Sexual dysfunction is more common than we realise, affecting about 35%of all sexually active people. It is easier to appreciate these statistics once we understand that human sexuality is infinitely complex.
Many women find discussions about sexuality uncomfortable, even within the confines of their relationships. Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. They also contribute to a sense of wellbeing.
The clinical definition of sexual health is the enjoyment of sexual activity of one’s choice, without causing or suffering physical or mental harm. But a number of disorders can affect the ability to have or enjoy sex in both men and women. Let’s talk about sex and look at some of these as a simple guide on how to note problem areas and do something about them:
If a woman is trying to achieve ascendency in her work, as well as being chief shopper, cook, housewife, mother and friend, then the role of lover may be eclipsed – all the more if she also finds herself as the chief person to blame when things go wrong. This multiplicity of irreconcilable roles will affect a couple’s sexual health, and can affect your libido.
Surveys have found that sharing housework and childcare ranks third as a factor for how successful a marriage will be. African women are commonly expected to take on most of these duties, even when they’re employed full-time. Not surprisingly, resentment over who does what at home may creep into the bedroom.
“Housework is one of the biggest libido-killers known to woman,” says Professor Aline P. Zoldbrod, a Boston-based certified sex therapist and a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Programme.
Tasks at work are typically linear – if you have a report to write, you write it, and you’re done. But household chores are circular and never-ending.
“One of the most sexy and endearing things a partner can do is pitch in and help with household chores,” says Zoldbrod. “When a woman has less on her to-do list, she’s more able to relax and get in the mood for erotic pleasure.”
When a woman has less on her to-do list, she’s more able to relax and get in the mood for erotic pleasure.
She said, He said
Disharmony in personal relationships is a common enemy of sexual health. Professor Zoldbrod says, “Every couple fights, but you need to balance every fight you have with five positive shared experiences.
“The health of your relationship depends on how good you each feel about the other, so if you’re fighting a lot, you have to make sure you’re also having plenty of fun together.
“There are some issues you may never agree on, but it’s important that when you do disagree, you focus on the positives, look for common ground, and work toward finding a solution to what you’re fighting about.” Harbouring acrimony can contribute to loss of interest in sex and sometimes malfunction.
Sex dyspareunia (Pain) and illness
Sexual dysfunction may be caused by a medical or gynaecological condition and a number of diseases and disorders can affect sexual health in a couple. Some of these may include sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. In women, cervical, uterine, vaginal, vulvar or ovarian cancer may have sexual effects. Sometimes the first sign of these cancers may be painful sex. Painful sex is called dyspareunia and is fairly common among women. However, there are treatments available and it is important to seek medical help if the problem persists. In men, treatment of prostate cancer can cause erectile dysfunction.
Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships.
Twenty-nine-year-old Grace Matsiko confessed to having decreasing interest in having sex with her husband because it had become “an act of attempting reproduction and not simply for our pleasure”. Grace and her husband have been unsuccessfully trying for their first baby for the past eight months.
Concerns about infertility cause high levels of anxiety in couples and that may affect their sex life and libido too. One of the core treatments for infertility is reassurance. On the flip side, fear of unplanned pregnancy may cause that same fear. In addition, make sure you are using a good contraceptive measure for peace of mind if you are not ready to conceive. Other sources of anxiety may or may not be related to fear of failure. For example, depression and fatigue. If one of you is working in a high-stress job, it may affect the coupling.
Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll
A catchphrase heard often in the media and one long glorified by society. The harms of alcohol and drugs outweigh their benefits in sexual health and function. Temporary ‘highs’ may have unanticipated life-long consequences. “We had sex at New Year, which was very blurred as we were both extremely drunk… I do remember that we didn’t use anything and I was not on the birth control pill,” a 17-year-old girl writes to an Agony Aunt column of a local paper.
Drug users are more likely to make impulsive sexual decisions, such as having unprotected sex, and are three times more likely to contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than people who don’t use drugs. Some medicines may affect sexual performance or libido negatively. These include tamoxifen (treats breast cancer), the Pill, cyproterone (hormonal drug), antidepressants and narcotics such as cocaine. Always find out what side-effects to expect from medicines you take.
There is a lot of sex talk out there, but there are just as many fallacies finding their way between the sheets as there are truths. Common myths about sexual performance include that all physical contact must lead to sex, that sex equals intercourse, and that sexual relations should come naturally and easy. These are misconceptions.
Another myth is that sex during the final stages of pregnancy may hurt the baby. Although there is a small risk of early labour, most research today not only shows that intercourse is completely safe for the child, it actually can promote a healthier, speedier labour and delivery.
It is also a common belief that once you get married, sex gets thrown out the window. In fact, research suggests that married couples actually have more sex than the singleton. This is mostly because couples living together are presented with more opportunities to have sex.
Another common belief by many women is that men think about sex at least once every seven seconds. Eric J Leech, a relationship blogger, says men today are actually too weighed down with thoughts of success and finances to devote that kind of brain power to the subject. In fact, only half of men (54%) think about sex once per day, according to the Kinsey Institute.
Wherever you are in your relationship, it’s good to know that a large part of a sexologist’s work is devoted to educating people about human sexuality and encouraging honest communication in relationships.
The sex life of any marriage or partnership will eventually affect other aspects of your life including your health. Seeking advice from a doctor or getting a therapist to help in that area is encouraged.