Common Experiences for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

sexual abuse sexually abused

Common Experiences for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

  • Setting Limits/Boundaries
    • Because someone you trusted and depended on invaded your personal boundaries when you were young, you may have trouble understanding that you have the right to control what happens to you.
  • Memories/Flashbacks
    • Like many survivors, you may experience flashbacks.
  • Anger
    • This is often the most difficult emotion for an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse to get in touch with.
    • As a child your anger was powerless and had little to no effect on the actions of your abuser. For this reason you may not feel confident that you anger will be useful or helpful.
    • Anger may seem to be directed at innocent people in your life today or you may have a generalized since of anger about life.
    • Anger with God is very common and not something God can’t handle.
  • Grieving/Mourning
    • Being abused as a child means the loss of many things- childhood experiences, trust, innocence, normal relationship with family members (especially if the abuser was a family member).
    • You must be allowed to name those losses, grieve them, and then bury them.
  • Guilt, Shame, and Blame
    • You may carry a lot of guilt because you may have experienced pleasure or because you did not try to stop the abuse.
    • There may have been silence surrounding the abuse that led to feelings of shame.
    • It is important for you to understand that it was the adult who abused his/her position of authority and should be held accountable, not you.
  • Trust
    • Learning to trust again may be very difficult for you.
    • You may find that you go from one extreme to the other, not trusting at all to trusting too much.
    • You may find it difficult to forgive or understand the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Coping Skills
    • You have undoubtedly developed skills in order to cope with the trauma.
    • Some of these skills are healthy (possibly separating yourself from family members, seeking out counseling, etc.)
    • Some are not (drinking or drug abuse, promiscuous sexual activity, eating disorders etc.)
  • Self-esteem/Isolation
    • Low self-esteem is a result of all of the negative messages you received and internalized from your abusers.
    • Because entering into an intimate relationship involves trust, respect, love, and the ability to share, you may flee from intimacy or hold on too tightly for fear of losing the relationship.
  • Sexuality
    • You likely have to deal with the fact that your first initiation into sex came as a result of sexual abuse.
    • You may experience the return of body memories while engaging in a sexual activity with another person. Such memories may interfere in your ability to engage in sexual relationships, which may leave you feeling frightened, frustrated, or ashamed.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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What should I do if I am sexually assaulted or raped?

sexual assault

  1. Find a safe environment – anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for moral support.
  2. Know that what happened was not your fault and that now you should do what is best for you.
  3. Report the attack to police by calling 911. If you want more information, a counselor on the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE can help you understand the process.
  4. To preserve evidence of the attack – don’t bathe or brush your teeth.
  5. Write down all the details you can recall about the attack & the attacker.
  6. Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STDs and pregnancy.
  7. To preserve forensic evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam.
  8. If you suspect you may have been drugged, ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will need to be analyzed later on by a forensic lab.
  9. If you know that you will never report, there are some things you should still consider:
  10. Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STDs and pregnancy.
  11. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN, for free, confidential counseling, 24 hours a day: 1-800-656-HOPE.
  12. Recognize that healing from rape takes time. Give yourself the time you need.
  13. Know that it’s never too late to call. Even if the attack happened years ago, the National Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline can still help. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.

How can I help a loved one who has been raped or sexually assaulted?

There are many ways that you can help a friend or family member who has been raped or sexually assaulted:

  • Pray. Ask God for help in this difficult time, and ask Him to give you wisdom about what steps to take.
  • Listen. Be there. Don’t be judgmental.
  • Help to empower your loved one. Rape and sexual assault are crimes that take away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on your loved one to do things that he or she is not ready to do yet.
  • If you are dealing with an issue involving your child, create a safe place by talking directly to them.
  • If you are the non-abusing parent in a case of incest, it is important to support your child and help them through this situation without blaming them. This is also true if you are not a parent but still an observer of incest.
  • If you’re loved one is considering suicide, follow-up with them on a regular basis.
  • Encourage your loved one to report the rape or sexual assault to law enforcement (call 911 in most areas). If your loved one has questions about the criminal justice process, talking with someone on the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1.800.656.HOPE, can help.
  • Let your loved one know that professional help is available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1.800.656.HOPE, the Victim Center Springfield Missouri 417.864.7233, and The Relationship Center 855.593.4357 (855.5WE.HELP) for ongoing recovery.
  • If your loved one is willing to seek medical attention or report the assault, offer to accompany him or her wherever s/he needs to go (hospital, police station, campus security, etc.)
  • Encourage him or her to contact help, but realize that only your loved one can make the decision to get help.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Was I Raped?

