Health: Women who don't want it

More and more women today are going off sex. Is it a lack of desire - or satisfaction?

A book published this week reveals that as many as four in 10 women experience sexual dysfunction at some time in their lives. According to Catherine Kalamis's Women Without Sex, the issue of "female impotence" is largely ignored, but the impact can be devastating.

Kalamis surveyed 1,160 women in the UK and found that nearly one in five had lost all pleasure in sex, and one in three was worried about the future of her sex life.

Gillian, a 45-year-old management consultant from Kent, is one of the thousands of women in Britain who suffer from some form of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). In her twenties she had a fulfilling sex life, but when she reached her thirties, she had three children within three years by Caesarean section. She started to lose interest in sex. Now, she says: "The earth no longer moves. It is a whole different experience. I just thought it was to do with being continuously pregnant for so long, breastfeeding, being tired and so on. But when it did not return to normal after I had fully recovered from the birth of my third child, I realised it was more than that."

The Guild of Health Writers, an association of journalists and authors, is today holding a seminar on FSD at the King's Fund, London. Julia Cole, a psychosexual therapist with Relate, is one of the speakers at the seminar. "Four out of 10 women coming to Relate's psychosexual therapy service between 1992 and 1994 were diagnosed with this dysfunction," she says.

FSD may be caused by hormonal problems, blood-flow abnormalities, nerve damage, disease, childbirth and certain operations, including hysterectomy. Some illnesses, such as depression, can reduce desire, and certain drugs, most notably the antidepressants, can affect a woman's ability to climax. The condition may result in a lack of sexual drive, female sexual arousal disorder (where the woman may not have lost her sex drive, but finds sex too much of an ordeal), or lack of sexual arousal.

The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, published in 1991, says that half the clients going to sexual therapists in the US complain of problems with sexual desire. Julia Cole also cites loss of desire as the major problem, and suggests that many women lose interest in sex because they have never had a satisfying sex life. "If you look at a lot of studies going back to Kinsey, women have consistently said that they were dissatisfied with their sex lives. There were two studies in the late Seventies which showed that between 12 and 20 per cent of young wives were dissatisfied with their sexual experiences - much higher than the proportion of young married men who were dissatisfied.

"If this is the case, then where is the money for research into improving women's experience of sex? Britain has spent all this money on Viagra; where is the money to improve women's sexual lives?"

Although there is no magic pill for those whose main problems are psychological, sex therapy can be helpful and highly successful. Relate has run a sexual therapy service for more than 25 years, and of the 1,000 women questioned in their last survey, 70 per cent of women with a loss of interest in sex, or arousal problems, noted improvement.

"We try to help couples develop a sexual language that is right for them," says Cole. "Women still buy into the James Bond school of sexual understanding - that men ought to know instinctively what to do. Some women say: `If I have to tell him, then there is something wrong. A real man would know what to do.' What we do is encourage people to talk to each other."

The longer a relationship lasts, the more sophisticated the language of communication has to become. "I sometimes make an analogy between communicating in a relationship and communicating when abroad. If you are going abroad for a few days, you can get by with a few gestures. But if you are going to stay longer, you will need to learn the language a bit, and if you are going to stay for a couple of years, it is worth becoming fluent."

Unfortunately, many couples fail to go for therapy out of embarrassment. "They fear that they will be questioned in a way that is insensitive or uncaring," Cole explains. "It is not unusual, as a therapist, to be asked by clients whether they `will have to do something here'. It is a misunderstanding of the nature of therapy."

Some couples get more out of sex therapy than others. According to Kinsey, "factors that appear to increase the likelihood of success include a high motivation by the male partner for improving the relationship and faithfully carrying out the homework assignments".

Cole said that one of the most encouraging things shown in Relate's last analysis of its figures was that as well as couples' sex lives improving, therapy helped their relationships as a whole to improve.

"This is particularly relevant for women. Men, on the whole, are able to separate sex from their general relationships. A man might say to me: `We had an argument this morning, but why should that prevent us from making love tonight?' A woman is more likely to say that an argument in the morning put her right off making love that evening."

`Women Without Sex, the Truth about Female Impotence and Other Sexual Problems', by Catherine Kalamis, is published by Self Help Direct, price pounds 10.95 (0181-445 1262)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home