Chapter 17 – Female Sexual Interest and Arousal Disorder (FSIAD)

The Female Sexual Response

The Female Sexual Response Cycle was originally described by Masters and Johnson in the 1960s.(1) The lineal model is characterised by a gradual sequential progression of events culminating in orgasm. Helen Kaplan added the concept of ‘desire’ to the beginning of this graph in 1979 to be more representative.(2) See Figure 17.1 below.

Figure 17.1 Sexual response cycle


This linear model has been found to be only marginally useful for describing the sexual response in women, which can include many variables and outcomes. However, it is from this graph of sexual function that the categories of female sexual dysfunction were first described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 2) in 1968.(3)

A more recent model (Figure 17.2), described in 2000 by Rosemary Basson,(4) was developed in recognition of the importance of intimacy, respect, touch and communication in women’s sexual response. Rather than relying purely on physical changes such as genital engorgement with a linear approach from desire to orgasm and resolution, Basson’s model recognises a range of different responses and motivations for engaging in sexual intercourse that results in a more circular pattern.(4)


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