“Maybe she’s not got a low sex drive at all- its just no desire for the sex she is (or was) having”
-Dr Lori Brotto
We look at our hormone levels, our diets, our body image, our contraceptives….
We can also assume women are generally “less interested” in sex than men, so a decline is desire is normal/to be expected (FYI- this is NOT true). Sadly this leaves many women thinking it’s a case of having to put up with having sex every once in a while to keep our partners happy, even if this isn’t really what we want.
Although some of the above might play a role, for many women their “low desire is a healthy response to lack luster sex” (Katherine Rowland).
There’s nothing wrong with us- we just need to adjust the sex we’re having so we actually want it.
Which makes perfect sense really.
So, how to boost your sex drive by having great sex you *actually* want?
Start by exploring all the reasons why sex might not feel as pleasurable as we’d like it to be…. some might surprise you!
OK so slight exaggeration, but there really are SO many reasons why the sex you’re having isn’t great. Let’s delve into just a few….
- You don’t know what feels good, what you want or how to ask for it.
Our sexual appetite is built on knowing what we want, and being able to ask for it. Not knowing or being able to articulate your desires means sex might always be about your partners pleasure not your own.
- When we don’t get anything out of it
Sex can provide us many things (closeness, affection, butt plugs, connection, pleasure, relaxation, control, submission, stress-relief, love, excitement)… the list goes on. Our sex drives are based on a motivational system- we desire sex based on the reward it gives us during/afterwards. 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 and our motivation to do it wanes.
- The duration is too long/short
I went to a brilliant comedy show where a comedian was talking about her low sex drive. I felt such affinity with her laughing about it, but as she explained about how LONG her partner took to come I realised she probably would want it more if it wasn’t so tediously overstretched. Not to mention the chafing risk. Especially in situations where penetration is going on for too long, this is a surefire way for desire to take a nosedive.
- Sex hurts or feels uncomfortable.
Sexual intimacy can be painful for plenty of reasons, including:
- If you struggle to get wet. This could be because you’re not feeling aroused, you are dehydrated, because of hormone levels associated with something like the menopause, being frightened of or preempting pain e.g. the first sex after surgery- the list goes on!
- Sex is focused around penetration, and/or you “put up” with it even when it hurts or feels uncomfortable because you feel like you should or that’s the dominant idea of what sex should be
- If you’re experiencing something like vaginismus, where your internal muscles tense up and penetration becomes difficult
- Your partner is being too rough, isn’t listening or hasn’t checked in how things are feeling
- You have an STD/STI or similar
- After surgery or childbirth
- If the sex is non-consensual or forced
- There’s no build up
- Sex has become stressful
- Anxious/intrusive thoughts. These could be about anything- general life, body image, work deadlines… You might be trying your hardest to relax into sex but if you feel stressed, worried, detached or struggling to stay present, you stay inside your own head and miss the signs of arousal going on in your body (arousal non-concordance).
- Performance anxiety: you might have specific worries about how you’re going to perform sexually. Especially if you have experienced general worries coming into your head, it might have caused you to become worried about how you’re responding (or not) to your partners advances. You might worry about whether you’ll be wet enough to have sex? Will you be able to relax enough to enjoy it? Are they enjoying it? Do you look OK? Will you be able to orgasm? What have you got for dinner tonight? What was it I needed to get from the Post Office? Women describe feeling stuck in their own head, overthinking, being a spectator to their own experience, self-judgement, and an inability to become aroused.
- A trauma history might also mean its difficult to tune in to sex or to your own body.
This can lead to women feeling stuck in a vicious cycle in which you can’t orgasm because you’re so stressed by not feeling like you’re going to orgasm. Capeche? This inability to relax over time can also extend to the build up to sex, so that anxiety about sex becomes triggered every time you think about it or your partner tries to initiate it. It can get to the point where sex (even the thought of it!) can feel stressful (the sexual avoidance cycle). 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!
- There’s too much familiarity
- You’re frightened of intimacy during sex
- You believe harmful myths about sex
- We’re just “giving in” to please our partner
- Sex becomes associated with expectation, rejection, guilt and/or pressure
- Physical affection only happens in the build up to sex
“as women further described their malaise, their dwindling desire seemed less the result of faulty biology than evidence of sound judgement. It was a consequence of clumsy partners, perfunctory routines, incomplete education, boredom and the chafe of over-familiarity. In short, it was the quality of the sex they were having that left them underwhelmed. As one woman put it: “If it’s not about your pleasure, it makes sense you wouldn’t want it.”
– Katherine Rowland