Low desire is the number one sexual concern for women, though it’s also experienced by plenty of men, non-binary and trans individuals too. The first and most important thing to remember about your low libido is that if you’re happy with where you are, there’s nothing wrong with how often you want sex, how intensely you desire it and how you prioritize it.
You know what’s normal for you, and no one is allowed to make you feel bad about your natural preferences or desire style. However if you feel your current libido level has changed, lowered or is just not what you want for yourself, then it’s also perfectly okay for you to look for ways of increasing your desire.
Uneven desire is also a very common concern for couples and a source of conflict in many long term relationships. While you’re never obligated to change for someone else, you may want to increase your desire levels to be a closer match to your partner.
“Its important to remember the cultural messages we have received all our lives and how they might have shaped your libido – or how you think about sex.”
It’s important to remember the impact that stereotypical gender roles have on the way we perceive our sexuality. Men are often depicted as sex crazed and perpetually horny, while women are portrayed as valuing emotional connection far more than physical sex. While this may be true for individuals and there are certainly biological factors at play, its important to remember the cultural messages we have received all our lives and how they might have shaped your libido – or how you think about sex.
“The most important takeaway here is that whatever your desire style is, there’s nothing wrong with you.“
It’s also crucial to know the difference between responsive and spontaneous desire styles. Spontaneous desire is the kind we’re more familiar with as it’s the type men typically experience and is shown in media more often. Spontaneous desire comes from “out of the blue” and is the niggle in the back of your mind that suggests now would be a great time for a wank – this is desire before arousal. However women are more likely to experience responsive desire; they feel arousal first (through sexual activity or stimlulation) and desire second.
This is not to say that your gender defines your desire style or that it’s a static thing over the course of your life. Here’s a really great article explaining this more in depth from the legendary Emily Nagoski. The most important takeaway here is that whatever your desire style is, there’s nothing wrong with you.
Take the bricks off your breaks
Speaking of Emily Nagoski, if you’ve read her book Come As You Are you’ll be familiar with the dual control model and sexy contexts. If you haven’t, it breaks down like this; we all have a set of sexual accelerators (turns ons) and sexual breaks (turn offs). You may naturally have sensitive breaks or a sensitive accelerator. You can learn to build your desire levels to help make the accelerator more sensitive, however it doesn’t matter how hard you press the gas pedal if there’s several bricks weighing down the breaks. So what are your bricks and how do you get rid of them?
Try the Sexy Contexts worksheet from Come As You Are. I tried it out and came to the simple conclusion that I prefer to be freshly showered before sex so I’m confident that every inch of my body tastes clean. I also realized that having a well groomed lady garden makes me much more relaxed about showing it off – so now it’s less of a chore and more a sort of personal foreplay.
Build and integrate erotic energy into your daily life
When we compartmentalize sex as a distinctly separate thing kept apart from the rest of our lives, we’re making it easier to set aside and ignore. Much of our modern culture helps with this, we sanitize our public lives and treat sexuality as a secretive, private or even shameful topic.
“If you spend the majority of your time NOT thinking about sex, pushing it away and down out of our consciousness, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s hard to summon your desire when you decide it’s time for it.”
If you spend the majority of your time NOT thinking about sex, pushing it away and down out of our consciousness, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s hard to summon your desire when you decide it’s time for it. Instead of waiting to be in the mood (spontaneous desire) we can work on raising our every day level of sexual energy so we are more receptive to opportunities to make the mood happen (responsive desire).
So how can you start bringing your sexual energy into your daily life? Think about it like your facebook feed. We curate our feeds by deciding who to follow or not follow, what to hide and what to like. All the media you consume contributes to your mental feed, not just social media and internet but movies, TV and music too.
So start consciously choosing a few racier Netflix choices, watch movies that your kids can’t watch with you, make yourself a playlist of booty bounce bangers. Curate your actual facebook feed too; follow some sex positive pages or people – they have the most interesting links and articles to expand your sexual knowledge. My top faves right now are Hey Epiphora, Dangerous Lilly and the The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health.
Find your perfect porn
“I’m a pretty porn positive person, meaning I don’t believe it rots your brain or ruins your sex drive.”
This leads me to the next step, which is finding material specifically designed to arouse the viewer or reader. Watching TV and movies is great for building your general erotic energy levels, but watching or reading porn can be a more direct pathway into arousal. I’m a pretty porn positive person, meaning I don’t believe it rots your brain or ruins your sex drive. In fact I think there’s a lot we can learn from porn and it can be a useful tool in your sexual arsenal, as long as you’re aware of the context and the difference between fantasy and reality.
I don’t believe in porn addiction either, so load up the incognito chrome tabs and go to town. If you’re worried about your own porn use or your partners, I would always refer to the expert Marty Klein and his book His Porn, Her Pain. Alternatively try this shorter article by him.
“The internet is 95 percent porn and spam”
The video porn industry as it stands has many systematic problems including misogyny, violence and consent issues. Fortunately there’s a growing movement for ethical porn that insures actors are safe, paid and depicted according to their wishes. You can find a pretty good round up of ethical porn sites here.
If visual porn isn’t to your taste, try reading some erotica. Your local library and Amazon should have you covered for physical books, but Literotica and Archive of Our Own are free user created archives full of every kind of kink you can imagine. If you have the perseverance to dig through the stories and learn the search engines, you’ll almost definitely find someone already writing your most explicit fantasies.
