The what and the how of sexual arousal in women
Sexual arousal in women is a taboo subject. It is strange how little time has moved on in reality – from when women wore chastity belts and did not speak of sex outside of the bedroom. To be fair, men too struggle to talk about their levels of arousal and potential problems they may face. Yet, for women it is more than just embarrassing – it is seen as a no-go area. Not only do they feel awkward to talk about arousal, it is actively seen as shameful, a potentially negative reflection on the respect and decency of the woman.
In fact, sexual arousal in women is equally troublesome for women, as men. Men perceive the lack of an erection as being the ultimate failure during sexual intercourse. However, if the woman is not aroused then her vaginal walls fail to dilate and no natural lubricant passes through to ease the passage of the penis. It is true that a woman can act as a portal for a man whether aroused or not. However, a lack of sexual arousal makes the act excruciatingly painful and can lead to vaginal bleeding and soreness for many days after.
Women show noticeable signs of arousal. The external genitalia – this will include the clitoris, the vaginal opening and the labia – will become swollen and inside the top of the vagina expands to help welcome the engorged penis. A woman’s pulse will quicken and her blood pressure will rise. It is likely she will become flushed – especially around the neck and chest. Without these external signs, the man can be sure that the woman is unlikely to be ready to receive the penis.
The headache that women suffer, which becomes the butt of bedroom humor, may, in fact, be an acceptance that sex tonight will bring pain and not pleasure – no matter how much her man works to make it pleasurable and comfortable for her. There are obvious lubricant jellies and certain condoms, which help to ease the path of the penis into the vagina. However, with a lack of vaginal dilation, the woman will feel a thud from the man and not the pleasure of the act. The gentle intimacy of just being within each other might offer some soothing but the chance of orgasm is slim for the woman.
A lot of women do not experience an orgasm each time they have sex – this is not at all unusual and in itself is nothing to worry about. At the point of sexual plateau, the clitoris withdraws and if there is no longer the continuous stimulation then the woman will no longer move towards orgasm. Instead, the blood withdraws from the area and the feeling of arousal leaves with it. At this point, the woman is likely to feel the pain and soreness of sex, as if she had not been aroused at all.
Unlike men, however, women can experience multiple orgasms if the area is stimulated again soon after orgasm. She does not require the same recovery period as a man. However, for this to be true, men need to acknowledge the importance of foreplay and knowledge of the female erogenous zones, which if stroked, can arouse the woman sexually once more.
Problems with arousal
A lack of arousal is not the fault of the man, nor the woman. It is not always a sign that there is no attraction between the man and the woman. It is not always because the man is too impatient and wants to push through foreplay. It is certainly not the case that the woman should be called frigid or cold or a tease. Psychological stresses and upsets are the number one cause of arousal problems and any sense of blame and shame will only make these matters worse.
Hormonal changes in women can also cause problems with arousal. During the menopause it is normal for women to experience additional dryness in the vagina. Many women think the answer is to push on through the sexual experience, believing that with continuous stimulation the pleasure and orgasm will come. However, this in itself can cause issues with relationships, where the man begins to notice a difference in the responsiveness in his partner. Chemotherapy drugs can also have similar effects on the woman.
Depression, mental and physical trauma, excess alcohol and drug use, hormone disorders and problems with relationships in general – are all barriers to arousal. Women too can suffer a drop in desire and sex drive if the testosterone levels they experience drop. Women produce testosterone in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. If the ovaries are removed, particularly, then this can cause issues with sex drive.
Many of the issues of arousal and orgasm in women relate to being afraid, the ability to let go in the sexual experience or a lack of experience in both parties. If men do not understand how to stimulate the woman and how to keep this stimulation throughout, then the woman will appear to have arousal and orgasm issues. If the woman fears pain or does not understand how to ensure her own pleasure, then she is not likely to be able to help her partner through the sexual act.
What can help?
This is an area that has not been as well researched as male sexual dysfunction. This might be because of the taboo or it might be because women’s physical signs of sexual dysfunction are not as explicit as men. There is some research exploring possible conditions that impact on the blood supply to the female genitalia and any possible damage to nerve function in this area.
A lot of treatment around female sexual dysfunction tends to focus on psychosexual therapy. This is counseling that involves exploring feelings about herself, about her relationships and about the sexual act. There are also devices that women can use to gently dilate the area and train the vaginal area to react physically appropriately to the sexual act. This might be placebo – as the woman is in control and is able to gradually increase the strength and girth of the tool – therefore the woman becomes more comfortable with her own vaginal area. It might indeed help the vagina to become looser and less tense during the sexual act. The importance of such a tool, and with counseling, is that the focus is on a solution and not seeking to find a cause or someone to blame.
Are there supplements available?
Supplements for sexual arousal are often thought of the remit of the man. However, there are a number of products available to women too. Ashwaganda Root, Maca and Tongkat Ali are all products that can help women as much as they help men.
Ashwaganda Root is a potent igniter of desire – an aphrodisiac, it helps to stimulate the blood flow that both men and women need to reach the point of arousal. Even in women who can become sexually aroused, Ashwaganda Root can increase the sexual experience, making it much more intense.
Maca root has been used by women in the Andes for centuries. It is high in iodine, which helps to support women’s hormonal balance. This makes it particularly effective for women going through the menopause. It is a root that is high in zinc, which improves arousal but also improves satisfaction for women who can become aroused but struggle to reach an orgasm of note.
Tongkat Ali has been declared by Dr. Oz as the greatest natural aphrodisiac. It is more commonly used by men to help with impotence and a loss of libido but it is as effective for women. It not only stimulates the libido but also reduces feelings of stress and depression, which can make sexual arousal almost impossible for a lot of women. The herb also naturally boosts testosterone levels; women need testosterone too to become aroused. Women who have had ovaries removed or a complete hysterectomy may need this extra supply of testosterone, as they have lost one source of natural testosterone production
There is no blame, there is no shame: women deserve to feel aroused as much as men. There is a whole host of difficult problems that can impact on arousal – and it is likely that the least of these is the love a woman feels for her partner. Therefore, seek solutions as you would for any physiological problem. It is sex, women can have sex done upon them without arousal, it might not seem an appropriate medical condition. However, women suffer pain, burning, and a sense of shame from a lack of arousal. Therefore, see a medic, seek a solution – sexual satisfaction is a crucial part of a full and happy life.
The what and the how of sexual arousal in women