(Note: Occasionally, I get a question from a reader that is compelling enough to become an article all its own. This is one of those questions.)
“I’ve had a low sex drive for as long as I’ve been having sex.
When a relationship is new, I have a “normal” sex drive but once I’m comfortable, it all but disappears. Sex isn’t unpleasant or painful, I just… don’t care to have it.
I’ve attributed this to various things, including the fact that my first sexual experiences occurred when I was too young and I felt a lot of shame/guilt about them, as well as the fact that I for some reason feel that sex is an important part of “the chase” of a new relationship but that’s it.
It’s not my birth control or a health issue, and it’s not my relationship because I’ve had this issue in both good and bad relationships (including my current relationship with the man I’ll probably marry).
I figured you may have some words of wisdom or suggestions to deal with having a low libido. I know you’ve written about it a couple times but I would love any advice you could offer!”
As someone who has dealt with this on a very personal level, I can deeply relate to your letter. And I’m a bit torn between giving you a response that’s practical & one that’s a little bold.
So I’ll give you both.
It’s true that there is a thrilling chase with the start of every relationship. Sex is frequent, lust is palpable, & desire is insatiable. (I personally experienced this on a very heightened level.)
All of this really amounts to the brilliant buzz of hormones. Our brains are literally like those of heroin addicts’ when we become infatuated with someone.When those levels of passion even out, it can feel like we’ve transformed from a spry, feral sex kitten to a fleshy, domesticated house cat.
This decline in desire stems from coming back to reality, so to speak. From the divine comfort that comes with a stable relationship & from the mundane, day-to-day activities present within it.
In other words: what you are feeling is common, understandable, & to be expected.
I’m a firm believer in honoring yourself; that if your body isn’t springing to action at the idea of sex, there could be a reason for it, one that should be examined.
If you’ve ruled out all the likely culprits — health issues, side effects from medication, past traumas from sex, etc. — then perhaps your body just doesn’t want sex for whatever reason.
And maybe that’s okay.
So perhaps it is best to honor the rhythm of your body & listen to what it’s trying to tell you, which is No.
There is really no shame in that.
And now, for the bold response:
T.K., you are a vibrant, beautiful, sexual human being. All of us are.
Our bodies were designed for exquisite, consistent pleasure. To not nourish this part of ourselves stifles our essence as erotic creatures. There cannot be a fulfilled life without the embodiment of something so vital to our existence: sexual release.
Low libidos are starving for sexual pleasure; they’re ravenously hungry for it. But there is often something within us that holds us back from manifesting our desires out in the open.
It could be the remnants of sexual trauma; it could be the underlying presence of prudish shame; it very well could be birth control. (Side note: did you know that birth control halts ovulation, which is the very system that houses & drives your erotic energy? Something to think about.)
What’s important is that we realize that having a low libido, for whatever reason, is not by any means the way it’s supposed to be. We’re not meant to shut down sexually.
We’re built for pleasure.
Which isn’t to say that our libidos are supposed to be as [over]active as they once were during the honeymoon phase of newfound love. I’m not suggesting that we’re expected to be spry, feral sex kittens for the rest of our lives (though it’s not an impossible feat).
But having a lack of interest in sex reflects a deeper deficiency:
We’re simply not living to our fullest capacity as sexual beings.
I think sometimes we see the libido as this machine inside of us on auto-pilot, involuntarily provoking lustful urges & manipulating our minds & bodies into wanting sexual pleasure.
But our libidos can only feed off of what we give them.
If we close ourselves off to sensual indulgence, if we make a habit of saying No to our innate desires, our libidos have no choice but to react by depleting.
If we give ourselves permission to dive into pleasure, if we lovingly nurture our erotic lives, if we allow ourselves to say Yes more often, our libidos will be restored to fullness & abundance.
So what can you do to get yourself to say Yes more?
What can you do to surrender to your sexuality? How can you reprogram your brain — because that’s where the trouble is; your body already knows what to do — to become the sensual, voluptuous, carnal woman you have the capacity to be?
These are all loaded questions with incredibly complex answers.
But, you can start here:
- Forgive yourself; for hindering your erotic spirit, for going against your carnal instincts, for making the habit of saying No. It’s very important that you do this.
- Acknowledge that you’re a sexual creature by nature. Believe this as best as you can.
- Strip away what you think is “normal.” Yes, we’re all sexual creatures, but our personal expression of that will not look like (or be as frequent as) others. There is no particular goal to be reached, no specific number to achieve. Go easy on yourself.
- Open yourself up to pleasure. Become keenly aware of all your senses (that’s what it means to be sensual, after all). Relish in the things that give you butterflies & gooseflesh, including your lover. Open up. Let go.
- Practice. Make the first move. Explore your body. Use touch as a way of communicating. Luxuriate in your fantasies; entertain them lavishly. Play with your sexuality; redefine what that word means to you. Celebrate the euphoric feeling of release.
- Continue practicing. Repeat daily.
- Make sex/intimacy a ritual, be it alone or with your lover. Allow it to become a priority. If a bit of gentle coercion needs to take place in order to manifest your sexuality, let it be so. Sometimes it’s much needed.
For that last part, I’m not suggesting that you nullify your own consent. There are many times when our bodies are truly trying to tell us that sex just isn’t going to happen for whatever reason.
But because we’ve gotten so used to saying No & denying our desires, we can’t tell when we’re truly not desiring sex or when we’re just declining out of habit.
It’s important to become introspective in those moments & ask yourself where this No is coming from.
Is it coming from guilt? Is it coming from habitual repression? Or is it coming from a valid area of tiredness?
Use your intuition to make that distinction.
Perhaps all of this sounds a bit inconceivable; I understand. I’m still learning what it means to feed my own malnourished libido.
It takes heaps of time to cultivate the expression of one’s sexuality. It will take even more to trust oneself enough to say Yes with fervor. Be patient & diligent.
Also, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
This is a conundrum many (most) women face, I (the author) being one of them.