The Question Of Libido

How important is libido in the grand scheme of things? The answer may vary according to who you ask, as does the solution.

The difference between men’s and women’s libidos has been noted and amply discussed, and yet there’s no consensus on how much of that difference is biological or culturally conditioned. In this post I discuss how under-reporting due to stigma and misogyny plays a role, while Dr. Debby discusses the results of one particular study that points to stress and fatigue as major roles in Western women’s low sexual desires. And, of course, there’s the flurry of reporting about the new “female viagra,” which as Lindy at Jezebel points out, is opening up interesting questions about women’s desire, monogamy, and social paradigms.

This blogger advocates for having sex regardless of high levels of desire, arguing: “You don’t wait until you’re starving before you eat. And you don’t wait until you’re suffering from dehydration before you drink. Most people work on the basis of having regular meals at fairly fixed times. Why should sex be any different?”

Add into this the fact that most people aren’t having sex purely for reproductive purposes, and we see that sex can be used in any number of ways: to create or nurture a feeling of intimacy, to comfort, to entertain, to explore. Is being so aroused that you’re gnashing your teeth in anticipation a requirement for these sorts of sex? No, of course not. But given how much shame and stigma surrounds sex in our culture, it’s no surprise that a lot of people wait to initiate sex until they’re really sure that they want/need it.

For those facing lower levels of desire, the “fake it til you make it” approach to sex has its benefits, though as Dr. Debby cautions, women who engage in sexual activities when not feeling aroused in the hopes that it gets them aroused could begin to feel obligated to do so (and feeling obligated is rarely a good thing in terms of desire).

I’ve had periods of low sexual desire in my life, and while I won’t bore you with the details, I will say that increased communication, creating an environment of safety and security, and starting with low-key cuddling and sensual touching have helped me get in the mood when otherwise I would’ve preferred to keep reading my book or whatever (introvert-world problems: I have them).

So I think combining a “fake it til you make it” approach with better relationship communication may help circumvent the issue of libido and help people realize that sex can be a great way to connect with your partner(s), regardless of whether you’re chomping at the bit to get laid right this second. As with everything, though, your mileage may vary.

You could also check out one of Dr. Debby’s many books on sexual desire and communication, such as Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure (which is one of my favorites) or Sex Made Easy.

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.