Is it really “low desire”, or just low desire for the sex that you’re having?- Dr Lori Brotto

When we talk about having a low sex drive, we tends to focus on the woman that’s “broken”. We assume there is something wrong with her- rather than considering the sex she is having

Because lets face it, if sex doesn’t feel good- there’s very little reason to want to do it!

Instead, there is a much simpler solution to getting the sex drive you crave.

So if you’ve been shuffling away from your partners advances or going to bed later/earlier than them to avoid sex, lean in to find out the secret to better sex- and a an even better sex drive!

When sex can just be a bit, well, rubbish….

There are many reasons why sex might not feel as pleasurable as we’d like it to be. Just some of these reasons include:

  1. The initiation/build up to sex isn’t attuned to our needs

As our relationships grow older, sadly seduction can quite literally fall off the menu and we find ourselves skipping straight to the main course.

We stop trying, we think we know what our partner wants so we do the same old thing, they shove their genitalia in our faces and waggle them around for attention, or the pre-breakfast sex requests take away any sense of intrigue or excitement.

There are two issues here. Partly it could be a lack of understanding about what we need to turn us on. Women aren’t often educated about their own pleasure, what feels good, or how they can articulate that. Instead the common narrative is that our bodies are the property of others, or that our partners pleasure is more important than our own.

It could also be an assumption on our partners behalf that turning us on is like flicking on a light switch– there’s no need for preamble and effort, and that every woman wants the same. However, for many women- its the opposite! 

There are thousands of “seduction styles” that demonstrate a vast range of what gets us hot under the collar. Depending on your particular seduction style, you may find the weight of expectation to have sex a complete desire killer. This pressure (plus a lack of mystery/tease that goes along with it) means sex becomes almost a foregone conclusion- and that’s not sexy!

Seduction is a key part of us wanting sex, and so if the way sex is initiated leaves you feel stone cold, it’s yet another reason to feign a headache and turn away from your partner.

If this resonates with you, some ideas to help are:

2. When the sex we’re having (or used to have) just isn’t our cup of tea

If the sex we’re having is too long, too short, too rough, too soft (the list is endless- you get the gist!), it’s just not going to turn us on. And this is a problem because if it doesn’t feel good, our motivation to have it is obviously going to wane.

If this is an issue for you, communication sounds like it’s key. Knowing what you want (or even knowing what you don’t want!) is a good place to start (although arguably one of the hardest!). Then it’s about sharing what you’ve learned with your partner. This post has some tips on how to be more sexually assertive in bed.

3. When the sex feels stressful or uncomfortable

It can get to the point where sex (even the thought of it!) can feel stressful.

This is often centred around finding it difficult to relax or “let go” before or during sex. Women describe feeling stuck in their own head, overthinking, being a spectator to their own experience, self-judgement, and an inability to become aroused, enjoy the moment and just be present. A trauma history might also mean its difficult to tune in to sex or to your own body.

When sex becomes a battle to stay in the zone, to “perform”, or to function, the prospect of doing it again doesn’t exactly seem appealing! If this sounds familiar, you might want to check out the sections of the site on anxiety, stress, and how to relax and stay present for tons of ideas and tips on how to manage.

3. It hurts or feels unpleasant

The same principle applies here- if sex hurts, why on earth would we want a repeat? Sex can be painful for plenty of reasons, including:

  • If you struggle to get wet (this could be because you’re not turned on, because of hormone levels associated with something like the menopause, being dehydrated- the list goes on!)
  • If you’re experiencing something like vaginismus, where your internal muscles tense up and penetration becomes difficult
  • Your partner is being too rough
  • You have an STD/STI or similar
  • After surgery or childbirth
  • If the sex is non-consensual or forced

Finding a resolution to the above vary hugely, from communication with your partner, using lubrication, medication, waiting until injuries or sores are healed, to considering seeking specialist support.

Consider consulting a GP or sexual health clinic for more support if you’re finding sex painful, as there are many many ways that this can be helped. Or there are some amazing resources out there for women experiencing issues in this area, including Rape Crisis England and Wales and various organisations campaigning for better awareness of issues like menopause, vaginismus and vulvodynia.

3. Sex that’s just “same old same old”

This is the sex that we’ve all had- boring, predictable, or that always follows the same old heterosexual narrative of a bit of a fumble then ends with penis in vagina sex.

Interestingly, recent research shows that it is more likely to be WOMEN that get bored of relationship sex quicker than men. In this fab article by Wednesday Martin, she describes studies that go against the traditional idea that women prefer cuddles and emotional attachment to get turned on, and that although many women start the relationship with high levels of desire, in fact female passion is more likely to fade quicker than men’s due to overfamiliarity and the idea of having sex with the same person over and over.

Some call this the Coolidge Effect, however what is common is that what many people look to do at this point is to add novelty. Check out this post which highlights the work of Esther Perel on novelty- which isn’t as straightforwards as it seems.

4. When we don’t get anything out of it

Sex can provide us many things-

  • Closeness
  • Affection
  • Connection
  • Pleasure
  • Relaxation
  • Control
  • Submission
  • Excitement… the list goes on

However, if sex feels more hassle than its worth, if it takes more than it provides or leaves you feeling depleted in a bad sense, something is amiss. There are many reasons why you might feel less connected, distressed, exhausted- but if so, it might mean it just doesn’t feel worth it and our motivation to do it wanes.

Keep your eyes peeled for a new worksheet here which will help you explore what you gain from sex, and what you lose, to establish a fuller picture on what sex is like for you.

5. We’re just “giving in” to please our partner

“Giving in” or having sex that we don’t really want is one of the quickest ways we give up our sexual power. Whether it feels like “duty sex” (yuck!), you feel obliged to do it because you’ve scheduled it in, or if you’ve ended up in a pattern of being the one that either rejects or “gives in”, it can feel pretty disempowering- because you’re not the one in control of where/when/how you have sex.

When you’re “giving in” to sex constantly there’s a sense of pressure, which for some women can totally turn off their desire. There are echoes of concern around consent and coercion whilst navigating the complex system of relationship give and take.

Also, being hounded for sex is one of the least sexy patterns to be stuck in. You feel pursued, which leaves little to no room to build desire, or to have ownership of your own sexuality. This can leave one or both partners feeling bad or frustrated at the role they play. Any touch, look or movement becomes loaded as a possible sexual initiation, and we can close down completely any desire to be close to our partners to avoid rejecting them, and the frustrations and feelings that follow.

The secret to a better sex drive…

Instead of focusing on increasing the quality of bed, which might be bad sex, the simple trick is to instead look to increase the quality.

We’re encouraged to have a “normal” amount of sex (what is normal, anyway!?) and often feel pressure to up the frequency. But if you focus on increasing how that sex feels for you, and perhaps investigating (or being honest) about the sex you’re having and what else you need, you’ll find the key to improving your sex drive.

Luckily, there is also an AMAZING way to get yourself out of the pattern of “giving in” to your partner very quickly which you can find right here. I was SO surprised that this worked on me but really was a game changer so I recommend checking this section out.

So, do you think the sex you’re having is impacting on your desire? What would increasing the quality do for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.