Feature Archive

When Sex Is a Problem

Men have Viagra. But what about women with low libido?

WebMD Feature

June 12, 2000 -- The gods of sex have blessed men with Viagra, but what good is it if their female partners have lost interest?

Traditionally, men's sexual problems have gotten the lion's share of attention, prompting remedies from Viagra to vacuum erection pumps to penile implants. The focus has been mainly on men despite the fact that women are more likely to have sexual troubles. A survey published in the February 10, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 43% of 1,749 women had complaints about sexual functioning, compared with 31% of the 1,410 men surveyed. Subjects ranged in age from 18 to 59. The women reported low sexual desire, problems with arousal, and pain during intercourse. And these problems increase with age, experts say.

A Changing Picture

Why has research on women's sexual dysfunction, as it's medically known, lagged in the first place? It's partly due to the difficulty of defining the problem. Even though impotence in men can be organic or emotional, the inability to obtain or maintain an erection is often the target for therapy. In women, sexual problems can get more complicated. They can include, for instance, a lack of desire, insufficient lubrication, an inability to reach orgasm, or pain during intercourse. The causes can be physical, such as poor circulation, or emotional, such as stress or depression.