This week I attended the 41st Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in Chicago.
Three days packed with the latest research and clinical findings in the field of human sexuality.
So much could be said about the content of the conference, but I want to share three reflections that you may find useful in reconnecting with your sexual needs.
There seem to be systemic, as well as personal barriers that prevent us from openly addressing the sexual questions we want answered.
THE DEBATE DISCREPANCY
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®) is a reference book than mental health professionals and clinicians use to diagnose and classify mental disorders.
Dr Kathryn Hall shared the DSM-5 prevalence data about some common disorders:
13-50% of men suffer from Erectile Dysfunction
10-42% of women suffer from Female Orgasmic Disorder
15% of women suffer from Genito Pelvic Pain / Penetration Disorder
I imagine that many of us never heard of some of these conditions. Yet, I am guessing that many more would be familiar with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Why is anxiety disorder more popular than sexual ones? Why do schools spend considerably longer time teaching about anxiety rather than sexual disorders?
Perhaps the obvious answer has to do with the fact that so many more people suffer from anxiety disorder.
That perception, however, would be wrong.
Dr Hall also shared that according to the DSM-5 the prevalence rate for Generalised Anxiety Disorder is 2.9%. A considerably lower percentage than the three sexual disorders listed above.
FEARS AND THREATS
The pressures to keep quiet about sex, is not only an individual one. It is also a systemic one.
Some of my colleagues talked about serious consequences of publishing their research. Their work was ridiculed, their reputation attacked.
They talked about deans of schools suddenly withdrawing support to publish or fund research because under pressure by the establishment. In the most serious cases they received death and bomb threats.
What is so scary about sex that we feel compelled to avoid and quash this much needed debated?
MIND THE GAP!
Dr. Daniel Watter, the current SSTAR President, shared an intriguing account about the importance of narrative in therapeutic settings.
It was a great reminder that regardless of the presenting questions: physical, emotional, psychological or otherwise, clients look for improvement and growth.
I am often asked, “Do you only work with people who have problems?” my answer is always the same, “I work with people who are concerned with improving the quality of their lives and relationships.”
Most of us are looking for effective ways to move from A to B. The gap between A and B may be the promotion at work, the relationship with your parents, the grades in your studies, the intimacy with your partner or your effectiveness as a leader.
Many of these questions can be openly addressed. There is no stigma or shame attached to discussing work, family or school. However, when the questions are about sex, we have very little resources to turn to for support and guidance. This creates a pervasive, silent suffering, which affects many people and creates much discomfort.
However positive is your A, and however wide the gap between A and B, help is out there. Professionals like me, religious leaders, doctors, family members or the Internet can all be helpful sources of support.
All our questions are important; the journey to open the debate on sex and make it an acceptable part of life is a long one. But the journey can begin from us. Let’s ask our questions.
Thank you for reading my article.
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