***TW: below some difficult reasons are discussed as to why sex can be painful or uncomfortable, including medical reasons, post-sexual assault or because of coercion/control***
When I lost my sex drive, the main issue was that I completely lost my motivation to bonk.
And, when I finally got to the bottom of why, one area which I’d not considered (but now know the importance of!) is sex itself.
Because lets face it, if sex doesn’t feel good- there’s very little reason to want to do it!
But boy, did this take me a long time to realise.
There are a few reasons why sex might not feel as pleasurable as we’d like it to:
- Sex that just isn’t to our taste and doesn’t push our buttons (e.g. too long, too rough)
- Sex that feels stressful, uncomfortable, or you just can’t relax and enjoy the moment
- Sex that’s just “same old same old” (aka boring, predictable)
- The initiation/build up to sex isn’t attuned to our needs
- You’ve lost control
- It hurts or feels unpleasant
- We’re just “giving in” to please our partner (or because we’ve scheduled it in)- aka “duty sex”
The simple truth is that if sex doesn’t feel good (for any of the above reasons), we’re unlikely to want it in the future.
You wouldn’t want to eat something that tasted gross, made you worried about eating it, or hurt you.
In fact, you’d probably actively avoid it.
So if you’ve been shuffling away from your partners advances or going to bed later/earlier than them to avoid sex, perhaps investigating (or being honest) about the sex you’re having is key to improving your sex drive. Scroll down to find out what I did (I experienced most of these issues!).
Sex that just isn’t to our taste and doesn’t push our buttons (e.g. too long, too rough)
It was a while into my exploration of what the f*ck was wrong with me when I went to a comedy gig and a comedian was talking about her lack of sex drive. Shocked at how able this woman was to talk about my shameful secret, I was laughing away at the well recognised struggles. And as she spoke about how long every partner she has in bed takes, I suddenly realised- what if she’s not the problem at all, but the sex she’s having just isn’t right for her?
If someone’s bonking on for too long, being too rough, too gentle, all pene and no play, then sex just ain’t gonna be all we dreamed about. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why our motivation for wanting the damn thing goes down. It’s not rocket science!
If this is you (it was definitely me) then here’s what I tried:
- Figure out what you want in bed. This is actually easier than it sounds if you’re a total blank slate (again, like me) and you just feel a bit baffled about pleasure. Did anyone ever tell YOU that sex should feel pleasurable? Yea- me either! So this is tough alright? But once you begin to know, you’ll start to quickly know what you DON’T want, and this is great.
- Speak out about what you want sex to look like: this absolutely terrified me- would I be judged? Laughed at? But genuinely, if you don’t ask you don’t get and sex will stay terrible (and your motivation will not improve).
- Improve your partners skill- so this is rarely ever talked about when we look at low sex drives, but actually, getting your partner better at sex is going to benefit you both. So swallow that pride and get yourselves understood and equipped for sex. The better the sex the more you’ll want it is the mantra right!?
- Also check out the section below on initiation- an often forgotten but crucial part to sex!
2. Stressful/uncomfortable sex or where you can’t relax and let go
Stressful sex sounds a weird one doesn’t it, but it might become stressful/uncomfortable because you can’t “stay present” and focus on the task at hand. This might be because of:
- anxious/intrusive thoughts (about general life, performance, or specifically about body image)
- your skill at multi-tasking (yes really!)
You might be trying your hardest to relax into sex but if you feel stressed, worried, detached or struggling to stay present, sex might be the time when these anxious thoughts seep into your mind.
And it becomes a case of trying not to think of the pink elephant (and then you can ONLY think about the damn elephant)- sex becomes a spectator sport rather than being involved and enjoying it.
This then becomes 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 might then 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.
You might worry about whether you’re going to be able to perform- e.g. will you be wet enough to have sex? (I always felt embarrassed about the idea of using lube!). 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?
