Let's talk about sex : a critical narrative analysis of hetrosexual couples' accounts of low sexual desire

Ling, Jeanne M. (2013) Let's talk about sex : a critical narrative analysis of hetrosexual couples' accounts of low sexual desire. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Background: Low desire for sex is a common problem in the lives of women. It features in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) as Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (FSI/AD) and often causes distress where there is a desire discrepancy in a relationship. A literature search revealed that very little research has been undertaken on couple aspects of the problem. This is a qualitative study of heterosexual couples where the woman experiences low desire and incorporates a feminist critique, a counselling psychology perspective and an emphasis on tying the findings to therapeutic techniques. Due to paucity of research this study provides original insight and contributes to practical work with couples.

Aim: The research aims were to explore couples’ narratives of low sexual desire and to connect these findings to potential application in the practice of counselling psychology or allied professions.

Method: The study employed a qualitative design using semi-structured interviews from four participant couples, which were analysed using Langdridge’s 2007 Critical Narrative Analysis.

Results: Six main themes were uncovered including couple’s experiences of blame and problematic communication patterns. Men’s themes included entitlement, doubt and conflation of love and sex. Prevalent women’s themes were anxiety over abnormality and seeking causes of low desire. The concept of identity was explored with men adopting a role of victim while the women occupied a role of self-sacrifice. Use of a feminist critique found evidence of pathologisation of normal sexual variation and man-centred views about sexuality.

Ways of addressing these findings in a therapeutic arena were explored. For example, the benefits of a systemic approach, normalisation of experience and the importance of arriving at a shared narrative of problems and potential solutions in therapy were underlined. Counselling psychology’s emphasis on reflexive practice and a pluralistic approach were proposed as being advantageous for couples presenting with this problem.

Jeanne Ling - Thesis - Final.pdf - Accepted Version

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