was i rapedSexual wounds are often the deepest of all. They violate something inside us that is meant to be respected and delighted in. If you’re a survivor of rape, incest, or another form of sexual abuse, The Relationship Center is here to help you find healing.

 Was I Raped?

The exact definition of “rape”, “sexual assault”, “sexual abuse”, and similar terms differs by state. The wording can get confusing, since states often use different words to mean the same thing or use the same words to describe different things. So, for a precise legal definition, you need to check the law in your state. But here are some general guidelines based on the definitions used by the U.S. Justice Department. Please note that these definitions are a bit graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.

  • Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
  • Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.

There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual or legally considered a rape or sexual assault.

  1. Were the participants old enough to consent?
  2. Do the people have the capacity to consent?
  3. Did both participants agree to take part?

It’s important to remember that even if a sexual encounter is not legally considered a rape or sexual assault, it can still be very traumatic and have negative emotional consequences.

Common Rape Questions

  • I didn’t resist physically, does that mean it isn’t rape? People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape, in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying no) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).
  • My body responded physically, does that mean it isn’t rape or that I wanted it? It’s not uncommon at all for a rape victim’s body to respond sexually to unwanted sexual contact. Our bodies are designed to respond to sexual stimuli. This can even be protective in that by your body responding normally to the sexual contact it may have prevented more serious physical damage. Just because your body responded sexually to the contact does not mean that it wasn’t rape or that you wanted it to happen.
  • I used to date or am married to the person who assaulted me, does that mean it isn’t rape?
    Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called date rape, or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape.
  • I don’t remember the assault, does that mean it isn’t rape?
    Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs”, and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local crisis center or local police for guidance).
  • I was asleep or unconscious when it happened, does that mean it isn’t rape?
    Rape can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is rape.
  • I was drunk or he was drunk, does that mean it isn’t rape?
    Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse, or an alibi. Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape.
  • I thought “no” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?
    Yes and it depends on the circumstances. Yes from the perspective of your experience of the event, maybe from a legal perspective. If you didn’t say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally, for example, when someone has a knife or gun to your head, or threatens you or your family if you say anything. Even if the event is not legally considered a rape, it can still be extremely damaging and hurtful.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Free Sex Therapy Help

free sex therapyProfessional counseling is a big investment with a big benefits. It will cost you: time, energy, and money. In return you can…

  • Find healing for the hurting parts of your life
  • Enjoy more satisfying relationships
  • Learn how to better enjoy the sexual part of your life
  • Break destructive cycles
  • Better understand who you are as a sexual being
  • Gain the skills to be the best you possible

These Free Sex Therapy Resources – Recommendations can help you get the most out of your professional counseling experience.

 Helpful Sex Therapy Links

  • HealthySex.com / Wendy Maltz
    -Wendy Maltz is a field recognized expert in sex therapy. She addresses issues of sexual healing and freedom from pornography & sexual addiction. Though Wendy does not teach from an explicitly Christian perspective, many of her resources are intensely helpful.
  • Bethesda Workshops
    -Marnie Ferree and the team at Bethesda Workshops have put together a world class 4 day intensive treatment program for men and women who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. The program is extremely effective and affordable. This program is Biblically Christian and clinically solid. Highly recommended.
  • Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (ISSI)
    -Mark Yarhouse and the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity are the leading authorities on sexual identity issues including same-sex attraction and gender identity confusion. Their model for helping people with distressing same-sex attractions or gay, lesbian, bi-sexual issues (Sexual Identity Therapy) is cutting edge and completely compatible with the Christian faith.
  • The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
    – The Sexual Healing Journey helps survivors to:

