Adolescent and female sexuality
Women's understandings of sexual problems: findings from an in-depth interview study
Article first published online: 7 FEB 2013
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Journal of Clinical Nursing
Special Issue: Special issue on Sexual reproduction and health
Volume 22, Issue 23-24, pages 3240–3248, December 2013
How to Cite
Bellamy, G., Gott, M. and Hinchliff, S. (2013), Women's understandings of sexual problems: findings from an in-depth interview study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22: 3240–3248. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12081
- Issue published online: 8 NOV 2013
- Article first published online: 7 FEB 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 11 SEP 2012
- Pfizer Inc
- diagnostic and statistical manual;
- qualitative research;
- sexual problems;
Aims and objectives
To explore women's understandings of sexual problems.
Prevailing knowledge about women's sexual problems has prioritised the material body. Particular attention is given to the importance of penetrative sexual intercourse, orgasm and the reproductive imperative, which fail to take account of contextual factors that contribute to women's experiences of sexual problems.
Qualitative in-depth interview study.
Individual in-depth interviews conducted with 23 women aged 23–72 years, recruited from members of the general public and a psychosexual clinic.
The findings suggest that sexual problems are bodily experienced and socially and psychologically mediated. Women's views were influenced by the relational context of their experiences. At the same time, their views were deeply embedded within a patriarchal framework to make sense of their own sexual functioning and satisfaction.
This study presents a challenge in the drive to medicalise women's sexual problems via the female sexual dysfunction label. It problematises the current diagnostic criteria for sexual problems outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which presupposes a highly individualised framework and favours a more nuanced approach.
Relevance to clinical practice
Rather than adopting or eschewing an entirely medical or psychosocial model, women presenting with sexual problems should be seen by a clinician whose assessment is holistic and takes into account relational, cultural, psychosocial and health-related concerns.