If you read a lot of sex related content on the internet (which, hi, you should), then you’ve probably noticed that libidos have been a hot topic during this pandemic. Why? Because everyone’s sex drives have been on a wild roller coaster for the last few months and they have questions about it (patience—answers below). It turns out that libidos are way more complex than we thought, but the good news is there’s no better time to clear up harmful misconceptions surrounding them than right TF now. So let’s smash some myths and reduce some stigma about sex drives with a little help from a few sex educators.
1. It’s Personal If Your Partner Doesn’t Want To Have Sex
It’s hard not to feel unwanted when your partner doesn’t want to bang you. Trust me. I’m guilty of unconsciously falling for this one, and the assumption has blessed me with a fair (read: unfair) share of stress and anxiety in my romantic relationships. But it turns out that sometimes our partners just aren’t in the mood, and it’s really NBD. “I mean, it could be personal if your partner isn’t into having sex with you, but there are a lot of other reasons, and it’s best to communicate before taking that rejection personally,” says Tara Struyk, cofounder of sexuality publication Kinkly and sex toy store Kinkly Shop. She notes that disinterest in sex can pop up as a result of stress, depression, taking medication, health problems, or just an urge for some time away from having sex. In other words, it’s (probably) not personal.
“When you make that about you, it makes people feel really bad about themselves and puts extra stress and pressure around your sex life, which is unlikely to make it better,” adds Struyk. So cut it out. If your partner isn’t into sex with you right now, she recommends asking them what’s up and how you can help. A little help can go a long way sometimes (if you know what I mean).
2. Your Libido Stays The Same Forever
Wrong. “We often treat ‘sex drive’ as though it’s something we should all experience at a sustained level over the course of our lifetime, but the reality is that sexual desire (I prefer this term) varies from person to person and fluctuates significantly over time,” says Jess O’Reilly, resident sexologist at personal lubricant brand ASTROGLIDE. Your libido actually changes on a daily basis and is constantly affected by approximately 2,927,593 things. Some of those factors include hormones, meds, what you’ve been eating and drinking, how stressed you are, how much sleep you’ve been getting… basically every possible factor. Cool.
Anyway, like we were saying before, if you’ve felt like your sex drive has ~come~ and gone in waves during these hard times of riots, injustices, and health crises, you’re not alone. It’ll come back when we’re all less stressed (hopefully sooner than later).
3. Wetness Is A Sign Of Arousal
“This myth is damaging for so many reasons, as we generally associate the physical symptoms of arousal with the emotional and mental desire to have sex,” explains Caitlin V., M.P.H., clinical sexologist for vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company Royal. “In truth, can experience arousal non-concordance, which means that their subjective experience of arousal doesn’t match their body’s physical expression of arousal.” So basically, this means your body and brain are doing two separate things, so you can be dry as a desert but horny AF or super wet and barely turned on. “This is especially true for women, who may experience high levels of pleasure and arousal while not experiencing vaginal lubrication and associated wetness,” she adds.
The solution? Handy dandy (water-based) lube! It’ll help reduce friction, improve sensation, and maybe even inspire an orgasm or two. Oh, and an important reminder from V.: “Whatever you do, please never shame your partner or yourself for not showing the signs of arousal. Not getting wet or not being hard is a huge source of shame for many people, all perpetuated by this harmful myth.”
4. There’s A Normal Libido Level
News flash: Nope. There’s no sex drive level that we should all be striving to achieve. My unprofessional advice? If your daily libido isn’t disrupting your happiness, health, or wellbeing, then everything’s good. Now for the professional advice. Natalina Slaughter, MA, therapist and sex educator of Slaughterhouse Education, says that her clients regularly ask if they’re masturbating too much (so if you’ve ever wondered the same, you’re not alone). “I think they expect for me to say a specific number or ‘if you masturbate up to fives times a week, that’s normal, but six is just too much,’ but it’s not that black and white,” she says. “It’s going to be unique to each person because human sexuality is very diverse. The metric for ‘normal’ or healthy I use is not hurting yourself or others and not interfering with other parts of your life in a negative way. That’s it.” K, so I’m basically a therapist. Now accepting clients.
5. Women Have Lower Sex Drives Than Men
First off, I hate that this is a thing people believe, but alas, here we are. “The idea that women aren’t interested in sex is a pervasive one, and it totally isn’t true,” says Struyk. “There are definitely individual differences in sex drives, but these don’t fall along gendered lines as much as people think they do. The only difference is that women may be shamed for their appetites, while the same level of interest is considered normal and healthy for men.” Love a good double standard (and by love I obviously mean hate). Struyk shares her opinion so perfectly that I’m gonna let her speak for me on this one: “Screw that! If you’re into sex, go ahead and own it!” Preach! The sexual revolution is now, my friends.
6. Drinking Alcohol Increases Your Sex Drive
“Many people think of alcohol as a great way to loosen up if they’re feeling nervous before a sexual encounter, but it can actually produce an opposite effect. Alcohol dehydrates and can inhibit the natural process of lubrication,” says Dominnique Karetsos, sexual wellness advisor for MysteryVibe. Shout out to those of you reflecting on nights spent pregaming for hookups right now after reading that. It’s fine. Let it sink in.
Moving forward, skip the shots and try better (healthier! safer!) ways to help you feel more comfortable and confident in the bedroom. According to Karetsos, some of these include communicating with your partner before and during sex, doing research, and experimenting with your preferences. She also reminds that “it’s so important that any sexual activity is done with consent and authentic intention. If you’re feeling the need to ‘loosen up,’ think about why that is.” Hint: Probably because it’s a poor decision.
