Let’s talk about sex. Not the 1-900 kind of sex talk. It’s about time we discussed female sexual health.
For years, we’ve been under-researched, under-represented and under-served when it comes to sexual health and education. And apparently, we just live with it. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 43 percent of women have some sort of difficulty in their sexual function compared to 31 percent of men.
But, thank your lucky stars, there are people doing something about it.
“Throughout my studies, I found that women’s sexual health issues were still an unmet need in today’s world,” says Erin Hoschouer-Lapham, MPH, director of Health Education at Pure Romance. “I wanted to learn ways in which I could continue to educate and empower women to improve their quality of life, including their sexual health.”
Turns out, Hoschouer-Lapham is one of many local women forging a new future for female sexual health. In fact, several female-focused organizations were started in Cincinnati, by women from Cincinnati, and are now impacting thousands of women across the country each year. Speaking of Women’s Health, The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation, The Foundation for Female Health Awareness and Pure Romance’s Patty Brisben Foundation were all started in Cincinnati with the female at the center of the organization’s mission and goals.
“I don’t think women in Cincinnati are as conservative as we initially think,” says Hoschouer-Lapham. “Women all over the world, including Cincinnati, are demanding more information when it comes to their bodies – including sexuality. Many Cincinnati-based women stood up to answer that call.”
The Patty Brisben Foundation in particular is enormously dedicated to advancing the field of female sexual health. How enormous? $1.3 Million to be exact. “The Patty Brisben Foundation has committed over $1.3 Million to research on understanding and improving women’s sexual health,” says Hoschouer-Lapham. “I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding women’s sexual health, but I am proud to be in a city and working for a company who have taken a stand in saying ‘this is important to women and we’d like to help.'”
The $1.3 Million will be donated to The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University over the next five years, in part of an eight-year-long commitment. Two special areas of focus for this research will be menopause and the effects of cancer treatments on female sexual health.
Hoschouer-Lapham says women are just now starting to see the impacts of things like stress, medication, diet and exercise to their sexual well-being. And when they see those impacts, they’re demanding a healthier self for themselves and their relationships. “I believe women are stepping outside of once-traditional roles and taking on the responsibility of knowing and understanding their own bodies and how it relates to their sexual well-being and health.”
And she hopes this trend will continue to increase. “I really would like to see women demanding more from their healthcare team – more time, information, resources and compassion to their physical and emotional health needs – including their sexual health and how that impacts their relationships.”
Specializing in the impact sex can have on relationships is Rhonda Audia, LISW, owner of “Guru for Two: Enlightened Couples Therapy”. “When you evaluate a couple and their connection, their sex life is a barometer for the rest of their emotional relationship,” she explains.
Audia says female patients want to talk about their sexual issues, such as a lack of sexual desire or difficulty in reaching orgasm. “They take this very seriously. They don’t want to be pandered to,” she says. “Women today believe sexual satisfaction is something they are entitled to, just like men.”
Because there are no sexual dysfunction drugs for women, most female sexual problems are treated as an emotional issue. “But, that’s changing,” Audia says. “There is a great deal of research under way aimed at a better understanding of female arousal, with the hope of finding ways to treat dysfunction in ways other than therapy.” In other words, there are efforts underway to treat the minds, and the bodies, of women when it comes to sexual function.
Audia says the next 10 years will bring some major advancements to female sexual health – especially in terms of medical treatment options. “I think the big change in women’s sexual health will be coming on the medical side. As research continues into the possible physical causes of female sexual dysfunction, it is possible that a female Viagra, of sorts, will fundamentally change the sexual lives of women as much as such drugs have for men.”
According to Audia, a better understanding of the physical – as well as the emotional – causes of female dysfunction will result in a more positive sense of well-being among women confronted with sexual dysfunction issues. And these positive steps forward will continue to break new ground for female sexual health as long as various medical fields work together. “I think that as the psychotherapy and medical communities continue to collaborate on female sexual dysfunction, women may be able to make a quantum leap in their sexual health,” says Audia.
The other key component is you. “As long as women continue to stay open to methods like therapy and driven to find answers,” Audia says, “I am convinced they can only progress in their relationships – and their sex lives.”