Middle-aged Lebanese women's interpretation of sexual difficulties: a qualitative inquiry

Mathilde Azar, Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Thilo Kroll

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The study explores women’s perception and experience of sexual difficulties. The need to address the subject was triggered by the scarcity of research that reflects on women’s subjective views on sexual difficulties. This is particularly crucial for middle-aged women who frequently experience hormonal and psychosocial changes that may affect their sexual life.

Using in-depth individual and focus groups interviews, 52 Lebanese women aged 40–55 years discussed their thoughts, feelings and behaviours concerning sexual difficulties. Women were recruited purposefully from clinical and non-clinical settings to get maximum sampling variation that provided rich information and deep understanding of the subject. Recordings were transcribed verbatim and analysed about the framework analysis. Many strategies were adopted to ensure rigour.

Women’s narratives led to four themes: women’s inability to communicate sexual desires and concerns; male sexual difficulties; marital conflicts; and sexual difficulties as context-bound. Women’s sexual difficulties are driven by double standards and inhibiting sexual socialisation. Once married, many women had very challenging sexual experiences. They were obliged to silently bear their husbands’ poor sexual performance to protect their masculinity and thus their social image and identity. Women’s narratives also showed that marital conflicts, daily life problems as well as physical and psychological burdens further challenged their sexual wellbeing and contributed to their sexual difficulties.

The study makes a unique contribution to voicing women’s views and concerns as sexuality is insufficiently researched and reported in Lebanon. It emphasises the multidimensional nature of female sexual difficulties, particularly the gender-based norms that inhibit their sexual selves and profoundly affect their sexual wellbeing and capacity to claim their sexual likes and dislikes. Findings have implications on research and practice to help women prevent and overcome their sexual difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Article number203
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Context
  • Marital relation
  • Middle-age
  • Qualitative research
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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