Sexual health resources
Lets talk about SEX! Sexual health is so incredibly important for us all. Whether you are in a long term relationship, newly dating or single – your sexual health is critical.
The World Health Organization defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
Sexual health is more than just dysfunction and lack of health. It is about ensuring that ALL sexual experiences are consensual and positive.
Did you know that as many as 70% of women require external stimulation to orgasm! Many women are unable to achieve orgasm from internal stimulation alone. This is why so many of our toys provide either combined or clitoral stimulation. To ensure that you have the best chance of achieving orgasm.
Sexual health is a critical combination of psychology, physiology, experience, emotion and attitude. Any or all of these factors can affect our ability to have an enjoyable sex life. Sexual function can be directly related to any of these factors and therefore why it is so critical to communicate if you are having issues. It is possible that the issues are related to physical conditions which may be able to be treated by a health care professional. Given that sex is such an important part of our lives, it is always worth seeking help.
Sexual Health Factsheet
We have also created a factsheet which you can download.
Sexual dysfunction (we know, terrible word) is an incredibly common and complex issue for women.
The World Health Organisation defines female sexual dysfunction (FSD) as “the various ways in which an individual is unable to participate in a sexual relationship…she would wish.” FSD is classified into a range of disorders depending on the specific nature of the sexual difficulties a woman encounters. They are:
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: The persistent or recurrent lack of sexual fantasies, thoughts, desires and receptivity to sexual contact.
- Sexual aversion disorder: The persistent or recurrent fear and/or aversion of sexual contact.
- Sexual arousal disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to become sexually aroused, often characterised by inadequate vaginal lubrication for penetration.
- Orgasmic disorder: The persistent or recurrent inability to orgasm.
- Dyspareunia: Pain during sexual intercourse.
Because of its complex nature and umbrella taking so many varying issues into consideration, it is often overlooked as simply women “not wanting to have sex”. However, often we don’t want to have sex BECAUSE we have issues. One of the biggest issues is the stigma around this. Most cases of sexual dysfunction go unreported. Various studies claim that anywhere from 40-70% of women have experienced some form of dysfunction, in comparison to only 34% of men (of which there are a myriad of options for them).In fact, there was an excellent research paper that suggests that the majority of women experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives, and for many it is an ongoing or recurring issue. A large survey of Australian women reported that 70% had experienced sexual difficulties (including inability to orgasm and not feeling like sex) in the year before the survey. Women over 50 were most likely to experience sexual difficulties, although they were common in all age groups (over 60% of women aged over 50 reported lack of interest in sex, and more than half of women aged 16-49 also reported this difficulty). Sexual dysfunction is not limited by age. It can affect women at any time and is influenced by multiple factors.
In order to truly address this, we need to be talking more about sex and not accepting less for ourselves and our bodies while we suffer in silence.
The relationship between physical and emotional needs here becomes extremely important. Some women will be able to fulfil their sexual desires with a range of options that address the emotional side. These include therapy, talking more openly and learning more about your body. However, some of us have physical issues that make this slightly more challenging, although not always impossible.
The Mayo Clinic has some excellent explanations of the different types of causes of dysfunction
Any number of medical conditions, including cancer, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and bladder problems, can lead to sexual dysfunction. Certain medications, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines and chemotherapy drugs, can decrease your sexual desire and your body’s ability to experience orgasm.
Lower estrogen levels after menopause may lead to changes in your genital tissues and sexual responsiveness. A decrease in estrogen leads to decreased blood flow to the pelvic region, which can result in less genital sensation, as well as needing more time to build arousal and reach orgasm.
The vaginal lining also becomes thinner and less elastic, particularly if you’re not sexually active. These factors can lead to painful intercourse (dyspareunia). Sexual desire also decreases when hormonal levels decrease.
Your body’s hormone levels also shift after giving birth and during breast-feeding, which can lead to vaginal dryness and can affect your desire to have sex.
Psychological and social
Untreated anxiety or depression can cause or contribute to sexual dysfunction, as can long-term stress and a history of sexual abuse. The worries of pregnancy and demands of being a new mother may have similar effects.
Long-standing conflicts with your partner — about sex or other aspects of your relationship — can diminish your sexual responsiveness as well. Cultural and religious issues and problems with body image also can contribute.
What can we do
There are a number of ways to assist if you are not feeling satisfied in your sex life. As the issue is complex, the most important is to identify what you want. If you could wish for something, what would it be? Once you have a goal, it becomes easier to try to find a solution.
The next important step is to communicate. Communication is critical in fulfing our sexual desires and overcoming concerns. Talking to your partner, your friends, a health care professional, counsellor are all great steps that can help normalise and hopefully solve your issues.
Taking the step to speak to someone professional may seem daunting, however it makes a huge difference. Whether it be a sex therapist, counsellor or health care provider such as a general practitioner or gynaecologist – all of these people will be able to share some of their experience and expertise with you that may assist. Often to truly ‘fix’ the issue, it will require a combination of emotional, physical and psychological support and patience. If the issue has been going on for a long time, our bodies learn a response to this and we have to try to change that. This is especially true if you have experiences sexual assault or trauma.
The important thing to remember is that there is hope. There are so many resources out there and so many people there to assist. Only a very small percentage of women are unable to achieve orgasm (estimated at 5%). Having an enjoyable and fulfilling sex life is possible for most women, sometimes it just takes a bit of work.
We have some great resources on this site and some more information on understanding your body which can have a significant impact on your ability to enjoy sex (click here for information about your body). We have created a brochure on sexual health and you which you can download for free here. Please feel free to read our resources and as always, let us know if there is anything specific you would like to know more about.