    • identify the sexual effects of abuse
    • create a positive meaning for sex
    • develop a healthy sexual self-concept
    • gain control over upsetting automatic reactions to touch and sex
    • stop negative sexual behaviors
    • improve intimacy with a partner
    • learn a new approach to touch and sex
    • resolve sexual functioning concerns
  • A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds
    – NOT JUST FOR NEWLYWEDS. This is a guide to enjoying God’s gift of married sexual pleasure. A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds answers specific, often unasked questions about sexual topics, and presents newly-married couples with detailed techniques and behavioral skills for learning sexual pleasure and intimate companionship. This book offers invaluable information in a professional yet sensitive style. If you have sex, or will be having sex, or hope to someday have sex ~ This book will help you! It maybe the best $10 you spend this year.
  • Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
    – Dr. Mark Laaser is the leading Christian expert in sexual addiction. He and his wife (author of Shattered Vows) are founders of the ministry Faithful and True that helps thousands who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction through resources and workshops.
  • When Lost Men Come Home
    – This book offers a Christ-centered application of the powerful 12 steps, developed and popularized by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous for those who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. Dave Zailer has created a new, unique handbook for the journey, marrying the biblical context to the proven spiritual 12 steps program.
  • Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed
    – This sensitive and practical guide offers proven tools that help women struggling with sexual betrayal make wise and empowering decisions. Shattered Vows is inspired by the author’s personal journey through betrayal, her extensive work with hundreds of hurting women, and her intimate marriage two decades after the disclosure of her husband’s infidelity.
  • Sexual Identity: A Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times
    – Most people who attempt to change their homosexual attractions and behaviors experience only partial success despite their best efforts. Written for Christians whose beliefs and values support their work towards chastity, this book offers a unique look at how they can manage and develop their sexual identity through a number of practical strategies.
  • The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
    – You may think you don’t know anyone who has been sexually abused, especially if most of your friends and acquaintances are Christians. But the statistics indicate otherwise. The Wounded Heart is an intensely personal and specific look at this most “soul deadening” form of abuse. Personal because it may be affecting you, your spouse, a close friend or neighbor, or someone you know well at church; and specific because it goes well beyond the general issues and solutions discussed in other books. Dr. Allender’s book reaches deep into the wounded heart of someone you know, exploring the secret lament of the soul damaged by sexual abuse and laying hold of the hope buried there by the One whose unstained image we all bear.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Frequently Asked Questions in Sex Therapy

sex therapy questionsSatisfying Sex :: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

Marriage is tough. It gets even tougher if your experiencing difficulties in the sexual part of your marriage. It’s fairly normal for people to marry with the expectation of having regular sex. In fact, most even expect to enjoy it! When either of these normal marital expectations are frustrated it has a negative affect on the marital relationship.

Most couples don’t get married to be celibate and yet many couples are not experiencing the kind of sexual satisfaction they dreamed of before marriage. While sex isn’t everything in a marriage, it’s certainly an important part of the marriage relationship. It can be a source of great pleasure and intimacy when it’s happening right.

Many couples struggle silently for years with the shame, dissatisfaction, and hurt that come with a sexual problem. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is help available. Many normal couples come in for sexual counseling to help them overcome sexual obstacles and learn to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality to it’s fullest.

The counselors at The Relationship Center will help you understand God’s design for sexuality and how to enjoy sex at it’s best!

 An Intimate Marriage + Mature Lovers = A Fulfilling Sex Life

Frequently Asked Questions in Sex Therapy

Sex therapy can help you answer these and many more questions specific to your love life.

