Samantha Evans, founder of retailer Jo Divine, discusses the medical profession’s approach to sexual dysfunction and how this needs to change.
As a former nurse, I know that sex life is one aspect of health that is, sadly, often overlooked by healthcare professionals (HCPs). This can be due to the HCP’s embarrassment, preconceived ideas about who should or should not be having sex, personal sexual views and experience, or simply being unsure what they are allowed to recommend beyond their prescription pad.
Many people enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure in different ways, but when sexual issues arise, their sex life can change or even come to a halt. And this is why recommending practical ways to overcome sexual problems is important.
Sexual function can be affected by so many things, including the ageing process, hormonal changes, gynaecological conditions, childbirth, diabetes, heart disease, depression, disability or injury (and this is not an exhaustive list!). Not only that, but some medical and surgical treatments can also impact on sexual function, intimacy and pleasure. HCPs need to be able to talk about sex with their patients.
Why do HCPs struggle to talk about sex?
A 2012 paper, ‘Why don’t healthcare professionals talk about sex?’, found that only six per cent of practitioners initiated discussions about sexual health problems with their patients on a regular basis. Many said they waited for their patients to open up the conversation, rather than asking the right questions first.
Unfortunately healthcare professionals in the UK receive very little training about sexual issues, and what is offered is very medicalised. So when HCPs do venture to bring up the subject, what they offer may be very clinical, such as referring patients for sex therapy (there is often a long wait), or prescribing medication or medical devices that may be ineffective or unlikely to be used by the patient. Often the focus is on penetrative sex, considered ‘normal sex’, when sex is so much more than penetration.
Patients often just need some friendly advice, but HCPs are ill-equipped to give this. Teaching simple, practical solutions to sexual issues to help people enjoy more fulfilling sex lives or return to what is normal for them after treatment should be compulsory in medical/nursing training.
Working with HCPs around female sexual dysfunction
The good news is that, as co-founder of an online sex toy retailer, I do come into contact with many proactive healthcare professionals who recognise the benefits of suitable sex toys in helping their patients regain their sexual function and enjoy intimacy and pleasure.
At Jo Divine we run an online magazine containing hundreds of practical articles about sex, and have also created a health brochure with a consultant gynaecologist and women’s health physiotherapist. The brochure is now given out across the UK by HCPs in the NHS and private practice. It suggests suitable products for a whole range of gynaecological problems such as vaginal tightness, dryness, scar tissue and decreased sexual sensation. It also discusses sexual pleasure when penetrative sex is not possible and how couples can remain intimate in this situation.
Many HCPs say that having our health brochure, catalogue, articles, videos and sample products in their clinics makes it much easier to open up the sex conversation with patients.
Many women are unable to enjoy penetrative sex due to health issues, and give up on their sex life because they believe that penetrative sex is the only way to enjoy sex. Many can feel guilty or frustrated that they are unable to enjoy sex with their partner and are so pleased to discover there are suitable sex toys, such as PULSE III DUO, that they can use together.
…and with male sexual dysfunction
Although recommending sex toys to women is considered more ‘normal’, many HCPs do not even consider suggesting sex toys to men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction. They are often not even aware that such products exist, and instead prescribe medication, a pump or injections. Yet many men find that these treatments are not effective or do not lead to satisfactory sexual experiences, while sex toys can help in new ways. PULSE III SOLO, for example, offers completely different sexual stimulation and sensations, even with a flaccid penis, and helps couples to enjoy sexual pleasure together.
Recently I have started to work with some pelvic health physiotherapists, cancer and urology nurses who recognise that suitable male sex toys can help their patients regain their sexual function and enjoy pleasure too.
The future of sex toys in healthcare
I’ve often heard doctors say they wish they could prescribe sex and masturbation because they recognise the health benefits of regular orgasms in preventing erectile dysfunction, and many of our customers say their GP has recommended they buy a vibrator, which is so proactive.
From doctors telling their patients to ‘buy one of these’ from our health brochure, to physiotherapists, sex therapists, gynaecologists, and cancer and urology clinical nurse specialists sharing our articles and showing suitable products in their clinics, we are lucky to work with such amazing healthcare professionals who care about their patients’ sex lives, offering help and advice beyond the confines of medicine and their training to improve the treatment they give.
I really believe there is a move within healthcare to promote sexual function, intimacy and pleasure. With a little thought, discussion and imagination many HCPs can benefit their patients lives and normalise the use of sex toys. Sex toys are valuable tools that enhance conventional medical treatment and ensure patients can enjoy good sexual intimacy and pleasure in whatever way works for them, whoever they are, whatever their age, sexual orientation, medical condition or disability.
Let’s face it, using a sex toy is much more fun and pleasurable than popping a pill and has fewer side effects (if any) than medication!
Samantha Evans is a former nurse and co-founded Jo Divine, an online sex toy company, with her husband Paul. She writes practical articles about enjoying sexual intimacy and pleasure for Jo Divine’s online magazine and advises customers who experience sexual health issues on ways to enjoy sex through exploring suitable sex products. To contact Samantha, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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