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Dal in search of men with low sexual desire

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Natalie Rosen and her team of researchers at Dalhousie University have some questions for men dealing with low sexual desire.

The study will survey committed couples who have been together for at least six months and the man is experiencing low sexual desire. The survey is looking for participants across Canada and the United States, with Dalhousie focusing on couples in Nova Scotia.

Rosen, an associate professor in Dalhousie’s department of psychology, says there has been lots of study on women with a lower libido, but not so much on men.

“We actually don’t know a whole lot about this problem of male sexual dysfunction of low desire,” she said.

“By sexual dysfunction, I mean not only do they report a lack of interest or low interest in having sex, they’re always quite bothered by it.”

When people think about a lack of sexual desire in men, pills like Viagra can come to mind as a solution. Rosen says those pills can help, but difficulty getting an erection can be a symptom of a larger problem.

“The medical world and society in general have really zeroed in on erectile dysfunction as the primary male problem,” said Rosen “We’ve really neglected this experience of low sexual interest, even though it can have a prevalence rate of up to 15 to 25 per cent of men.”

Rosen says the study of low sexual desire originally focused on women, but after getting phone calls from men and women with partners in the same situation, the idea for the new study focusing on men was started. The researchers then decided to include couples in general. That part of the study has finished, with the focus now shifting to men.

But Rosen says it’s been a slower process getting men to come forward than it has been for the previous parts of the study. She says societal pressures can make it more difficult for men to come to terms with an issue affecting their sexual desire. So far, 20 couples where the men are dealing with lower sexual desire have come forth, compared to more than 100 couples where the female is the focus.

Another unique element of the study is that the men will not be studied independent of their partner. The researchers are interested in how the partner is affected — or can even contribute to the lowered sexual desire.

“In this particular case, we don’t really know what the impact is for the partner, how he or she is coping with the issue and how they can influence each other. That’s the unique piece of including both partners in the study,” she said.

At the same time, couples with a normal level of sexual desire will be studied, to serve as a baseline for the data.

Rosen says some initial findings from the female-focused studies will be published in the coming months.

Participants will fill out a quick questionnaire then do about an hour of couples’ therapy, before being sent on their way. The couples will be paid $18 an hour for their participation in the study. Interested couples can email couplesdesirestudy@ dal.ca to get involved.

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