Low sex drive? 4 myths and some new thinking about this very common problem.

low sex drive
Desire discrepancies (low sex drive) is the most common complaint women have about their sex lives.

Do you and your partner experience desire discrepancies?  That is do you often find one partner in the mood for sex and the other not? Do you have a low sex drive?  Desire discrepancies are one of the most common complaints related to intimacy in relationships. A sexless marriage is something many couples face. Is it possible that shifting the way we think about sex and desire would help more couples overcome this often painful problem. In her new book, Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski, PhD writes beautifully and compassionately about this idea and so much more. Here are 4 myths she busts in the wonderfully researched book about sex and desire.

1. Everyone should experience spontaneous desire.

Spontaneous desire is just as it’s described, you are going on about your day and something (and this something is likely to be different for most people) triggers a thought in your mind, a sexy thought.  You think to yourself, hmmm, that’s exciting and BOOM you are “in the mood.”  But what if this doesn’t happen to you very often, or never.  Is something wrong with you? Do you simply have a low sex drive.  The answer, according to Nagoski is NO!!! In reality, approximately 70% of men experience spontaneous desire and 10-20% of women.  That is no small discrepancy.  So, the question then is if you do not experience spontaneous desire, what do you experience.  The answer is responsive desire. Responsive desire is desire that occurs once a sexual context is happening.  Arousal may come second to the start of intimacy. What this means in practical terms is that just because you don’t get all charged up out of nowhere doesn’t mean you cannot experience desire and have satisfying sex. And it definitely doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you!!

2. Desire discrepancies indicate a problem in one or both partners.

In her book, Dr. Nagoski refers to the development of a “pink pill”  A medical intervention aimed at increasing desire for women. Pharmaceutical companies have been hard at work developing a magic desire pill to solve the “problem” of female arousal. One such pill, Flibanserin, has recently been re-submitted to the FDA for approval. This pill is designed to address Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. HSDD is defined as “a woman’s chronic or ongoing lack of interest in sex, to the point that it causes her personal distress or problems in her relationships.”  Claiming that HSSD doesn’t exist would be out of bounds, and at the same time, is it possible that the way we have been thinking about desire, specifically female desire, might be wrong? Perhaps rather than making a generalization that desire should look the same for men and for women, we can try harder to understand the nature of female desire (or anyone who lacks spontaneous desire, also know as low sex drive) as simply different rather than dysfunctional.

3. Sex is a drive. You have a low sex drive or high sex drive.

Another myth Dr. Nagoski attempts to bust is that sex is a drive.  How often have we heard “I just must have a low sex drive” or “I have a super high sex drive, is that normal?”  A drive, when speaking scientifically, generally refers to something required for survival.  Hunger is a drive, thirst is a drive, sex? NO. As Dr. Nagoski puts it, “A drive is a motivational system to deal with life-or-death issues, like hunger or being too cold. You’re not going to die if you don’t have sex.” Instead, Dr. Nagoski describes a system involving an accelerator and a brake.  We all have accelerators and brakes, we just respond differently to them, or rather we respond differently to stimuli in the environment and the effects on our accelerator and brake. WHOA!! Essentially, it’s all about context.  Women tend to be more sensitive to context, so change your context, change your sex life.

4. Spontaneous desire is essential for sexual satisfaction.

“Spontaneous desire isn’t necessary for sexual pleasure. Is it more important that people crave sex than it is that they enjoy the sex they’re having? One of the best ways to make your sex life suck is to genuinely believe that the way you’re experiencing sexual desire is dysfunctional” says Dr. Nagoski.  This pretty much says it all. You do NOT have to experience spontaneous desire to have a satisfying sex life.  Rather than focusing on your low sex drive, focus on how to set the right context for revving up your accelerator and letting up off the brakes.

Come As You Are is an incredibly important book for anyone wondering whether they are “normal.” (the answer is YES) Whether you or your partner have experienced these feelings about your level of desire, you can shift your thinking and turn things around for a more satisfying and joyful sex life.



Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.



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