Does female sexuality need to be fixed?
February 3rd, 2011
09:51 AM ET

Does female sexuality need to be fixed?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

At Good in Bed, many of our experts are buzzing about a new documentary called "Orgasm, Inc." Directed by Liz Canner, the film chronicles the race by pharmaceutical companies to get FDA approval on “pink Viagra”—a pill to help treat female sexual dysfunction, or FSD.

The problem with this approach? As the film demonstrates, there’s no clear definition of FSD, which makes it difficult to determine whether it’s a problem that needs “treatment” or simply an example of the differences between male and female sexuality. The truth is that no one really knows what FSD is: Some people liken it to male sexual dysfunction, but there are major flaws with this comparison. It’s easy to tell when a man has premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. Female sexuality is less obvious. Women just don’t show clear-cut physical signals when they’re aroused.

Another reason that FSD is tough to define is because we tend to label men who don’t climax during sex as “dysfunctional.” Yet an estimated 75 percent of women never orgasm from penetrative sex alone—suggesting that this is normal, not problematic. So maybe we shouldn’t be focusing on “fixing” female sexuality, but changing the ways we have sex so that women more consistently orgasm. Even researchers can’t agree: In 2000, the Journal of Urology offered a few definitions on FSD, including:

• Lack of interest in sexual activity
• “Phobic avoidance” of sexual contact with a partner
• Inability to attain or maintain sexual excitement
• Difficulty attaining orgasm
• Genital pain or pain during intercourse

More than a decade later, there’s still no consensus on which, if any, of these definitions is accurate. And experts aren’t the only ones who are confused: Although studies suggest that the drug flibanserin could be the new “female Viagra,” the FDA recently declined to approve its use for FSD. In one 2010 study from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, researchers found that women with low sexual desire who took the medication for 6 months had an 18 percent improvement in their libido. But the FDA rejected flibanserin just a month later, saying it failed to completely prove efficacy in treating FSD.

Some critics say we shouldn’t be “medicalizing” sex at all and don’t need a pill to treat a condition that may be “all in her head.” After all, lots of women often simply aren’t in the mood for sex, or are distracted by life’s stresses, or just need to start using lubricant. That doesn’t mean they’re dysfunctional. In fact, it may just mean they’re normal: To that end, sex researcher Rosemarie Basson has proposed a new framework for thinking about female sexual response, one that places the importance of emotional intimacy and relationship satisfaction at its center. Basson’s framework contends that female sexual arousal is more complex than a male’s and depends more intensely on factors such as relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, and previous sexual experiences.

To me, the issue of FSD isn’t black and white. Sure, FSD isn’t as physically obvious as male sexual problems: Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the penis, giving a man an erection, while flibanserin appears to affect the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in a woman’s brain that influence desire. But that doesn’t mean that FSD doesn’t have a physiological component. Side effects of medications (including some antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and birth-control pills), shifting levels of hormones, stress and anxiety, obesity, and conditions including diabetes and multiple sclerosis can all lower a woman’s desire. So FSD—if it indeed exists—isn’t simply perception, just as it’s not solely physical. My guess is that’s a combination of brain and body—although whether a drug can effectively treat FSD remains unseen. Emily Nagoski, the author of The Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms, says, “There’s no such thing as a sexual dysfunction that’s 'all in your head.' Neither is there a sexual dysfunction that’s 'all in your vagina.' There is only the embodied mind. Thus education and behavioral training change physiology.”

Ladies: 5 ways to feel sexy again

In the meantime, there’s no reason why women who want to want sex should suffer with low desire. Prescription testosterone cream may help boost desire women who have low levels of this important sex hormone, as can devices such as the Eros device, which uses a gentle vaccuum pump to stimulate blood flow to the genitals. And don’t discount all the “natural” ways that both women and men can increase sexual desire, from trying new things between the sheets to increasing intimacy outside the bedroom.

soundoff (534 Responses)
  1. Zula Bruner


    January 15, 2021 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Otis Verdino

    Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome, great written and come with approximately all significant infos. I would like to look extra posts like this .


    January 15, 2021 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Gia Bonsey

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.I will definitely return.


    January 18, 2021 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ollie Apicella

    Thank you, I have just been searching for information approximately this topic for a long time and yours is the best I have came upon so far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the supply?


