Q: My sex drive isn't what it used to be. I can go months without having sex with my boyfriend and I feel bad when he wants to, and I tell him no. He doesn't care; however, I feel guilty.
- Female, age 34
A: Your sex drive is probably not the problem!
It is more likely the culturally reinforced idea that women should feel desire almost
instantly and if they don’t, they are broken or flawed in some way. The reality that is not taught in popular culture, is that women’s desires are often responsive; desire and arousal come in response to stimulation.
Your environment is also an important consideration in how often you want to have sex as pleasure is context specific, there is no right way to experience it and it varies depending on who you are with and where you are. Just like there is not one way to experience orgasm, there is not one way to experience pleasure and this changes throughout your life.
You could start with an understanding of what creates desire for you and an understanding that this is fluid and often changing.
For many people I work with, this looks like having confidence in your body, feeling safe and secure in your relationship, and letting go of the shame and guilt you may be carrying for not feeling aroused often or for not having frequent sex with your partner. This would be a good place to start asking yourself some questions.
Stress also plays a big role in desire for sex - let yourself process your stress and spend some time taking care of yourself with the basics.
Body image plays a big role as well. Many people learn early on to feel shame about their bodies particularly the parts we don’t expose to other people or talk about often, and this begins from an early age. We all have self judgement about how we look which makes it hard to remain present and focused on pleasure during sex. For many people the worry about their performance or lack thereof or how their body looks of how their body performs during sex prevents them from enjoying sex which leads to not wanting to engage in it regularly. It’s a vicious cycle really.
Lastly, understand the importance of the clitoris. The author of Come as you are, Emily Nagoski, describes it as “Grand Central Station for erotic sensation.” Learning about this important part of your anatomy is one of the most important things you can do to improve your level of pleasure and desire.
In summary, the reason why you feel little desire is likely due to something I just mentioned, however, sometimes a physical issue can cause low libido (like painful intercourse for example), not feeling safe in your relationship, having unresolved conflict with your partner, pregnancy, different medications or substance use. It's important to consider these possible causes as well.
When you let go of the shame you feel about how you show up as part of your sexual relationship, you no longer see your low desire as a personal flaw and instead see it as a situational problem. Once you rule out any physical or relational issues you can hopefully see the very good reasons why you have low desire or arousal.
When you release shame, accept your body, and spend a little more time meeting your own needs, you may be surprise just how much desire you can feel in response to the proper stimulation.
I’ll be answering another question about sex in an upcoming blog post, from the steady flow of questions I'm getting from my subscribers. Got a sex question? You can ask anonymously right here. I’ll answer as many as I can in my upcoming emails.
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