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Myth-Busting: Libido, by Sex and Intimacy Coach Leah Carey

Updated: Feb 19

There are endless myths about women’s libido. Sex ed almost exclusively focused on how men get turned on, and hardly even mentioned that women get turned on at all, let alone how. Therefore, we assume that a “fully functional woman” gets turned on the same way a typical man does. It’s just not true.

It’s so important to bust these myths and get real, factual, research-based education (and so many other false narratives we hear about sex), so that you’re not trying to live up to a standard that doesn’t even exist. Instead, it’s time to work with our partners to figure out how intimacy can be fulfilling for both of us.  . Also, because it is the only way to truly move towards a mutually pleasurable physical experience, with so much less resentment, miscommunication, and frustration. When we learn the facts and share them with our partner, we can move toward that mutually pleasurable experience with far less resentment and frustration.

Read on to find out five common inaccuracies concerning women's libido, and then share this information with anyone who may need to know. Adult sex education is so much more important than society leads us believe, and unfortunately, it's also very rare.


Let's start busting some libido myths!

1) It takes too long for me to get turned on

No, it doesn’t! Every person’s body is different, and it takes everyone a different amount of time and/or different types of stimulation to get turned on. Which means it takes you exactly the right amount of time to get turned on for YOU! There are two types of desire: spontaneous and responsive. They’re each controlled by our dominant hormones. Spontaneous desire is what many men experience – they see something exciting, they make the “ahooga” noise, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads ((at least that’s what the cartoons told me happens!) As soon as their brain experiences a turn on, their body is ready to go. Women (though not all women) tend to experience responsive desire – it takes us a little time to warm up to the idea of sex. If you have the experience of not really wanting sex when it’s suggested, but then start getting more into it a few minutes after you’ve started, what you’re experiencing is responsive desire. This is entirely natural and it’s the way your body was built to work. When you and your partner both understand this, you can begin to shift your sexy time so it works for both of you.

2) There is a "right" level of libido, and I don’t have it.

I cannot express to you forcefully enough: THERE IS NO SUCH THING! Libido is a spectrum, just like so many other things to do with sexuality and gender.

Some people are highly sexual and some people are completely asexual. But the vast majority of us exist somewhere here:

Throughout our lives, we will experience many fluctuations in libido that are affected by aging, menstrual cycles, energy levels, mood swings, stress levels, satisfaction with our partner, etc. This is completely normal and natural. Your interest in sex is likely to be at its highest when you feel fully safe, seen, and understood by your partner. 

3) This is a ME problem that I need to fix in order to be a good partner.

Being raised as little girls, many of us were conditioned to focus on taking care of everyone else, even if doing so conflicted with our own needs. How often have you heard about the saintliness of a mom who drove carpool, did laundry, and took care of a million things even though she was sick and well past her capacity to do any of it? I bet you haven’t, because it’s an assumed part of the job description! This extends to sex. When you think about sex, do you actually WANT to want it, or do you think you SHOULD want it in order to satisfy someone else’s needs? If your concerns about your libido are primarily about your partner’s needs or feelings, then it’s not a ME problem, it’s an US problem. And the problem isn’t actually your libido – it’s that your body is expected to be used in service to your partner’s desires, whether or not you’re actually interested.

4. I wish he/she/they would never touch me again!

This is a VERY common sentiment from moms of young kids. And because it used to be common for couples to get pregnant almost immediately after the wedding, it leads to another cliché: once you get married, you’re never going to have sex again.

When your kids are little, you are a human jungle gym for them. By the end of the day, you’re “touched out.” Your nervous system is overwhelmed, overstimulated, and exhausted.

Why in the world would you want to have sex when you’re in that state?

But is it true that you wish your partner wouldn’t touch you AT ALL? Probably not. Too often we associate “touch” with “sex.” But these are definitely not the same thing. What you need is nurturing, non-sexual touch. But because we don’t have a language for that, your partner keeps asking for sex. And sex doesn’t sound appealing when you’re touched out, so it feels like the two of you are at an impasse. Even worse, the resentment that builds up during this time can lead to couples becoming so disconnected that they never truly reconnect after kids. And here’s the wild thing: the more sensual-but-not-sexual touch you receive, the more likely you are to desire sexual touch. This is a crucial piece of information that nobody talks about! If you and your partner don’t have a vocabulary for sensual-but-not-sexual touch, it’s a great place to start your learning because it can lead to much more bonding, connection … and that’s likely to leave you wanting more sex.

5) Sex isn’t enjoyable, but I should want it anyway.

Ummmm ….why? Why would you want something you don’t enjoy? Here's a question I learned from Emily Nagoski, author of the must-read book "Come As You Are:" What is sex that is WORTH having? Not just sex you suffer through, but sex you WANT to have? What does that sex look like? If your current sex life doesn’t include the type of sex that’s worth having for you, it’s no surprise that you don’t want sex. How can you get closer to having the kind of sex that is worth having? Having a real, honest conversation with your partner. Sound scary? I understand. Luckily, there are amazing resources and opportunities available to help change that! And one of them is joining me and Danielle for the Beyond Permission workshop. Info is below.

It’s extremely common for partners to not experience the same level of desire at the same time. Most of us don’t have a switch that can be flicked that starts the desire flowing whenever our partner is ready. Understanding how your body actually works (rather than believing common myths about how people think it’s supposed to work) is the first step. Patience and communication with your partner about how your body works can help the two of you create a space that’s safe and comfortable for you to both explore and enjoy.


Want to learn more about this topic? Check out Leah's upcoming Beyond Permission workshop on Libido and Desire.

Want to learn more about libido and desire? Check out sex and intimacy coach Leah Carey's website.


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