Mediaplanet sat down with UBC’s Dr. Lori Brotto to discuss her research and common misconceptions regarding sexual health.
Was there anything that led to your decision to work in the sex research field?
This started out as a volunteer opportunity to gain research skills while I was an undergraduate. It turned out that the professor I was volunteering for, unbeknownst to me, was studying animal models of sexual dysfunction. After doing that for about six years, Viagra was approved (to treat erectile dysfunction) which turned a spotlight on women’s sexuality, and the overall absence of any research on the topic. That same year I switched my research from studying the effects of stress on a rat’s sexual behaviour to studying the pattern of sexual arousal in women and have never looked back.
What is your primary area of research? Are there any new projects that you’re working on that you would like to bring attention to?
Primarily developing and testing mindfulness-based interventions for women’s sexual concerns. After demonstrating that our face-to-face mindfulness treatment is very effective for improving sexual desire and reducing sexual distress, I’ve been focused over the past four years on turning that treatment into a digital health tool. We’ve just completed a large, randomized trial of this platform, which we call eSense, and we are now testing it in about a dozen clinics with patients on the wait list.
When speaking about sexual mindfulness and understanding the complexity of sexuality, what are some common misconceptions?
That sexual desire is fixed and not amenable to change. That sexual desire declines with age. That the only way to alter sexual desire is with a hormone or medication.
Are there tools available to people who are confused or unable to understand their sexual desires? Or lack thereof?
Make sure you read books or websites or Apps from reputable sources, with tools that have been tested by science! There is unfortunately a lot of misinformation online and attempts to sell wellness products with the promise of improving desire despite absolutely no scientific evidence to show that they work.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Mindfulness skills work but they do require practice. I have recently written a workbook outlining the same exercises we deliver in our face-to-face group but now available for anyone to pick up and practice on their own at home.