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Mindful : August 2019
Shelina was a typical 48-year-old married woman and mother of two. She had a thriving career as the lead realtor at her firm, her teenage children were well adjusted and confident, and she and her hus- band, Akmal, had a rich circle of friends and social activities. However, Shelina had a secret she could not share. The fire that she once felt when gazing at her partner was now a dull flicker. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lori A. Brot to, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor in the depar tment of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), director of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory, and the Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health. PHOTOGRAPHBYPLAINPICTURE/AMANAIMAGES/LUSHLIFE/A.COLLECTION During her weekly sex- ual encounters—planned for Friday nights between 11:00 and 11:15 pm—she deliberately avoided the foreplay she used to enjoy. No more kissing, touching, or caressing. She would zone out while Akmal touched her—thinking about plans for the next day and engaging very little with her body—prompt- ing him to move directly to sexual intercourse, which she found unrewarding. And the less gratifying that sex had become, the more her sexual motivation had diminished. Many women can relate to Shelina’s dilemma. Despite the societal obses- sion with sexuality, sexual difficulties are immensely prevalent. Women around the world and across ages have difficulty reaching orgasm; insufficient lubri- cation affects not just postmeno- pausal or breast- feeding women but women of all ages, regard- less of their hormonal status. Like Shelina, many women find that sex is often unre- warding. And the motiva- tion for sex is drastically reduced, or simply not there, for countless women. What We Know About Women and Sex Sexual difficulties are com- mon. And low sexual desire, in particular, is consistently the most common sex- related concern that women report, whether they are from North or South America, Europe, Australia, or Asia. Women also experience a great degree of shame about their sexual con- cerns, believing that they “should” want sex more, they “should” enjoy sex like everyone else they know does, and they “should” know what they want sexu- ally and how to ask for it. Unfortunately, women are often oblivious to the fact that some of the women they believe are enjoying frequent and passionate sex are actu- ally secretly experienc- ing a similar set of sexual problems. Stress: The Libido Killer Increasingly, we rely on technological advances to accomplish the never- ending list of tasks on our to-do list and “multitask.” Being “able” to eat, respond to emails, surf the internet, check Facebook, and help a child with homework all at the same time makes many of us feel proficient, and we take pride in balancing all these different activities at the same time. Yet research suggests that the daily grind can be extremely stressful for → Despite the societal obsession with sexuality, the motivation for sex is simply not there for countless women. August 2019 mindful 63 sexuality