    January 21, 2021 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Maudie Granzella

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thanks


    January 30, 2021 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 먹튀검증

    It's awesome to visit this web page and reading
    the views of all friends about this article, while I am also keen of getting experience.

    Take a look at my web site; 먹튀검증

    January 31, 2021 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Buy Real Youtube Video Views

    I am not rattling great with English but I line up this very easy to translate.


    February 3, 2021 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Cheap Social Subscribers

    I like this internet site because so much useful material on here : D.


    February 4, 2021 at 06:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joan Mcentyre

    thank you for this info.


    February 8, 2021 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. resochin

    malaria drug chloroquine chloroquine diphosphate chloroquinolone

    February 12, 2021 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. zithromax 250mg

    z pack indications zithromax price zithromax tablet

    February 14, 2021 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Quality Private Proxies

    That is the correct weblog for anybody who wants to search out out about this topic. You realize so much its almost arduous to argue with you (not that I truly would need…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply great!


    February 14, 2021 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. plaquenil blurry vision

    erectile medicine for men plaquenil side effects erectile enhancement pills

    February 15, 2021 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. plaquenil

    erectile prescription pills plaquenil and weight loss erectile pills in canada

    February 17, 2021 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. 토토

    I like what you guys are up too. This sort of
    clever work and coverage! Keep up the amazing works guys I've added you
    guys to my own blogroll.

    February 18, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Buy Elite Proxy

    I'm extremely impressed along with your writing talents as neatly as with the structure on your weblog. Is that this a paid topic or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to look a great weblog like this one nowadays..


    February 18, 2021 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. buy face masks

    Hey, I came across your blog and I like this post in particular. You make some insightful arguments. Where may I find out more?


    February 21, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Toshia Wisz

    rc cars for adults gas powered drifting


    February 24, 2021 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. viagra cheap

    https://genericviagragog.com sildenafil 100

    February 26, 2021 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Geri

    If you are going for best contents like myself, simply go to
    see this website daily because it provides quality contents,

    March 2, 2021 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. https://www.spreaker.com/

    Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to
    my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell
    to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic
    but I had to tell someone!

    March 3, 2021 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. dick

    hello there and thank you for your information – I have definitely picked up anything new from right here.
    I did however expertise a few technical issues
    using this website, since I experienced to reload the website lots of times previous to
    I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if
    your web host is OK? Not that I'm complaining, but slow loading instances
    times will sometimes affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I am adding this RSS to my email and can look
    out for much more of your respective fascinating content.
    Ensure that you update this again very soon.

    March 6, 2021 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. 먹튀검증커뮤니티

    Thanks for one's marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading
    it, you are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back sometime soon. I want to
    encourage you to ultimately continue your great work,
    have a nice morning!

    March 12, 2021 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. wikipedia cbd oil

    I really like it whenever people get together and share thoughts.
    Great site, continue the good work!

    March 18, 2021 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. tantric massage london

    Thanks for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.


    March 22, 2021 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ucuz takipci satin al

    Hey! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you
    knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

    March 26, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. small penies

    Hmm it appears like your website ate my first comment (it was super
    long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I had written and say,
    I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I'm
    still new to everything. Do you have any points for rookie
    blog writers? I'd really appreciate it.

    April 3, 2021 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. fathor shirt

    Have you ever thought about creating an e-book or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share some
    stories/information. I know my visitors would value your
    work. If you're even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

    April 16, 2021 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. instagram takipçi satın al

    Goode information. Lucky mes I found your site
    by accident (stumbleupon). I've book-markeds it for later! https://trmedya-2.blogspot.com/

    April 18, 2021 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 셔츠 룸 시스템

    It's awesome in favor of me to have a web site, which is helpful for my experience.
    thanks admin

    April 21, 2021 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. 강남셔츠룸 시스템

    Good article. I definitely appreciate this site.

    May 14, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Judson Stemper

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you need to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people don't talk about such subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!


    May 19, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. quinine

    hydoxychloroquine malarone hcq medication

    June 11, 2021 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. buy chloroquine phosphate

    hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets hydroxychloroquine chloroquine side effects of hydroxychlor 200 mg

    June 13, 2021 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. marijuana dispensaries near me

    Appreciate you sharing, great blog.Thanks Again. Really Great.


    June 30, 2021 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. www.pharmaceptica.com

    erectile band https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 30, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.