The words sexuality and women don’t often go together in India. While most women shy away from talking about the subject and various problems associated with it, men commonly don’t think that the fact that women can have sexual problems at all. But, in this post Dr Vijayasarathi Ramanthan, men’s health physician and medical sex therapist tells us more about the common sexual problems women face.
Where does the problem lie?
The fundamental problem here is the lack of understanding among both men and women about the female sexual anatomy and functioning including menstruation, sexual intercourse and female masturbation. Having basic knowledge about these topics is very essential for a positive and healthy sexual life. Evidence suggests that healthy sexual functioning is an important aspect of a woman’s sense of well-being and quality of life but sadly most women (and their physicians) avoids discussions about sex. Female sexual dysfunction has four main causes:
Physical or biological problems
This refers to sexual problems which are caused by various illnesses, diseases, medications or hormonal imbalance through events like menopause. You may also like to read how obesity can harm your sex life
Mental or psychological problems
Sometimes psychological problems like mood disturbances, previous traumatic experience like sexual abuse, stress related to work, family, studies, etc. can all hamper a woman’s sex life. In such cases visiting a sex therapist becomes essential.
A woman’s relationship with their partner plays a major role in her sexual well-being. Problems can arise when someone is stuck in a problematic or unsatisfactory marriage (a problem quite real in India’s arranged marriage culture) or relationship, unhappiness about the partner’s sexual skills which can include low libido, premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction or even a simple scenario like having children at home.
Social and cultural notions about sex and immorality
Despite recent advancements, India remains a conservative society where sexual pleasure is considered sinful and this can lead to a scenario where women feel that any form of premarital sexual act is immoral and against religion and that sex should only be practised after marriage and for reproduction. You may also like to read why Sex education: The need of the hour.
Vaginismus – a very painful affair
One of the most common types of sexual dysfunction is a condition called vaginismus. It refers to an involuntary spasm of the muscles at the lower end of the vagina which can make penetration an incredibly painful and sometimes impossible affair. It happens because instead of relaxing the muscles tense up. A woman suffering from it can’t control when the muscles will spasm. It can happen when she is trying to have sex or when she is having a medical examination, like a pap smear. The spasm can be so strong that nothing can go into the vagina and she feels pain when trying to put anything into the vagina (including fingers, tampons, penis or speculum for pap smears). There can also be no obvious cause and yet the muscle spasm still happens.
Treating the problem
The treatment of choice with vaginismus is program that combines education, including information about sexual anatomy, physiology, the sexual response cycle, and common myths about sex, counselling and exercises. Exercises include pelvic floor muscle contraction and relaxation (Kegel exercises) to improve voluntary control of the muscles.