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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Let’s talk about sex

By Kira Jones

Sexual dysfunction is not just a concern for men.

In fact, 43 percent of women experience some form of sexual dysfunction, according to Donna Hawxhurst a presenter at the Women’s Resource Center on Tuesday.

Despite this large percentage, not many women understand the myriad of sexual problems plaguing their gender, Hawxhurst said.

Compounding the problems, female sexual dysfunction is not exactly water-cooler conversation.

“We must be cautious, sexual expression is a normal human function. There is a difference between dissatisfaction and pathology,” Hawxhurst said.

Women are often faced with conflicting ideologies when confronted with sexuality and therefore become frustrated when they are not able to achieve a pleasurable sexual experience.

Many of these ideologies come from religion, relational and social views, as well as biology. These ideologies also dictate what is acceptable and what is not.

For instance, biology asserts that sexual behavior occurs primarily for reproduction. So sexual problems arise only from physiological factors.

Traditional solutions to those problems don’t work because they tend to “exploit women’s dissatisfaction,” Hawxhurst said. She called the physiological solution “medicalizing female sexuality.”

“A pill won’t fix religious pressures to abstain, romantic issues and societal pressures,” she added.

Religion emphasizes that sexual experiences are moral issues restricted by religious doctrine and practices.

Relational ideologies assert that sex is supposed to be a bonding experience, a form of communication. Sexual problems may arise when couples have conflicts in other areas of their relationships.

In many cases, this leads women to get caught up in pleasing their partners rather than focusing on their own desires, Hawxhurst said.

“[Women] don’t realize they have a right to pleasure during sex,” she said.

Social views dictate the appropriate age for one to express one’s sexual desires as well as what desires and behaviors are appropriate.

Shows like “Sex and the City” portray women with more sexual freedom, even though current societal norms dictate otherwise. Such shows don’t “accurately reflect real women’s experiences,” Hawxhurst said.

Society also emphasizes through media outlets that a natural sexual experience should end in an orgasm.

“In our minds, the point of traveling is to arrive at a destination. Therefore, there is a sense of dissatisfaction when we don’t reach an orgasm,” Hawxhurst said. “Just because a sexual experience does not follow a mainstream definition does not mean there is something wrong with the experience as a whole.”

The way health professionals classify and treat sexual dysfunction only adds to women’s frustrations.

The American Psychological Association only classifies sexual dysfunction in four narrow groups, ignoring bigger-picture issues like relational ideologies.

“Being comfortable with our own experiences and removing expectations will help to remove focus of sexual dysfunction on primarily pathological concerns,” Hawxhurst said.

She emphasized that the key to fixing female sexual dysfunction is addressing it and the religious, social, relational and biological factors.

“The point is, there needs to be more than just a medical fix. There needs to be discussion and education about the issue,” she said.

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