Your opinions on my problem would be greatly appreciated. I am a 21-year-old woman who's been in a loving, happy relationship with a man for the past 2 years. Gradually over the course of those 2 years, my libido has undeniably dropped. Not just from the horny heights of our "honeymoon" period, but down past that to the point where I only feel actively interested in sex once a week or so.
For the most part, I've taken this as a natural thing that happens in relationships, and have taken (pretty vanilla) steps to stay actively sexy—role play, dress-up, etc, even having sex when I don't feel like it. While I've never spelled it out to my boyfriend how much less horny I feel these days, he is aware of times when I'm not too receptive or keen on initiating sex and never pressures me.
However, this isn't a standard question on perking up a relationship's sex factor. For one month now, I have been living abroad, continuing a long-distance relationship with my man, only to discover that I can't even masturbate anymore! Since leaving home, I've been mentally more able to notice sexy thoughts (it's as if he drowned them out), but when I masturbate, it's a lackluster affair. Frankly, I feel numb and sometimes give up; other times I have to fight it out for a mediocre orgasm.
I used to be such a sensual, horny person, and now I feel like I'm losing touch with my sexuality. How can I get back on track to being horny again?
The first place to start is (perhaps with a bit more Buddhist philosophy than usual) to sit with this and really accept it. Not just accepting it enough to write to the Perv Panel about what to do, but to accept that this is what's happening to you, to your body, to your desires, and to your drive—right now. It probably won't stay that way forever. You don't have to force it; you don't have to “fight it out for a mediocre orgasm;” and you don't have to freak out about this change.
Usually, these things don't just happen for no reason whatsoever, but it's rather difficult to figure out the source since whatever is going with on your desire and sexuality is often interconnected with all sorts of other changes in your life. It's unlikely the source is singluar. There are some things to consider and questions to ask yourself in trying coming up with some possible reasons for what's behind the "problem." Are you taking any new medications or vitamin supplements? Medications can have all sorts of effects on the body's hormone levels, especially anti-depressants and some forms of birth control. Have your eating habits changed significantly now that you live abroad? Are you more or less stressed, more or less rested? Ask yourself what other aspects of your life have changed and if these changes could be contributing to the change in your libido.
You might also want to consider that your body may be telling you something about your relationship. I know that's probably a hard thing to hear, but I'm throwing that out there for you to ponder. Maybe you need to be in a different relationship—or even on your own for a while—to figure out how your desires have changed and why.
In the meantime, accept what your body is telling you now, today, and don't force yourself to have a desire that isn't there. Be honest with yourself, give yourself a break, and accept that this is probably temporary. You'll be back to your sexy, desirous self in no time.
Sinclair SexsmithSinclair Sexsmith is a sadistic kinky queer butch top who writes about sex, gender, and relationship adventures at Sugarbutch Chronicles. He partners with femmes and gets off on intentional identities, gender theory, feminism, chivalry, and whiskey.
The question of what causes the libido to wax and wane is one that has sexologists and researchers stumped. There are so many factors that it’s impossible to say with any certainty how the sex drive works. Of course, when it comes to men, mainstream science is content to offer erection pills and the assumption that erection equals arousal and enjoyment. While that’s not always the case for men, the situation for women is even trickier since there isn’t an obvious marker for arousal.
A few aspects of your situation stand out for me. You’re fairly young. While libido does tend to decrease as we age, 21 is definitely on the early side for that. This also came on over the course of a couple of years, rather than having a clear starting moment. And while you seem to have had a mild increase in libido since moving abroad, it hasn’t really shifted anything. Given all of that, I’d suggest speaking with a doctor. There are a lot of medical issues that can have this effect, including anemia, medications, and changes in your hormone levels. I’m also wondering if you use hormonal birth control, which can decrease libido. There are lots of different versions, and if you’re using one, you might find that switching to another one does the trick.
If you do decide to seek medical help, do a little research and see if you can find someone who specializes in, or at least knows about, these concerns. Since I don’t know where you are, I can’t give you more specific information than that. If you can, find someone who understands sexuality concerns. Lots of doctors have plenty of medical knowledge but are rather clueless when it comes to how sex actually works. Fortunately, the Internet can be a great resource.
Having said all that, I’m curious to know a bit more. You said that you’re having more sexual thoughts now that your relationship has become a long-distance one. Do you find yourself feeling sexual attraction when you look at other people, and if so, how strong are those desires are? Are there any patterns to it? I know that you said that your relationship with your boyfriend is happy and loving, but sometimes a marked decrease in sexual desire can be a signal that there’s something going on. If that’s the case, you might have some attraction to other people, although that’s not always how things work. I’m simply mentioning this as something to think about. It might help you see if there are some emotional concerns that have been getting in your way.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope you find the answers you’re looking for. Good luck!
