Sexual dysfunction (we know, terrible word) is an incredibly common and complex issue for women.
The World Health Organisation defines female sexual dysfunction (FSD) as “the various ways in which an individual is unable to participate in a sexual relationship…she would wish.” FSD is classified into a range of disorders depending on the specific nature of the sexual difficulties a woman encounters. They are:
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: The persistent or recurrent lack of sexual fantasies, thoughts, desires and receptivity to sexual contact.
- Sexual aversion disorder: The persistent or recurrent fear and/or aversion of sexual contact.
- Sexual arousal disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to become sexually aroused, often characterised by inadequate vaginal lubrication for penetration.
- Orgasmic disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to orgasm.
- Dyspareunia: Pain during sexual intercourse. 2
Because of its complex nature and umbrella taking so many varying issues into consideration, it is often overlooked as simply women “not wanting to have sex”. However, often we don’t want to have sex BECAUSE we have issues. One of the biggest issues is the stigma around this. Most cases of sexual dysfunction go unreported. Various studies claim that anywhere from 40-70% of women have experienced some form of dysfunction, in comparison to only 34% of men (of which there are a myriad of options for them). 3 In fact, there was an excellent research paper that suggests that the majority of women experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives, and for many it is an ongoing or recurring issue. A large survey of Australian women reported that 70% had experienced sexual difficulties (including inability to orgasm and not feeling like sex) in the year before the survey. Women over 50 were most likely to experience sexual difficulties, although they were common in all age groups (over 60% of women aged over 50 reported lack of interest in sex, and more than half of women aged 16-49 also reported this difficulty).4 Sexual dysfunction is not limited by age. It can affect women at any time and is influenced by multiple factors.
In order to truly address this, we need to be talking more about sex and not accepting less for ourselves and our bodies while we suffer in silence.
The relationship between physical and emotional needs here becomes extremely important. Some women will be able to fulfil their sexual desires with a range of options that address the emotional side. These include therapy, talking more openly and learning more about your body. However, some of us have physical issues that make this slightly more challenging, although not always impossible.