Sexual and Relationship Therapy | 2019
The most common presenting problem experienced by women seeking therapy for sexual concerns is low sexual desire. Across the literature, low sexual desire is pathologized and described—through the language of a medical model—as having a high prevalence rate, affecting an estimated 30–55% of women worldwide. This alleged prevalence rate is so high that it suggests the likelihood of methodological flaws in the calculations of prevalence; it also causes some to question the common depictions of women’s sexual desire, especially those found in the DSM. [...] By and large, women's sexual desire is poorly understood in part because there remains a paucity of scientific literature on the subject and in part because women’s sexual desire, as such, is known to be highly idiosyncratic and strongly influenced by myriad interacting variables, from biological and psychological to relational and cultural, the totality of which is often eclipsed in a single study. Given the inflated estimates on the prevalence of low sexual desire in women, it is important to question whether a high number of them genuinely experience (so-called) sexual dysfunction or whether female sexual desire remains misunderstood or misrepresented through recourse to reductive stereotypes.
The typical questions we hear about sexual desire—that is, “How much? and, “How often?”—are insufficient in the face of what 'sexual desire' actually means to women in their day-to-day lives. Sexual desire is often spoken of as something binary: off or on; high or low; my research reveals, on the other hand, that there are at least a dozen possible dimensions to sexual desire. In an era where Addyi (the 'female viagra') is being prescribed to women in high numbers, this study — which exposes the limitations of the biomedical model for addressing female sexual desire —is timely. Read it below: