I have been working with a major news outlet on the issue of female sexual desire. The talking heads call this “low sexual libido” – and we have been trying to get women to step forward and talk about it. No one wants to. Not a big surprise – would you want to step forward as a person with “low sexual libido”? Geez with the men they had to switch out erectile dysfunction with “ED”.
I would rather call it “Desire Untapped”. Now – that is language I can wrap my libido around – because that was what I once was. A woman who didn’t understand my own sexual desire. I knew that I had it – but it felt more like a simmering pot – close to boil – but not quite. And I wanted to boil – as so many of us do. I wanted to feel like those women look in “Sex in The City” - but I wasn’t them. I would never be them – I was a mid life Riverdale housewife, and fertility advocate . I had to find my own way – and I did. But along the way – I learned a lot about how women tick.
I became fascinated with what turns us on as sexual creatures - I realized that I really didn’t understand how most women’s sexual desire worked. For instance – did you know that women’s sexual desire is considered by many sexologists as “responsive desire,” while male sexual response is usually characterized by “spontaneous desire.” I didn’t. And frankly – I was not sure that I loved that language either – it made me feel like a receptacle of male desire instead of having my own.
According to “Sex Nerd” Emily Nagoski on her blog:
“Responsive desire” is when the motivation to have sex begins AFTER sexual behavior has started. As in, you’re doing something else when your partner comes over and starts kissin’ on ya, and you go, “Oh yeah! That’s a good idea!” Or you and your partner set aside Friday night as Sex Night, and then Sex Night gets here and you’re like, “Oh, Sex Night. But I’m so tired…” But you made a deal, so you get started… and before long you’ve forgotten you were tired.
This is contrasted with “spontaneous” desire, more typical of male sexuality, which works more like this: you’re walking down the street and for no immediately obvious reason you think, “Hm. I’d like to have sex!” Or you’re taking a shower getting ready for bed and you think, “Hm. I’d like to have sex!”
Regardless of what body or identity you have, if you’re more of a “responsive” desire person you might have worried that your interest in sex was abnormally low – worrying about how much we do or don’t want sex is something we’ve been well-trained to do. Indeed, so many people have asked me how often they’re “supposed to want sex,” I’ve started looking for a memorable, funny stock answer that gently illustrates the absurdity of the question.”
So – using the model of responsive desire (more female) versus spontaneous desire (more male) – is the issue of “low sexual libido” based on the assumption that female sexuality should be more like a males? Is there something wrong with women – are they dysfunctional with low sexual libido if they are not walking around spontaneously wanting sex? Do they need a sex therapist or a drug? Or are they simply not male? And why all of this interest in female libido all of a sudden? I mean it’s everywhere – I am flattered mind you – and I care deeply about women and their sexuality -that is why I also offer sexuality coaching - but what is truly driving this? Could it be that big pharma which cashed in big time on Viagra sees another big marketing opportunity in my sexual desire and the model for that sexual desire is going to now be based on male sexuality - as many female sex advocates are contending. It’s possible.
Or could it be that women are more self aware than they have ever been and want to try on being more “spontaneous” in their sexual expression? Perhaps women are having their own desire to become more “untapped” and try on some different models of sexual desire and response.
You know – lots of men take erectile dysfunction drugs who don’t need them. It’s a big part of the market. It’s called “Performance Enhancements” in the male world…. Is it possible that women will want to enhance their sexual response as well? Speaking for myself - as I do – I think that this is very possible. In fact my own experience trying on – so to speak – the new female arousal gel Zestra was all about me wanting to see what was possible with my own sexual desire. And I had an incredible party with that little packet! I don’t use it all the time – but I have found myself reaching for the packet when I want to be - how shall we call it – more “spontaneous” in my desire!
I bet that we are going to be hearing more about this – female sexual empowerment is emerging again into the cultural zeitgeist. Perhaps that is because books like my memoir Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner and programs like One Taste – are beginning to attract media attention.
I am also betting the bank that more, and more women are going to reach for female enhancement products, for all of the reasons that men do.
I love this new attention around female desire – I think it’s important. The more we talk about female sexual desire – the more women will come to understand their own individual curve of desire. And if they want to shake up their desire and arousal curve – with female sexual enhancement products or a new vibrator- it’s all about making women comfortable – so that they can reach for what they want.