  • What about the use of sexual “toys,” including vibrators?
  • Is oral sex ok?
  • What about anal sex?
  • How can I experience regular orgasms?
  • What about couples using pornographic movies together? Is there such a thing as “Christian” porn movies?
  • Are certain positions or sexual practices “kinky” and not OK?
  • As a man, how can I prolong orgasm to better pleasure my wife?
  • Sex is painful…how is it suppose to be and what can we do to help?
  • Is this normal?
  • What if I just don’t “feel” like having sex?

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

Christian Sex Therapy / Sexual Wholeness

christian sex therapySexual Wholeness is about learning to enjoy, be comfortable with, and feel good about the sexual part of your life. The truth about sex is that it is God’s idea and He wants us to know how to enjoy His good gift best. God wants us to be free from hurt, disappointment, guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy so that we can be free to enjoy His gift of sexuality.

Sex therapy helps individuals and couples enhance sexual fulfillment and/or resolve sexual conflicts and problems. Solutions can vary from simple education to more extensive counseling around complex or longstanding issues. Strategies are tailored to the goals of the individual or couples seeking help. Sex therapy maintains ethical boundaries and is sensitive to the personal values of the client. Techniques include relationship and intimacy enhancement, strategic reading, specific behavioral interventions, therapy groups and referral/consultation with other professionals. Sex therapy can be a catalyst for healing and enrichment in the crucial sexual component of intimate relationships.

So why Christian sex therapy?
Christian sex therapy makes sense because sex is God’s idea. God created humans, and He created them as sexual creatures. He knows how our sexuality is meant to be and how it’s enjoyed most. God wants us to be at peace with our sexuality and enjoy it to it’s fullest potential.

While God created our sexuality to be something wonderful and reflective of Him, it can be the source of unbelievable pain. When God’s gift is violated or distorted by personal choices or at the hands of others, the results are hurt, shame, and loss of relationship. Sexual consequences, injuries, and struggles can be devastating. Yet, there is hope.

God is redemptive. This means our God wants to bring healing to the hurting and broken places in our life, including our sexuality. The counselors at The Relationship Center integrate the Truth of God’s word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, with the best of information the professional sex therapy field has to offer. The result is Biblically Christian professional sex therapy to help you experience peace, healing and satisfaction in the sexual part of your life.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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6 Most Common Sexual Concerns

These 6 areas are common issues Christian sex therapist help with:sex therapy

  1. Lack of Sexual Fulfillment: are you just not enjoying sex or are you having difficulty experiencing orgasm?
  2. Pain from Sex: is sex painful for you either physically or emotionally?
  3. Feel Inadequate: do you feel inept or not good enough as a lover?
  4. Pornography or Sexual Addiction: do you struggle with using pornography or acting out sexually in ways that you’re ashamed of?
  5. Sexual Abuse, Trauma, or Rape: do you have emotional wounds from being mistreated or exploited sexually?
  6. Same-Sex Attractions: do you experience distressing same-sex attractions, question your gender, or wonder if you might be “homosexual” or “gay”?

Other Common Sexual Concerns

sexual desire concerns • erectile dysfunction • recovery from rape or sexual trauma • single adult concerns • distressing same-sex attractions • unconsummated marriages • pornography or sexual addiction • compulsive masturbation • orgasmic difficulties • problems of arousal • inadequate frequency • painful sex • sexual awkwardness • fear or avoidance of sex • gender identity issues • premature ejaculation • sexual performance concerns • infertility issues • dissatisfaction with ones sexuality • pre-marital sex education • performance anxiety & skill deficits • sexual changes with aging • sex problems after child birth • extramarital affairs

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

What is Sex Therapy?

sex therapy springfield missouriLet’s start with what sex therapy is not. Throw out of your mind anything you ever learned about sex therapy from TV, the movies, or the guy who knows a guy who went to sex therapy with his wife. Sex therapy is not about hyper-sexo-maniacs and the latest greatest sexual technique from the revised edition of the kama-sutra.

