Do women have a secret so painful that they even keep it from themselves?
According to Dr. Anita H. Clayton of the University of Virginia, the secret exists, and it's big. In an era when so many women are over-achievers with high expectations for almost every area of their lives, too many of them settle for mediocre sex.
Dr. Clayton, who is one of the world's preeminent experts on women's sexuality and a psychiatrist with the University of Virginia Health System, exposes and explores this secret in her new book, Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy, which is scheduled for release by Ballentine/Random House in mid-January.
Busy, overburdened lives often alter women's and men's libidos. Even when dissatisfied with their sexual lives, few women feel motivated to change, says Clayton.
"Work and family come first. We end up putting sex low on the priority list," Dr. Clayton notes. "Then when our partner initiates sex, it's just another task. I really believe that we as women accept a level of dissatisfaction that we don't need to accept."
Cultural and religious beliefs often place limitations on passion and desire, she adds. After pregnancy, a woman's view of herself as a sexual being may change. Menopause - often considered a time of diminished desire - can actually be a time of heightened arousal and desire because of more personal freedom and fewer childrearing responsibilities.
Written with Robin Cantor-Cooke, Satisfaction is based on Dr. Clayton's extensive research and clinical experience with thousands of women. The book provides guidance on a variety of topics, including:
• Why drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis don't work for women;
• How the four main categories of female sexual dysfunction - difficulty with desire, difficulty becoming aroused, difficulty achieving orgasm, and bodily pain during intimacy - are often firmly rooted in the psyche;
• Why so many American women of all ages and orientation are willing to settle for mediocre sex;
• How a woman's attitude toward motherhood can upset her biological and psychological stability enough to diminish her libido and fertility;
• How menopause presents sexual challenges by instigating both psychological and hormonal changes.