Sexual disorders

Note: This section covers both men’s business and women’s business.

Sexual disorders or dysfunction can affect both men and women, and can negatively impact on a person’s quality of life, self-esteem, relationships and sense of identity [1178][41424].

Sexual disorders that affect both men and women include, but are not limited to:

  • infertility
  • lack of libido (sexual interest)
  • inability to enjoy sex or experience pleasure
  • anxiety about performance
  • worry about looking unattractive during sex [41412].

Other sexual disorders are gender specific.

For males, erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE) are common among the general population; both conditions affecting approximately 20% of men at some point in their lives [41422][41423]. Although ED is more prevalent among older men, younger men are also frequently affected [41411]. The prevalence of PE does not increase with age and can affect men of all ages [41411].

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, the prevalence of ED increases across age groups, from about 10% in younger men to 28% in older men [24694]. ED among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, particularly those living in a remote location, has been strongly associated with chronic disease [24694]. The prevalence of sexual health disorders among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men may correspond to the high rates of CVD, diabetes and other chronic diseases among this population [4436].

Other sexual disorders that can be experienced by men include:

  • blood in semen
  • foreskin problems and circumcision
  • prostate enlargement
  • testosterone deficiency [41423].

Some women may experience sexual disorders throughout their reproductive years including difficulties falling pregnant (infertility) or problems carrying a pregnancy to full-term [40126][41221]. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are at higher risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal condition linked to infertility [25090]. Post-menopausal changes in women can also impact sexual function [41221].

Other common sexual disorders that affect women include:

  • vaginismus (tightening)
  • dyspareunia (pain during penetration)
  • physiological changes following childbirth
  • problems caused by menstruation or menopause [41424][41422].

There are many factors that contribute to sexual disorders, some of the most common include:

  • smoking, alcohol and other drugs
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • injury
  • hormone changes
  • trauma during childbirth
  • anxiety, depression and stress
  • chronic diseases
  • prolonged use of medication [41424][41412][24694].

Sexual problems are often regarded negatively and cause embarrassment; this is particularly so in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where talking about sex or sexual health in general is often considered to be shameful [21766]. Shame can be a serious barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people getting access to information about sexual disorders or related medical care and services. There are a growing number of sexual health promotion and awareness initiatives and services across Australia, and many that deal with “men’s business” and “women’s business” in culturally appropriate ways.


Key resources



Bec Morgan - When the fresh water meets the saltwater

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