Updated: Jan 22
We're often told that men are visual creatures and that they're always ready and raring to go when it comes to sex. On the flip side, we're led to believe that women are not very much into it and that their libidos are more complicated than their male counterparts'. But is this really the case? Let's take a closer look at the science of libido to see what the experts have to say.
The first thing we need to understand is that there's no such thing as a "normal" libido. Everyone is different and there's no right or wrong when it comes to how often you want to have sex. Some people want it every day, some once a week, some once a month, some never —and all of these scenarios are perfectly normal.
The science of desire
However, there are some gender-based differences when it comes to libido. If you are in a heterosexual relationship with a cis man (and you are not one), there is a scientific explanation for why your sex drive is lower than your partner's. And it has a lot to do with hormones. Specifically, testosterone.
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for libido in both men and women. But here's the thing: men have about 5-10 times more testosterone than women.
Studies have shown that men tend to have a higher libido than women, and that their desire for sex is more "spontaneous" (i.e. they can get aroused more easily and without much stimulation). Women, on the other hand, tend to have a lower libido overall but their desire for sex is more "responsive" (i.e. they need more foreplay and stimulation before they're fully aroused). That means that even if you're not in the mood for sex when your male partner initiates it, you'll probably get turned on once things get going 🔥 (of course, if you don't, nothing obliges you to continue). On the other hand, men are more likely to experience spontaneous desire. That means they'll be the ones who want to initiate sex more often. However, new studies are proposing to forget this distinction between spontaneous and responsive, because it sets women's desire as "problematic" and something to be fixed, when it is actually perfectly normal and healthy.
There are other hormones at play too, like estrogen and progesterone. But testosterone is the big one when it comes to libido. In fact, one study found that when women were given testosterone supplements, their sexual desire increased by as much as 50%. But before you go running to your doctor for a prescription, there are some things you should know about testosterone supplements. They can cause some pretty serious side effects like acne, hair loss, masculinization, and even heart disease. So look for safer alternatives to boost your sex drive, pls 😁 Most importantly, who says women have to match their male partner's desire?
Many studies show that women's desire is more relational: feeling desired and accepted, sharing emotional intimacy, and egalitarianism are key factors for a woman to desire another person. This flexibility also explains why women are more fluid in their sexuality than men: they are less focus on the gender and more in the relationship they have with the other person.
Science proves over and over that long-term couples with a healthy balance and equality have more sexual desire for each other. For example, inequitable division of labor at home and with children, and objectification of the woman will reduce sexual desire, especially on the female side. Societal expectations around strict gender roles before and during sex also have a negative impact in sexual desire, both for men and women! The expectation that men should always be in the mood is very detrimental for those who don't experience sexual desire that often or "spontaneously".
Of course, these are generalizations and we all move in a spectrum rather than a binary. But in general, men tend to be more visual when it comes to arousal (hence why pornography is such a big industry) while women tend to need more mental and emotional stimulation before they're in the mood for sex. Because of this, things like stress, anxiety, and relationship problems can all lead to a decrease in libido, particularly for women. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased overall levels of stress and lower sexual desire in romantic relationships, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to problems with sexual function, desire, and satisfaction in veterans. You may have noticed increased desire after ending a relationship, and that is probably because your emotional needs were not met with that person and you feel free now.
What to do if our body is not responding
If you've ever found yourself wondering why you want sex more (or less) than your partner does, don't worry—you're not alone. It's a common issue that can be caused by a variety of factors, from stress to hormones to simple biology. Whatever the reason for the difference, it can be a major source of conflict in relationships. After all, if one person always wants sex and the other doesn't, somebody (or both) isn't going to be happy. The most important thing is to communicate with your partner openly and honestly about your needs and desires. It is also essential to know yourself enough to tell the other. How are you going to tell them what you like if you don't know it? Don't be shy to do some self-exploration every now and then, it will only be for the better. You can also tell them about the science behind it, or just show them this article. With a little understanding and effort, you'll be back in sync in no time! The key is communication—if you're not in the mood, let your partner know and vice versa. And if everything else fails, there are always toys 😜
On top of that, you can plan things to help your responsive desire. For example, schedule a date with your partner (even if you live together!), get dressed up, wear some nice underwear, get your nails done, or do anything else that makes you feel sexy and confident! Light up some scented candles, play some nice music, and switch the main lights off, because sometimes it's all about the setting. The point is to get yourself in the mood from the start.
You can also try new approaches when your date is coming to an end and you get closer to the bed 😉 For example, you can give or receive a massage, put a blindfold on, or take a wish from your jar of sexual wishes! Any of these activities will make you both feel closer to each other, increasing the feeling of intimacy and, therefore, waking up your "responsive" desire. It's time we ditch the desire portrayed in movies: they make eye contact and one second later someone is being held against the wall in a passionate kiss while clothes fly away. No, that is not reality for most of us most of the time, much less in a stable relationship. This is not an instant microwaved meal, but rather a slow-cook stew that gets better and better with time and steady progression.
So there you have it—the truth about your libido! Remember, there's no such thing as a "normal" libido so don't worry if yours doesn't match up with what you see in movies or hear from your friends. And if you're struggling with low libido, which you don't recognize as normal in your regular desire levels, talk to your therapist or your doctor, who might help you get to the root of the problem. There's nothing wrong with seeking help if you're not feeling your best!
Have you found this article useful? We would love to hear your feedback!! Write in the comments what your experiences with spontaneous vs. responsive desire are and share with your friends to keep them well informed and always ready for new experiences! #getready