Why we need to talk about sex more, not less

03 May 2019, Lorraine Grover - 

Lorraine Grover is a Psychosexual Nurse Specialist with over 30 years’ experience of helping patients with their sexual health.

Here she makes the case for seeing sexual health not just as physical health, but as mental and emotional. The only way to achieve a healthy sex life is through talking.

We need to talk about sex a lot more, and it’s not just me saying this but the World Health Organisation (WHO) too!

“Our sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

“For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)

We need to get over the taboo; sex is crucial to who we are

Sex is often seen as ‘taboo’ or a difficult subject to talk about, the ‘elephant in the room’ for both healthcare professionals and patients. But ill health frequently has an impact on our sexual function, and urological disease is no exception.

Patients with erectile dysfunction, incontinence, prostate cancer, and many other urological conditions face problems with their sex lives.

As the WHO definition states sexual health is ‘not merely the absence of disease’. Yes we can control disease or remove it, but holistic care involves looking at the whole person and not just the disease. When we treat a patient, we shouldn’t ignore their sex life.

Male sexual dysfunction is a particular interest of mine. I have seen prostate cancer awareness, diagnosis and management change considerably over recent years but we haven’t gone far enough when it comes to ensuring men keep their sexual function.

Problems with sexual health are emotionally and psychologically distressing

Our sexual identity is interwoven with our mental health and physical wellbeing. Over the past twenty years men and women have told me about the devastating and distressing effect sexual dysfunction has caused either themselves, their partner or their relationship.

Some avoid wanting to form a relationship at all and many have delayed seeking help due to embarrassment, shame, fear and guilt.

Physical cures alone will never be enough for sexual health

Erectile dysfunction is often treated with the focus being on drugs and/or vacuum constriction device treatments to help the penis become erect without consideration of the psychological impact on an individual or a couple. Providing these treatments alone doesn’t allow us to consider that there may be pre-existing sexual or relationship difficulties before the ill health came about.

Instead, giving people the opportunity to address sexual function in a safe, confidential environment with a suitably trained healthcare professional can enable better sexual outcomes to be achieved. It’s not all about just being hard physically or emotionally.

Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of your sex life

Let’s ‘normalise’ sexual function discussion, there should be no barriers to help such as gender, age and relationship status. How sad to read recently that sexual dysfunction clinics are being cut at a time when they are needed so much. The giving of information can be so rewarding, enabling people to feel empowered at a time when they may feel out of control of such and individualised aspect of their life. We need more of this talk, not less!   

If you have any concerns about your sex life, go and speak to your GP or other healthcare professional. It might not always be easy to talk about, but you have the right to a sex life. Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of that.

See more from Lorraine on her website.


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