These worried or distracted thoughts can become so tied to sex that any kind of initiation trigger- e.g. a hand on your back, the pre-breakfast sex request– can send you into a spiral of worry. Sex is so enmeshed with stress that it isn’t enjoyable. And if it’s a stressful experience for you, makes sense that you’d avoid it!
Note that sometimes sex becomes so entwined with worry that it’s also worthwhile consulting a professional on how to move forwards.
3. Unexciting/mundane/boring Sex
It’s just “same old same old”
If sex is always same same, it’s likely to be very uninspiring and unappealing to you. Always having sex in the same place/position/process (e.g from naked, in bed, at the end of the day etc) mean there’s no excitement, no intrigue, and nothing to look forwards to!
Especially when you’ve been in a long term relationship and you feel like you’ve done every position under the sun.
Take a read of this article on 9 ways to have engaging, varied sex to see how it could be very simple things you incorporate into your lifestyle to change up sex and make it exciting again. Especially worth noting is the advice from Esther Perel!
4. The initiation/build up to sex isn’t attuned to our needs
The build up to sex is the proverbial spark to our fire. So why is it SOOOOOO overlooked when we’re thinking about sex drives and how to motivate ourselves to want sex.
If the initiation of sex becomes stressful (linked to the above) we’re not gonna want it.
If the initiation of sex is done in a clumsy way that doesn’t take into account our needs or what gets us hot under the collar, it’s not going to do it’s job properly and get us in the mood. Then we get into a whoooole different ball game of not being wet enough and worrying… basically it’s a total sh*t show.
SO. One secret to a better sex drive is understanding how you want sex to be initiated- what is your personal style of being seduced. Sure you can check out the sections on sexuality (really important for this) but a killer tool for this is Jaiya’s “Erotic Blueprint” series.
It’s a quiz that finds out your seduction style, which you can then use to show your partner and provides a language to be able to express what you need. It helped me no end figure out what was missing in our initiation routine, and we made some instant amazing changes. Thanks Jaiya!
5. You’ve lost control
There’s nothing sexier than feeling like a woman in control in the bedroom.
So, if you’ve ended up in a situation where you’re in a pattern of being the one that either rejects or “gives in”, it can feel pretty unempowering- because you’re not the one in control of where/when/how you have sex.
Being hounded for sex is one of the least sexy patterns to be stuck in. This can leave one or both partners feeling bad or frustrated at the role they play.
Luckily, there is an AMAZING way to get yourself out of this pattern 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.
6. It hurts or feels unpleasant
When sex doesn’t feel good or leaves you feeling bad, this is a very good reason for not wanting it in future. Sex can hurt or leave you feel bad for a number of reasons, including:
- If you struggle to get wet
- If you’re experiencing something like vaginismus, an STD or similar
- After surgery or childbirth
- If the sex is non-consensual or forced
Luckily this wasn’t an area I experienced too much of (except the first point- see anxiety). If this is you, please consult a GP or sexual health clinic for more support, 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 vaginismum and vulvodynia.
7. We’re just “giving in” to please our partner or because we’ve scheduled it in
This is a tricky one.
There’s not much written about navigating consent within a long term relationship. And if you’re stuck in the cycle of feeling bad about rejecting your partner, sometimes you might “give in” to make them feel better.
Although many people do this without problem (as they eventually enjoy it- see responsive desire) I feel this can be hugely problematic if they don’t.
If you’re having sex (possibly even quite bad/painful/stressful sex) just to please someone else, sex becomes EVEN MORE associated with feeling bad/not enjoying it, so your motivation falls even more. It’s a vicious cycle. And NOT a solution to a low sex drive.
I’ve written in other areas of the blog about the problems with scheduling sex (it doesn’t work for everyone) and about how this can also further the problem.
Worse, some women are guilt tripped into having sex, which raises further issues about consent and sex. This can leave women feeling guilty, confused, upset, and unsure how to feel after being manipulated or coerced into sex. If you recognise yourself within this or are concerned, Rape Crisis England have some amazing resources and a helpline to call if you’re experiencing sexual coercion.
Is there anything else that has worked for you if sex hurts or is uncomfortable?