Sexuality is not just about sexual intercourse. Sexuality spans an enormous range of human experiences and describes the whole way a person understands and expresses himself or herself as a sexual being. This section provides you with an overview about sexuality and sheds light on some of the most common sexual problems being experienced by men and women today.
Whether it’s with a partner, health care provider, or friends, talking about sexual difficulties can be daunting. The good news is that many sexual problems are highly treatable. By learning more about male sexual dysfunction and female sexual dysfunction, it can give you the confidence you need to discuss what you’re experiencing, seek treatment and better enjoy your sex life.
As you enter midlife, physical changes, medical conditions and emotional issues can influence your sexual desire and capabilities. To find out more about which aspects of your sexual life are likely to change as you age, and how you and your partner can adapt, see Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond.
Finally, if you’d like more information about sexuality and sexual health, the Support and Resources section contains links to a range of other up-to-date and credible sources.
In its broadest sense, sexuality describes the whole way a person understands and expresses himself or herself as a sexual being. Sexuality spans an enormous range of human experiences including family relationships, dating, sexual behaviour, physical development, sensuality, sexualisation, reproduction, gender, body image and more. It is a fundamental and natural part of being human, for people of all ages. Sexuality also plays a role in one's need for affection, love and intimacy. We are all involved in a lifelong learning process about our sexuality. As we age, our sexual needs, sexual capabilities, and our desire for intimacy and closeness changes.
Sexuality is not just about sexual intercourse. It is about who you are, your sense of identity as a man or woman, how you express yourself sexually, as well as your sexual feelings for others. Sexuality involves and is shaped by many things, including values and beliefs, attitudes, experiences, physical attributes, sexual characteristics and societal expectations. Sexuality differs from person to person. It is influenced by many factors, such as religion, culture, age and situation. Our sexuality has many dimensions, and it is only sometimes that our sexuality is expressed in the specific act of sexual intercourse.
Female sexual dysfunction refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents a woman from experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity. The sexual response cycle has four phases: desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution.
These problems may have physical or psychological causes. Physical causes can include conditions like diabetes, heart disease, nerve disorders, or hormone problems. Some medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines and chemotherapy drugs can also decrease your sex drive and your body's ability to experience orgasm. Psychological causes may include untreated anxiety or depression, or the effects of past sexual trauma. Cultural and religious issues, as well as longstanding conflicts with your partner can diminish your sexual responsiveness as well.
Many women experience problems with sexual function at some point in their lives. It can occur at all stages of life, and may be ongoing or happen only once in a while. Fortunately, female sexual dysfunction is treatable.
Types of female sexual dysfunction include:
Male sexual dysfunction is one of the most common health problems affecting men today. Physical conditions such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances and heart disease may cause male sexual dysfunction. Alcohol and drug abuse, as well as side effects of certain medications, can affect sexual desire and function as well.
Male sexual dysfunction may also be caused by psychological problems, including work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma.
According to Cleveland Clinic , the three most common problems related to sexual dysfunction in men are erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorders and inhibited sexual desire.
The good news is that male sexual dysfunction is treatable. Prescription medications or hormonal treatment, such as testosterone replacement therapy, may help with erectile dysfunction and hormone imbalances. If your sexual problems result from psychological causes, the Journal of the American Medical Association recommends professional counselling with a sex therapist – either individually or as a couple.
Sexual health is important at any age. As you enter midlife however physical changes, medical conditions and emotional issues can influence your sexual desire and capabilities. While sex may not be the same as it was in your 20s, it can still be as fulfilling as ever. Learn more about which aspects of your sexual life are likely to change as you age, and how you and your partner can adapt.