one legitimate use of aphrodisiacs is to help men and women suffering
from sexual dysfunction. For men, the most common problems
are impotence and premature ejaculation. It used to be thought
that these were caused primarily by psychological conditions, but
more recent research has shown that there is a range of physical
problems which can bring them on, such as heart disease, stress,
hormone imbalance, etc. Androgens (male hormones) can be prescribed
for men whose low libido or poor performance are traced to deflated
hormone levels in the body.
For women, low hormone
levels can result in a lack of sexual interest and/or an inability
to achieve orgasm. The most obvious time for this to happen
is during menopause. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is
now widely accepted and although, by no stretch of the imagination,
can oestrogen be labelled an aphrodisiac as such, the gynaecologist
I spoke to attested to the favourable effects of hormone therapy
in improving sexual desire, performance and pleasure in some women.
By my original definition then, yes, hormones in the modern context
can be an aphrodisiac.
Do we, in fact, need
aphrodisiacs, and if so, why? To sum up what we've found so
far, aphrodisiacs serve the following purposes:
- To increase low libido.
- To improve sexual
- To recharge faded
- To fix physiological
problems that affect sexual activity.
I certainly believe they
have a valid role to play in the sexual lives of modern men and
women. However, after study and consideration, and 12 years
as a counsellor, I conclude that many of our sexual beliefs and
behaviours are centred in the mind rather than in the genitalia.
When we watch a sexy movie or hear 'dirty talk', we might be turned
on, but is it because of the idea of what we heard and saw, or sensations
in our bodies? You're likely to answer both but which came
first? My feeling is that we tend to think sexy before we
feel sexy. It's long been acknowledged that sex is nine-parts fantasy.
Dr Michael Clarke, author
of Sexual Joy in Marriage, speaks of the 23-and-a-half-hour foreplay,
his theory being that everything a couple does in a day, leading
up to the half-hour of intercourse in bed at night, can be and should
be considered foreplay. A good relationship is surely the
best aphrodisiac of all. If you like each other and are comfortable
in each other's company, sex happens naturally and effortlessly.
Those couples not in permanent relationships need not worry. Just
being with a new sexual partner is aphrodisiac enough for most of
us! So, if you play the field or are into one-night stands,
you're probably in a constant state of excitement and don't need
any artificial stimulation.
As with so many things
in life, attitude is a key factor. If you're into sex, you'll
probably like it and enjoy it with or without help. But there
are men and women who, for a variety of reasons, cannot fully enjoy
the pleasures of intimate and physical pleasure. For them,
aphrodisiacs could form part of the solution.
There are no panaceas
for sexual ills it's all trial and error. Success depends
on how strong the desire for change and improvement is.
Who knows, maybe aphrodisiacs can be mind-altering in the way that
some hallucinatory drugs are. The big question in this debate
is do they alter the mind or bring about physiological change?
Let me know how you get on if any of you decide to try bucketloads
of strawberries, or something more exotic on your next overseas
In the meantime, I'll
opt for laughter and good food, wine and music, love and touching,
to get me through the night. Anything and everything can be
an aphrodisiac if you want it to be, the touch of satin, the stroke
of a lover's hand, a cool breeze on a hot evening and what
could be more sensual than a fragrant oil massage?
Whether you decide to
try the contrived or the natural aphrodisiacs, whether you believe
they really affect you or simply make you feel better, and whichever
type interests you the most, enjoy your research into this most