The Sexual Health Taboo Young Women Never Talk About

August 4th 2016

Aimee Kuvadia

Despite what television and print advertisements might indicate, "sexual dysfunction" isn't just a problem for men. 

A new study published by the U.K.-based Journal of Adolescent Health found that more young women then men experience some sort of serious sexual difficulty, BBC reports. 

The research showed that for three months or longer in the past year, approximately one in eight sexually active women aged 16 to 21 reported at least one "distressing" sexual problem. For men, the ratio was closer to one in 10, according to The Guardian. An inability to reach climax appeared to be the No. 1 sexual problem among women, with only around 21 percent of female participants having reported experiencing an orgasm.

A stateside study produced markedly different results.

A 2014 Journal of Sexual Medicine study found that women between the ages of 21-65 reached orgasm, on average, 63 percent of the time when engaging in sexual activity with a familiar partner. Meanwhile, men experienced climax, on average, 85 percent of the time.

A 63 percent orgasm rate doesn't sound too shabby if you consider the sheer number of physical and mental problems preventing women from achieving climax. But Carol Queen, someone deeply embedded in the sex business as a staff sexologist and researcher at Good Vibrations, a renowned feminist adult education and toy shop in San Francisco, believes women are lying about their orgasm. 

Queen believes women aren't having as many orgasms as they claim.

"The statistic my colleagues and I have been citing lately is that roughly 70 percent of women rarely or never have orgasms with intercourse. That makes it the norm. I think most people have no idea so many women have this problem."

Why are women so reluctant to discuss this problem?

Granted, impotence is probably not men's favorite topic of discussion, either, but it nevertheless is a problem most people are aware of. The reason female sexual dysfunction is scarcely touched on may have to do with how it was perceived as recently as the 1950s.

"At this time, many psychiatrists, marriage counselors and gynecologists worried that women were failing to perform in the bedroom. Research has shown that they saw 'frigidity' — which was largely defined as a woman’s inability to have a vaginal orgasm with her husband – as a culprit in the breakdown of the contemporary marriage and family unit.," the feminist magazine Ms. recounted in 2010.

But it's no longer the '50s, so why are so many women still resistant to discuss their sexual struggles?

It could very easily boil down to education; while OBGYNs routinely inquire about the general nature of patients' sexual activity, only about 28 percent discuss sexual issues or dysfunction, according to a national survey by The University of Chicago Medicine.

Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medicine, wrote in a press release for the school:

"Many women are suffering in silence. Patients are often reluctant to bring up sexual difficulties because of fear the physician will be embarrassed or will dismiss their concerns. Doctors should be taking the lead. Sexual history taking is a fundamental part of gynecologic care. Understanding a patient's sexual function rounds out the picture of her overall health and can reveal underlying issues that may otherwise be overlooked."