 Sex therapy helps individuals and couples enhance sexual fulfillment and/or resolve sexual conflicts and problems. Solutions can vary from simple education to more extensive counseling around complex or longstanding issues. Strategies are tailored to the goals of the individual or couples seeking help. Sex therapy maintains ethical boundaries and is sensitive to the personal values of the client. Techniques include relationship and intimacy enhancement, strategic reading, specific behavioral interventions, therapy groups and referral/consultation with other professionals. Sex therapy can be a catalyst for healing and enrichment in the crucial sexual component of intimate relationships.

It’s about learning to enjoy, be comfortable with, and feel good about the sexual part of your life. The truth about sex is that it is God’s idea and He wants us to know how to enjoy His good gift best. God wants us to be free from hurt, disappointment, guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy so that we can be free to enjoy His gift of sexuality.

Sex therapy is for normal people struggling in the sexual part of their life. It’s about helping people who experience…

Could you benefit from Sex Therapy?

  • Lack of Sexual Fulfillment – are you just not enjoying sex or are you having difficulty experiencing orgasm?
  • Pain from Sex – is sex painful for you either physically or emotionally?
  • Feelings of Inadequacy – do you feel inept or not good enough as a lover?
  • Pornography or Sexual Addiction – do you struggle with using pornography or acting out sexually in ways that you’re ashamed of?
  • Sexual Abuse, Trauma, or Rape – do you have emotional wounds from being mistreated or exploited sexually?
  • Same-Sex Attractions – do you experience distressing same-sex attractions, question your gender, or wonder if you might be “homosexual” or “gay”?

There are many reasons why normal people can use some help in the sexual part of their lives. Don’t let fear or embarrassment keep you from getting help and learning to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality to you.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Wives Sexual Desire | What you need to know.

wives sexual desireWives sexual desire is a subject misunderstood by nearly all men and most women.  In recent years, one of the hottest topics in sexology has been female sexual desire disorders. For the past four decades, women have been pathologized for not being like men. For instance, according to University of British Columbia psychiatrist Rosemary Basson, “sexual difficulties are particularly prevalent among women seeking routine gynecological care.2 In population surveys, some 30%–35% of women aged 18–70 have reported a lack of sexual desire during the previous 1–12 months.3,4”

The traditional assumption for both men and women has been that desire precedes sexual arousal. Therefore, if a woman is no longer experiencing desire, it is assumed that she now has some sort of sexual hang up or disorder. While this may be true for men, research in the past 10 years reveals a different pattern for women.

Men tend to be more like a loaded gun ready to fire. All that’s needed is someone to pull on the trigger. A man’s libido acts as a drive similar to hunger or thirst. For the past hundred years, sex professionals have assumed that a woman’s libido was at least similar, and that if a woman didn’t feel desire something had to be wrong.

Contributing to the problem are the messages delivered through media. Women are sexually portrayed in books, movies, articles, and even in church circles as men in female form. This mistaken belief concerning female arousal and response patterns has left generations of men and women believing something that’s false. Hardly a day goes by that some couple doesn’t come in to my office arguing about the wife’s lack of sexual desire. This leaves women feeling that they are somehow flawed because they don’t share the same sexual interest as their husband.

But what if desire does not precede arousal?

That is exactly what Basson discovered after interviewing hundreds of women. Contrary to the conventional model, for many women desire is not the cause of lovemaking, but rather the result. Basson’s research revealed that women often begin sexual experiences feeling sexually neutral. But as things heat up, so do they – and eventually desire is experienced.

This explains why Viagra doesn’t work for women, and why sex-boosting supplements are only minimally successful. Products that change the physiology of sexual arousal do not affect desire. At best, they can only increase blood flow into the genitals. It’s easy for men to be aware of increased blood flow because erections are hard to miss. From there it’s only a short step in a man’s mind from erection to the assumption that they have desire. Women, on the other hand, are often unaware of gentle blood engorgement, and even when they are aware of it they frequently report no feelings of arousal.

