A New Mexico woman has actually been diagnosed with Restless Genital Syndrome, providing a disturbing example of how we think — and write — about women's sexual problems.
Thirty-nine-year-old Joleen Baughman was recovering from brain surgery when she was in a car accident that broke her spine. According to the Telegraph, the injury "damaged a nerve in her pelvis which controls desire, leaving it permanently switched on." This seems like a pretty simplistic — or, at the very least, poorly worded — explanation. There's no single nerve that "controls desire," "switching" it on and off — rather, Baughman's damaged nerve controls physical arousal, which for her has become unwanted. She says, "It's very embarrassing and it's impossible to concentrate." And of her attempts to relieve the problem with sex, she explains,
We would have sex once and I would feel no release at all. So we would go again and then it would start really hurting but I would still want sex, even more than before. If my husband managed to go for a third time it would be agony but I would still feel no release.
Restless Genital Disorder (unlike "Restless Vagina Syndrome," a term Terry J. Allen jokingly used to refer to female sexual dysfunction) is apparently characterized by restless leg syndrome, overactive bladder, and all the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD). As we wrote back in October, PGAD sufferers are not psyched about their constant and sometimes painful state of arousal — two of the criteria for PGAD are that the sensation "feels intrusive and unwanted" and "is unrelated to subjective feelings of sexual desire." But that doesn't stop the New York Post from titling its take on the Telegraph story "Sex Overdrive," or writing that Baughman "has lost some of her lust for life after an injury in a car crash left her with an insatiable sex drive."
If there's anything recent female sexuality research reveals, it's that female sexual function and dysfunction are still poorly understood. But we do know that, for women, physical arousal is not the same as sexual desire. Baughman's case should teach us that just "switching a nerve on" isn't enough to give a woman — or probably anyone, for that matter — satisfying sex life. Instead, it's just another inspiration for "lust" jokes.
Image via Telegraph.
Woman's Life Made 'Unbearable' By Insatiable Libido [Telegraph]
Sex Overdrive [New York Post]