Have You Ever Heard of HSDD?

A couple of years ago at a conference, I met Cindy Eckert when I moderated a panel she was on. I could not have been more impressed. At one point in her life, she comprehended the huge disparity between men and women when it comes to getting treatment for sexual dysfunction. She set out to shed light on this problem, and to help affected women find treatment. The website Right To Desire focuses on this topic, and over the next few months, I’ll be working with them to host discussions about sexual dysfunction in women, and to help spread the word about the medical condition behind it.

Let’s start with the stat in the graphic above. One in ten women suffer from HSDD, which stands for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Don’t confuse HYPO with HYPER. Hyper means too much, and hypo means too little. We’re talking about hypo — women who have little to no sexual desire.

HSDD is a defined medical condition. 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’s an easy bet that you’ve probably never heard of it. I certainly hadn’t. Because of our society’s very longstanding hangups around women’s sexuality, this common condition isn’t known generally, doesn’t get talked about, and isn’t treated. Female sexual dysfunction is approached as taboo, or worse, trivialized — and society reinforces those ideas in a thousand ways big and small.

Because of that, women who deal with HSDD may not even know there’s a name or diagnosis for what they’re going through. And pretty much all of those women are made to feel like they are deficient somehow, or that they just have to live with it, or that there’s nothing that can be done about it, or that it’s not important.

The first thing I want to discuss with you: Do you agree that sexual health is a human right like food or medicine? Do you feel like you take your own sexual health (including desire) as seriously as you do your mental health or physical health? And if you don’t consider sexual health a human right, share those thoughts too.

The second thing I want to discuss with you: Do you agree that we as a society tend to trivialize a woman’s lack of desire? That we downplay it or excuse it or just shrug about it? Have you noticed we don’t do that for a man’s lack of desire? 

It reminds me of the nature versus nurture debate. Do we think women’s sexual desire is less important than men’s sexual desire because nature says that’s so, or because our culture tells us it’s so?

As I’m sure you know, this kind of thing makes me crazy. We know that medically, women’s issues have simply not been given the attention that men’s issues have been given. Our pain isn’t taken as seriously. Our overall health isn’t taken as seriously. And yes, our sexual desire (or lack thereof) is not taken as seriously.

The third thing I want to discuss with you: Does knowing there’s hard science behind HSDD make you approach a lack of desire differently? I keep thinking of all the relationships that have been damaged because of lack of desire, and of all the women who have thought less of themselves because of their lack of desire. All those people who couldn’t find help and thought there was nothing to be done. 

If you suspect you are suffering from HSDD, you’re not alone. You’re not just imagining the problem. And you can learn more here

Based on the 1 in 10 statistic, it’s easy to guess that many readers here have experienced HSDD or are dealing with it now. But I realize this topic is very personal, so if you have something to add to the conversation and want to remain anonymous, please do so. 

Overall, I’m super curious to know who has already heard of HSDD as a medical condition, and who, like me, are just learning about it. 

56 thoughts on “Have You Ever Heard of HSDD?”

  1. I had no idea there was a name for what I feel! Ive even tried looking into it, hoping it wasn’t just my very messed up brain. It has been a very big problem in my relationship with my husband, our entire 12 years together. I’ve even mentioned it to several different doctors, but it was never acknowledged. I’m going to look into this!

    1. I’m so glad you have specific term you can now look up. And I’m furious that doctors haven’t acknowledged the issue when you’ve brought it up. It’s hard enough to have to bring up the topic, but then to have it ignored? That’s incredibly frustrating. Health issues for women are routinely downplayed.

  2. I just thought I didn’t enjoy sex or I was too tired . I was a virgin when I married so I thought we just weren’t that into it. I wish I had talked to a doctor about it.

