What Impacts Sexual Desire?
A Funny Little Thing Called Desire
One of the frequent concerns that I hear from many women is about their low desire. Losing interest in sex is a sexual behavior matter that many find deeply troubling and often seek guidance and solutions. The partner with higher desire feels rejected and frustrated, and low sexual desire often becomes a source of disagreements and pain in many relationships. A decline in desire can have various underlying causes, such as life stressors, hormonal changes, or relationship dynamics.
Addressing this concern requires a better understanding of the differences between men and women when it comes to sexual desire, as well as a range of potential strategies and interventions to reignite their desire, sexual arousal and overall sexual well-being. In today’s episode, we are joined by my son, Cooper, as we talk more about spicing up your sex life and why it matters that we improve sexual desire.
What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire may have many different meanings depending on who you ask but for the sake of this episode, we’re defining it as the amount of your sexual response or your engagement in sexual function or behavior. Men and women have different experiences when it comes to desire. However, we have to correct the idea that men think about sex all the time and this is backed by recent research studies. As for Cooper, he doesn’t think about sex often especially during the day probably because he is distracted with many things, particularly work.
Men typically have more spontaneous desire; they frequently find themselves thinking about sex without much effort. It can be as simple as seeing their partner and feeling an immediate urge for intimacy. Nonetheless, Cooper emphasized that relationships are a lot more than just sex. Despite how fun sex is, there are other more important qualities in a relationship that many people like him may prioritize over sex.
For women, the experience of sexual desire can be less frequent and less spontaneous. From a gendered perspective, women may not spend as much time actively thinking about sex as men do. Even as a sex therapist, I can attest that I personally don't constantly dwell on sexual thoughts. Instead, for women, desire often arises more in response to context and anticipation. On a day-to-day basis, we don't often find ourselves preoccupied with thoughts of sex.
Women have responsive desire.
Women tend to have what we call responsive desire. That means we might not really be feeling it, but the minute we start engaging in sexual activity – even if they're just sexual fantasies – you start to think about sex even before you actually have sex; this is how you commonly get a female sexual response.
Typically, we think that when you're in a stable long term relationship, we would continue to have so much desire for that person because of the closer and more intimate connection established. We don’t really take into consideration that desire somehow decreases over time, especially women's sexual desire due to many factors that negatively affect sexual desire.
Mystery or the unknown in a relationship normally plays a big factor in our sexual interest. And so, the more we know our sexual partners, the more things become predictable, decreasing the element of surprise or excitement which affects our sex drive resulting in low sexual desire. In relation to that, there's a common assumption in a monogamous relationship that your partner desires you because they're committed and can't seek sex elsewhere. It's not the same as when you were dating, where they actively chose you; women crave the sense of being wanted.
This feeling of being special can diminish over time, resulting in reduced arousal and less frequent thoughts about intimacy. In fact, many couples fall into a routine of having predictable "vanilla" sex, doing the same things repeatedly, which can become quite boring and challenging to get enthusiastic about. Exploring new experiences and maintaining open communication can help reignite the spark and keep the passion alive.
Couples with higher desire have more oral sex and more sexual variety.
What research studies show about couples that have higher desire in long-term relationships is that these couples are more likely to have consistent orgasms. I have many clients struggling in the aspect of sexual functioning, particularly in having orgasms, because of pressure from their partner and this is understandable considering that human sexual desire is quite complicated for others.
We have to keep in mind that it takes a lot more stimulation for a woman to have an orgasm. On average, 20 to 40 minutes is the range for women to have direct clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm. On the other hand, for guys, it takes 3 to 5 minutes on average. This is understandable considering that the clitoris has 3,000 nerve endings whereas the penis has 1,000.
Couples that have higher desire are more likely to have oral sex and more sexual variety to set the mood. They make use of sex toys, scented candles, romantic music, sexy lingerie, and more. Moreover, couples with higher desire communicate about sex. This is greatly important for couples to establish a stronger foundation in their relationship and a healthier and more intimate connection between them.
Are you someone you’d want to be intimate with?
When it comes to struggling with desire, especially as we age into our 40s and go through menopause, it's crucial to understand that it's a common experience. Instead of labeling it as "normal," let's explore practical steps to address it. Couples with higher desire often engage in certain behaviors that can be adopted in one's relationship.
One essential question to ask yourself is, "Are you someone you'd want to be intimate with?" Outwardly manifesting your sexual confidence and portraying yourself as a sexy person can significantly impact your desire. It starts with boosting your sexual self-esteem, becoming attuned to your desires and boundaries, and feeling genuinely sexy.
Taking responsibility for your sexual satisfaction is key. Blaming others or making excuses when things aren't working out doesn't help. Applying this perspective to your sex life is empowering. Remember that you are responsible for your sexual pleasure. Understanding yourself sexually and confidently navigating your desires is a vital part of enhancing your overall sexual experience.
Tapping into your erotic self.
Most people, especially women, tend to struggle with maintaining focus and get distracted by many factors even during intimate moments. Commonly, their minds wander to everyday concerns like their kids, laundry or other things. These distractions can derail the mood and enthusiasm, making it feel like starting from scratch on a roller coaster ride.
Esther Perell, a renowned author and relationship therapist, offers valuable insights on nurturing desire. She reminds us that desire can be nurtured through self-care and a deeper appreciation of our partners, ultimately enriching our relationships.
Once we've tapped into our erotic selves, the focus shifts to desiring our partners. It's not just about sexual acts but also appreciating their scent, touch, and the intimate connection that comes from being close. The entire experience, from emotional connection to physical intimacy, contributes to desire.
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