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Health & Sex

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A New Focus on Female Sexuality

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So instead, she reduced the amount of medication she was taking for the panic disorder, and her sexual function has since improved.

Vasoactivate drugs such as Viagra continue to be studied in the U.S. to determine which women will most benefit from them, Jennifer Berman says. Maybe a drug like Viagra is not the same magic bullet for women as it is for some men, but perhaps in combination with other drugs or hormones, it may still have its place in the female sexual pharmacopia. Researchers also are looking at testosterone pills and creams for women.

In their clinic, the Bermans use actual physical measurements to help assess sexual problems. Jennifer Berman measures genital blood flow, vaginal pH (the pH increases with sexual stimulation), inner vaginal pressure changes, and how well the genitals perceive movement. Of the latter, she says that often, women complain of "feeling asleep" in their vaginas or labia.

These measurements are important because assuring a woman there is a physical reason for her lack of arousal or desire takes away the "it's all in your head" aspect.

When taking these measurements, the Bermans go so far as to choose erotic videos that are more appealing to women. Those shown to men usually have little if no effect, they say. The main difference, Laura Berman says, is "they actually have a plot."

The main point for women to take into the bedroom, she tells WebMD, is that they should be advocates for their own sexual needs. If there is a physical problem, it needs to be addressed. But women also need to learn about their bodies and take responsibility for teaching their partners how to sexually satisfy them, she says.

"Some women are under the impression that they will be perceived as some sort of harlot if she shows him, describes to him, or instructs him how to sexually satisfy her," she says. "That's really more of a myth than anything else, and most men really do appreciate it."

Vital Information:

  • A recent survey showed that 43% of women have sexual function complaints, with one of the most common being low desire.
  • Two experts on female sexual dysfunction advise women to go to their physicians with any sexual problems, including lack of interest, arousal or sensation; not being able to reach orgasm; or insufficient intensity of orgasm.
  • Female sexual dysfunction can be treated, although this can be tricky due to the many factors involved -- physical aspects, the nature of the woman's relationship, and her self-esteem.
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