How Can Health Care Providers Answer Questions about Sex?

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Dr. Myrtle,

As a health care provider, sex seems like a pretty confusing topic - I get bombarded with different information from all sides every day, and I don’t know how to answer these questions. Why did I learn more in school about filling out insurance forms than I did about sex?


Dr. Myrtle,

Why is it that I can't get answers to the MOST BASIC sexuality questions from my health care provider? They make me feel like an idiot for asking, and the stuff I'm asking about seems so basic. What's up?


Healthy sexuality is a topic missing from most health care provider’s education, which means that health care providers aren't receiving the basic fundamentals of almost all aspects of sexual health. We do get education on sexual dysfunction to some extent, but it's hard to see "normal" when you are trained to see abnormal. People trained in the allopathic medical system are also trained to treat with pharmaceutical medications. Considering that sexual health issues are often not completely addressed with medications alone, what do you do when your prescriptive powers aren't useful?  Most health care providers just don't ask questions to something they don't have the resources (or the time) to address. Some providers, unfortunately, make people feel uncomfortable because THEY are uncomfortable with the topic because their education just hasn't prepared them very well.

What to do.

Sexuality is a topic that can be understood within a basic framework that allows people to be individuals, and relies on general principles. For example, for healthy sexual capacity:

  • sexual structures,
  • blood vessels,
  • nerves and mind, and
  • blood flow

all have to be healthy for normal sexual capacity. Anything that hurts the heart or brain is going to hurt sexual function too, because the body doesn't separate one from the other. A culture might have problems with sex, but the body shouldn't.

No matter whether you are a consumer or a provider, there are some basic things that you can do to begin to build your understanding of the vast topic of sexuality.

  • First, learn about what sexual pleasure, sexual reproduction, and sexual health is.
  • Next, learn what body parts function in sexual arousal and function. Where are they? How do they work together? What are their names?
  • Next, look into how the body works. Don't just take my word for it: we know quite a bit about how sexual arousal, sexual engorgement and sexual pleasure work. We also have quite a bit of data on how to keep the body healthy, and what things to avoid to hurt overall health, and sexual health.
  • Really consider some of the different ways to think about libido/sexual interest, sexual arousal (from both a cognitive and physical point of view), and what makes satisfaction a reality?
  • Last, as a health care provider, consider that someone might be relaying concern even though their sexual health status is fine. This often occurs because they:
    1. lack information about their personal anatomy,
    2. lack information about how their anatomy and/or sexuality works,
    3. don’t know how to effectively stimulate themselves and/or others, and/or
    4. don’t have any place to gather accurate information about sexuality.

As a health care provider, you might be blocked from looking up things on any site (including ours) that includes factual information about sexuality on your work computer. Ask your IT administrator for permission to view sites that are clinically relevant for your practice. Begin your homework as soon as you can.

Good Luck,

Dr. Myrtle