What happened to my sex drive?
Movies and TV are great at showing images of sex and intercourse. What they’re not great at is sex education about what’s normal and healthy. This is certainly the case around desire, especially female desire for sex. So what makes us have a sex drive, and what’s happening when it seems we don’t?
Although movies and porn depict women who are instantaneously aroused and ready for sex at the drop of the dime, rarely is this true for most women (and certainly some men too!).
Of course, lots of women want to desire sex and enjoy a healthy sex life with their partners! This mismatch between what we see in the media and what we experience with sex drive just ends up making women feel bad about themselves, as if something is wrong because they “have no desire.”
Am I normal? Why don’t I have a sex drive?
So what happens when your heart longs to have sex with your partner (or wants to want it), and your body is slow to respond?
Believe it or not, this is a common and normal occurrence called as arousal nonconcordance. This occurs when your brain and your genitals are not in agreement on their perception of a sexual situation.
You have desire for sex, it’s just a responsive desire
For lots of women (and plenty of men) they have what is called responsive desire. This means that desire occurs in response to certain circumstances, rather than just being a constant, ever-present feeling! (1) These are concepts explained in the wonderful, eye-opening book by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. titled Come As You Are.
For most men, there is about a 50% overlap between situations where both brain and body decide something is sexy and desire happens. However, for females, there is around only 10% overlap, meaning it’s a little trickier to find a situation that feels both sexually appealing and sexy (2)
This responsive desire is VERY normal and does not imply sexual dysfunction.
Sexual Desire – it’s like tending a garden
The majority of men experience spontaneous desire – the random and quick burst of sexual energy and interest you see in the movies.
Women’s sexual desire can be sort of like a garden – it’s going to grow best with the most ideal circumstances. The best situation for women with responsive desire is one which revs your engines and allows you to accelerate to that arousal point, while minimizing stress that hits the brakes on desire. (3)
What does your sex drive need the most?
One of the key and very important ingredients to create sexual desire is to feel emotionally close to your partner. You can create that fertile ground for her by your presence, paying attention, taking conversation to deeper levels than everyday chit chat, and making quality together time a priority in your lives and schedules.
The next step is creating a sexually relevant context. For some women this may look like a simple lingering touch, or a sexy text from their partner during the day. For others, this may be a longer evening of dinner, drinks and sensual conversation.
Everyone is different, but it is hugely empowering as a couple if you can learn which circumstances your bodies recognize as pleasurable, sexually stimulating and creating desire, and which will decrease desire. (4) Nagoski calls these desire gas and break pedals.
Do you know what makes your desire gas pedal go? Do you know what hits the breaks?
By beginning to identify factors in your life that have become barriers, you can better create a sexual climate that works with your mind and body’s particular specifications.
Body image can be another big gas or break pedal on sexual desire. To know that you are loved, and desired by your partner, no matter the age, size or features of your body is a huge gas pedal for many women! When there are sensitive feelings around body image (and let’s face it, that includes most of us), those are so important to talk about in safe and loving ways.
For other women, the brakes happen when the kids are at home. Send them to a friend’s for a sleepover! For some women, it’s household chores—create a honey-do list to divide and conquer! The strategies to lift the brakes are countless.
As you become in tune with factors that pump the brakes on your desire, you can create situations for desire to grow without getting stopped by the brakes.
It’s sexy to learn about your gas and break pedal!
Neither of these desire patterns is more ideal over the other. Knowing your body and what drives you can be a fun, adventurous exploration for both you and your partner.
Remember, not everyone fits these gendered depictions. These stereotypes are just examples to you understand how you can increase sexual desire and rediscover your sex drive.
In summary, you don’t have to worry any more about why you feel no desire for sex. Every couple deserves a shot at a connected, satisfying sex life. Just remember these:
Universal Truths for Increasing Desire for Sex
- Every body is special and has a unique set of sexual accelerators and brakes.
- Some women have a sensitive accelerator, while others have a sensitive brake.
- Some people have spontaneous desire for sex, while others have responsive desire. (5)
- There are endless combinations. No one condition is preferable over the other.
- None of these is a symptom of sexual dysfunction.
Your body is functioning properly as it responds to each distinct context. So have some grace and compassion with yourself as you begin to explore with curiosity what helps you maximize your natural desire.
Struggling to feel desire for sex?
If you want to improve your sex life, we would love to help you! Don’t wait until the distance and hurt feelings grow and start to damage your most important relationship. Get started increasing your desire today with Denver couples and intimacy therapist, Haleigh Scherma MS, NCC, LPC at 303-513-8975 or schedule online now:
For more information on this subject, check out Come As You Are By Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. References: 1. pg 194, 2. pg 196, 3. pg 227, 4. pg 61, 5. pg 294