Sexuality and Sexual Dysfunctions

Critical analyses

Authored by: Peggy J. Kleinplatz , Lianne A. Rosen , Maxime Charest , Alyson K. Spurgas

Routledge International Handbook of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138490260
eBook ISBN: 9781351035620
Adobe ISBN:


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The aim of this chapter is to provide a critical analysis of current female sexual dysfunctions, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association (2013). We begin by situating these purported disorders within their historical context, as well as discussing the implications of the rise of the medicalization of sexuality in recent decades. We then describe each of the disorders, outlining the history behind each diagnosis, as well as current treatments. In the section on Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder, we critique modern cosmetic genital surgeries and the unspoken vaginal/vulvar standards they appear to reify. We also examine the tenuous theoretical foundations upon which Female Sexual Arousal/Interest Disorder was introduced into the DSM-5 and the race to find pharmaceutical options for the treatment of women’s “dysfunctional” desire. Truly integrative treatment options and a focus on women’s pleasures and desires seem to have been lost with the rise of sexual medicine. We finish the chapter by describing some recent treatment approaches and models of female sexuality that take into account women’s relationships and subjective experiences.

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