and licensed clinical psychologist. A Clinical Psychologist, who in her quest to carry out intervention for one of the causes of marital conflicts, which is sexual dissatisfaction, became a sex therapist. Sex therapy is one of the therapeutic techniques I deploy. In addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Systemic Therapy, Acceptance Commitment Therapy etc. Sex in itself is not a taboo. It is the issues surrounding sex and the way it is presented that makes society to perceive sex as a taboo or a taboo topic.
Masturbation is an old practice which has refused to go away from the society. How does this affect marriages?
It depends on which angle of the prism each partner is looking at masturbation from. If one sees it as a sin or a taboo, then it will affect the marriage negatively. But if it is seen as something or an activity that can release sexual tension in the absence of one partner or even when the partner is present but not sexually available or something one partner can perform for the other partner to induce sexual satisfaction, then it will affect the marriage positively. Let me also make it known that masturbation is not gender specific. Both men and women do engage in the act. Where it now becomes a problem is if addiction sets in. That will now require clinical assessment and psychotherapy.
How do you keep away patients who tend to see you as an object of their sex fantasies?
First of all, clients who see me as an object of their sexual fantasy will probably not be bold enough to tell me. They will keep it at their level of control in their fantasies. Being a trained professional, I do not give room for such discussions to even commence. I believe a client consults me because the person has some sexual or relationship challenges that require my expertise. Consulting me is not an opportunity to exhibit the fact that he or she has some ‘pervert’ tendencies. Be that as it may, one of my lecturers, late Professor Peter Owolabi (may his soul continue to rest in peace) who taught me about sexuality, sexual health, sexual dysfunctions and sexual intercourse during my first Master’s degree in the University of Lagos, had also taught me about the psychological phenomenon known as transference and counter transference.
So, I am not exactly ignorant about encountering people like that. But I handle them professionally not giving any room for them to veer off what they consulted me for in the first place. If it is an online consultation, which would have been paid for by the way, I will block such a person off. Such a person cannot be sitting in front of me across my table, or lying down in my therapy couch in the Family Wellness Psychological Centre in Lekki and be telling me that I am the object of his sexual fantasy. I am a mental health practitioner o. I will look at the matter from another angle or get the security to excuse him out of my office. No hassles!
Many parents find it difficult to engage their children in sex talks. How can they go about this without “polluting their minds”?
I always tell parents to give children age-appropriate information. Once a child can communicate and starts learning about body either at home or in school, the correct name should be used. A finger is a finger, an eye is an eye, a penis is a penis, a vagina is a vagina, a toe is a toe, a knee is a knee and so on and so forth. Do not give the penis and vagina coded names and then change them a few years down the line to the authentic names. Children are more intelligent that parents give them credit for. A child’s curiosity will be spiked and that child will not have the courage to ask why the change in names. Another approach is to tell the child that some body parts are private parts and nobody should touch them without their consent and they can only give that consent when they are adults.
Tell them not to accept gifts from anybody without clearing from either of the parents. That way, nobody will use sweets or biscuits to entice them. A child is a child. Introduce such discussions in a most convivial atmosphere, when the child is relaxed and can assimilate the information without fear. There was an era when parents, especially mothers would enter the room, lock the door and talk drawing one ear and say things like ‘don’t let a boy touch you, once a boy touches you, you will get pregnant.’ That era is gone. Please explain the type of touch. A child who has approached puberty should be told about pregnancy or the possibility of impregnating a girl alongside the dangers of getting sexually transmitted infections. Notice that we went from knowing correct names of body parts to pregnancy and infection. That is what I mean by age appropriate.
Ours is a society where it is a taboo to call private parts by their real names. How does this seeming pretension affect morality in the society and what do you think can be done to remedy the situation?
You have captured it correctly. It’s a pretension. We like ‘faking good’. Isolating specific body parts and vilifying them is something we have all grown up with. But if the present generation of parents can help change that narrative, it will go a long way in curbing some of the sexual menace that we hear about. Parents should make conscious efforts to talk with their children realistically and not shrouding the matter in secrecy. Children will be better informed, better educated and be more aware about self-protection and self-preservation against sexual predators.
Does your job affect your religious practice?
No not at all. Rather I am a voice to reckon with in my religious practice because of my job. I am a Catholic. I am a member of the Catholic Women’s Organisation (CWO). I have given talks to my fellow radiant sisters both at our Parish and at the Lagos state levels. I am the PRO of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers (CCM) in my Parish and I have given talks at our meetings and seminars with the theme and topic specifically related to my job. I am a Lady of the Knight of St. Mulumba (LSM). I give talks when it is my turn or when I am directed to do so. I was appointed the Worthy Physician of my Sub Council by virtue of the fact that I am a Clinical Psychologist. I function in that capacity both in my sub council level and at the Lagos metro level when we have meetings or there are assignments/duties directly requiring my attention.
Who is Pamela Udoka? Tell us your story
I was born on the 4th of February 1965. So, I am 55 years old. Still a lady though. I grew up in a town in Cameroon called Kumba, where I attended four primary schools. I obtained my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels from the renowned Queens College Yaba, Lagos. I had my first degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan and proceeded to the University of Lagos for my first Master degree in Psychology, then back to the University of Ibadan for my second Master degree (M. Phil) and where I am currently running a PhD programme in Clinical Psychology.
