Episode 220: The Medicalization of Sex

September 1, 2023 by Justin Lehmiller

Sex and Psychology Podcast
Sex and Psychology Podcast
Episode 220: The Medicalization of Sex

We live in an era where the preferred treatment for most health issues, including sexual problems, is increasingly a pill. However, this medicalized approach frequently overlooks the root cause. At their core, sex problems often stem from feelings of shame or guilt, inadequate sex ed, and mistaken ideas about what’s “normal” with regard to sex and the human body. In today’s show, we’re going to discuss the problem with overmedicalizing sex problems, as well as the tricky business of defining what constitutes a sexual “disorder” in the first place.

I am joined once again by Dr. Cynthia Graham, a professor of gender studies at Indiana University and a senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute. She has been editor-in-chief of the Journal of Sex Research since 2009. Her current research focuses on male condom use, hormonal contraceptives, women’s sexuality, women’s sexual pleasure, sexual problems, and sexual health among older adults.

Some of the questions we discuss in this episode include:

  • What do we mean when we say the “medicalization of sex?”
  • How can searching for a biomedical cure to all sexual difficulties be problematic?
  • How has the conceptualization of sexual disorders changed over time?
  • Is it even possible to create objective definitions of sexual disorders?
  • How common are sexual difficulties, really?

To stay connected, you can find Cynthia on Twitter.

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Credits: Precision Podcasting (Podcast editing) and Shutterstock/Florian (Music). Image created with Canva; photos used with permission of guest and by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash.


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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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