By Kemi Lawani
Female sexual disorders are not as widely studied as male sexual disorders. this is partly due to the fact that they are not as easily or as objectively measured. Even more importantly, particularly in Africa, a woman’s sexuality is culturally expected to be wrapped in mystery, cloaked in a shroud of shame.
Traditionally, a woman is expected to grow to a young adulthood, marry and make children, please her husband especially sexually. Women have been subtly brought up to think of sex as something women participate in so the men may enjoy. The practice of female genital cutting, one of the discouraged cultural practices is said to have started hinging on the belief that the engorged clitoris competes for supremacy with the erect penis during intercourse and so must be cut off.
It was also believed that circumcision would reduce the woman’s tendency to promiscuity( perhaps by reducing the chances of her achieving an orgasm and consequently seeking further sexual experiences to reproduce that climax). Interestingly, studies have shown a high occurrence of circumcised women among commercial sex workers.
The issue of ensuring chastity in a woman has frequently been linked to maintaining a high degree of moral and spiritual uprightness, and an unconscious effort to ensure that female sexual pleasure is not discovered, or sustained. Consequently, Lost somewhere in the mill is a very real, and sizeable population of women with sexual disorders characterized by pain, lack of desire, difficulty sustaining desire or achieving a pleasurable sexual climax.
While these women may at some time in their lives, particularly before marriage be passed off as ideal, desirable and simply chaste, a great deal of marital disharmony, emotional and psychological pain is suffered silently by these women and their spouses. They are then termed ‘frigid’, a term which in addition to being fairly derogatory also subtly suggests that the woman has done or failed to do something resulting in ‘her frigidity’- like it were a possession or disease.
The classic disorders of female sexual function are briefly defined below:
Female sexual arousal disorder: a sexual dysfunction involving failure by a female either to attain or maintain lubrication and swelling during sexual activity after adequate stimulation
sexual aversion disorder feelings of repugnance for and active avoidance of genital sexual contact with a partner, causing substantial distress or interpersonal difficulty.
hypoactive sexual desire disorder a sexual dysfunction consisting of persistently or recurrently low level or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.
sexual pain disorders sexual dysfunctions characterized by pain associated with intercourse; it includes dyspareunia and vaginismus not due to a general medical condition.
Female orgasmic disorder is the persistent or recurrent inability of a woman to have an orgasm (climax or sexual release) after adequate sexual arousal and sexual stimulation
Sexual activity includes many intimate activities, such as fondling, self-stimulation, oral sex, vaginal penetration and intercourse. Every woman differs in her sexual interest, response and expression. A woman’s feelings about sexuality can change according to the circumstances and stages of her life.
Causes of sexual dysfunctions can be psychological, physical or related to interpersonal relationships or sociocultural influences.
Psychological causes include:
- stress from work or family responsibilities
- concern about sexual performance
- unresolved sexual orientation issues
- previous traumatic sexual or physical experience
- body image and self-esteem problems
Physical causes include:
- heart disease
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- pelvic surgery
- pelvic injury or trauma
- neurological disorders
- medication side effects
- hormonal changes, including those related to pregnancy and menopause
- thyroid disease
- alcohol or drug abuse
Influences of interpersonal relationship include:
- partner performance and technique
- lack of a partner
- relationship quality and conflict
- lack of privacy
Sociocultural influences include:
- inadequate education
- conflict with religious, personal, or family values
- societal taboos
Treating Sexual Dysfunctions
An honest talk with your partner can relieve concerns and clear up disagreements or conflicts. It is important to discuss your sexual needs and concerns. If the sexual problem persists, please discuss your concerns with your health care professional. Most sexual problems can be treated.
Writer – Kemi Lawani
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