12 Aug Women’s Low Sexual Desire-Is It a Medical Problem or Something Else?
This article was originally published at MidlifeBoulevard.
If you’re following the news reports about flibanserin, referred to as the female Viagra, or “the pink pill’, you know there’s been a lot of debate over the need for a pill for women who suffer from low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)*.
There are plenty of issues involved, from the idea that the FDA discriminates against women to the fact that the most ardent supporters of thos “promising” medication have some financial involvement with the drug’s manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals. And, somewhere in the midst of this debate is the question of women’s sexual dysfunction and how to best address it.
There isn’t really going to be a true female equivalent to Viagra because it’s not a drug designed to work with the female anatomy. Viagra increases blood flow, including flow to the penis, which can make it easier for men to get and sustain an erection. It’s all about mechanics, nothing to do with women’s low sexual desire.
The issue for women is about desire. Or is it?
There have been no studies I’m aware of that indicate a significant number of women have clitoral dysfunction. Do women really have HSDD or is that just a new way to create an illness so pharmaceutical companies can make more money? Would a pill fix what ails us as women? Not in a world where the norm is intercourse, which as we know, rarely provides the stimulation of the clitoris so necessary to achieving orgasms.
Maybe women, who don’t feel desire in the way they used, to have other issues contributing to their lack of interest in sex?
I can think of a number of reasons:
- A partner who doesn’t want, or know how, to provide the stimulation necessary to bring a woman to orgasm. He doesn’t understand or appreciate the role of the clitoris.
- Fatigue and stress related to child rearing, a stressful job, caregiving, family issues, illness, menopause, financial challenges and on and on… If we’re stressed out we don’t have the energy to feel sexy.
- A failing relationship. Sex isn’t very satisfying when 2 people aren’t enjoying their time together. It takes mutual engagement and connections to build and sustain intimacy. Lack of interest in sex often indicates relationship problems of another nature.
- Sexual trauma—Child sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape and possibly genital-related surgery (hysterectomy, cancer) can lead to a fear or reluctance to have sex. Genitals may feel numb or hold residual pain. Trauma can resurface at different times in a woman’s life and have varying impacts on her relationships and her sex life.
No pill in the world is capable of fixing those issues. They each call for creative problem solving, therapeutic support or other life/ relationship changes
A recent study of French women provides an answer that resonates with my experience and thoughts on the question of female desire. Researchers studied 251 women ranging in age from 18-67, all sexually active.
“The women in the study–176 who defined themselves as “orgasmic,” and 75 who defined themselves as “not orgasmic”- answered questions about the emotions, thoughts and behaviors that typically play a role in being able to orgasm, during both sex and self-stimulation.”
And what they found was that women who regularly reached orgasm during sex reported more erotic thoughts.
“Study author Pascal De Sutter, professor of sexology and family science at the University of Louvain in Belgium said “It seems that women have no problem focusing on erotic fantasies when they are on their own, but women who do not have regular orgasms during intercourse seem to have more difficulties focusing their attention on the present moment when they have sex with their partners.”
I love what Elke Reissing, the director of the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, has to say. She suggests “that mindfulness approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunction might be helpful for women who have trouble achieving orgasm. Mindfulness techniques could help women focus on the present moment during sex and thus increase their arousal and reach orgasm.” (Source)
When I talk about stepping into one’s desire and practicing sexual meditation, I urge women to focus on their bodies and their feelings of desire. By taking the time to think about sex, knowing what we want and what feels good we are focusing our minds on our bodies, our arousal and our desires. This awareness of our own bodies is what helps us achieve orgasm.
If a woman goes into sex thinking she’s not going to be satisfied, or she needs to be doing the laundry, writing the business report or whatever, she’s not present to her partner. More importantly, she’s not present to her own body and her arousal.
When we feel our genitals tingle and become wet. When we feel arousal as blood flows into our labia we are present to our bodies. We feel each sensation and touch and we recognize our arousal. That’s when we’re most likely to have an orgasm or, at the very least, feel pleasurable thoughts and an increased level of sexual satisfaction. And when sex feels pleasurable and we are satisfied—we want more. It’s not about ‘fixing’ a dysfunction, or popping a pill. It is about us stepping into our full sexual capacity as women, creating what we want and allowing ourselves to give and receive pleasure.
* “HSDD is defined as an absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that does not have an obvious cause, such as depression or libido-suppressing drugs, and that causes distress to the sufferer.” (Washington Post) Read more….
What do you think? Is this really a Disorder?