In our work treating female sexual dysfunction, we often see the same phenomenon take place: A woman will come to us for treatment after years of suffering from an issue that prevents her from having an enjoyable sex life. The issue could be anything from low desire, poor arousal, inability to orgasm or painful intercourse. Upon being asked if the woman had ever discussed their issue with their doctor, she usually replies, “No, they never asked.”
So the doctor never asked. But why would a woman refrain from asking her doctor about her sexual symptoms? Is it just because he didn’t ask? It’s not like all of these women are too shy to broach the topic or even think their suffering is normal.
Perhaps the answer is that when it comes to messages around sex, a lack of a message is a message. In other words, when sex is not addressed or asked about, it sends the message of ‘I am not concerned about this area of your life’, or ‘I can’t help you with sex’, or in many cases, ‘I am simply not comfortable discussing sex altogether’. Consequently, when you get the message that ‘we don’t discuss that here’, you respond accordingly and don’t bring it up!
This issue manifests not only in the medical field but also in religious, educational, familial, social, and therapeutic contexts. There are women who have been in therapy for years but have never discussed sexual issues because they feel it is out of the comfort zone of their therapist! There are children who have never spoken about sex with their parents because the lack of discussion at home had sent them the message that it’s just not okay to discuss. There are couples with relationship conflicts that will reach out to a religious leader for help, but their sex life will never be asked about.
Fortunately, the Internet has been a helpful resource in assisting people in finding out more about sexual dysfunction and connecting them to potential sources for help. But that is far from the ideal. Hopefully, with more awareness and education, people will feel more comfortable discussing their sexuality concerns to get the treatment they need and feel supported and validated in the process.