The medical establishment tells us that nearly 50% of women have Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). That is a lot of women who cannot or do not want to have sex. The question at hand is whether that lack of desire is physiological (like male impotence) or psychological. It seems the answer to the question is that it is both.
According to an article from Harvard Medical School, “The implied parallel between FSD and male impotence is deceptive. The word ‘dysfunction’ – medical parlance for anything that doesn’t work the way it should – suggests that there is an acknowledged norm of female sexual function. That norm has never been established. Unlike penile erection, which is a quantifiable physical event, a woman’s sexual response is qualitative. It embodies desire, arousal, and gratification – and it can’t be measured objectively.”
The article cited a report published in the March 2000 issue of the Journal of Urology, which proposed a working definition of sexual dysfunction in women that includes both physiological and psychological symptoms. Experiencing any one of these symptoms warrants an FSD diagnosis, though some of them must also be a source of distress for the woman in order to be qualified as an FSD indicator.
According to the Harvard article, in an early study, “Women who reported any of the following — lack of sexual desire, difficulty in becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, anxiety about sexual performance, reaching orgasm too rapidly, pain during intercourse, or failure to derive pleasure from sex — were considered to have sexual dysfunction. Women were more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction if they were single, had less education, had physical or mental health problems, had undergone recent social or economic setbacks, or were dissatisfied with their relationship with a sexual partner.”
However, a later Kinsey study showed data that indicated “…that emotional health and personal relationship factors were more important for women’s sexual satisfaction than achieving orgasm. In that survey, general well-being ranked at the top as a requirement, followed by emotional reactions during lovemaking, the attractiveness of one’s partner, physical response to lovemaking, frequency of sexual activity with one’s partner, the partner’s sensitivity, one’s own state of health, and the partner’s state of health.”
As a side note, another interesting study suggests that “sexual inhibition might also be a protective mechanism evolved to discourage women from having more children than they can raise – a danger when, for example, a partner is unsupportive or the woman has physical or emotional problems. The woman is ‘turned off’ because, in an evolutionary sense, the conditions for motherhood aren’t favourable. If this theory is correct, some women whose sexual response has been deemed dysfunctional might actually be functioning as nature intended.”
Now back to the issue at hand, there is a long list medical issues that can contribute to the loss of a sex drive in women, some of which are endometriosis, diabetes, oestrogen insufficiency and thyroid, adrenal and pituitary disorders. Certain medications can also cause FSD.
However, there is also the other side of the coin for women when it comes to sexual function – the psychological side. There are some who believe that – medical issues aside – women do not want to have sex because they are not happy with the implementation of the act.
I recently saw this comment regarding FSD on a Facebook page, “I think the ‘dysfunction’ happens when our body says ‘no’ to regular old friction sex because we long for the ‘yes’ of conscious touch, worship and honouring of our most sacred temple space within. Perhaps this is wisdom not dysfunction.”
Another person commented, “There is this saying that there are no sexually frigid women, just a lot of men who do not know what they are supposed to do with women’s bodies.” This would explain why even healthy women have so many headaches as they go to bed with their partners.
Moreover, there has long been this ridiculous notion of obligatory sex that compels a woman to have sex with her partner out of “obligation” rather than because she has been brought to the place where she wants to have sex – both physically and psychologically. What should be a beautiful joining of two equally sacred bodies has in patriarchal societies become an obligation of the woman to the man (who is now somehow her master).
What woman wants to feel she has no choice but to have sex upon demand? Not one; because the result of such a situation is the woman feeling used and degraded, rather than loved and honoured. In fact, if she is forced against her will to have sex (an act that has been normalised as standard male sexuality), even if it is with her husband – it is rape.
To add more fuel to the fire, repressive traditions and religious belief systems cause women to feel guilty about their sexuality from a young age, which in turn inhibits them from exploring their natural sensuality. Some women brought up with these repressive traditions feel they are doing something wrong when they have sex, even if it is within the confines of a marriage.
How does a caring couple desiring a healthy sex life address these issues? If the issue at hand is a medical one, seek professional advice from your doctor. Remember that when one partner is dysfunctional, the other is affected as well. For example, a woman may interpret her partner’s inability to have an erection as a sign that he no longer finds her attractive. A talk with one’s partner can help to determine whether the problem is primarily physical or emotional.
If the problem is emotional, the Harvard article suggests, “Have an honest discussion with your partner. Sexual pleasure is the result of a mind/body collaboration – usually involving two minds and two bodies. As surveys attest, the most satisfying sexual activity is the product of a caring, secure personal relationship.”