Also in this week's column:
Is there such a thing as frigidity?
"Frigidity" is the term formerly used for Inhibited Sexual Desire (ISD).
ISD is a low level of sexual desire in one or both partners in a relationship. A person may either fail to initiate a sexual response or fail to respond to the sexual response of another. Primary ISD occurs when a sexual desire never existed. Secondary ISD occurs when a sexual desire was once present, but is no longer.
Situational ISD occurs when a person has sexual desire, but not towards a particular person. General ISD occurs when a person has no sexual desire towards any person. Extreme ISD occurs when sexual desire is absent and sexual activity in any form is thought distasteful, repulsive, or revolting.
The irrational fear of sex is called either erotophobia or genophobia. Physical illnesses, communication problems between partners, psychological problems, and physical conditions such as fatigue can all cause ISD.
Sometimes ISD can occur because intercourse is painful. This condition is called dyspareunia. Although usually those suffering from dyspareunia are women, it can occur in men too. Sometimes the fear of being hurt during intercourse can trigger painful spasms of the vaginal muscles. This is called vaginismus and is very common.
Another common condition associated with ISD is vulvodynia. This distressing condition occurs when the outer parts of the female genitals (vulva) are very tender and sensitive such that they can be easily hurt during intercourse.
According to Dr LJ Wurn and five colleagues from Clear Passage Therapies in Gainesville, Florida writing in Medscape General Medicine (December 2004), ISD in its various forms is treatable with a great changes of success.
According to Dr B de Balanzo of the ISEP Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, writing in Revista de Enfermia (June 2003), in ISD "at a minimum it is necessary that the couple affected have an open, clear concept regarding this problem and that they be convinced that the discontentment is paid by both parties".
Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org