Sexual fears and worries

Frigidity might almost be called a dirty word these days. No woman likes to be labelled as ‘frigid’; it’s a strange contrast with our great-great-grandmothers’ times, when the ideal woman was held to be the complete opposite -innocent of all sexual desire and ‘pure as the driven snow’.

Although there is no precise medical meaning, frigidity implies that a woman, during love-making with a man, has some degree of inability to achieve a passionate release of sexual excitement, culminating at some point in an orgasm. But, in fact, the women who turn up in the consulting room saying they are ‘frigid’ have all different kinds and levels of sexual problems.

Sometimes a woman is simply uncertain of herself and of just what normal in sexual relationships. She may in fact experience orgasms, but worn- that the timing does not coincide with that of her partner; or it may be that she just doesn’t want sex as much as her man. On the other hand, the woman may have a partner who, inexplicably, hardly ever wants to make love to her. He may defend himself- by blaming her and implying there is something about her sexual behaviour which fails to arouse him; so the woman comes seeking advice to find out whether she is frigid and it’s ‘all her fault’.

The a woman has an orgasm is another common cause of worry. There are many normal women who only climax through their partner caressing their body and clitoris, and don’t reach an orgasm through the movement of the penis in the vagina. A few women do get hung up on the idea of experiencing a ‘vaginal’ orgasm and believe, quite unnecessarily, that they have some serious defect.

Women who are really anxious about these problems are usually lacking in sell confidence in their own sexuality, and tend to measure their performance against some idealized and quite unreal notion of what sex should be like.

She and her partner may try and follow what J they read about better techniques for the sexual ‘mechanic’, as if sex like cars, can be compared. And when she finds no improvement this simply increases her certainty that there is something wrong with her.

In contrast to the type of problems about frequency or quality of orgasm, there are some women who seek advice because they don’t achieve kind of climax. It may be that they do get very aroused during lovemaking, but cannot find a way to resolve their excitement naturally by coming to an orgasm. They may actually think of themselves as passionate rather than frigid and blame their partners for lack of skill.

Some go seeking other lovers with better techniques, or, il they do seek help from a doctor, they find it hard to acknowledge that the difficulty may have something to do with their own inner emotional problems. Then they blame the doctor’s lack of skill too, thinking he should be able to offer some easy secret which will solve their problem.

Then there are other women who seem quite unable to leel desire or excitement from the actual experience of lovemaking. Sometimes they will describe this as if they were not in their own bodies during intercourse, but up in the corner of the ceiling looking down at themselves on the bed. It’s as if they cannot let themselves leel the experience to be ‘real’ at the time, so they are totally blocked from having any warm sexual reaction.

They may actually have quite strong sexual feelings and fantasies when they are by themselves. One such woman told her doctor that travelling home from work in the train she would feel such desire that if, at that impossible moment, her husband was to make love to her she would enjoy it; but when he was really there in bed with her and available, she would feel nothing.

Other women appear to have any sexual desire or pleasure from any form of lovemaking. They may feel affectionate, happy to give their man a kiss and a cuddle in bed; they will sometimes talk of their husbands as being’good’ to them when they really mean that their husbands do not often ask for sex. Some do regard intercourse as distasteful, repulsive or dirtv, and submit to their husbands out of a sense of duty.

Among this group of women, there are some who do come for help – not because they want to experience sexual pleasure for themselves, but because they’d like to please their husbands by having an orgasm. ‘I don’t want it for myself, but I do want him to be really satisfied.’

In fact, they may be very loath really to talk about their own deeper feelings; ‘Leave me alone’ they imply; ‘Just retime the mechanism; that’s all I have come about’. Perhaps these women are the most difficult to reach with any-effective help, since it means somehow getting behind the fortifications they have carefully built around their own vulnerability.

