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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 12: Sexual Health
close this folderGaining More Control over Your Sexual Health
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSafer sex for sexual health
View the documentMaking changes for safer sex
View the documentFeeling more pleasure from sex

Feeling more pleasure from sex


It is natural for women and men to want to share sexual pleasure with their partners. When each partner knows the kind of sexual talk and touch that the other likes, they can both enjoy sex more.

¨ Both men and women are capable of feeling - and controlling - their desires.

If a woman does not feel pleasure with sex, there may be many reasons. Her partner may not realize that her body responds to sexual touch differently from the way a man’s body does. Or she may have been taught that women should enjoy sex less than men, or that she should not tell her partner what she likes. Understanding that women are capable of enjoying sex just as much as men, and that it is OK to do so, may help her like sex more. But she should remember that these kinds of changes often take time.

¨ What brings pleasure to one person should not be harmful to another.

How the body responds to sexual pleasure

Both women and men feel sexual desire but their bodies respond differently to sexual thoughts and touch. When men and women have sexual thoughts or are touched in a sexual way, they feel excited. More thought and touch makes the body more excited. It is easy to see sexual excitement in a man, because his penis gets hard. When a man reaches his peak of pleasure, his penis releases fluid with his sperm (ejaculation). This is called orgasm, or climax. After orgasm, the penis becomes soft again.

The woman’s body also gets excited, but it is harder to see. The clitoris gets hard and may swell, and the labia and walls of the vagina become sensitive to touch. If sexual touch and thought continue, sexual tension builds up until she reaches her peak of pleasure and has an orgasm. Touching the clitoris is the most common way this happens. It often takes longer for a woman to reach orgasm than a man. But when orgasm happens, the energy and tension in her body releases, and she feels relaxed and full of pleasure.

It is possible for almost all women to have orgasms, but many women have them only once in a while, or never. If she wants, a woman may be able to learn how to have an orgasm, either by touching herself, or by letting her partner know what feels good. It may make him feel good too, to know that he pleases her


Touching oneself for pleasure (masturbation)

A woman can touch herself in a way that gives sexual pleasure. This is a good way for her to learn about her body and what kinds of sexual touch feel best. Many communities have beliefs that touching oneself is wrong, so sometimes people feel shame about doing it. But touching oneself does not cause harm or use up sexual desire.


Lack of desire

Many things - including everyday life events - can affect how much sexual desire a woman or man feels. For example, when life seems exciting - such as when starting a new relationship or a new job - a woman or man may feel more sexual desire. But you may feel ess desire when:

· you feel stress from hard work, not enough food, illness, or a new baby.
· you have a partner you do not like.
· you fear that others will see or hear you having sex.
· you are afraid of becoming pregnant or getting an STD.

¨ If a woman has been raped or forced to have sex, she may need time - or to talk with someone she trusts or a trained mental health worker - before she wants to have sex again.

When a woman lacks desire, her body makes less of its natural wetness, and she may need to use lubrication, like saliva, so that sex is not painful. When a man lacks desire, it is more difficult for his penis to get hard (impotence). He may feel ashamed, and this may make it more difficult for him to get hard the next time.

If you or your partner are having less desire, try to forgive each other and to talk about it. Plan time for sex when you both want it, and try to do things that awaken sexual thoughts and feelings for both of you.

If sex is painful

Sex should not be painful. Pain during sex is usually a sign that something is wrong. A woman may feel pain with sex when:

· her partner enters her too soon, before she is relaxed or wet enough.
· she feels guilt or shame, or does not want to have sex.
· she has an infection or growth in her vagina or lower belly.
· she has been circumcised.


Pain with sex after recent childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion can be a sign of serious infection. See a health worker right away.