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Sexual problem

A sexual problem is a real or percieved sexual misfunction in a sexual relationship.

Since people tend not to talk to one another about their sexual problems, many people imagine that they are "abnormal", or that their sexual problems are unique or shameful. Images of sexuality presented by society and the media often present people with unrealistic ideals of sexual behavior, whether of the ideals of chastity and sexual fidelity presented by religion, or the ideal of endless sexual inexhaustibility and promiscuous availability presented by pornography. Neither image appears to be representative of human behavior in real life: this has been summed up in the phrase "everyone lies about sex".

The genuine clinical study of sexual problems is usually dated back no further than 1970 when Masters and Johnson's Human Sexual Inadequacy was published. It was the result of over a decade of work at the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation in St. Louis, involving 790 cases. The work grew from Masters and Johnson's earlier Human Sexual Response (1966).

Prior to Masters and Johnson the clinical approach to sexual problems was largely derived from the thinking of Freud. It was held with psychopathology[?] and approached with a certain pessimism regarding the chance of help or improvement. Sexual problems were merely symptoms of a deeper malaise and the diagnostic approach was from the psychopathological. There was little distinction between difficulties in function and variations nor between perversion and problems. Despite work by psychotherapists such as Balint sexual difficulties were crudely split into frigidity[?] or impotence, terms which too soon acquired negative connotations in popular culture.

The achievement of Human Sexual Inadequacy was to move thinking from psychopathology to learning, only if a problem did not respond to educative treatment would psychopathological problems be considered. Also treatment was directed at couples, whereas before partners would be seen individually. Masters and Johnson saw that sex was a joint act. They believed that sexual communication was the key issue to sexual problems not the specifics of an individual problem. They also proposed co-therapy, a matching pair of therapists to the clients, arguing that a lone male therapist could not fully comprehend female difficulties and vice versa.

The basic Masters and Johnson treatment program was an intensive two week program to develop efficient sexual communication. Couple-based and therapist led the program began with discussion and then sensate focus between the couple to develop shared experiences. From the experiences specific difficulties could be determined and approached with a specific therapy. In a limited number of male only cases (41) Masters and Johnson had developed the use of a female surrogate, an approach they soon abandoned over the ethical, legal and other problems it raised.

In defining the range of sexual problems Masters and Johnson defined a boundary between dysfunction and deviations. Dysfunctions were transitory and experience by the majority of people, dysfunctions bounded male primary or secondary impotence, premature ejaculation[?], ejaculatory incompetence[?]; female primary orgasmic dysfunction[?] and situational orgasmic dysfunction; pain during intercourse (dyspareunia[?]) and vaginismus[?]. According to Masters and Johnson arousal and climax are a normal physiological process of every functionally intact adult, but despite being autonomic it can be inhibited. Masters and Johnson treatment program for dysfunction was 81.1 % successful.

Despite the work of Masters and Johnson the field in the US was quickly over-run by ethusiastic rather than systematic approaches, blurring the space between 'enrichment' and therapy. Although it has been argued that the impact of the work was such that it would be impossible to repeat such a clean experiment.

This article is a stub article placeholder for what should become a proper article about common sexual problems.

Common problems:

Less common problems:

See also:



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