Are we in need of sexual healing?
New research ... 66 per cent of more than 2,200 (heterosexual) women surveyed reported having sexual difficulties. Photo: Getty
Sex seems like something that should be easy. So easy we can do it with our eyes closed … or just drunk. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my friends have even claimed they’ve done it by accident.
But new research shows Australian women seem to be finding sex really difficult. In fact, 66 per cent of more than 2,200 (heterosexual) women surveyed reported having sexual difficulties. Half the women said they had lacked interest in sex, 21 per cent said they took too long to orgasm and another 21 per cent said they couldn’t have an orgasm at all.
(Although so few women said they had a problem with coming to orgasm too quickly that the researchers had to exclude that sexual problem from the rest of their study.)
What’s fascinating is that these problems ran across every age group. The cliché is that women in their 20s go through a brief sex-mad period, which then tapers off slowly but surely - except perhaps for a brief resurgence for cougars in their 40s - as we all tell our partners we “have a headache”.
“Although lacking interest in having sex was the most commonly reported difficulty … its persistence/recurrence was not age-related. The persistence/recurrence of other sexual difficulties, including not finding sex pleasurable, experiencing physical pain during intercourse, and sexual performance anxiety, were also not predicted by age,” the authors wrote in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.
The age the most women said they lacked interest in sex (54 per cent) was the 30-39 group, the age group with the fewest (45 per cent) was 20-29.
Another fascinating titbit from the study was that the women who were not living with their partners were more likely to be unable to have an orgasm, to take too long to orgasm and to feel pain during sex.
What’s going on here, I wonder? These are pretty scary statistics. I can’t remember a single conversation I have had with my lady-friends about sexual difficulties, so I don’t even have anecdotal reports about what people think is an acceptable time-period for an orgasm.
A co-author of the study, Juliet Richters, says the questions in the survey are “deeply social”, rather than being about objective standards or medical problems.
She says, for example, that when she surveyed men about whether they came too quickly, the age group most likely to say they didn’t were those aged 16 to 19.
“My guess is they simply hadn’t perceived that as a social injunction just yet,” she says. “What the answer was reflecting was not how long they could last but their perception of whether they were coming too fast”.
So perhaps these answers are actually reflecting the pressure so many of us feel to live up to standards we’re not sure about, or only know about from watching tv, movies or porn.
Luckily for all us undersexed, slow-orgasming women out there, our old friend US psychiatry is on a mission to help.
Yes, along with the other questionable diagnoses being added to the system used to diagnose psychiatric disorders is Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (and they’re also thinking about including Female Orgasmic Disorder).
Richters says she is concerned the addition “could be dangerous”, given that it is largely being pushed by doctors with connections to the drug industry trying to create medical “cures” for these disorders (cures, that, Richters notes, are very different to those for treating men’s sexual problems. While female sexual disorders are defined by a lack of desire, in the case of men the desire is not the problem, it is the ability).
Perhaps if we all just started putting a little less pressure on ourselves, sex might actually get a little bit easier without the need for a diagnosis or a magic pill.