THE RECENT film The Sessions has people talking about some very personal issues.
Inspired by a true story, the film exposes the raw emotion and sexual challenges faced by a man in his 30s who is condemned to an iron lung.
Mark O'Brien, played by John Hawkes, desperately wants to lose his virginity and employs the services of a professional sex surrogate (played by Helen Hunt) in conjunction with a priest and a therapist, to help him achieve his wish.
Retired sexual relationship therapist and Society of Australian Sexologists former president Diane Summer says the use of a professional sex surrogate would be rare in Australia. However, sexual problems are not.
Dr Summer says speaking with a doctor was a place to start.
GPs are able to provide clinical assessments to determine whether causes of sexual problems are related to hormonal issues, aging or medication complications.
"They can at least look at these elements of the problem," she says.
The next step might be to visit organisations such as Relationships Australia and Family Planning Australia.
"It's more common for people who have sex problems to have other areas of their lives that are not running well," Dr Summer says.
"Sexual difficulties are normally much more about emotions, the brain and the relationship or lack of relationship.
"These are probably some of the biggest contributors to sexual difficulties.
"A sexual problem is usually the tip of the iceberg and there is often a deeper issue. It may be money, unhappiness in a relationship, grief, anger or alcoholism.
"There are so many other issues that we play out in the bedroom."
Dr Summer says that resources are limited in Australia for people seeking solutions to sexual problems but we all had the right to experience the pleasures of sexual intimacy.
Similarly, she said some disreputable sex clinics preyed on desperate people and only masked the problem by pushing products and aids readily available through a GP or elsewhere.
Better education in sexual matters from an early age may hold the key.
"I have just recently been on a two-day seminar on trying to get more sex education into schools," Dr Summer said.
"The curriculum has been there for a long time, But the heads of schools so often avoid the topic because one or two parents don't want the issue to be raised in the school.
"There is certainly a segment of the population who don't want to talk about the problem at all."
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