Now women start to worry about being good in bed

Therapists say high expectations have led to cases of female 'performance anxiety'
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The Independent Online

Sex therapists and doctors are reporting the first cases of young women seeking help for "performance anxiety" - a syndrome normally associated with men.

Clinics say that the increasing expectation that women should be as experienced as men, coupled with society's obsession with body image, are to blame for female patients reporting they are unable to make love because they feel under pressure to deliver "fantastic sex".

Record numbers of women, including those in their 20s and 30s, are seeking help for reduced sexual desire. The Sexual Dysfunction Association has received 2,500 calls from women over the past year, a 25 per cent increase on 2004 and a massive rise from the handful it received five years ago.

Ann Taylor from the charity said that doctors are often dismissive of women who come to them with this problem and that more training must be given. "Women feel they will be judged if they are not interested in sex because there is almost a competitive element among young women now," she said.

Dr John Moran, who has a Harley Street practice, specialises in menopause treatment but says that he is now treating young women. "If you are not having sex you are considered to be an outsider," he said. "This has been fuelled by the whole ladette culture. There is a lot of pressure on young women as well as men."

There are new treatments being tested which include testosterone patches for women with low levels of the hormone and a nasal spray that directly targets the brain's arousal centre. But the female version of the drug Viagra produced disappointing results.

Sexual health doctors warn that scientists need to carry out more research into what makes women aroused instead of developing products that are based on the male sex drive.

Low sex drive is most commonly associated with post-menopausal women, those who are recovering from serious illness or women with unusually low levels of testosterone.

Some experts argue that women are being made to feel abnormal if they are not having sex as much as men, that drugs companies are cashing in on insecure women and that men do not learn how to satisfy their partners sexually.

Catherine Kalamis, a writer who has carried out research into women with low sex drives, said that drugs are not the solution. "Women do have busy lives and there are a lot of unhappy women who feel very isolated, but it should not just be about popping a pill. Women's levels of desire are far more complex than that," she said.

Additional reporting by Sara Newman

UNDER PRESSURE

Angela Bell is a 25-year-old secretary from north London. She experienced problems when she was 17 and found that her sex drive was lower than her boyfriend's, which caused resentment.

"I was looking for confirmation and confidence rather than the actual physical act itself," she said.

"Once my partner thought it was OK to push me to perform, it would have to be OK the next time. The media always emphasise the sexual part of a woman. It's so much in our face and that leads to us thinking that unfortunately we have to deliver to the demands of what we see around us."

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