If women don’t experience a sense of desire, as most men know it, then most guys might wonder why a woman would even want to be sexual. According to research, women tend to be sexual for reasons that affirm their relationships, but their reasons are not inherently sexual. These might include wanting to please their lover, a desire to feel close, to prevent strife, to reconnect after a fight, or because they feel a responsibility. Research supports the old adage that men become intimate to have sex and women have sex to become intimate.

From this perspective, the critical question becomes not how do you ignite a woman’s desire for sex, but instead, what kind of interaction arouses women sufficiently to enable them to experience desire? The types of interaction that fuel desires in women are playful, leisurely, sensual (lovemaking based on whole body massage that can include genitals but certainly is not focused on them). In surveys, the primary complaints of women are about interactions with their husbands which are non-sensual, too rushed, too focused on breasts and genitals, and too quickly plunged into intercourse. Rushed lovemaking fails to give women the time most need to respond to become aroused enough to experience desire.

Further complicating the issue is the culture created by Viagra. Men mistakenly believe they are sexually aroused when they have an erection. Therefore taking Viagra and having an erection means they’re good to go. However, erections have nothing to do with psychological arousal. Any erectile medication can give a physical erection, but does it create an excitement to be with your mate and to experience the wonder of who they are? Far too often a man’s genitals on Viagra will be at 100%, but his psychological arousal remains at 10 or 20 percent. Once the erection is in place, he proceeds on to intercourse, skipping the steps which would create psychological arousal for both himself and his wife. This creates a growing sense of dissatisfaction for the woman since she is not experiencing the necessary relational interactions and arousal to make the experience pleasurable for her.

Research shows that many women do experience spontaneous desire and interest when they’re involved in a new relationship or when coming back together after long-term separation from their partner, but it also indicates that most women in long-term relationships rarely think about sex or experience spontaneous sexual desire. Therefore, women seem to operate more out of a point of sexual neutrality–where she is receptive to being sexual, but does not initiate sexual activity. Many women report that the goal of sexual activity is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which is then experienced as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (the feeling of closeness and connection with a partner).

This is important simply for the fact that there is not something necessarily wrong if a woman is not experiencing the same desire and arousal patterns as a man. Men and women are not the same.

Women need to quit being so hard on themselves if they don’t experience the same desire as their husbands. And men need to quit thinking there must be something wrong with their wife if she doesn’t experience sexual desire as he does.

If men or women experience a lack of desire in a marital relationship. Multiple factors need to be explored: The following is a list of factors from Rosemary Basson’s article.

Women’s sexual dysfunction: revised and expanded definitions

Interpersonal and contextual factors

In a recent national probability sample of American women 20–65 years of age, their emotional relationship with the partner during sexual activity and general emotional well-being were the 2 strongest predictors of absence of distress about sex. Women who defined themselves (using standard psychological instruments) to be in good mental health were much less likely than women with lower self-rated mental health to report distress about their sexual relationship (odds ratio 0.41, 95% confidence interval 0.29– 0.59). The healthier women were therefore 59% less likely to report distress about their sexual relationship. Feeling emotionally close to their partner during sexual activity decreased the odds of “slight distress” by 33% relative to “no distress,” and “marked distress” by 43%; in other words, the stronger the emotional intimacy with the partner, the less distress. Other contextual factors reported to reduce arousability included concerns about safety (risks of unwanted pregnancy and STDs, for example, or emotional or physical safety), appropriateness or privacy, or simply that the situation is insufficiently erotic, too hurried, or too late in the day.

Personal psychological factors

Frequently a woman’s arousal is precluded by the nonsexual distractions of daily life, but also sometimes by sexual distractions (e.g., worry about not becoming sufficiently aroused, reaching orgasm, a male partner’s delayed or premature ejaculation or a female partner’s lack of orgasm). Empirical studies have shown a high correlation of desire complaints with measures of low self-image, mood instability and tendency toward worry and anxiety (without meeting the clinical definition of a mood disorder). Differences between a group of 46 consecutive women with a diagnosis of desire disorder without clinical depression and a control group of 100 healthy women were significant for 6 out of 8 scales in the Narcissism Inventory (a standardized self-administered instrument). The scales indicated that the women with desire disorder had self-esteem that was weak or even fragile, emotional instability, anxiety and neuroticism. Sexual arousal and orgasm, especially in a partner’s presence, necessitates a certain degree of vulnerability, which is impossible for some women who cannot tolerate feelings of loss of control generally, and loss of control specifically of their body’s reactions.

