How often do you find yourself not in the mood for sex? Would you say that number is high or low? Either way, do you feel guilty about it? Our society has constructed rigid ideals around sex, leaving many feeling uncomfortable when our reality doesn't match up. And how often does it realistically line up?
And that can make you feel really bad. So let’s take a look at what might be causing your low libido, decide whether or not it’s a problem, and go over some ways to boost desire.
Understanding low libido
There’s a cliché that people with penises want sex more–or even that they think about it all the time–and people with vaginas have lower sexual desire. But science tells us that that’s just not true. Anyone across the gender and sexuality spectrum can experience low or high libido.
Low libido differs from a dislike or even fear of sex. It’s not about actively rejecting sex, but rather experiencing an absence of desire. Like any feeling, thought or sensation, desire isn’t a permanent state. It’s fleeting. Just like we are not always hungry or tired, desire for sex or masturbation may come and go.
Where does a low sex drive come from?
Before we go any further, we want to note that having a lower-than-expected libido isn’t necessarily a problem. If your libido is “low,” by your measure or someone else’s, and that doesn’t interfere with your life in any way, then it’s not a problem. Let’s state that again: a low libido is not inherently problematic.
However, for some people a drop in libido can be really upsetting and can even interfere with their romantic lives. For those people, it’s worth considering both physical and psychological causes.
For example, hormonal changes–such as those related to certain forms of birth control or menopause–have been known to tank a libido or two (million). Personal or work-related stress, past painful or traumatic sexual experiences, and relationship strains can also put a psychological strain on a person’s libido. And studies even show that monogamy–you know, that thing we’re all told we’re supposed to be striving for?--can majorly tank libido for all genders.
When one partner wants sex less than the other
Want to know a secret? Libido discrepancies (aka one partner wanting it more than the other) are the norm, not the exception. Except for that very early, hormone-fueled start to the relationship when both people want it all the time, most couples go back and forth on who wants it more and who wants it less. You’d be hard pressed to find a long term couple that has had the exact same sex drive for the entirety of their relationship.
So when this issue comes up in your relationship (and, reminder: if it hasn’t yet, it very, very likely will) it’s helpful to talk openly about how each of you experience desire, address your differences, and search for solutions together. Oftentimes, the issue can be solved through honest communication: Perhaps you’ve been harboring some negative emotions that need to come to light before exploring intimacy again. And if you feel that low libido is a recurring problem that’s affecting your relationship, you may also consider seeking counseling in couples or sex therapy.
How to increase libido
Whether you don’t want sex as much as you used to or you’ve always had a generally lower libido, there are things you can do to increase your sex drive.
1. Go the doctor
First things first: Let’s get you physically checked out. A check up with your doctor can identify or rule out any physical reasons why your libido might be lower. They can perform blood tests to examine hormone levels, do a pelvic exam (if necessary), and help suggest other reasons why things might not be working out the way you’d like in the bedroom.
2. Release expectations on yourself
One of the most important things you can do to boost your libido is to release expectations of how much sex you should want or have. Every person is different and has unique needs and wants when it comes to sex. Instead of comparing yourself to others or feeling guilty about how much or little you desire sex, accept that your libido is what it is. It's okay to have periods of low libido or to have a generally lower libido than your partner or friends. Remember that pleasure is the ultimate goal, not necessarily the frequency of sex or orgasms.
3. Set the mood
Setting the mood can be an incredibly powerful way to boost your libido. What helps you get in the mood and feel sexy? Consider trying different techniques to get you in the right headspace. For example, you could try putting on some music, lighting candles around the room, taking a warm bath, or even making the bed with fresh sheets and flower petals.
4. Embrace your fantasies
Our thoughts have a big impact on our libido, and feeling distracted during sex can negatively influence our experience of pleasure. To help you stay present in the moment and get more in touch with your desires, try exploring your sexual fantasy. This might involve reading erotic literature or watching porn to find out what situations arouse you most. Additionally, consider trying out erotic audio content like Dipsea, which is specifically designed for female pleasure.
Masturbation is a fantastic way to increase your libido and get more in touch with your own body. By dedicating time and energy to exploring your own body, you can get to know what you like most and what types of touch or stimulation work best for you.
Masturbation can also make certain parts of your body more sensitive to sexual arousal. Don't be afraid to try out new things and sex toys–nowadays there are even waterproof vibrators that you can bring with you into the tub. And involve your whole body in the experience: gently caressing different body parts can show you where your erogenous zones are and increase feelings of self-love.
6. Get to know what your partner likes
Sex is all about connection and intimacy, so it's important to get to know what your partner likes and what turns them on. Experiment and ask them how and where they like to be touched and what their favorite position is. And vice versa! Show them through words or sounds what you enjoy most in bed. When one partner is really in their groove, it can be pretty contagious.
7. Set a date
A lot of people think that scheduling sex isn’t sexy–and they couldn’t be more wrong. Setting a time and date with your partner can build anticipation and excitement and make you feel more in the mood when the time comes. Scheduling sex can also help you prioritize intimacy and make time for it, even when life gets busy.
8. Take care of your health
Finally, it's important to remember that sexual wellness is intricately linked to our overall wellbeing. To boost your libido, make sure you're taking care of your body and mind. We know it’s often easier said than done, but eat healthful foods, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and aim for those golden seven to nine hours of sleep each night. When you treat your body right and lead a healthy lifestyle, it builds confidence and a positive body image, which can in turn boost your sex drive.
Remember, everyone’s sexual desires and needs are unique. It’s important to be true to yourself and respect your personal boundaries. If low libido is a recurring problem that’s affecting your relationship, consider seeking counseling in couples or sex therapy.