  3. I have a 19 year old daughter and maybe because we are a single parent family we talk about everything – there is a phenomena in her age group in which kids are dubbing themselves “asexual” – we live in a relatively smallish town in Alabama but even so she knew about 4 girls that identified as asexual. One of those girls had a boyfriend but he apparently understood that she had no desire or plan to have sex. At first when my daughter talked to me about it, I wondered if maybe they felt pressured about sex – and choosing to identify as asexual took that pressure off and was seen within their peer group as a valid and respected choice – unlike just choosing not to have sex which is seen in a negative light. Since then, though, as my daughter tells me that there are now groups and they have fun names for themselves – I wonder if it could be related to hormone imbalance? One friend that I know of has had to go onto birth control for heavy, constant periods – when my daughter first mentioned that her friend came out to her as asexual, I immediately wondered if her mother should take her to get her hormone levels checked. I think a lot of parents don’t address it because they are just like “wheeee! I don’t have to worry about teen pregnancy” – but what a shame that there is a dx and possible treatment that would allow these girls to experience a normal sexual desire.

    1. Asexuality is real! Some people (males, females, non-binary folk, etc) don’t experience sexual desire. People who identify as asexual might have romantic relationships that don’t involve sexual activity, or that involve some sexual activity, all depending on the desires of those involved. Gabby, I think it’d be super helpful to follow up this post with a post talking about the differences between low libido (as a side effect of a medication and/or as a standalone condition, aka HSDD) and asexuality.

      1. Please hear me say that I am not discrediting Asexual as a valid, real status. But, I also want to be open to the fact that for such a small high school, that there would be four girls that my daughter knew well enough to discuss sex with and who identify as asexual seems like a pretty high number and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they just don’t know how to categorize what they are experiencing and that their parents/doctors/community haven’t sufficiently provided enough information for them.

        1. Thanks for your clarification, Elizabeth! I see what you’re saying — it does seem like a surprisingly high number. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this post and the comments is that, whoa, we really AREN’T talking about women’s sexual desire in our society much, and there is a lot for me to learn about! :)

    2. Elizabeth, you bring up such a good point, and I think it’s another reason why we really need to speak openly about sex (and the topics that surround it) with our kids.

      Wouldn’t it be awesome if people grew up knowing about asexuality, and about HSDD, and how to tell the difference?

    3. Not all teens in high school feel sexual yet. So perhaps they say they are asexual. Likely when they are older, it will kick in.

      Someone just told me about a friends kid who just explained why she had called herself asexual in high school. She was 18 or older and interested in sex when she spoke about it.

  4. Never heard of it but omg, it makes so much sense and explains why one my relationships ended so badly (he was convinced I was 100% at fault). I am looking forward to the continued discussion.

    1. Right? It makes total sense, yet the medical community has known about it for half a century and here I am in 40s learning about it for the first time. I’m flabbergasted whenever I get a peek into how much we allow women to suffer.

  5. I am curious about asexuality as well. A friend of mine identifies as asexual, and I think it’d be really helpful to hear more about the difference between women with HSDD vs women who are asexual.

    Interestingly, my friend takes a medication that has a side effect of decreasing libido — she considers herself to be asexual independent of the medication. Certainly there is room for people to be experiencing both hypoactive sexual desire AND asexuality! Just think it’d be helpful to explore this further.

    1. I would love to hear more about asexuality too. Our daughter identifies as ace, and I know there are aromantic asexuals (no romantic or sexual attraction to anyone of either sex) which she is, and others who have romantic feelings towards other people but not sexual desire. I’m pretty sure she would be offended if anyone suggested that she’s aro-ace because of hormones, as that would imply that there is something wrong with her orientation and that it’s not acceptable as hetero and homosexuality are.

    2. Gillian that’s a great idea for further discussion. It reminds me that when diagnosing HSDD one of the factors/questions is: is the lack of desire causing problems in a relationship? And I wonder if that’s one of the differences between the two.

      I’m thinking that an openly asexual woman’s lack of desire would not affect a romantic relationship, because the asexuality is a known fact. (If you’re asexual, is that true for you?) On the other hand, if a woman does not consider herself asexual, and she wants to feel more sexual desire with and for her partner, perhaps she should look into HSDD.

