My opening message is this, “Women you are not alone!”
Today I want to share some insights on women’s sexual experiences. I am going to use the findings from a 2016 study, which for the first time gives us a coherent view on the sexual challenges women experience globally.
This article is somewhat more academic than my usual, but there are so many juicy bits (no pun intended) that I just had to share.
The study reviews the results of 95 other studies published between 2000 and 2014. It focuses on women from first menstruation to 49 years of age, with a collective sample size of over 200,000 globally.
The fact that the researchers chose to focus on women in their most sexually active years is important.
The study aims to measure the number of women around the world who suffer some type of sexual disorder.
This information is not only important for clinicians like me, but also for the general population. It alerts us loudly about the silent and unnecessary suffering that we can collectively work to alleviate.
The researchers split the results by: disorder type, geography and sexual regime; let’s explore them.
The first significant result is that on average 41% of women up to age 49 currently suffer some type of sexual disorder.
41% my friends! 2 in 5 women around you at this moment are likely to be experiencing some kind of sexual disorder. They may or not suffer because of their disorder, but the likelihood is that they are not talking about it.
These women may be experiencing one or more of the Female Sexual Disorders (FSD) we know of today:
Simply put, Desire refers to women lack of interest in sex.
Arousal can be split in two, Subjective Arousal, which refers to women’s own perception of arousal and Genital Arousal, which usually refers to swelling and lubrication of the genitals.
Orgasm refers to the delay or difficulty in reaching orgasm even when appropriate stimulation is present.
And Pain refers to the experience of pain during sexual activity.
Among all disorders, women most frequently experience lack of desire, 28% of them. The other disorders are presented in the graph below.
The researchers also give us a view on how FSD differs around the world. They split the data in six regions:
Other-Western (USA, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia)
Central and South America
All FSD collectively were most frequent in Africa, with a whopping 61%. The other countries are shown in the graph below.
These additional graphs illustrate the individual disorder types across regions.
TYPE OF SEXUAL REGIME
Finally, the researchers explored how FSD varied across different sexual regimes:
Gender-Equal (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States)
Asia (China, Japan, and Thailand)
Male-Centred (Egypt, Italy, Morocco, Brazil, Malaysia, and Turkey)
They decided to keep Asia as a separate domain as they saw significant differences with the other two subgroups. However, they do not define the Asia characteristics around Sexual Regime. This would certainly be an interesting study to conduct (funding anyone?????)
Total FSD was highest in Asia with a 50% rate, 1 in 2 women. Gender-Equal and Male-Centred both at 35%.
Not surprisingly, however, when assessing the individual disorders, it would appear as if women in Male-Centred countries suffer most (range 32% to 39%) and those in Gender Equal countries least (range 11% to 25%). Asia only scored lowest on Desire (22%), otherwise it was always somewhere in between.
If you are wondering why Asia scores top on all FSD, but low on individual disorder type, this is likely because women in Asia report more concurrent disorder types than women in the other two subgroups.