by Samantha Dawson

The lab just returned from another fabulous meeting of the leading national organization for sexuality science—the Canadian Sex Research Forum (CSRF). One of the best things about attending academic conferences is that you get to hear about the cutting edge research being conducted, usually long before the findings make their way into academic journals.

Here I share my top 3 research findings from this year’s CSRF meeting related to some of the work we do in the CaSH Lab.

1. Conceptualizing Low Sexual Desire in Women: A Categorical Approach1: Low sexual desire is one of the most common sexual concerns that women encounter; however, when we ask women, we hear differences in how they experience their low desire2. In their study, Sutherland, Rehman, and Goodnight1 asked women who were in long-term relationships to report on their desire, sexual and relationship satisfaction, and communication. Their analyses revealed 3 different groups of women: 1) sexually satisfied women with high desire; 2) sexually dissatisfied women with low desire; and 3) women in relationship crisis with low desire. Even though groups 2 and 3 each had low desire, they differed in their relationship satisfaction and communication. Understanding the factors contributing to women’s experience of low desire can be useful for treatment. For example, focusing on improving communication within a relationship for women in group 3.

2. Assumptions, Myths & Stereotypes: What We’re Getting Wrong About Heterosexual Men’s Sexual Desire3: Women’s sexual desire has received considerable research attention, while men’s desire is largely absent from the literature4 (Brotto, 2010). The lack of research on men’s experience of their sexual desire perpetuates myths and stereotypes that men’s desire is relatively straightforward and that there is “nothing to explain”. In her study Murray3 sampled men in relationships to examine their experiences of their sexual desire, including how their experiences align with commonly held myths and stereotypes. She found that men identified many misconceptions about their desire, including that: 1) men’s sexual interest is omnipresent; 2) sex for men is physical, not emotional; and 3) men prefer to be sexually dominant, rather than feel desired. She challenged us to consider how these misconceptions impact men’s experiences, including those presenting to treatment for low sexual desire. She also has published a book “Not Always in the Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex & Relationships”5 that will be available in 2019.

3. Mindfulness versus cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of Provoked Vestibulodynia: A non-inferiority study at immediate post-treatment and 6 Month follow-up6: Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) is a chronic genito-pelvic pain condition. There is strong evidence supporting the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of PVD. Mindfulness is now being used to treat chronic pain. Brotto6 sought to compare the effectiveness of mindfulness versus CBT for the treatment of PVD. She found that both mindfulness and CBT led to improvements in pain and sexual function. Mindfulness led to greater improvements in pain during intercourse, whereas CBT led to greater reductions in sex-related distress. Overall, both mindfulness and CBT showed comparable effectiveness for reducing pain and other related outcomes, which is great news for the large proportion of individuals suffering from PVD!

1. Sutherland, S., Rehman, U., & Goodnight, J. (2018). Conceptualizing low sexual desire in women: A categorical Approach. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Sex Research Forum, Toronto, Canada.
2. Frost, R. N., & Donovan, C. L. (2015). Low sexual desire in women: amongst the confusion, could distress hold the key?. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30, 338-350.
3. Murray, S. H. (2018). Assumptions, myths & stereotypes: What we’re getting wrong about heterosexual men’s sexual desire. Oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Sex Research Forum, Toronto, Canada.
4. Brotto, L. A. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 221-239.
5. Murray, S. H. (2019). Not always in the mood: The new science of men, sex & relationships. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
6. Brotto, L. A. (2018). Mindfulness versus cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of Provoked Vestibulodynia: A non-inferiority study at immediate post-treatment and 6 Month follow-up . Oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Sex Research Forum, Toronto, Canada.

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