That’s the title of an article published in the November 24 issue of the NY Times magazine. And yes, it is indeed referring to what you think it is.
As women, our need for affection and physical intimacy are core to who we are as sexual beings. In fact, as human beings, physical affection is necessary for survival, no? As infants, we need physical affection to stay alive, do we not? And as we get older, do we not still need that human touch for survival? And why do some of us feel we don’t need it? Or don’t want it anymore?
This article states that between 7 and 15 percent of all women between the ages of 20 and 60 feel distressed over the absence of desire, and furthermore, that little has been established about exactly why women may be somewhat more likely to become devoid of desire as they get deeper into middle age. This subject is a real disorder and it has a real name: HSDD, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Unfortunately, most of the research that has been done has been centered around men. (Shocker!)
The author talks about the sense among therapists, including therapist Lori Brotto, that the language describing the disorder “fails to reckon with women’s complex sexual beings … and that the criteria are much too simple and much too male.” (Another big surprise!) Ms. Brotto has instead been constructing an expanded set of criteria for HSDD, shaping the way vast numbers of women understand their sexual selves.
Brotto believes that her work centering on women’s specific issues with HSDD is surrounded by skepticism and doubt and that it will likely be as many as two decades from now before science will officially establish norms for women’s desire. You might be thinking this is only a physical issue, but really, it is an emotional and mental one as well. Can we be wholly healthy women if we don’t understand ourselves in all the contexts of health, including that of desire for intimacy? We have an ongoing health initiative as an organization. Why NOT talk about it?
Emily Hansen is director for stewardship, Women of the ELCA.