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Frigidity - Sexual Unresponsiveness

female sexual problems

Frigidity is an inappropriate word used to describe an absence of sexual desire and is often used as a put-down.

This can send confusing messages. Unresponsiveness is a more appropriate word to use to describe this temporary or ongoing lack of sexual desire.

Another definition of sexual unresponsiveness is an unwillingness or lack of enthusiasm to begin or enjoy sex. It can manifest as vaginismus - the inability of the vagina to be penetrated by the penis. The woman's inability to reach orgasm is another indication of unresponsiveness.

For men, a lack of sexual desire is difficult to conceal - the absence of an erection or the inability to ejaculate are obvious; but female unresponsiveness can be hidden - sexual desire and orgasm can be '"faked."

A woman who is sexually unresponsive may still be able to satisfy her partner, but often her unresponsiveness can be evident to him, even if she is fulfilling, or attempting to fulfill, his desires. In any case, the problem needs to be confronted and dealt with.

Why Are Women Sometimes Unresponsive to Sex?

There are some physical causes of sexual unresponsiveness.

Physical causes of sexual unresponsiveness can include illness, disease, being overweight or underweight, some medications such as some contraceptive pills, or the recent birth of a child, and in such cases a medical practitioner should be consulted.

More commonly, the cause lies elsewhere. Male and female sexual responses are different - although most men occasionally lack a desire for sex, their sexual responsiveness can be more instantly 'triggered' than a woman's. Men's sexual fulfillment can also be less complex to achieve, sometimes requiring less stimulation than a woman's.


 


A woman's sexual responsiveness can be keyed to many variables - her background and childhood experiences; her casual or formal regard for sex; her satisfaction or otherwise with her own self and self-image; her compatibility with her partner and, very particularly, her partner's capacity and willingness to arouse and stimulate her sexually.

Fatigue is a common cause of female sexual unresponsiveness - particularly so if a woman has the primary responsibility for raising young children. It is very difficult today to find time to be spontaneous about anything, particularly sex. Sex within relationships may be fairly frequent when the relationship is just starting and the thrill can be pursued sometimes at the expense of other things such as work, study, other friendships, playing sport or simply going out together.

Gradually though, other demands take their toll, particularly work and study, family matters, household chores. In most relationships, over time, sex can be relegated to the last thing before bed, something to do on weekends or on holiday - it can become a routine. Often, one partner feels the other partner expects sex at a particular time and the sex can become one-sided or half-hearted, the spontaneity and romance have disappeared. Worries about whether we're satisfying our partner, whether our partner is satisfying us, or about work and finances can inhibit our desire for sex. Feeling anxious about your own sexual performance can be a major factor in turning you away from sex. Some partners feel pressured into having sex because they feel the other partner always wants it.

Women compare themselves and are compared with the 'superwoman' depicted in the media - ever ready to 'satisfy' their man, capable of multiple orgasms 24 hours a day, with the ability to be a mother and dynamic professional at the same time. These images are mythical. Because of media stereotyping and some people's false expectations, a lot of women are genuinely anxious about how they 'rate' in bed compared with their partner's previous partners - the mythical superwoman depicted in the media.

This anxiety compounds sexual problems, with each successive sexual encounter becoming more difficult or less desirable than the last. Sexual unresponsiveness can occur when the woman is anxious about sex - it can cause her to have sex less often with her partner or not actively seek sexual partners at all. When a woman is unresponsive to sex her partner will often register their disappointment and this can make the woman even more anxious so that the woman anticipates her own unresponsiveness each time she is about to have sex.

Some women, who are not happy in a particular relationship, may be disinclined to have or enjoy sex with their partner but will masturbate or have sex with other partners. Their lack of sexual desire is not general, it is specifically related to their main partner. It may be that the woman is suppressing her true sexual self - she may be lesbian or bi-sexual and have no desire to continue having sex with her present partner.

A few women, even in long term relationships, may fear becoming pregnant - this can happen even if both partners have agreed, at least on the surface, to have children. The woman may suppress her true desires about starting or extending a family and the prospect of intercourse may stifle desire and arousal.

