May 24, 2021

What if it’s not Low Desire? What if it’s just Sh*tty Sex?

Did you know that the most frequent sexual complaint in women is low desire?

And many women who seek sex therapists, do so for this reason.

I was one of them. For about 10 years of my life, I could care less about sex. Somewhere between kids, grad school, and cumulative stressors, my libido packed itself up and burrowed deeply into a dusty corner in my psyche.

Sex felt irrelevant—a condiment to life that I could do without.

Desire felt elusive, mysterious, and unobtainable.

And then…lightning strike.

I had amazing sex. Hello, desire! Wait, so I do want to have sex?

I thought, “Holy sh*t. If this is a part of being alive, and if I struggled for so long, I bet others have as well.” This flash-fire awakening jump-started my journey to become a sex therapist.

If you don’t really care about sex or want to have sex consider this:

What if it’s not really “low desire?” What if it’s just “meh” or sh*tty sex?

What kind of sex is worth having?

Good sex requires communication, attunement (being able to be aware of your partner’s body while simultaneously being aware of your own), planning, overcoming normative scripts, and focusing more on pleasure versus orgasms. Along with a healthy dose of novelty and curiosity.

Your body is a playground. Your partner’s body is a playground.

Porn and movies often portray sex as jackhammer sex: brief (because they don’t have an hour to focus on all the foreplay and fun before penetration) and male-centric.

Penetration is a reliable way for men to orgasm, but not for women. Take your time. Enjoy each other’s bodies. Play!

Sex is about pleasure.

Often we approach sex like it’s a performance. We can become goal-oriented and focused on the Big O. Keep your mind tuned into pleasure versus expectations of what should be happening or what you should be feeling.

Tune into your five senses. Notice the pleasure your body can experience, and ask what your partner enjoys. Pleasure yourself as well—alone, with your partner, or both! That way you can communicate to your partner what feels good and what doesn’t.

Communicate.

Good sex requires expressing what you like, what you need, and what you want.

One of the biggest barriers to good sex is an inability to identify what one wants and also communicating it. We communicate verbally and nonverbally via moans, sighs, and the out loud “Oh my Gods.”

I know it’s hard to talk about sex. We can feel embarrassed, awkward, vulnerable, and afraid of being judged.

Claim your power and talk about what you want. Even if you think it’s kinky or taboo. Not only may you find out your partner is into the same thing, you may get what you want. You deserve it!

If you aren’t able to identify what you want, I assure you with some research, you’ll eventually figure it out.

So…

Get educated.

One of the biggest ways to figure out what you want is to get educated.

If we want to be a good parent, we read books on parenting. I have books on dog psychology because I love my dog and I want him to feel secure. If you love gardening, you probably get books on gardening, and follow gardening accounts on social media.

9.5 times out of 10, when I ask a client how many books they have read about sex, the answer I hear is “none.”

Note: Porn is not education; it’s entertainment and not realistic. Even porn stars, when interviewed, have said it’s not the kind of sex they like or have with their partners. 

Follow and read vetted sex educators, researchers, and therapists on social media. Get books and read them! I guarantee that with education from multiple, vetted professional sources, you will get real information and education—not mythology based on cultural biases and norms.

This can be helpful in starting to figure out your turn-ons and turn-offs.

Are you having “foreplay”?

First of all, let’s just deconstruct this term a little bit. “Fore” play—it’s what happens before “sex,” right?

Wrong!

I’ll give you a heads up—it’s all sex.

From the time you make the initiation and start making out, it’s all sex. S-E-X is the entire dance you do. Esther Perel, a formidable therapist who researches desire, passion, and relationships, says, “Sex is not just about what you do, it’s about where you go. And foreplay starts at the end of the last orgasm.” Sex and the anticipation—a place you create together, uniquely with each other.

Foreplay is the anticipation of the trip you will take together. It’s the environment and ambiance you create together. Flirting, laughing, appreciating one another, and calls, texts, and small kindnesses throughout the week all set the tone for the sexual experiences you will have.

Touching, kissing, and exploring all lead to arousal. Heightened arousal leads to better sex. Sex is not just about penetration. Sex is about pleasure. It’s imaginative play.

Explore each other’s bodies and take your time with each other.

I’ll say it again: since intercourse isn’t a reliable method for women to orgasm, foreplay for women often is the big event—think hands, lips, mouths, fingers, toys. A better term for foreplay is interplay.

Drop the Body Shame

Oh my. This is a big one, right?

How we feel about our bodies directly impacts what we do with our bodies. If we have loads of negative body talk, we will be spectatoring during sex and have difficulty being embodied. Love and enjoy your body. Come home to your body—it’s where you live and where pleasure resides.

Unfollow anyone on social media who makes you feel badly about your body. Radical self-love is a journey—it’s doable, and the more accepting you are of the one body you have, the better you can relax and enjoy the sex you are having (even solo sex!).

Sex is an amazing part of being alive. You can cultivate desire even when it feels dormant.

Ask yourself: what sex is worth having?

If you can’t figure it out, find a sex therapist who can help you. Then, go get it!

You may find out you don’t have low desire after all.

~

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Dr. Christina McDowell, PhD, LSCSW, CST  |  Contribution: 4,055

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