Over the past few months, I’ve been engaging in conversations around women and sexual desire. We’ve been particularly talking about the issue of low libido, which seems to be a very prevalent issue for women my age. I’m also noticing that women are dying to talk about this. Sarah and I announced we were doing an episode on low sexual desire and our podcast facebook community lit up with comments and questions from women who experience low sex drive. (If you want to read through that conversation, you can join the closed Selfie community here.) It may be one of the most-commented conversations I’ve had this year, and I think there is a reason for that.
For so long, a woman’s lack of desire has been seen as this trivial thing. In American culture, women aren’t necessarily socialized to see themselves as sexual initiators. Men are supposed to be the ones chasing, and women are the ones either refusing or “giving in.” This trope is as old as time, and it’s also dangerous. Even worse, women who ARE pursuing their own sexual pleasure in assertive ways are labeled as bad. Men who are keenly interested in sex are just men. We have all kinds of words to pathologize women’s sexual interest.
As a result, a lot of women have resigned that their low libido must just be normal (or at least, not a really big deal.) Millions of women suffer in silence, ashamed to discuss their sexual pleasure. When something troubles men in the bedroom, we address it. We see ads on billboards and on tv making sure men know how to achieve an erection. On the converse, women talking about sexual desire is often censored. For example, ads about erections are served up to families during the superbowl. Ads about vibrators aren’t even allowed on facebook.
And it’s not just our cultural norms where the gender differences are apparent. There are a myriad of medical options for men with sexual desire issues. For women, there is only one. In addition, insurers don’t cover women. For decades the majority of US men with prescription insurance have received coverage for medications that treat their most common sexual dysfunction. Today 98% of commercially insured men have coverage for these treatments. So why don’t women have equal benefits? (There is a change.org petition asking this very question if you’re interested in signing on.)
Doctors are also well-versed in erectile issues but many doctors have not been educated in HSDD, and most aren’t even asking. If you want to a doctor well-versed in HSDD, the Right to Desire website as a telemedicine component that can allow you to talk with a qualified doctor who gets it. It is estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer from unwanted low sexual desire, and those numbers certainly seemed consistent in the conversations I’ve been having. If you want to learn more, check out the Right to Desire website.
I’ve been talking about sex more this month than I think I ever have online, and it’s been really eye-opening to see how much other women are wanting to talk about it as well. Sarah and I announced we were doing an episode on low sexual desire a couple weeks ago and our podcast facebook community lit up with comments and questions from women who experience low sex drive. (If you want to read through that conversation, you can join the closed Selfie community here. It’s a great space for asking questions and getting feedback in a more intimate setting than regular facebook.) Here are a few of the comments women had:
I think it would be helpful for me if you address when one partner has low desire and one VERY high, and how to come to terms with that so neither party feels uncared for or less valuable. It’s a drag to feel like you’re letting your partner down or form them to feel like they’re not desirable or that you don’t love them in the way they feel loved.
Sexual desire for women is usually more emotionally tied. Women are often denied the space and capacity for it. I think male partners who are failing at the sex game are those that are willfully ignorant to this fact.
I think if I had someone helping with life, I’d feel like having sex. LOL As in, a wife for me! Ha. My issue is being a parent to four kids, working a lot, taking care of a house and I can’t switch back into “me” mode. All of that other stuff is so not sexy. Trying to do lots of self-care and put date nights on the calendar but it’s harrrrrd.
You can listen to the episode where we talk through these comments and more here. I also did a facebook live with my friend Gabby Blair where we talked about the same thing.
One of the things that emerged from my discussion with Gabby is the fact that having a low sex drive does not necessarily mean you have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. HSDD is a defined medical condition with biological components. It’s the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women, and it’s been recognized in medical communities for nearly half a century. But it isn’t a blanket description for all women who have low sex drive, and it’s important to note that if a woman has a low sex drive and feels fine about that fact, that’s okay! One of the markers of defining HSDD is that a person has subjective distress about their low sex drive . . . they are dissatisfied with it, and for most women with the disorder, they have had times in their past where they were more satisfied with their sexual appetite. The essential feature of female HSDD is a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. Desire is not a switch, desire is in the brain, and your brain may be working against you when it comes to sex.
The following are some of the symptoms of HSDD:
You experience low sexual desire no matter the type of sexual activity.
Your lower sexual desire or lower interest in sex is bothering you.
Your level of sexual desire or interest in sex has decreased.
You were satisfied in the past with your level of sexual desire or interest in sex, but no longer are
Lack of sexual desire can have a biological basis. Multiple studies show the brain controls desire differently in women with a healthy sexual desire with women with HSDD. And there is ample science behind this: brain scans show markedly less activity in areas of the brain that are important in sexual response for women who suffer with HSDD. While these studies have revealed there is a biological connection to HSDD, a medical provider can diagnose HSDD with a few simple questions. The problem is that many doctors have not been educated in HSDD, and most aren’t even asking. If you want to a doctor well-versed in HSDD, the Right to Desire website as a telemedicine component that can allow you to talk with a qualified doctor who gets it.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer from HSDD, and those numbers certainly seemed consistent in the conversations I’ve been having. If you want to learn more, check out the Right to Desire website, watch the funny but informative video below, or listen to our Selfie Podcast episode on HSDD.
