Learn About Sexuality

The misunderstandings behind sexual dysfunction

Sex is easy for a woman in a new relationship. When a man is easily aroused and when she feels admired and appreciated. But after years or decades of marriage it is not so easy any more. There is no romance. She doesn’t feel appreciated or even loved necessarily. It feels like sex is expected. Something that a man just assumes happens without him needing to invest any effort in understanding how a woman feels: what a woman needs to feel amenable to giving a man want he wants. This is what we call ‘sexual desire’ but it has nothing to do with responsiveness.

True sexual dysfunctions are very rare. What we call ‘sexual dysfunction’ today is more often a mismatch between expectation and reality. Men and women feel inadequate because of unrealistic media images (based on pornography) which imply that we should all be super-humans with extraordinary sexual capabilities.

The implication of the word ‘dysfunction’ is that something is not working properly. To define what is ‘dysfunctional’ we must also know what is ‘functional’, that is what works. But also what are we trying to achieve. Are we referring to reproductive function, orgasm or emotional pleasure?

A man certainly feels dysfunctional when he cannot get an erection. A man needs an erection to begin on all of these things.

But what about a woman? What makes a woman feel dysfunctional? Women can be impregnated without experiencing any pleasure or orgasm. A woman probably does feel dysfunctional when she can’t have a child.

The specific term ‘sexual dysfunction’ implies more than purely reproduction. Certainly a man’s sense of dysfunction has little to do with the fact that he can’t impregnate a woman.

Given that female orgasm is not a requirement for reproduction, sexual dysfunction for women is often defined in terms of how she feels personally about the situation. Women are told not to worry if they don’t have an orgasm.

Women’s sexual dysfunction is not based on her ability to achieve orgasm but on the belief that she should be able to orgasm during intercourse. All the hype about female orgasm and the misconception that it should occur with a love has put immense pressure on women.

Women feel ‘dysfunctional’ because they think they are missing out on an experience that other women have. This is just mismatched expectations. The apparent responses of the porn actresses are faked (or acted) and have nothing to do with women’s responsiveness in real life.

Men may feel dysfunctional either because their penis isn’t large enough, because they can’t simulate a woman through intercourse for long enough or because a woman does not appear aroused or enthusiastic about sexual activity. Once again all of these expectations are based on pornography where actors are chosen for the unusually large size of their penis and their ability to remain erect and to continue intercourse almost indefinitely.

Most couples never discuss sexual pleasuring or orgasm. They do not question their sexual experiences but simply accept them for what they are. Most women are too embarrassed about sex to expect very much from it. They prefer to keep quiet and just go along with male initiative. Unlike male dysfunction, women can easily fake their arousal and orgasm. So no woman ever needs to admit that she doesn’t orgasm through intercourse.

Most couples most of the time never worry about sexual dysfunction. Men never seem to expect a woman’s enthusiasm for intercourse to be matched by her presumed orgasmic ability.

Other couples may be more educated in terms of popular beliefs. So women assume they orgasm as an implicit aspect of their sexual relationship. Men assume that their partner has an orgasm at some undefined point during lovemaking.

Men are happy to support women in their belief that they experience orgasm. Women are happy to support men in their desire to believe that women are pleasured through intercourse. Both partners are emotionally complete and no one feels dysfunctional.

Others, who either expect more or who are more gullible, decide that experts must know answers to questions no one else can answer. They spend money to find answers and either give up or are satisfied that they have done their best.

When I hear sexperts on TV give advice about how to help women with their “dysfunctional sex drives” I get suspicious that we’re all feeding into the convenient male fantasy of the sexually voracious woman. (Joan Sewell 2010)

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