Female Sexual Empowerment
By: Michael Krychman, MD • Posted on March 11, 2015
Female Sexual Empowerment
As a sexual medicine physician and sex counselor, I've noticed a societal shift towards greater acceptance and awareness of female sexual empowerment and expression. More and more women are owning their sexuality and speaking out about it -- sometimes in a way that is considered risqué -- but at least they are talking.
Do not get me wrong, many women I see in my practice would rather keep their sex lives behind closed doors for a variety of reasons. And some women do not have much in the way of sexual interest based on religious or cultural beliefs or, in some cases, due to psychological issues or problems in their relationship.
But what about those women who feel left out of sexual empowerment, not because of their own set of personal beliefs or treatable psychological issues, but rather a biologically driven lack of sexual desire that is out of their control?
According to a recent article published in the journal Menopause, the rate of low sexual desire is high, reaching 43 percent, while an estimated 10 percent of women experience low sexual desire with the hallmark characteristic of distress, a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD.
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in Women
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is defined in medical literature as a "persistent or recurrent deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty, and which is not better accounted for by a medical, substance-related, psychiatric or other sexual condition." Research has shown that women with HSDD are more likely than women who have "normal" desire to experience feelings of:
- Loss of femininity
- Decreased self-esteem
And they feel there is nothing they can do about it. Even with the new classification system and lumping HSDD and arousal disorder together, the tenets of HSDD remain true and real. Yes, Virginia, there is such a condition called lowered sexual interest.
HSDD vs Erectile Dysfunction
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder was first characterized as a medical condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1987. There are no FDA-approved pharmacological treatments available for women. Erectile dysfunction was first characterized in 1992. There are 26 FDA-approved treatments for either erectile dysfunction or low testosterone for men.
While the etiology of erectile dysfunction and HSDD certainly differ, their regulatory pathways seem to have more distinction than would be expected – especially in a time when much emphasis is placed on women's rights to an active and healthy lifestyle.
As research into female sexuality has advanced, the element of desire has come into focus. We now know that desire is a complex interplay of the following:
- Biological components
If neither social nor psychological components are causing low sexual desire and biology is at play, science now understands that there can be an imbalance of key neurotransmitters, or chemicals, in the brain that affect sexual drive. With this direct correlation between chemical imbalance and desire, there is no reason why, in 2015, a treatment option for women should not be available.
While the science has finally caught up, there remains a disparity in available options to treat sexual dysfunction between genders. The need to equalize this disparity and make a solution available for the millions of women who suffer from HSDD is clear. Men have had proven, FDA-approved treatment options available to them to treat their sexual issues for decades. It is time we have the same for women.
Sexual Medicine and Sexual Psychology
As a medical physician, sex therapist and counselor it is fascinating to me that there still is much hostility between the camps of sexual medicine and sexual psychology. We do share one commonality:
- The concern for the patient and her distress and suffering.
Certainly, we meet in the middle ground and embrace science, clinical research and most importantly listen to the patients' voice. Both medical sexual pharmacology and counseling will endure as important facets for the treatment of sexual problems. A true collaborative approach between sexual medicine and sexual psychology, with mutual respect for science, data and facts, will not only help women regain a lost and vital aspect of their sexuality, but will offer an opportunity for solidifying and advancing the field of human sexuality through a team of professionals.
Will you join us in telling the FDA that it's time to give women the options they deserve for the treatment of sexual dysfunction? Sign the petition today & become an advocate for women's sexual health equity.
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
Michael L. Krychman, MDCM, is the Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine located in Newport Beach California. He is the former Co Director of The Sexual Medicine and Rehabilitation Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer. He also is a clinical sexologist and has completed his Masters in Public Health and Human Sexuality. Dr Krychman has a degree in Erotology, Sexual Education and Forensic Sexology. Dr Krychman is also an AASECT certified sexual counselor. He is on faculty at University of Southern California. He is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California Irvine, Division of Gynecological Oncology and the Medical Director of Ann's Clinic, a high risk program for Breast and Ovarian Cancer Survivors.
His special interests include menopausal health, hormone therapy, sexual pain disorders, loss of libido, chronic medical illness and its impact on female sexual function as well as breast cancer sexuality. He is a well known speaker who is featured locally, nationally and internationally. He has published many articles in peer reviewed journals and has been featured in many scientific journals and lay magazines. Dr Krychman is an active reviewer for the Journal of Sexual Medicine. He was the Scientific Chairman for the 2010 International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health annual educational meeting. He presently holds an active executive board position for the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. He is an active member in good standing in ISSM, ESSM, ISSWSH and AASECT. He has recently been appointed to the Standard Committee for ISSM and has been a guest professor at the ESSM Sexual Medicine Summer School in Oxford, England. He creator of the recent WISH Initiative (Women' Initiative on Sexual Health: http://www.yourvoiceyourwish.com) and the 2013 recipient of the WISH Outstanding Achievement award given by the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health.
Dr. Krychman's has published 6 books including , 100 Questions & Answers for Women Living with Cancer: A Practical Guide to Female Cancer Survivorship has been recently published., 100 Questions and Answers about Women's Sexual Wellness and Vitality and Breast cancer Sexuality, Sensuality and Intimacy. He has been featured in the New York Times and US News and World Report World Report, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Health Magazine and many others.
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