Whenever we suffer an asthmatic attack or a lung infection we immediately go to a chest physician and promptly get ourselves treated. If our digestive system gets dysfunctional, we do not hesitate to go to a gastroenterologist. But, whenever a man suffers from a sexual problem such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, where neither can he enjoy sex himself nor can he satisfy his wife. He deliberately avoids going to a sex therapist, or then he is totally ignorant about the existence of a specialist who is trained in treating sexual problems, informed Prof Dr Rajan B Bhonsle, consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor, Hon Professor and Head of the Department of Sexual Medicine at K.E.M Hospital and Seth G.S.Medical College.
If a woman suffers pain during intercourse or finds herself unable to reach an orgasm, she at the most, may visit her gynecologist but would never even think of consulting a ‘sex therapist’.
Why do we hesitate to consult a ‘sex therapist’?
We have been taught to look down upon sex and sexual desire as something dirty, shameful, vulgar and condemnable for generations. A person feels guilty if he has a normal sexual urge. Those who consciously suppress their sexual desire and refrain from sex are respected and glorified in society. It often happens that the husband either looks down upon his wife for her expression of a sexual urge or even starts suspecting her fidelity if she shows active interest in sexual gratification. This age-old condemnatory attitude towards sex and sexual desire comes in the way of consulting a sex therapist whenever one has a query or difficulty regarding his/her sexual desire, sexual capability or sexual satisfaction.
But, sex is one of the most natural instincts in us, gifted to us unasked, by existence. It is as normal and healthy as other functions of the body. However, in the growing years, something goes wrong somewhere, sometime, somehow. We become very uneasy, uncomfortable and even condemning towards sex, may be due to what we see, listen, read and learn from our parents, teachers, preachers and society. We fail to look at it as a gift of nature. We fail to understand the need for a healthy expression of this energy ‘sex’ within us. We start fighting against nature, only to see ourselves losing and it becomes a breeding ground within us for a series of problems (physical and psychological), affecting every aspect of our life.
Another reason why people avoid consulting a sex therapist is that there are a number of ‘quacks’, who pose themselves as sex specialists through advertisements. Most of the time these people are unqualified and untrained. They do not even have a proper medical degree. They display either false degrees or unknown degrees. I would like to enlighten readers that ‘qualified’ medical practitioners are not allowed legally to publish or display any kind of advertisement.
Serious lack of qualified sex therapists: Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of qualified sex therapists even in metropolitan cities. This lack of availability of genuinely practicing sex therapists makes it further difficult for a person to take the step towards getting his/her sexual problem treated correctly and in time.
Due to lack of ‘clarity’ about when to consult a sex therapist: Women prefer visiting a gynecologist whenever they have complaints related to their genital area. However, such problems are either emotional/psychological in nature or have their roots in the lack of proper pre-marital counselling and sex education for both husband and wife. Therefore, one needs to understand when to consult a qualified/trained sex therapist.
Situations/ conditions when one needs to and should consult a sex therapist:
- When he/she finds that he/she has either ‘no desire’, ‘low desire’ or ‘altered desire’ for sex. When I say altered, it means his/her sexual arousal happens with subjects or objects other than a person of the opposite sex of a matching age.
- When the sexual desire and need of married partners mismatches most of the time.
- When a man either fails to ‘attain’ or ‘sustain’ erection in spite of appropriate sexual stimulation i.e. erectile dysfunction.
- When a man is unable to penetrate and perform intercourse during sexual intimacy with a willing partner.
- When a man ejaculates earlier than his own or his partner’s expectations persistently on a regular basis i.e. premature ejaculation, resulting in lack of sexual satisfaction for the partner.
- When a man takes excessively long time to ejaculate or is unable to ejaculate in spite of a proper sexual intercourse with a willing partner. When he/she has disturbing doubts and anxieties related to his/her sexual desire, arousal, capability (potency), stamina, performance or satisfaction.
- Whenever he/she has doubts or anxieties about the anatomy and physiology (functioning) of one’s own or the partner’s sex organs.
- When he/she is obsessively preoccupied with sexual feelings, desires or urges that it is affecting his/her ability to perform essential human duties and responsibilities.
- When he/she has urges to engage in perverted sexual behaviors such as sadomasochism, anal sex etc. Before the marriage for a proper sex education session. When a person is struggling with feelings of guilt/ shame regarding sex.
In spite of so many problems faced by so many people regarding their sexuality, it is unfortunate that they either do not acknowledge that they have a problem, or acknowledge but do not accept that they need to seek help to address the issue, or they accept but do not take the action of consulting a sex therapist because of the stigma attached to consulting a sex therapist.
It is important in this day and age, when men and women are walking shoulder to shoulder in all the areas of life, and when women are gradually feeling more liberated about their sexuality, that mutual sexual satisfaction and sexual health be given the status that it deserves in a relationship.
The author Prof Dr Rajan B Bhonsle, is a Consultant in Sexual Medicine and Counsellor, Hon Professor & Head of the Department of Sexual Medicine At K.E.M Hospital and Seth G.S.Medical College, Mumbai