7. Low Sex Drive Is Always A Problem Or Dysfunction
If you’ve learned anything from this article by now, I hope it’s that “normal” sex drives come in all shapes and sizes. “Some people simply don’t want to have sex,” says O’Reilly. “While some identify as asexual, others experience sexual attraction but simply don’t enjoy sex.” You get the point. “When you have a partner who wants sex more often than you do, they may be inclined to label your lower desire levels as problematic, but it’s not your job to increase your desire to meet your partner’s needs,” she reminds. “Compatibility is cultivated by finding common ground—not through pathologizing the range of human experience and desire.”
Now go spread the word by sharing this article with someone. The people need to know the truth.
Your sex drive, like the Kardashian-Jenners’ plastic surgery bodily proportions, is ever-changing, and sometimes not necessarily in a good way. Even though there seem to be an influx of memes about women over 30 having an insatiable sex drive, many women start noticing a decrease in libido with age. This can happen for various reasons. Some may be dealing with stress from work or relationships, others may feel disturbed by the veritable dumpster fire that is our current sociopolitical landscape, which is just kind of a buzzkill, while others may not be able to figure out exactly why they are less interested in sex. Whatever the reason, and despite what porn would have us believe, most women are not existing in a perpetual state of horniness just waiting for the right pizza delivery guy to get them off with three thrusts (though the pizza part does sound nice). If you are experiencing a decrease in sexual desire, at what point is it an issue and what can you do about it if it is?
Not to scare you, but if you’ve been experiencing a low sex drive, it could be a medical condition called Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). HSDD is defined by the American Sexual Health Association as “the absence of sexual fantasies and thoughts, and/or desire for or receptivity to, sexual activity that causes the personal distress or difficulties” in a woman’s relationship. HSDD is surprisingly common but unfortunately, not very well recognized: one study shows that nearly one-third of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have struggled with a decreased interest in sex, another that nearly half of women aged 30-50 have experienced a lower sexual desire at some point in their lives, and yet only 14% of women were aware of HSDD as a medical condition. There are a number of potential physical causes of HSDD, including hormonal imbalance, certain medications (like birth control and some antidepressants), and chronic illness.
But just because something is a medical condition may not mean anything is physically wrong. Because we live in such a fast-paced society, there’s a good chance that your low sex drive may be caused by emotional or psychological rather than biological factors. I spoke with Kiana Reeves, who is a doula, certified somatic sex educator, Certified Innate Postpartum Care Provider, and Certified STREAM (Scar Tissue Remediation, Education, and Management) Practitioner. Reeves said that, “current life circumstances, particularly in a culture that is highly and hyper stressed out all the time” can suppress the libido. So living in a constant state of anxiety might explain why I just want to go to sleep am barely in the mood? You don’t say. Other examples of these life circumstances are dysfunction in a relationship, major life changes such as pregnancy or breastfeeding, the way we view ourselves, and even past trauma.
When evaluating your own low sex drive, keep in mind that the inquiry is a subjective one. Too often, we compare ourselves to others and put ourselves down if we think we’re falling short of some ideal amount of sex. The truth is that there’s no “normal” amount of sex that any one person should be having. What matters is whether or not the frequency of the sex is having a detrimental effect on the relationship, which obviously requires communication with your partner. As long as both parties are comfortable with the amount of sex, then there’s no problem. However, if you’re feeling good about the frequency of sex in your relationship and are with a partner who pressures you for more sex than you are comfortable with, makes you feel sexually inadequate, or does not broach the topic with openness and empathy, my advice is simple:
If you’re worried about your low sex drive, there are a number of options you can explore to address it. Reaching out to a professional such as a sex therapist or medical doctor can help you to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s physical, emotional, or a combination of the two. For those who want to explore the issue even more deeply, somatic sex education may be a useful tool. Reeves explains that somatic sex education is “understanding the nervous system and understanding the language that the body speaks and paying attention to it through sensation primarily.” Because so many of us live in our heads, we lose our connections to our body and its urges. Somatic sex education can help you to reestablish this connection with the body’s signals so that you can recognize your patterns and, when necessary, bring yourself back into balance and open yourself up to the possibility of a sexual experience, whether alone or with a partner.
A thoughtful and honest dialogue with your significant other is another important approach, especially if there are underlying issues in the relationship that may be contributing to a lack of intimacy. Taking time for stress-relieving activities such as yoga or meditation can be beneficial as well. In some cases, CBD may assist those struggling with a low sex drive. Reeves says, “CBD’s primary function is to help bring the body into homeostasis, so it deeply impacts regulation of the nervous system. It’s been shown to be great at reducing anxiety.” One product Reeves recommends is Awaken by Foria Wellness, a topical and aromatic arousal oil that is 100% natural, multi-botanical and infused with CBD to enhance sensation and decrease discomfort.
A decrease in sexual desire as we get older is natural. Whether or not it’s a cause for concern depends on your individual circumstances, but wherever you land, there’s no need to feel shame or stigma. Our sex lives are far from linear, and desire is often responsive rather than spontaneous for many women. The first step in navigating a low sex drive is to acknowledge and honor your body as well as your feelings. A little pizza never hurt, either.
Images: Anthony Tran / Unsplash; Giphy (3)