The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is that I tend to assume most of you are already doing this. If your libido has dropped off and you aren’t as interested in masturbation as you used to be, then this is your wake up call to get back to work spanking the monkey. If you have never masturbated or feel weird about pleasuring yourself when in a relationship, this section is for you.
“My preferred metaphor for sexual energy is that it’s like a fire – the more you feed it, the more it grows.”
Many people refrain from solo pleasure sessions when their libido is low out of guilt or fear that they are taking away from their desire partnered sex. A lot of this comes from the idea that sexual energy is like a jar of water that gets emptied with any sexual activity, and if you use up too much on yourself you won’t have any left for your partner. This is fundamentally untrue. My preferred metaphor for sexual energy is that it’s like a fire – the more you feed it, the more it grows.
“The things you learn about your mind and body during solo sex can be brought over to partnered sex to make it even hotter.”
If you spend a lot of time in not-sexy head space, it becomes easier and easier to stay there. Regular masturbation keeps sex in the forefront of your mind, connects you with your body and has numerous health benefits, all while stoking that fire for partnered sex. The things you learn about your mind and body during solo sex can be brought over to partnered sex to make it even hotter.
If it’s been a while since you had some serious me time, take this as the push to do it now and do it better. Get a new toy or lube, splash out on some paid porn or a new book. If you’re really keen to restart the engine manually, try challenging yourself to masturbate every day for a week and see what effect it has on your libido.
Get in touch with your body through activity
It’s easy to get disconnected from our bodies and get locked up in our heads, especially when struggling with anxiety. Anxiety over sexual performance and libido can exacerbate this problem, leaving us totally separated from our bodily sensations and even more cut off from our physical desire.
“Physical exertion can be grounding, turning off all the white noise in your head and letting you feel deeply connected to the body you live in.”
Even if you are already an active person, trying a new physical activity can bring focus and concentration back as you try to master new techniques. I spent the majority of my life avoiding physical activity at all costs, but since I started Muay Thai (kickboxing) I’ve learned a lot about the simple joys of movement, pushing my body and revelling in new sensations. Physical exertion can be grounding, turning off all the white noise in your head and letting you feel deeply connected to the body you live in.
To really boost desire I would suggest some form of dance, especially burlesque or pole. Less risqué options include Salsa, Samba, Bachata or even ballroom. Local classes for beginners are just a quick google search away. Maybe there’s some other form of exercise or class that you’ve always wanted to try – this is a good opportunity to go for it.
“In one unusual experiment, young women who did intense cycling for 20 minutes and watched an X-rated film showed greater physiological sexual arousal…”
Any form of physical exercise will boost the feel-good hormones in your brain and being fit also increases the range of possibilities for partnered sex. In one unusual experiment, young women who did intense cycling for 20 minutes and watched an X-rated film showed greater physiological sexual arousal (as measured by a device that assesses vaginal blood flow) than subjects who did not exercise before seeing the film.
One of the most common reasons we experience lower libidos and less sex in relationships is simply because we don’t prioritize it correctly. We often class pleasure as a luxury, an indulgence, like chocolate or wine. Nice, but something we can do without; in fact we tend to class these things as a bit naughty anyway.
“But sex is more than just pleasure – it’s an integral part of our mental and physical health.”
But sex is more than just pleasure – it’s an integral part of our mental and physical health. It’s much closer to a need than a want (although you won’t die from lack of it) and benefits us both individually and in relationships. It contributes to our overall happiness, which in turn contributes to our health and mental stability.
In times of stress, sex often slips to the bottom of the list and eventually off it. Moving houses or in together, financial strains, medical issues, mental health adventures, pregnancy or any big life event can push sex to the back of our minds and our priorities.
Ironically this probably makes these stressful situations even more so, as sex is a great stress reliever and can help preserve and renew the emotional connection between you and your partner. Instead of thinking “I’m too stressed for sex right now” perhaps we should be thinking “I’m so stressed, I need sex right now”.
‘Instead of thinking “I’m too stressed for sex right now” perhaps we should be thinking “I’m so stressed, I need sex right now”.’
Some people don’t like the idea of scheduled sex, especially as we have this weird obsession with spontaneity being the ultimate aphrodisiac. Sex does not have to be spontaneous to be hot, in fact the wonderful concept of anticipation can turn a sexy text in the morning to a form of all day foreplay.
Planning things requires effort, time and energy. Planning sex specifically declares that you value it enough to put those things into it, and that you value your partner enough to commit to it. What could be sexier than someone specifically devoting time in their schedule to your pleasure together?
You might think making a regular date night makes you old and boring, but it really just means you’ve gotten to the stage of life where you are prioritizing your sex life appropriately and safeguarding it from times of stress.
If you have something to add or more questions, please comment or contact me directly. If you have tried these tips and would still like more help, consider reaching out to a sex coach (like me!) to help you work through further steps.
Remember, if lack of sex is making you unhappy, causing conflict in your relationship or affecting your mental state, then it’s absolutely worth working on it. Once you recognize sex as valuable, important and a necessity to your wellbeing then you’re already on the path towards greater desire and fulfilment.