By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator
A recent article in Pride News Magazine, dated December 13, 2018 and titled Think Teens Need The Sex Talk? Older Adults May Need It Even More, peaked my interest, primarily because it addressed an issue that, sadly, is not very often, or openly discussed, in our community.
However, while the discussion focused on the societal aspect of sex and sex talk, and who should be the likely recipients, an obvious omission was evident — those not having sex.
According to Marilyn Monroe, the late American actress, singer and one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950’s, “we are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift”.
Currently, sex exerts a firm control on multiple facets of well-being: it remains one of the human’s most rudimentary physiological needs. It bolsters our identity and is a core element of our social life.
Notwithstanding, millions of people spend at least a great part of their adulthood not having sex. Such a situation of sexual elusion or escapism can bring about emotional distress, shame and low self-esteem, on both sides — that of the avoiding party and also the partner, who has been rejected. These are the individuals omitted from conversations, discussion or just plain talk.
Research, in human behavior and how sex and gender interact, have discovered that the avoidance of sex influences several aspects of our well-being, and that individuals refrain from sex for divers reasons, many of which can be, but are not addressed. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24589191.
A higher level of self-esteem, life satisfaction and quality of life was reported by people with an active sex life, while in contrariety, psychological distress, anxiety, relationship problems and depression is linked to lower frequency of sex. centerforanxietydisorders.com/sex-avoidance-anxiety-disorders/
There is also a gender difference in the avoidance of sex, and this starts early, with more teenage females than teenage males abstaining from sex. In addition to the landmark Kinsey Report, other research has again confirmed that sex is more commonly avoided by women than men.
In fact, up to 40 percent of women avoid sex, some time in their lives. Big issues are pain during sex (dyspareunia) and low libido. Additionally, females are also more likely to avoid sex on account of childhood sexual abuse. journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1077559516656069.
Inhibited sexual desire (ISD) is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions, especially in women. Family physicians have an opportunity to recognize ISD before the associated problems become entrenched, and to guide couples towards a satisfactory resolution.
The most common reasons underlying men’s avoidance of sex are chronic medical conditions, erectile dysfunction and lack of opportunity. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20092445.
In an article, published by Dr. William Morse, in the Journal of Canadian Family Physicians, brought to light a newly-identified entity — mutual unwillingness to importune for sex was brought to light and briefly discussed. Counselling, which focuses on communication, self-responsibility, and sex education is of great assistance to patients with sexual problems. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21274060.
Several conducted studies have shown that medical problems top the list for both sexes, as the chief reasons for sex avoidance. Patients with heart conditions often avoid sex, for fear of triggering a heart attack, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17970974, and research has shown that the same applies for individuals with a stroke. www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.str.30.4.715.
Chronic pain has also been responsible for decreasing the pleasure of the sexual act and direct interference by the limiting of positions. Concomitantly, metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity diminish sexual activity, and accelerates sexual decline in men, by at least 15 years. Conclusively, reduced levels of testosterone in the males and dopamine in women can also play a role.
Viewed from a social perspective, many older adults do not engage in sex, on account of shame and feelings of guilt or merely because they think they are “too old for sex”. However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267340/.
Individuals, who are lonely, sometimes replace actual sexual relations with the use of pornography, which, over time, may negatively affect sexual performance. www.apa.org/monitor/2012/12/later-life-sex.aspx
Wherein lies the solution?
So while the issue of sex to some remains no mystery, and to others it’s merely history or his/her story, wherein lies the solution? Any sexual discussion, brought to the table, should feature all those who are both sexually able and also those somewhat incapable. We are constantly misled by popular culture that leads us to believe, that most people have a sex life, a belief that is remotely distant from the truth. In actuality, few people converse with their doctors about their sexual problems. In point of fact, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/
There is a known common reluctance among female members, of the Black community, to disclose information on their sexual health and sexual concerns. On the other hand, cultural and religious factors, embarrassment and lack of time may inhibit some doctors from inquiring about the sex lives of their patients. Some doctors hold the belief that addressing sexual issues creates too much closeness to the patient, while there are others, who think that talking about sexuality is too time consuming.
Until now, while some doctors may display apprehension to discuss sex with patients, research have indicated that patients appear to be amenable to provide an answer, if requested. www.apa.org/monitor/2012/12/later-life-. It appears that the doctor may be afraid of opening a Pandora’s Box — that by asking about sex, stuff will spill out that they won’t know what to do with. This means that their sexual problems are not being addressed, unless the doctor brings it up.
Conclusively, when all has been said and the issue of sex raises its head, the discussion should focus, not only on those who are able, but also include the totally incapable. Individuals, who have avoided sex for reasons not well-known, should seek medical advice and new methods shown.
They can no longer be sexually meek, they must open up and speak. The existing culture of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should be changed to “Do ask, do tell”. Then and only then would the young and old generation be sexually well.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.