low sex drive? don't fret! you're not broken.
Out of all the sexual conundrums people talk to me about, desire (or "sex drive" or libido) is most definitely brought up the most often.
Here's the basis of what I most often hear, although clearly the details and context change for different folks:
Person A has a higher sex drive than Person B. Person A will often initiate sexytime, but Person B will not be in the mood. Person B has two options - either begrudgingly acquiesce to the sexytime and risk feeling resentful toward their partner in the future, or deny Person A the sex and feel guilty about not being able to meet their needs.
It feels like there's no right answer.
For either partner.
For the person with the higher sex drive, if they are denied sexytime, they may experience feelings of frustration, inadequacy, rejection, low self-esteem, etc. If they are, um, provided? sexytime, they might feel guilty knowing their lover wasn't super duper stoked and excited to be doing the sexy things.
Anecdotally, however, I usually hear from the lower sex-drive having individual (which to me is definitely significant, but I promise I'll come back to that). I haven't gone back into the entirety of my correspondence over the years, but I can say with about 99% of certainty that every. single. time. someone comes to me with this problem they at some point ask if "something is wrong with them."
Before I get any further -- NO. There is NOTHING wrong with them.
Here's why it's important to note that the person with the lower sex drive is coming to me... Especially in contexts where the sex is not happening between these two lovers, from the outside it can seem like the person who doesn't want to have all the sex is getting their way. Person A is hungry! Wants meat! (Or, you know... pussy). Person B wants NO pussy, so zero pussy is had. Person A is pissed and frustrated and cranky AF, raging full of hormones and cum. And Person B is able to cuddle up in their cozy bed, roll over super contently, and drift off to dreamland.
I may or may not have just pictured a super dramatic cartoon in my head, complete with steam blowing out of Person A's ears!
But seriously, while there is often the assumption that the partner who doesn't want the sex is HAPPY with the not-so-much-sex status quo, it is very often not true. Oftentimes no one in a relationship like this is happy about their sex life. I've had folks come to me feeling incredibly guilty, lots of shame, and nervous for the future of their relationship.
How long until their partner gets fed up with them? How will they ever keep their partner faithful? Why is their body failing them? The sexy feelings used to happen effortlessly, why is it different now? Is something wrong physically? Or mentally?
And just like so many other sexual topics, libido and desire aren't topics we are socialized to talk openly about - especially when we are feeling shameful.
Like, can you imagine if we talked about sex the same way we talk about mundane objects, like our smartphones, for example? Strike up a conversation about it and EVVVVERYYYYONE has a story or experience to share....
"My iPhone's battery has been draining really quickly lately."
"Ugh! Mine did that too! But you might just need a software update - that fixed it for me."
"Nope! Not mine! You'll def have to upgrade."
"iPhone's are trash. Def get a Droid!"
If it were more common to talk about desire issues more openly, we'd soon realize that we aren't the only ones having trouble. This is a COMMON experience. We aren't broken, we are totes NORMAL.
Here's the thing: sexual desire is a really complex experience, super influenced by context (i.e. time, physiology, relationship, environment, how fucking stressed out you are, etc.), and unique to every individual.
Your feelings of desire can change gradually over time as you age (and your body changes), or almost immediately (like when you found out that sexy piece of man-meat from Tinder was a Republican?)
While relationship satisfaction and partner attraction are included in the context that impacts your desire, they are not in a vacuum. So for example, is my boo a stone cold sexy teddy bear hunk? Yes. Do I want to immediately go down on him when he wears a football jersey? Absolutely. Do I want to jump his bones when he leaves his dirty fucking clothes on the bedroom floor DIRECTLY NEXT TO BUT NOT INSIDE OF the strategically placed hamper? Not so much. Context, my friends.
(For the record, if he were to wear a football jersey whilst actively throwing his dirty clothes NEXT TO the laundry basket, I'm not sure what the outcome would be.)
It's also helpful to recognize the difference between spontaneous and responsive sexual desire. Spontaneous desire is what we most often see portrayed in the media - an unprompted urge for sexytimes, a sudden feeling of horniness. Whereas responsive sexual desire are the same tingly sexytime wanting feelings, only they happen in response to some sort of stimulus - for example, your boo putting on a football jersey (😜), or taking out the trash without asking, or writing you a love poem, or something having nothing to do with a boo like putting on something sexy yourself and feeling like a powerful fucking sex goddess.
Typically - although not always - women report experiencing responsive sexual desire more often.
This can get tricky! Especially when one partner experiences mostly spontaneous desire, and the other experiences mostly responsive desire.
Let's go back to our example folks from earlier... Let's say Person A ONLY experiences spontaneous desire. In their experience, because they've ONLY experiences spontaneous desire, they understand desire to mean an unprompted urge for sexytimes and a sudden feeling of horniness. If Person B only experiences responsive desire, this would mean that Person A has never seen Person B experience sexual desire in the way that they understand it to work. So, in their understanding, Person B never experiences sexual desire. EVEN THOUGH THAT ISN'T ACTUALLY TRUE, Person B just experiences a different kind of sexual desire. But if neither Person A or Person B know that desire can look differently for other people than it does for them, they're missing a whole huge part of the picture!
Yikes. This stuff is complicated. But as evidenced above, having a more comprehensive understanding about how desire works can not only help folks feel more confident and validated in their own experiences, but can increase their relationship IQ as well.
I wrote about some complex shit today, friends. What questions do you have? Does this make sense? How do your own experiences relate? Let me know in the comments!