My mother once told me that she never liked sex. She has always been the conservative kind: always wearing pantyhose under all dresses and skirts, just a touch of makeup when she went out— which she seldom did and was almost always back home and in bed by 10:30. In fact, she surprised me the one time I noticed cleavage at her neckline. And the only time I heard her swear was when she was reading a passage out loud from “To Kill A Mockingbird” and even then, she grimaced in pain.
So when she told me she never much enjoyed sex, after my initial shock that she even said the word, I wondered how she managed sex all these years with my father. I wondered even more how I, as her daughter, came to be so…sexually liberated. The apple sometimes does fall far from the tree.
But the truth is, women have been taught to suppress sexual desires. The social stigma surrounding the issue has been enough to keep many women from even mentioning sexual problems to their own doctor. They never learned how to enjoy sex. They just kind of had to figure it out. The success of the bestselling novel “50 Shades of Grey” is due in part to the fact that many women—mothers, housewives, “good girls” never had access to anything like this before. Black girls had Zane, and detailed sexual scenes in Eric Jerome Dickey books to tease their imagination. No need for a porno; reading a page or two was enough to arouse the sexual senses. But even with these books, they were always seen as taboo.
Pharmaceutical shelves are stocked with drugs to combat male sexual dysfunction. Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis are the common ones. Erectile dysfunction inhibits a man’s ability to perform in the bedroom. But what about a woman? Doctors have suggested a woman’s lack of desire only comes as a result of illness, during menopause, or just after having a baby. And while there is no rule that says a woman must always be in the mood for sex, never being in the mood causes marital stress and can even be a deal breaker for many men.
Some women, like my mother, never had cancer or cardiovascular disease. Some have never had a baby, and have yet to experience menopause, and yet, they still never understood the appeal of sex. I always thought good sex is kind of like bacon. If you don’t like it, you’ve probably never had it. But there’s a name for this condition. Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is characterized by low or absent desire for sex, the inability to maintain arousal despite a desire to have sex, the inability to experience an orgasm, or pain during sexual contact. According to the literature, approximately 40% of women in the US experience one or several forms of FSD at some point in their life. The Bladder, Health and Reconstructive Urology Institute reports that African American women have higher rates of decreased sexual desire and pleasure than do white women.
Sexual disorders are largely psychological and can stem from a variety of factors, which may or may not include a past traumatic experience associated with sex. Coming to terms with the cause could in fact be the first step on the road to recovery.
Emotional Brain, a developer of therapeutic products for the treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction was recently awarded a new patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for one of its methods for the treatment of women suffering from FSD. The award of this patent is a milestone in the development of a treatment for FSD, currently an unmet medical need. There is no FDA-approved medicine available yet for this particular area. As a result, American physicians annually prescribe millions of off-label drugs for the treatment of FSD, drugs intended and FDA approved for other conditions. Due to the potential safety issues this may entail, the FDA is eager to have an effective and safe medicine for the treatment of FSD approved fast. This opens up a window of opportunity for the introduction of the drugs currently under development.
Conservatives, and my mother, might argue that this is an area that deserves little attention. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex, she shouldn’t have to. But we forget, that sex is not Satan’s twin sister. Even Christians and Orthodox Jews agree that sex is a good thing in the right circumstances. A marriage is edified by physical illustrations of love and lacks intimacy without it. In fact, when a woman is overwhelmed by emotion, characterized in picture books by little hearts floating over her head, her first inclination is to kiss. It’s a natural reaction in love. To abstain from sex in a marriage, is just the opposite, unnatural.
Herina Ayot is a freelance writer living in Jersey City, NJ. Follow her on Twitter @ReeExperience.