That’s for academics. I am married to the most loving, caring, understanding and supportive husband any woman can wish for. My mentor and muse. That I am a Clinical Psychologist today is all by the guidance of my husband Arnold Udoka. He also motivated me to enroll for my Ph.D. programme. I remember telling him while he was running his own PhD to hurry up so that I could start bearing ‘Mrs. Dr. Udoka.’ He told me to go for my own PhD. He said I should not struggle his own title with him. He kept on reminding me at every turn and asking if I had accessed the University of Ibadan Postgraduate school website. It takes a man who is very confident in himself and his abilities and achievements to stand and tell his wife to stand on his shoulders and fly. And my husband will always cheer me on saying “fly baby, fly”. We have had four amazing children together.
The first went back to become an Angel in February 5, 2008. He would have been 25 years old this year. The only girl in the lot is 23. She read Biochemistry in the University of Calabar and while still in school won a scholarship into a branding and advertising academy in Lagos and presently works as the Head Marketing, content creator and social media manager in an advertising agency in Lagos. Then there is the young man who turned 21 this year. He is a final year student of computer science at the University of Calabar. He is a self- taught Graphic and Website Designer. Bringing up the rear is my little man, the eight- year-old who will rather tell me, ‘Mummy, your cooking will do me some good right now’ than ‘Mummy, I am hungry’. There is never a dull moment in my home. I am a blessed woman with a blessed family. God has been very gracious to me and I do not take it for granted.
You are a woman of many parts; a sex therapist, clinical psychologist, children theatre practitioner, who is married to a distinguished entertainer. How does this combination affect your home?
My darling husband, Dr. Arnold Udoka is not just an entertainer. He is first and foremost a distinguished scholar of movement and dance and a university don with a named-scholar tag of the Association of Commonwealth Universities in the United Kingdom. He is a published poet and award-winning playwright, award-winning choreographer at both national and international levels. He was head-hunted to serve as Nigeria’s first national choreographer after Nigeria’s first participation in the 1997 Panafest in Ghana, due to the excellent display by Nigeria’s contingent in my husband’s work titled One Earth, One People. Prof. Laz Ekwueme publicly nicknamed him ‘Nigeria’s Dance Machine.’ He’s a man of different parts – from home to theatre to culture administration and the academia.
So, in what specific ways have these affected your home?
To answer your question, all my various professional callings impart my home positively. The children’s theatre practice made way for the clinical psychology practice, and my research into the causes of marital conflict, brought out the Sex Therapist in me. You will be wondering what links them and why I say it affects my family positively. Let me shed more light. As a children’s theatre practitioner, I had observed that some of the children I worked with were exhibiting behaviours contrary to the norm. Some of them also had social phobia that was so severe that the activities of the children’s theatre workshop were not enough to make them develop self-confidence. This therefore meant that there were some underlying issues the children were dealing with. My husband then suggested that I should go and study psychology so as to be able to help the children. My focus during my first Master’s degree was on children, finding out how parenting style is implicated in social phobia in children and carrying out an intervention using psychodrama. I progressed from there to have additional training as a Clinical Psychologist with special expertise in Sex Therapy. I am giving you this background information so you understand that my husband has always been part of this picture in mapping out these career paths.
How are your children responding to this busy lifestyle?
The children all understand the various career trajectories. My older children follow me on social media and I always tell them that what other children’s parents pay me for, they get for free as a birthright. They can ask me questions at any time. We can discuss any issue. Because every member of the family understands what I do, there is no conflict. If I am working either travelling outside the country or working online, everyone knows what Mummy is doing. When I have to work online, I let everyone know. So, there will be no interruptions. Either before I start or after I am done, I ensure everyone is sorted out in terms of food. So, there is no excuse about me functioning in so many areas and neglecting my family.
Tell us more about your children theatre project?
As you are already aware, I was recruited by the former Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria Mr. ‘Bayo Oduneye to be the pioneer Coordinator of the National Troupe of Nigeria Children’s Theatre Workshop. I progressed to running a Children’s Theatre organization – Children’s Arts Development Initiative (CHAIN). When I was invited to Sweden by an organisation to deliver a keynote paper about the dwindling phenomenon about child and childhood, I came in contact with an international children’s theatre organisation known as International Association of Theatres for Children and Young People with the French acronym, ASSITEJ International. Using CHAIN, I registered Nigeria into that international organisation. So far, we have membership representation in almost all the states in Nigeria and Zonal Representatives of ASSITEJ Nigeria in all the geopolitical zones in the country.
I am the President of the Nigeria Centre, was appointed an African Regional Counselor, and was elected into the Executive Committee of ASSITEJ International in Cape Town in 2017. It is on record that I am the first black African woman to be so elected. Back home, we have been joining other member countries of the organisation to celebrate special dates in the ASSITEJ International calendar, as well as have our own festival, ASSITEJ Nigeria Festival also known as the ANT Festival. The maiden edition took place in 2018. The second edition will be holding the December 2020, having been postponed because of the EndSARS protest and it will be held online due to the corona virus pandemic. Even though ASSITEJ Nigeria for me is a platform that is being used to galvanise all Nigerians who are in the practice of theatre for children and young people and align them with this international organisations so they will learn, understand and be aware of the best practices in the profession worldwide. It’s a dream come true for me even as I put CHAIN in the background feeling like a mother hen bringing goodies to her chicks. It is my wish that every individual and every organiszation in this genre will get connected and get involved.
How can parents handle depression in children?
They should not try to handle it. They should seek professional help. Contact a clinical psychologist to carry out proper clinical assessment and treat the child accordingly. What parents can do however is to minimise or eliminate utterances that lower a child’s self-esteem. They should stop comparing siblings. Encourage their children by speaking more about their strengths instead of amplifying their weaknesses. Ask questions about school experiences, bullying, peer pressure and their relationship with their teachers. They should be observant and query every behaviour change. All these will go a long way in preventing a child from developing childhood depression or nipping it in the bud before it escalates to severe depression.