Title: Better Sex through Mindfulness: How Women can Cultivate Desire

Authors: Lori A. Brotto, PhD

Year Published: 2018

Main Topics Covered: Women’s Sexuality, Low Libido, Mindfulness, Fear, and Pain

Written for: Women, Partners, Practitioners

Recommended for: Clients

Perspectives taken: Mindfulness, Sex Positive

Type of Resource: Self Help Book

APA Citation: Brotto, L. A. (2018). Better sex through mindfulness: How women can cultivate desire. Canada: Greystone.

Book Overview:

Lori Brotto, PhD, a sex researcher and clinical psychologist from the University of British Columbia has written a comprehensive book advocating for mindfulness in the treatment of women’s sexual dysfunctions. She goes about this by first giving the background and history of some of the main issues plaguing women with regards to sex, followed by the research and experiments that has been conducted on the particular problem, before providing case studies and relevant mindfulness exercises with clear concise instructions.

She commences with the misconception that drug companies have, that women require a female Viagra to increase women’s’ arousal, as it does for men. She acknowledges Rosemary Basson’s Circular Sexual Response Cycle to emphasising responsive sexual desire where women experiences sexual arousal before sexual desire, and not vice versa as common belief would dictate. She also mentions other forms of therapy that has showed success in treating women with sexual difficulties, like medical interventions or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has proven to be effective for childhood sexual abuses.

The main exercise for mindfulness is MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It begins with an “eating meditation” with a raisin, which is to be referred to as an object. The focus is on the anticipation, which may be causing the distress. From research, sexual satisfaction has been indicated to increase by 60 per cent with this therapy. Throughout the book, she provides various mindfulness exercises with instructions from the relatively tame, Sensate Focus, and The Body Scan, to the more intrusive Sexual Sensations Awareness Mediation, which uses a sexual aid; as pornography does not work too well with females, the author suggests erotica by female directors for sexual arousal. The idea for all these mindfulness techniques is to have the freedom to feel any sensations without expectations. What the therapy endeavours to do is to combine the physical and mental aspects for a holistic healing process.

Some of the issues mentioned are psychological, and she outlines how the daily grind can affect one’s libido and become worse. She brings up multitasking where attention is being diverted to different tasks, and not being present in the moment. In sex, there could be a lapse in attention that may cause a loss of sexual arousal, which may result in a cycle of catastrophic thoughts, that becomes the automatic thought in future attempts at sex. Hence, she considers the brain as the most powerful sex organ. For some women, there may be a sexual discordance between mind and body, where there might be arousal but no desire. She provides studies, where mindfulness has helped clients before. For those suffering form depression, which is known to cause low libido, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is said to be effective.

Brotto also brings up issues where the women face pain in the vagina during intercourse, like Dyspareunia, which may be caused from dryness during menopause; or being hypersensitive like Provoked Vestibulodynia (PVD). Efficacy for PVD is achieved from combining mindful breathing exercises, and pelvic floor physiotherapy.

The author has written a comprehensive book for women who are struggling with sexual problems, and also for those who have tried other means but have not had any success; these mindfulness techniques may be the solution to their issue. She even includes an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) in one of the last chapters. She has provided sufficient material to debunk preconceived notions of women’s sexuality, and advocating for mindfulness as being as effective as CBT in therapy. Brotto seems to have covered the main issues that women with sexual complications may face, but other than a mention in the FAQ about men’s issues, she did not cover sexual problems that men face; she is aware of that and mentions this in her book, but also states that research on mindfulness on men’s sexual dysfunction is scarce at the moment, probably due to erectile dysfunction drugs taking the limelight. Her instructions in the mindfulness techniques are thorough and would be a good tool for women suffering from sexual issues, or for therapists to suggest to their clients.

About the Author:

Lori A. Brotto, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and sex researcher from the University of British Columbia, and Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health. She has been featured in the New York Times, and many other outlets, and writes for monthly columns for the Globe and Mail.

Written by Westland Researcher David Mahadevan