Sexual desire can decrease gradually - and naturally - as we age. Sex is not the same at 60 as it was at 25 but it can be just as fulfilling and important.


Sexual Unresponsiveness - What Can Be Done?

In just about every case, it is possible to overcome an occasional, more frequent or even long-term lack of desire for sex.

It is important to rule out any physical cause. If you suspect that an illness, disease, the physical after-affects of childbirth or a medication (including a contraceptive) may be repressing your desire for sex you should consult a medical practitioner. Alternatively, you may feel you have been suppressing sexual feelings for most of your life; perhaps because of a particular cultural, environmental or religious background or a traumatic incident in your childhood - if so, you should seek the assistance of a counselor.

Depression and similar disorders, and grief after the death of a relative or close friend, can temporarily suppress many feelings of desire - the desire to eat or control eating, the desire to work, the desire to be involved and the desire to have sex.

Some women find the idea of masturbation a turn-off, this is sometimes caused by influences from childhood where masturbation may have been regarded as 'dirty', or by the woman's lack of regard for and pleasure in her own body. Masturbation is a healthy and normal part of sexuality - it is important to learn to turn yourself on, develop erotic and sensual fantasies and feelings and prepare your body and mind for other desires, such as sex with a partner.

Talking with your partner is one of the most important things you can do to overcome your lack of sexual desire - don't suppress the problem, bring it out into the open. Your partner needs to be told what you expect from them - in the home, within the relationship and in bed. If there are things you desire your partner to do with you in bed, tell or show them - partners need to respond to each other in such a way that they both know what they both like and dislike during sex. Don't lie there, 'take it' and let your partner fumble in the dark.


 


There will be periods in your life, for example when you are very tired, over stressed by work, family and other commitments or have been ill, when you may experience a lack of sexual desire - this is a normal response. It is important to put these feelings into perspective, to understand the reasons behind them, and understand they need only be temporary - worrying about why you don't feel like sex can turn temporary feelings into a pattern of sexual anxiety.

Be positive about your sexual 'self'. Don't put off sex because you think you're going to 'flunk' or not come up to your partner's expectations or your perceptions of those expectations - tell yourself you can, and will, have terrific sex with your partner. If you don't feel like 'full-on' sex, tell your partner. Don't leave them guessing. And don't let your relationship become penetration-centered, explore other aspects of your relationship - physical affection like cuddling, necking, massage, sensual touch. Feel good about discovering other kinds of sex - tickling and caressing, oral sex, mutual masturbation.

'Variety is the spice of life' - to make it fresh and more exciting, it's important not to get too routine about it - the same positions, limited foreplay, no seduction, penetration only, no 'adventure'. Try to recover some sexual spontaneity- take time to have a 'quickie' occasionally, if you both feel like it, don't lock in to the same time every other night, especially when you're tired or stressed. Be true to yourself and your partner - if you are unwilling to have children, but your partner is and you are worried about getting pregnant, be honest and discuss your differing expectations.

Think about how often you would like to have sex - with your partner, or with someone else. If you would like to have and enjoy sex more often with your current partner, think about the reasons why you don't - are you put off by your partner's criticism (verbal or otherwise) of your performance.

Are you turned-off by what your partner does during sex? Are there positions and techniques you would like to try with your partner? Is there something about yourself that you believe turns your partner off? Is your partner more sexually 'driven' than you? If you would like to have less sex with your partner or more sex, but with someone else, think about the reasons why - are you no longer aroused or turned-on by your partner, are you with the 'right' partner, do you believe your partner has certain expectations of you that you feel you cannot fulfill?

If you are troubled by work hassles, by finances or by family, try to resolve these problems or discuss them with your partner or at least put them at the back of your mind before taking them to bed with you. If you believe you are lesbian, unhappy with your present relationship and would prefer a lesbian lifestyle, don't suppress it, seek counseling from lesbian support agencies.

next: Vaginal Dryness Not Enough Vaginal Lubrication

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 29). Frigidity - Sexual Unresponsiveness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/psychology-of-sex/frigidity-sexual-unresponsiveness

Last Updated: April 9, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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