When sex becomes a chore "FSAD

There's a scientific explanation for the alleged 'headache' women use with their 'honey'. Female Sexual Arousal Disorder commonly plagues sex lives and is just as easily resolved.

Here's how:

It could be a scene from Sex and the City. Five friends, 30-somethings, decide to have an overnight picnic to reconnect and relive their pre-marriage days. After dinner and enough alcohol, they chat about their sex lives. Three of them gloat over how much they enjoy love-making sessions while two figure something is amiss. Their sex lives are not as exciting as the others'. They confide in their friends, "There are no fireworks. It's over within minutes." Sex seems like a chore.

Are they frigid? The word is used, often pejoratively, for cold, sexually unresponsive women and feared by many. But Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD) is a real problem among many Indian women, but not without a solution. According to Dr Rajan Bhonsle, MD Hon Professor and HOD, Department of Sexual Medicine, KEM Hospital and G S Medical College, "FSAD can be applied at three levels. First, at a mental level - it involves wrong information about sex. The second is usually the phobia of penetration. Women hear about pain and bleeding during sex, which makes them nervous and anxious. The third is vaginismus - where there is optimum desire and arousal but just as penetration is about to happen, there is an involuntary spasm which interferes with intercourse."

Most problems stem from wrong information and bad experiences with an impatient partner. When a woman cannot respond to a particular man, it could be because of a past traumatic sexual encounter, watching a father abuse the mother, or hormonal imbalance.

Many women in arranged marriages face FSAD. Dr Sanjoy Mukerji, psychologist and marriage counselor, says many woman lament the lack of experience in their husbands. "They wish husbands would learn how to treat a woman instead of just jumping into bed," he says.

Mind over pleasure
FSAD is often the result of inadequate foreplay. Dr Mukerji talks about a case where a couple had not consummated their marriage even after two years. The wife enjoyed foreplay but held back at penetration. She had been sexually abused as a child and this led to panic before intercourse. "Her psychotherapy involved releasing the painful past slowly with the help of hypnotherapy." Dr Mukerji emphasises on the importance of being a co-operative and understanding husband.

Unfortunately, not all husbands are. A 30-year-old Mumbaikar wants to improve her sex life but her husband will not accept that there is a problem. "He comes into bed and wants to have sex without any foreplay. I just cannot respond," she said. The counsellor assured her she wasn't to blame, but when her husband was called in for a session, he refused to talk. This left her disappointed. "Lack of foreplay is a common problem. Men need to be counselled about a woman's needs. Women are scared of addressing the issue as they don't want to hurt their husbands but men must realise that they may not know everything," adds Dr Mukerji.

Even with a wealth of information available online, sex counsellors and sex query columns, some couples are still groping in the dark. To enjoy sex, one needs to be comfortable with one's own body and sexuality. It involves understanding and talking to one's partner and communicating without inhibitions.

Treating FSAD
Despite the taboo attached to FSAD, it's quite easily tackled, depending on the nature of the problem. If one is keen on a solution, the is approach proactive and positive. "We take a detailed history of the patient and make her talk about what frightens her. Mostly counselling works but if it's physical, check for hormonal problems," says Dr Bhonsle. Dr Mukerji says responses essentially depend on the feeling of being loved and wanted.

"There has to be an element of romance and love for a couple to enjoy sex." Couples can take anything from four to six sessions to overcome FSAD. "Once the mental block is removed, the cure is permanent. Many women come to us after years of marriage but soon realise that only ignorance and inhibitions keep them from enjoying a healthy sex life."

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