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Standard Operating Procedures for Taking a Sexual History


  • Stanley E. Althof PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida, West Palm Beach, FL, USA
    2. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, West Palm Beach, FL, USA
    • Stanley E. Althof, PhD, Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida, 1515 N. Flagler Drive, Suite 540, West Palm Beach, FL 33401, USA. Tel: 561-822-5454; Fax: 561-822-5458; E-mail:

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  • Raymond C. Rosen PhD,

    1. New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA, USA
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  • Michael A. Perelman PhD,

    1. Reproductive Medicine & Urology, New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY, USA
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  • Eusebio Rubio-Aurioles MD, PhD

    1. Asociación Mexicana para la Salud Sexual, A.C. Profesor de posgrado, Departamento de Psiquiatría y Salud Mental, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico
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Introduction.  While there is evidence of increased professional and public awareness of sexual problems, both male and female sexual dysfunctions remain underdiagnosed and undertreated by health care professionals around the world. Health care professionals (HCPs) are typically reluctant, disinterested, or unskilled in sexual problem management and regrettably are often disinclined to inquire about sexual issues. HCPs in all countries receive variable, nonstandardized, or inadequate training in sexual history taking and its treatment.

Aim.  This article presents a standard operating procedure (SOP) for taking a sexual history from men or women with sexual problems or performance concerns.

Methods.  Review of relevant evidence-based literature identified through a PubMed search, integrated with expert opinion.

Results.  Guidelines for taking a sexual history are presented along with the relevant domains, opening and follow-up questions.

Conclusions.  The SOP presented in this article offers HCPs a brief, structured, and uniform method for obtaining a sexual history from men or women seeking health care services. Sexual history taking should be based on three basic principles, which serve as the foundation for managing sexual problems in men and women. These include the following: (i) a patient-centered approach; (ii) evidenced-based diagnostic and treatment recommendations; and (iii) use of a unified management approach for men and women. Sexual history taking should always be conducted in a culturally sensitive manner, taking account of the individual's background and lifestyle, status of the partner relationship, and the clinician's comfort and experience with the topic. Sexual inquiry should be incorporated into all new patient encounters, when possible, if only to ask one or two broad questions such as the following: “Are you sexually active? Do you have any sexual concerns or problems you would like to discuss?” Sexual history taking is a cornerstone of sexual medicine clinical practice. All patients should be provided an opportunity for frank and open discussion of sexual issues or concerns, conducted in an atmosphere of sensitivity and respect. Althof SE, Rosen RC, Perelman MA, and Rubio-Aurioles E. Standard operating procedures for taking a sexual history. J Sex Med **;**:**–**.