The good news: In 2005, I was diagnosed with a sexual dysfunction. With a qualified OB/GYN and sex therapist, I fully resolved my sexual issues. The bad news: I spent 10 years prior suffering physical and emotional symptoms that were improperly diagnosed. I believed I suffered alone. I felt inadequate and flawed.
Thankfully, I did not suffer forever. Due to the work of researcher and writer, Virginia Johnson, along with gynecologist William H. Masters, M.D., research, development and discourse about sex has grown. Although controversial, their work hit the ground running during the 1960’s, evolving over the next five decades. Virginia Johnson died last week, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at the age of 88.
Given that in 1995, it took me 10 years to get a proper diagnosis, it is clear that more work needs to be done. As a sex therapist, I’m proud to contribute to a profession that furthers our understanding, comfort and acceptance of the wide spectrum that sexuality offers. In 2013, like Virginia Johnson, I help clients break down barriers that prevent them from actualizing their sexual potential.
Virginia Johnson and William Masters published such titles as, Human Sexual Response (1966), Human Sexual Inadequacy (1970), The Pleasure Bond: A New Look at Sexuality and Commitment (1974), Human Sexuality (1982), and Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving (1986).
On July 25th, 2013, a New York Times article noted, “More than any investigator before them, Masters and Johnson moved sex out of the bedroom and into the laboratory, where it could be observed, measured, recorded, quantified and compared. While Kinsey had relied on interviews and questionnaires to elicit accounts of his subjects’ sexual habits, Masters and Johnson gathered direct physiological data on what happens to the human body during sex, from arousal to orgasm”.
I thank Masters and Johnson for their pioneering work. The medical trend prior to their research pinned sexual problems on the psyche requiring psychoanalytic treatment. Unfortunately, our medical culture still has a lot catching up to do. When I tried to express my symptoms to my own doctors, I was met with, “Have you ever been sexually abused? Counseling might help you”.
After much frustration and self-doubt, I followed their advice and went to a sex therapist. My therapist was well versed in the work of Masters and Johnson and sex therapy. After just one session, she looked at me and said, “I don’t think this is a mental issue. I’m going to send you to an OB/GYN specialist”. I spent 10 years bouncing around the medical system and after just one psychotherapy session, was told this was a medical issue! I felt angry, relieved and validated. Finally, someone heard me.
Once the diagnosis was confirmed, physical treatment began along with psychotherapy. I felt relief and hope to work with medical and psychological practitioners who were not afraid to talk about sex! The conservative culture of the larger medical community inhibited my ability to speak comfortably about my symptoms.
Floundering in the medical system for 10 years without answers, I lost my sexual confidence. I did not know how to be in my body with the symptoms that I experienced. My body simply shut down. I did not know how to be with my partner who I loved deeply. Psychotherapy supported the emotional and mental issues that came along with the physical diagnosis and the 10 years of medical neglect.
I emerged from that experience fully functional, empowered and excited to feel sexual again. I did not realize how I allowed my non-sexual existence to become my new “normal”.
Some sexual issues genuinely stem from mental struggles but others have a direct connection to physical health. Although centers for sexual treatment are few and far between, I am grateful for any that exist. I aspire to grow The Center for Intimate Relationships to support those of you who struggle, often dismissed by the medical community.
Thank you, Virginia Johnson, for your courage, respect and dedication to one of the most deeply vulnerable experiences in our human existence. You’re groundbreaking research paved the path for others to follow. Personally and professionally, I am forever grateful.