Aussie women stressed, unhappy in the bedroom
Young Aussie women are getting no satisfaction from sex and it leaves them feeling guilty, embarrassed and stressed, according to the biggest ever survey on the subject.
The findings have prompted questions around whether women are being pressured by their partners to live up to unreal expectations encouraged by online pornography, with half of the 18- to 39-year-olds surveyed by Monash University, saying sex made them distressed or unhappy.
"This is a wake-up call to the community," Monash University Women's Health professor Susan Davies said, adding the results shocked her.
"Our study says there is a problem and it's a problem affecting a lot of women."
Nearly 7000 women in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland took part in the online survey, making it the largest survey of its type in the world.
Almost one three women said they experienced sexually-related personal distress even though they did not have any sexual dysfunction the study published today (Mon) in the international journal Fertility and Sterility found.
Another one in five women reported at least one female sexual dysfunction - including low sexual self-image, low desire, low arousal, low orgasm or low responsiveness.
Low sexual self-image was the most prevalent sexual difficulty, reported by 13.4 per cent of women, followed by low desire (11.8 percent), low arousal (11.7 percent), low orgasm (10.8 percent), and low responsiveness (4.1 percent).
The study did not quiz women on why sex was making them unhappy; however, sex therapists warned online pornography is changing the landscape with a large number of people now only aroused by pornographic images.
Experts say social media had added an additional layer of pressure for many women who felt inadequate when undressed and were more concerned about how to display their body parts in bed than enjoy intimacy.
"Sexual health experts are talking about unreal expectations, about men asking women to perform in ways they are uncomfortable with," Professor Davies said.
Schooled by pornography, men no longer understood what normal female body parts looked like and partners were feeling pressure to have labiaplasty surgery to emulate the look they found on pornographic sites.
"It's very messed up," Professor Davies said.
Overweight women, women using antidepressants, breastfeeding women and women living with their partners were more likely to report sexual problems, than single women or those who had a live-out boyfriend.
However, researchers were surprised to find using the contraceptive pill was not associated with lower sexual desire, despite this being a finding of other studies.
Interestingly, the study found pregnant women were less likely to be worried about the sexual self image.
Compared with women who identified as white, Asian women were significantly less likely to have any sexual dysfunction.
If it is untreated, sexually-related personal distress and FSD could impact relationships and overall quality of life as women aged, Professor Davies said.
GPs should ask women coming in for contraceptive prescriptions about their sex lives and give them an opportunity to open up about any problems.
"We need, as a nation, to have a conversation about this," she said.