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SEX AND SEXUAL PROBLEMS: ‘NYMPHOMANIA’

I said that sexual problems are a matter of perception, and libido is the classic example. Libido is all about how often you think about sex, and how often you feel like doing it. There’s a term you hardly hear at all nowadays — ‘nymphomaniac’ — to describe a woman with a high and unappeasable sexual appetite. Actually it ended up meaning any woman with a stronger libido than whoever was talking about her. Perhaps that’s unkind, but to be quite frank the word probably came into popular usage some decades ago when women had to make excuses for enjoying sex before a woman’s orgasm had equal status with a man’s. A time we’ll cynically remember as the ‘lie back and think of England era’.

Think of England? How many women do you think were surreptitiously thinking of an island in the Caribbean, Pina Coladas in the sunset and the hypnotic ebb and flow of calypso music on a warm breeze, muscular suntanned bodies of … but I digress. We’ll never know because they wouldn’t tell. Look at it this way. If an unwritten social law exists that says women are not supposed to like good sex enough to seek it out and (God forbid!) demand it, then you have to come up with a word that sounds like a disease to label anyone who breaks that rule. When we look at the misused term ‘nymphomaniac’, the definition had the scope to vary tremendously in common usage depending on your particular point of view. If you, for instance, hold the belief that a woman should be a virgin until marriage and then monogamous until death, then anyone who has a sexual relationship or two before they meet the right partner, or has an affair or two during the marriage, may fall into the ‘nymphomaniac’ category for you. The word has become virtually meaningless because it depended so much on value judgments.

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