AUTHOR: Dr. Gilbert Tordjman
Gynecologist, sexologist, founding president of the World Association of Sexology, secretary of the French Society of Clinical Sexology, Dr Tordjman is one of the sexologists who founded and brought to light this discipline in France.
Follower of an innovative sexological medicine for the time, he multiplied in the 70s the best-selling books on the couple and the sexual agreement. It also promotes sex education for adolescents – especially with Encyclopedia of Sexual Life – and the use of hypnosis in sexology. It became essential in the media for sexology in France in the 1970s and 1980s.
But in 2002, the first complaints of sexual abuse came from several of his former patients, and he was indicted for rape. In 2003, he was imprisoned for not having respected the ban on practicing medicine which weighed on him. He died in 2009, just before his trial.
PLAN OF THE WORK
I – The ages of sexuality
II – The foundations of modern sexology
III – Vaginismus, dyspareunia and non-consummation of marriage
IV – The problem of sexual desire in women
V – Vaginal dryness
VI – Orgasm dysfunctions in women
VII – The woman and her pleasure
This book is a kind of inventory that synthesizes the knowledge provided by sexology to identify, understand and treat sexual disorders in women.
The first part, devoted to a brief history of female sexuality, highlights the ongoing cultural revolution: the 1970s called into question the order based on family and society. Now, the new doctrine values the individual and self-realization.
This opens up new perspectives for women’s sexuality: far from the idea of a conjugal duty centered on men’s desires, they claim their own pleasure, within the couple and outside. But this newly conquered possibility took on the appearance of an injunction, and in the 80s, it is now suspected not to enjoy unhindered!
This normative discourse on pleasure will help create blockages – but also perhaps make possible their expression and the consultation of a sex therapist.
Two chapters recall the main lines of female sexual physiology (it should be noted that the representation of the clitoris does not correspond to current standards, in particular the pillars which surround the vagina are absent), and put in parallel the female and male sexual responses.
The next three parts provide a classification of female sexual disorders, then methodically explore the different types of disorders.
For each of these disorders, the author reviews in a methodical way: the clinical picture, the definitions (sometimes problematic), the major issues, the possible causes – organic, psychological, relational, psychosocial… and the treatment options.
Vaginismus, dyspareunia and non-consummation of marriage
In the tradition of Masters & Johnson, the author rejects a too Manichean psychological / organic vision and often insists on the need to question the relational health of the couple in order to fully understand these difficulties – regularly citing the notion of “conjugal illness” that he developed in another book.
Sleeping Beauty, Brunehilde the warrior, Queen bee, portraits of women allow the exploration of notions such as fear of sexuality or the taboo of virginity.
For vaginismus, certain organic causes (infection, hormonal insufficiency, etc.) are discussed at greater length, but psychic components such as disgust for sexuality, aggression against the partner, and of course fear, remain central.
The treatments offered include psychotherapy, desensitization (hypnosis) to violent representations and images associated with sex, as well as the use of dilators and the prescription of female-directed sex.
Sexual desire disorders
After a dissertation on the difficulty of defining desire, the author presents different types of desire disorders, from out of phase or eclipsing desires, to sexual aversion. He insists on the multifactorial side of IDS, and offers a treatment combining couple therapy to restore communication, sex therapy (mainly sensate focus) and individual therapy to allow the patient to return to her body and her desires.
Here again, the chapter evokes both psychic causes (such as anxiety, the need for control or the difficulty in accessing a modified state of consciousness), behavioral causes or certain organic causes.
In the treatments, the emphasis is on bodily therapies: from relaxation to sensory awakening or guided masturbation exercises, but also Kegel exercises. All this accompanied all the same by a psychotherapy of support for the woman and for the couple.
Finally, the last chapter offers an opening to many broader avenues of reflection: the ambivalences of women towards themselves, men, passionate love, those of our postmodern society towards loss of control… these small final vignettes, if they seem a little quick and caricature, nevertheless each open a field of reflection that deserves to be pushed.
If certain ways of seeing, or of writing, are clearly dated and require to be put back in the context of the time, others on the contrary take on a new interest in the light of 2021. I have tried to shed some light on this reading as you go, seeking after each chapter to put it in parallel with more contemporary sources.
Thus the 3D exploration of the clitoris has revolutionized the way of thinking about female sexual physiology. The chapter devoted to it, the arguments used to discuss clitoral and vaginal orgasms, may seem dated today. I passed quickly, I will find more recent information elsewhere.
On the other hand, the discussion around feminism, the criticism of the place of penetration and the claim of that of the clitoris in female pleasure, resonates strongly today, while the new feminist waves are once again claiming the reappropriation of the clitoris as political liberation.
The contribution of gender studies However, it seems to me to be taken into account today in order to nourish and complicate this reflection.
The descriptions, clinical pictures and therapeutic avenues for the main types of sexual disorders seem to have changed relatively little since this book. The additional sources I found, as well as the October course, largely overlap with Tordjman’s information. This book therefore provides a real overview of the grounds for sexual complaints and the main avenues of treatment.
I wondered, when the author mentioned the lack of sexual information as one of the common causes of sexual disorders, if this is still the case at a time when porn is circulating on schoolyard phones. (perhaps the lack of information at the time was replaced by bad information, which doubtless does just as much damage).
However, this question was raised during the course: even with these changes, the “information” aspect of the sex therapist’s work remains essential to allow patients to question problematic representations.
The question of body therapies interested me a lot. This book being the first that I read which approached these strictly sexological techniques, I was curious to discover the various therapeutic proposals centered on the re-eroticization of the body and the reconciliation with oneself (sensate focus, guided masturbation,…).
However, knowing the history of the author, I must admit that a certain uneasiness invaded me during a few chapters. I sometimes found the thought invading that these techniques and advice, however adapted, could completely change perspective in the hands of a person who abuses his position of authority.
Certain evocations of countertransference – which in someone else might be considered a healthy self-analysis – also made me uncomfortable for the same reasons… His tendency to abuse the transference of his patients having it. led to commit sex crimes, I found it difficult to read his analysis without thinking about the context.
In conclusion, I believe that the author’s reputation will have served me well, by allowing me to keep a critical distance throughout this reading. Even if, in the end, most of the sexological information remains valid in 2021.
We wish to thank the author of this post for this remarkable material
Woman and her pleasure, Gilbert Tordjman • My sex blog
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