Its a genuine question.
So many women out there struggle with the label “low sex drive”. But what if we’re totally normal? And our sex drives just function in a different way to the male libido?
The topic of low sex drive is incredibly gendered.
What I mean by that is, our whole understanding of what a low sex drive is… well, its all based on men.
Men basically wrote the book on “the sex drive” (all fingers pointing at you, Sigmund Freud!).
This means that when compared to men, women are often told (or made to feel) that they have a low(er) desire to have sex.
And therefore that they have a problem. Which is wrong.
Let me explain…
There is a huge debate around whether men have higher sex drives than women.
This is complicated, and many people think it involves whether our levels of sex drive are nature or nurture. I.e. are men born wanting to have more sex than women, or are they brought up that way?.
It may be true that testosterone has an impact on the supposedly ferocious male sexual appetite, but what about the role of society?
Great (gendered) Expectations
Author note: couldn’t stop giggling about how this title links to Charles “Dick”ins haha. Ahem. Carry on.
Because of the way that we view men and women, since we were children we’ve received different kinds of expectations and messages around sex. This could be from our family, friends, advertising, school, the media. Its all around us!
Lets spend a moment thinking about the kinds of terms we use for a sexually active man.
For centuries, they’ve have been called “studs”, “bachelors”, “stallions” and loads of other crap to celebrate how actively sexual they are. Lucky things!
And what kinds of words are used for sexually active women?
Yep, that’s right. Pretty disgusting ones.
So men are celebrated for being sexual and should be “up for it” all the time. Whereas women throughout history have been expected to be passive and virginal. If you fall outside of what is expected of you as a woman (e.g. taking control of your own sexual pleasure) society often condemns you as a slut, slag or easy.
All these messages about how we should approach sex (and how we should be actually having sex) can have a huge effect on our sex drives. And if we’ve spent our lives being socialised to be prim and proper little fannies in the bedroom, its hard work becoming a key player and being able to take control of your own desire.
Its a man’s world- the pleasure principle
Lots of depictions of sex also focus only on men’s desire and their pleasure.
You only need to watch thirty seconds of a porno where the men are hairy, fat and faceless being serviced by beautiful women to know who its aimed at. Note also how women aren’t pleasured as much as men?!
Because men have been told that “real men” want sex, the poor buggers get told that they need to go out and get it. That means they might initiate sex more often.
And because the idea of women getting pleasure from sex (shock horror) is quite absent from our sexual health education, women can sometimes find it hard to know what they like.
For example, if your partner is pestering you for sex (my poor boyfriend does this alot), many women won’t get the chance to build up their own desire and learn how to channel it.
Female pleasure and its depiction is generally like a barren bloody desert. The messages women are given are: men give, we take. We lie back and think of England.
However, this is starting to change! Places like OMGyes are a good starting point- they have some great free videos on their Facebook page to get you thinking about pleasure. Love Matter’s work on the Pleasure Portal is a really interesting on pleasure and campaigning for sex education to talk about pleasure.
The division of labour- juggling cooking, cleaning, housework, kids AND sex…?
There is also the issue that women are often doing lots more of the domestic labour. That means that on top of working, women are also doing the lions share of the childcare, cooking, cleaning, admin etc.
ONS statistics say that on average men do 16 hours a week of such unpaid work, which includes adult care and child care, laundry and cleaning. This is compared to the 26 hours of unpaid work done by women a week. That’s almost 40% more work around the home than guys, simply because society assumes its our responsibility.
Is it then any wonder that at the end of the day, we’re knackered and worrying about what’s left to be done so that there’s no room in our minds for desire. Sex drives are certainly a gendered issue.
Why your low sex drive might not be a medical problem…
Our sexual health is just like our physical and mental health- we’ll always have good and bad days (read my full post on this here).
We also know from what impacts on our sex drives, things like depression, anxiety, stress and past sexual trauma can all get in the way of wanting to have sex. However, with women:
- experiencing a higher amount of domestic abuse (two women are week are murdered by a current or ex-partner)
- twice as likely to experience anxiety than men (Guardian article)
- and young women as the highest risk group for mental health issues (BBC article)
Its no wonder that we shoulder a huge burden and that our sex lives are more likely than men’s to suffer!
So what do you think little pearls. Do you think your low sex drive is a medical problem or a social one?
Now I’m in no way denying that men have a shit load of different expectations that also make life really tough for them. I’m just writing this from a woman’s perspective, and from what I can see lots of the information about low sex drive is catered towards men.
For some people, a lack of sex drive may totally be a medical problem! Find out more here about when a lack of sex drive might be time to see your GP or a specialist.