Do you want sex more often than your partner? Or does your partner complain because you want less? In my practice as a sex and marriage therapist, I find that men often have hyperactive desire, wanting more, while women’s interest in sex is hypoactive, wanting less. If you are female, here is a short quiz you can take:
- In the past, was your level of sexual desire/interest good and satisfying?
- Has there been a decrease in your level of sexual desire/interest?
- Are you bothered by your decreased level of sexual desire/interest?
- Would you like your level of sexual desire/interest to increase?
If you answered yes to these questions, here are some factors that might contribute to loss of interest:
- Medications, drugs, or alcohol.
- Pregnancy, recent childbirth, menopausal symptoms
- Sexual issues such as pain, decreased arousal, or difficulty reaching orgasm
- Your partner’s sexual problems
- Dissatisfaction with your relationship or partner
- Stress or fatigue
If none these criteria apply to you, but you answered yes to the initial four questions, you are in the company of 7,542 women in Western Europe, between the ages of 18 and 88, who participated in a recent demographically representative research panel. What’s especially interesting is that these women, expressing significant associated distress with their levels of sexual desire, comprise more than 10% of the 65,129 women surveyed.
You can imagine how interested Big Pharma is in the DESIRE (Desire and Its Effects on Female Sexuality Including Relationships) survey. According to a June press release, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceauticals has thrown their hats—and dollars—into the ring, providing “unrestricted grants to conduct the first-ever registry in female sexual health. The HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder) Registry for Women is a prospective, multi-center, observational study, which will provide data on the natural history and long-term consequences of HSDD.” Of those 7,542 women originally surveyed, 5,098 chose to participate further in this in-depth survey.
Many people who contact me have desire problems, and I prefer to call them just that, although the term sexual anorexia has been useful for those who recognize that they might periodically avoid sexual contact. But these problems aren’t a disorder.
Low sexual desire can and does have significant emotional impact, especially when a romantic partner yearns or pressures for more sexual contact. In particular, many of the women I work with experience high levels of guilt and shame when they can’t be sexually available to their partners. One client recently told me that her elderly mother told her, “Quit kvetching about Tim! Just lie back and think about Brad Pitt. Men need their weekly oats.”
That’s not what sex is about. Sex is about giving and receiving pleasure. Low sexual desire often comes from the limiting beliefs and expectations we have about sex given us by TV, movies, Big Pharma, and our families. When they let go of these expectations, almost every couple can find ways to have satisfying sex.
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