Further inhibiting psychological factors include memories of past negative sexual experiences, including those that have been coercive or abusive, and expectations of negative outcomes to the sexual experience (e.g., from dyspareunia or partner sexual dysfunction).

Biological factors

The biological and pathophysiological underpinnings of normal and abnormal female sexual response are only recently receiving attention. Most of the basic science and animal experiments in this area are beyond the scope of this review. Some promising attempts are noted, however, in part because they relate attempts to ameliorate sexual dysfunction by means of off-label use of available drugs and to avoid the negative sexual side-effects of medications such as antidepressants.

Depression is strongly associated with reduced sexual function. Of 79 women with major depression surveyed before treatment with medication, 50% reported decreased sex drive; 50%, more difficulty obtaining vaginal lubrication; and 50%, far less sexual arousal when engaging in sex. Only 50% had been sexually active during the previous month. In addition, sexual dysfunction can constitute an adverse event of antidepressant use, especially among patients who had low levels of sexual enjoyment before the onset of their depression. When patients are specifically asked about sexual side-effects, they are acknowledged by as many as 70%.

Sexual dysfunction is also a common side-effect of treatment with antidepressants. Among women being treated, it has been found to be more common in those who are older, married, without postsecondary education, without full-time work, or taking concomitant medication (any type); those who have a comorbid illness that might affect sexual functioning, or a history of antidepressant- associated sexual dysfunction; those who deem sexual function unimportant; and those whose previous sexual engagements had afforded little pleasure.

Currently under scrutiny is the role of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in influencing sex hormone receptors and how the neurotransmitters are, in turn, influenced by sex hormones. Estrogenized female animals change their sexual behaviour when administered progesterone; studies have shown that the same changes can result from dopamine or the presence of a male animal. Among 75 non-depressed women with a DSM-IV diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder who received bupropion (a dopaminergic drug; average dose 389 mg/ d) or placebo, improvements in pleasure, arousal and orgasm were statistically significant for those administered the active drug. Interestingly, these changes were unaccompanied by increased desire.

Testosterone itself is being investigated as to its role in sexual function and dysfunction. About half of daily testosterone production in women is from the ovary. Some women with sudden loss of all ovarian production of androgens lose their sexual arousability. Supplementation to high physiological (as opposed to pharmacologically evident) levels of testosterone recently has led to increased arousability and more intense orgasmic experiences, but not to increased sexual thinking, fantasizing or spontaneous desire. Of 75 surgically menopausal women aged 31–56 participating in a randomized clinical trial of testosterone versus placebo, those given testosterone (300 μg transdermally) in addition to estrogen reported increased frequency of sexual activity, sexual pleasure and intensity of orgasm. So, reminiscent of the animal model, supplementation with a dopaminergic drug or testosterone can increase some women’s sexual arousability; but so too, as in the animal model, can environmental change (a new partner).

This may be far more information than you wanted, but I hope it helps you begin to understand the complexity of this issue.

References

Basson R. Female sexual response: the role of drugs in the management of sexual dysfunction. Obstet Gynecol 2001;98:350-353.

Basson, R. Women’s sexual dysfunction: revised and expanded definitions. CMAJ, 2005; 172:1267.

Whipple B, Brash-McGreer K. Management of female sexual dysfunction. In: Sipski ML, Alexander CJ, eds. Sexual Function in People with Disability and Chronic Illness. A Health Professional’s Guide. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.; 1997, pp 509-534.

Parts of this article were written by Rick Reynolds, LCSW and appeared first as Recovering from infidelity: Difficulties with Intimacy

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