Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

pp 1774-1777

Sexual Functioning

  • Robyn FielderAffiliated withCenter for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University Email author 


Sexual dysfunction


Sexual functioning is characterized by absence of difficulty moving through the stages of sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm, as well as subjective satisfaction with the frequency and outcome of individual and partnered sexual behavior.


Sexual functioning is an important aspect of quality of life. Our understanding of sexual functioning is influenced by not only the current state of medical knowledge but also the social values upheld in our culture. Healthy sexual functioning is characterized by a lack of pain or discomfort during sexual activity and a lack of physiological difficulty moving through the three-phase sexual response cycle of desire, arousal, and orgasm. In addition, sexual functioning is indicated by subjective feelings of satisfaction with the frequency of sexual desire and sexual behavior, as well as subjective pleasure during individual and partnered sexual activity.

Kaplan’s three-phase model i ...

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