Charlie GlickmanDr. Charlie Glickman has been working at Good Vibrations since 1996, when he joined the staff at the Berkeley store. Currently, he is the Education Program Manager and (among other things) runs the in-store After Hours workshop program, the Off-Site Sex Education Program, trains the Sex Educator-Sales Associates and writes copy for the website. In 2005, Charlie received his doctorate in Adult Sexuality Education from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, he offers classes on sexuality for psychotherapists and workshops on teaching for sex educators.
Oscar Wilde said that youth is wasted on the young, but honestly, I would not want to turn the clock back to my early twenties when the body and mind seem to be in constant revolt against each other. Your question raises some deeper issues in our society around ageism, sexism, and social mores. In fact, your query raises more questions than answers for me.
So how do we deal with this?
The problem here is, I simply cannot answer your question regarding your lackluster libido if I do not know your health habits. Are you in therapy of any sort? Are you on medication? Prescription anti-depressants that lower our sex drive is a common issue these days. In my opinion, this is an issue that does not receive enough attention because of the obvious positive effects of this class of drug. Do you exercise? Getting regular endorphin-raising activity will increase your sex drive. What is your diet like? Perhaps you are a vegan or vegetarian who lacks protein in your diet. Or maybe you take in way too many refined sugars. The answer to each of these questions could provide pieces to the puzzle of a broken libido. Since I do not have any of these answers, I must forge ahead, probably with more questions.
Being female in this culture can actually be a terrifying prospect. We are expected to be youthful, lithe, intelligent, and passive enough to land a man but assertive enough to grab one in the first place. Let's just forget growing old in the first place, my dear. Combine your age (young) with your gender (female) and sexual identification (straight), and you've got a recipe for hardship and complication. Once again, not knowing your family or cultural history also only raises more questions for me.
I know that most people expect over-the-top sexual activity as the norm in their early twenties, but that simply is not so. I do not have hard statistics on this, (except this cutsey article), but oddly enough, I have dealt with (intimately and otherwise) many people in their twenties who have low libidos and, over time, I have seen several different outcomes. One is that the libido "magically" reappears, maybe a year or two into the "funk." Now, for as much as I adore magic, I would say that a more critical eye may notice the “whys” behind the change. Perhaps the anti-depressants finally kicked in, and your hormones are finally fighting back. Maybe you really want to break up with your boyfriend and haven't been able to admit it to yourself. But once you do, you'll feel energized and "virile." Maybe walking the dog or that new dance class (or any other increase in physical activity) will increase your vitality. Perhaps upon learning that you are pre-diabetic, you'll cut sugar from your diet. Any number of events could occur, and that is why cognizance and pushing through those terrible twenties will simply help push you into a heightened state of sexual awareness. Of course, in the words of my fabulous favorite, Dr. Suess, "maybe it won't, cuz sometimes it don't." In other words, a reinvigorated sexuality may not happen overnight, which may simply be the place you're currently in, the waiting place. Now, I am not one to suggest that you sit in the waiting place and do nothing. While waiting, you should take a look at yourself a bit more closely.
If it offers any consolation, although I have been seen as a highly sexual being, I have actually gone through periods of time (up to two to three years at a time), wherein sex was simply not a priority for me, and guess what? That's okay! Just because you are young does not mean that you must be humping every boy you see. You can take this time to reflect upon your current situation, knowing that it can and will change. Taking personal stock, being honest with your lover and yourself, and being open to the changes as they occur will all be helpful to keeping you sane, happy, and healthy.
In the end, I am saying that you are lucky to be at a point in your life for self-reflection and choice. Before recommending you go see a Western medical doctor, I would say take the time to take stock. Notice what happens when you watch different kinds of porn (hey, try it!). This may be a time to expand your erotic repertoire. Notice your eating and exercise habits and how they affect your libido, or not. As you do this, do not judge or try to push it along, simply take stock. A good meditative practice might help or an active therapy like CBT (no, not cock and ball torture, although that could help), Cognitive Behavorial Therapy. Being open to the changes without worrying about the outcome can help make this a wonderful time for self exploration rather than recrimination. Take the time to try new things and observe your reactions. It may not be easy, but it will help you become the deeper, more complex human you know you are. So go on and get going!