Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Women's Sexual Self-Awareness in Sex Counseling Practice

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Women's Sexual Self-Awareness in Sex Counseling Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the AIDs prevention publicity due to its epidemic in the 1980's, people have started to explore the motivation, cognitive-biological, and social-cultural factors behind the sexual behavior of an individual--the ingredients of the expanding field of sexology and related clinical research. Therefore, many researchers and professionals began to develop the treatment of sexual problems in the 1990's and evaluate their effectiveness. In addition, the initial sales of Viagra in 1998 brought about a drastic change in sex counseling, sex therapy and studies in sex in general. Men's sex life has been more broadly discussed, ranging from having problems to making progress in overcoming problems. Women, as well, have started to acknowledge the desire to enjoy sex. Both men and women began to realize that sex difficulty can be a part of daily life, with no one being immune. Accordingly, the concept of sex counseling and sex therapy has started to root in peoples' hearts, resulting in a greater willingness to seek help.

However, people are still not used to talking about "sex" and "love" to a stranger. Even in the United States, some married couples who have sexual disturbance will not speak directly. They would tell the counselor / therapist about their small conflicts before gradually divulging the real problems. Some female clients also continue to ask many sex-related questions, while saying to the counselor: "I really don't care about 'sex'". When asked why she comes to the clinic, she would answer either that the husband asked her to come or that she comes in the hope of helping their relationship. Only very few of them will speak openly: "I have sexual problems! Because sex is an important part of my self-identity, I would like to discuss it and seek help." Foley, a senior clinical social worker at the University of Michigan, once said that women who had stronger sexual identity exhibited faster and more successful therapeutic response than those who do not. Because of this sexual identity, women had stronger motivation, better internal control, and better distress tolerance during counseling. Foley, however, also pointed out that sex counseling / therapy usually progressed more slowly than what the client and the counselor expected.

The situation is the same in Taiwan. The female client usually discusses first the commonly seen marital problems, such as the dissatisfaction with her husband or the disappointment with the marriage, then, some sex-related questions, and finally the problem about the dissatisfaction with her sexual life. Therefore, the counseling moves from the marital problem to the sexual problem. The status of sex counseling, however, continues to be an ambivalent one in Taiwan, as the course of sex counseling is long and arduous, and there are not many well-trained, experienced sex counselors. Sex therapy has been featured in some hospitals and private clinics currently. Sexual problems are also being treated in counseling institutes, regardless of their effectiveness.

In the past 30 years, women, as well as men, have had exposure with Western culture through telecommunication--such as computer, movies, television, books and magazines. Furthermore, women are exposed to the increasingly seen social movements on women's rights. They start to become aware of and develop concern about their own rights and needs by means of discussion and comparison. This is especially true with their sex relationship, which has been an area of taboo within the traditional marriage, both unable to speak and with the locking in of all such feelings.

Nevertheless, the number of women, coming individually or with the husband, to seek professional help has been increasing year by year. This is especially true in the cases in which females' realization of the disharmony of sexual life or the unfulfillment of their sexual needs are a significant, if not the major cause of their marital problems. …

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