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Personal Stories of Menopause and Midlife


“I believe that sexuality is not primarily about biology.”

Leonore Tiefer

When I sit in my sex therapist chair, I hear from women and men whose sexual concerns reflect their worries about money, their relationship problems, and other realities of their lives more than their biological conditions. For example, I recently met with a woman who had lost her sexual desire for her beloved boyfriend of nine months. In our conversation it became clear that she desperately wanted to please her fella so he would propose marriage, and this pressure was affecting her enjoyment of sex. Sounds simple, but this college-educated, much-traveled, high-earning woman had, until seeing me, been convinced that she had abnormal hormones, and the hardest part of the hour was persuading her to tell me some things about herself and her relationship instead of obsessing about her biology.

I believe that sexuality is not primarily about biology, but is first and foremost a reflection of the social, political, and cultural climate of its time. Unfortunately, some people who study sexuality think it’s all (or mostly) about biology.

In 2000, I organized the New View Campaign to respond to the medicalization of female sexuality and resist the avalanche of drugs the pharmaceutical companies are marshalling to treat “Female Sexual Dysfunction.”  The researchers, educators, and activists of the campaign have testified, written books and articles, and gone toe to toe with industry-sponsored promoters of pills and patches as solutions to women’s sexual problems. While some women may have sexual problems that could benefit from such medical interventions, we believe that most women would benefit more from an approach that considered other aspects of their lives.

Women’s sexuality starts with the culture.  Mass media have shifted gears such that now if a woman has “low desire” or “low libido,” she is considered to have a disorder that requires medical intervention.  “I have to have a strong sexual desire” may soon be part of our culture, just like “I have to be thin.”






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