The tropes and jokes about women rebuffing their partner’s sexual advances are as old as women reaching for a glass of wine as soon as their kids go to bed. It’s funny because it’s familiar. And yet, women seem to sort of accept the idea that it’s fine for their sexual appetite to be low . . . that not wanting sex as often as our partners is just the way we’re wired.
Obviously, sexual desire can wax and wane based on life circumstances. Everything from kids to relationship issues to hormones can make us feeling less frisky. But for millions of women, it’s not just external circumstances. A low sexual desire is not related to circumstances, but it is a constant state of being.
What differentiates just “not being in the mood” from an actual disorder of desire? Well, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorderis a defined medical condition. it is the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women, and while it’s been recognized in medical communities for nearly 1/2 a century, few women understand what it really is. Symptoms can include experiencing low sexual desire no matter the type of sexual activity, a persistent decrease in your overall sexual drive, problems in your relationship due to your low sex drive, or previously being satisfied with your sex drive but no longer feeling that way.
It’s easy for women to dismiss this as something serious. But low sexual desire and related distress can negatively impact body image and self confidence, and can also wreak havoc on relationships. There are solutions, and it’s time for women to talk about it beyond jokes and sterotypes. It is estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.
Over the next few months I’m going to be diving deeper into the specifics of this disorder, from the symptoms to the prevalence, to the weird disparity between women’s sexual desire and men’s in the medical community. (Spoiler alert: men’s sexual desire disorder has always been taken more seriously, while society has reinforced this ideal that female sexual dysfunction is trivial or even normal.)
If you are concerned about your own sexual desire, talk to a doctor. And if that feels too intrusive or overwhelming, the #righttodesire site has set up an option for women to talk with a doctor knowledgeable in HSDD online, confidentially and from the comfort of your own home.
To learn more, or to take a quiz to see if you might fit the criteria for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, check out the #righttodesire website.
Jafta spent his 14th birthday on a plane en route to Tokyo and it was the shortest birthday of his life . . . because of the time change and travel time, it was only his birthday for about 6 hours. Hopefully the fun we had in Tokyo made up for it, but his actual birthday was kind of a dud. So I promised him we would do something fun when we got back.
I think there is no one harder to throw a party for than teenage boys. They are difficult to impress and finicky and even amongst a friend group, they all like to do different things. Jafta wanted to do a skate party tour but I knew that some of his friends would not enjoy that as much, so I planned a day of fun games and competitions for him, ending at the skate park so that the kids who don’t skate could end early.
Jafta’s great birthday adventure started at Arrowtag OC. They had a blast shooting arrows and teaming up against each other. A great teen party option though I might have to come back with friends …
I decided to rent a limo to shuttle the boys around. I couldn’t fit them all in my car and it was a reasonable option that made it feel really special for the boys. I ended up renting the limo through Angel Limousines, based on their stellar yelp reviews. I got to know the owner a bit as we were chatting about the party and it definitely felt like one of those unique connections. John also has a 14-year-old boy, but he is terminally ill. John has dedicated his business to other kids with chronic illnesses and volunteers driving for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Our second stop was at PlayLIVE Nation, which is a gaming center full of both video and board game options, from Fortnite to Magic to Smash Brothers. The boys decided to play Fortnite. And while it’s a game many of them play at home, they had a blast playing Fortnite all in the same room. So much smack-talk. And I especially appreciate the enthusiasm of the staff took in making “happy birthday” as embarrassing as possible. We did cupcakes and pizza in their party room before heading to the last stop.
I went to a Christmas Eve service with my kids and ex-husband today. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Christmas Eve service, for a variety of reasons, least of which is the fact that Mark and I try to spend that day together for the kids and there is nothing more awkward than going to church where that act of walking in the door together springs into action a number of people excited to pastor us back into marriage, rather than accepting us as we are – a divorced couple not needing to be saved by any meaning of that word. I’ve also ambivalent about church in general for some time. I think, like many of us, I’ve been hurt by both the people of the church and the behavior of The Church of late. I’ve been angry about how the church had responded equality, to sexual abuse, to women’s issues, to politics. I’ve felt out of place and disenfranchised. And yes, I know. #notallchristians. But it’s sometimes hard to identify with the ways that our faith can be used to hurt others.
Tonight I drove by a mega-church with giant expensive road signs and greeters in Santa hats trying to convince people to turn in. I was part of a church like that for many years. I played parts in the Christmas productions. I sang the solos. I passed out the rave cards to neighbors. I never imagined I would one day be a person without a church, who would drive by the enthusiastic greeters and wince.
We went to a progressive church tonight where we know the pastor but the liturgical style is not familiar to me. I miss the charismatic worship of my old church history but I don’t miss the judgment. During “pass the peace” I didn’t know what to do, and the lady in front of me didn’t either and said so. And then she cried through all of the songs. I don’t know her story except that I could see there was some church baggage. I wondered how many of us felt that today.I don’t have a bow to wrap this story with. This season is hard for a lot of us. I still wonder and marvel at the person of Jesus. I sang Silent Night with my family and in a room full of people and felt a sense of community and corporate peace that I haven’t in while. I miss church and I don’t. I’m okay with it and I’m not.