In a general way, every woman starts life equipped with the potential to have sexual feelings and satisfaction. But she may encounter some unlucky experience or deficiency in her emotional envi-ronment that has a severe effect on this. Somewhere, somehow, in the years from birth to womanhood her experiences lead her to exclude sexual feelings, because they risk arousing emotional conflicts that she cannot cope with. Of course, no two cases of women suffering from this kind of emotional block are alike, and the reasons can be very complex.

Certainly, upbringing always plays a very big part in moulding our own attitudes towards sex, and our capacity to sustain a good fulfilling sexual relationship with a partner. But it’s not always the explicit’do and don’t5 rules of parents that matter as much as the implicit attitudes. However much a mother may talk in a relaxed wav about sex, it’s not much use if she herself is physically inhibited.

What is important is the mother’s basic: capacity for physical warmth, and the kind of physical relationship between the parents, because this is the image that the little girl incorporates into her own developing sense of femininity.

Of course, the early loss of a father or mother creates a loss of security which can affect relationships in adult life, perhaps creating difficulty in actual lovemaking. A woman may be afraid to ‘let ero’ on the tide of rising passion from an instinctive fear of being let down – as she felt she was long ago by the loss of her parent.

The very early handling of the baby by her mother is also important. The nervous mother who holds her baby like a piece of fragile china may, on a primitive non-verbal level, convey a sense of body insecurity. The warm, happily confident mother, holding her baby closely and securely, will implant in the child the sense of physical security which should grow into sexual confidence.

Young people who have never had enough security and love as children, may grow up dreaming of a sexual relationship as the great event which will make up to them for all their earlier deprivations. It’s more likely that reality will not match up to this idealized concept although, in time, they may hopefully learn to relax enough to find that intercourse can be a very deep and satisfying experience.

Is it possible to be frigid with one man and not ivith another? For even’ woman there is a secret and very private image of what kind of lovemaking and lover makes them feel sexually aroused in a satisfactory wav. The lover has to give them that very special something which makes them feel exquisitely feminine in a way which is pleasurable and good. Certainly there are partners who are right and wrong for any individual.

This may be a problem for people who marry very young; often they grow away from each other and their own private sexual needs may diverge more and more. Other women who complain of frigidity turn out to have partners who are simply ignorant about a woman’s needs in intercourse, perhaps quite unable to caress them or even show tenderness. In such cases, frigidity can be a self-protective mechanism against the disappointment or frustrated desire the woman feels.

However, changing the man won’t help solve a woman’s difficulties if the main problem lies in her own inner emotional difficulties.

Can changes in your body turn you off sex?

A self-image of a good, healthy body gives a woman confidence in herself and her sexuality. If this image is interfered with in some way, she may well start to lose this confidence which is so essential to her.

Some women find they don’t want or enjoy intercourse after having a baby. It’s well known that post-natal blues is a phase that usually passes, but some women have an underlying, deep fear that the actual birth of the baby has somehow taken away their capacity for sexual enjoyment for ever, especially when there has been a long labour and perhaps painful stitching.

Changes in the menopause can also be very disturbing to a woman’s self-image; hot flushes, cold sweats or unpredictable menstruation can all lead to a feeling that her body has taken over and she is no longer in control; vaginal dryness may mean that sex becomes painful, although it never has been before. Added to all this, the face in the mirror no longer seems to return quite the same reassuring image.

It seems that pleasure in one’s own body is a very important component of a happy sex life. Certainly you should have no hesitation about consulting your doctor or a counsellor if any kind of physical change seems to lead to a loss of interest in sex.

Where can a woman go for help? books and magazines can be a comforting source of explanation and advice, if a woman happens to find an account of a similar problem to ner own. On the other hand, books that are full of pronouncements on ‘right and wrong5 techniques might make her reel even more depressed. Generally, a woman is more likely to get help by talking to someone who can see the problem in the setting of her own personality and background. Her regular doctor may be able to help – if not he can recommend a specialist in this area. Also, a number of family planning clinics do have sessions for people with sexual difficulties.