      1. Gabby, I love your thoughtful replies! That’s a great question. As a therapist, I’ve been taught that a symptom (say, nail biting) becomes a concern when something is a) causing the client or those around them distress, and/or b) impairing functioning. So maybe that would be part of it — is the lack of sexual desire distressing or negatively impacting the person in their opinion (as opposed to in their partner’s opinion), or are they comfortable with it/see it as part of their identity? Maybe that could help differentiate between HSDD versus asexuality.

  6. I thought I was asexual for years, and had sex I didn’t enjoy with someone I did love for years. Kept quiet but he knew.

    Then I met my husband. And although it took my brain awhile to process the fact of arousal, my body knew right away.

    I don’t think my situation is representative of all people, but I bet at least some women are with partners they are not not physically attracted to. Men, I don’t think, enter relationships without physical attraction as often as women.

    1. That is super interesting. I’m struck by how personal and unique the stories are of people who are commenting. Sex can play out so differently for each brain and body.

  7. This is so interesting! I have some questions…respectful curiosities :) Who is determining the endpoints of “normal” female sexual arousal and desire? Are we centering on men and their “normal” range of desire for sex? Is there biological (or anthropological or cultural) basis for a mismatch in desire for sex? (And therefore not something we can/should seek to “fix?) I struggle with the potential label of “deficiency” just because it doesn’t match-up to a man’s experience.

    Of course, this doesn’t negate the experiences of women who want to be more sexual. More a comment that a range less than a man’s may be ok, too…

    1. I have the same questions. After reading the book Come As You Are, I think of sexuality very differently. As the book says, women’s sexuality isn’t just ‘men’s sexuality lite’. It works very differently And may appear as lack of desire when really, the context just isn’t right. Also, I always get a little defensive about pathologizing things that may be among the normal spectrum of human behavior. I can see how this label could be really helpful but also how it could be detrimental. Part of whether it’s helpful or harmful would be in how it’s treated, too.

    2. I had the same thought! I’ve had so many conversations with other women where we all thought that our desire was just fine until we began relationships with men who assumed that they would be having sex every day and that this was totally normal.
      I dated women exclusively for years before I met my current (male) partner and never had this issue.

    3. “I struggle with the potential label of “deficiency” just because it doesn’t match-up to a man’s experience.”

      Lillian, that’s such a good point. It brings me back to the nurture vs nature question. Do women in general truly have different sex drives than men in general? Or have we just been taught this is so? While having the idea that “women are not sexual creatures” reinforced in a thousand ways?

      It seems more likely to me that both men and women experience a range of desire from lots to little, and are more similar than they are different in this regard. But of course that’s totally just my guess. How much good research is there on this? And how could we even get good research in our patriarchal, deeply misogynistic society?

      1. This is a great conversation. I think there probably are subtle differences in sex drive between men and women (simply because hormone levels, influencing desire, fluctuate on a cyclical basis for women) but certainly not enough to contribute to the gross (and…wrong) overgeneralization that women are less sexual beings. Women are different sexual beings. So my concern with this, especially if it comes from a lens of a bio/physio issue (and putting emphasis on medication) is that we locate the problem within women. Instead of understanding the context that high sexual desire for women occurs in and how to address that. Things like societal celebration of women’s sexuality, partners understanding how to practice good foreplay and that it often takes more time for women to warm up, etc. To me, this is a valid issue but probably best addressed with education and therapy. I worry that if women are diagnosed with this, it’s more fuel for them (and their partners and society) to point the finger at themselves when what they really may need is a more progressive culture and better informed partner. It reminds me of that saying that goes something like: Before diagnosing yourself with depression, make sure you’re not just surrounded by assholes. Ok final thing (haha): I do think there has got to be actual medical type cases of low desire but its probably much more frequent that culture and poor sex ed and practices are to blame. Thanks again for a great discussion.

  8. I am on a mental health medication that suppresses my libido and honestly, it doesn’t bother me (although it bothers my husband). Also, sometime could you talk about PMDD (pre-menstrual dysmorphic disorder)?

    1. My husband has been on a similar medication for a couple years and it is very frustrating for me. I knew our active sex life would not be the same 8 years and 2 kids later, but I struggle with accepting that this is our current reality. I want to support him and his needs (or lack of!) but at the same time this is hard on me and I wonder how healthy it is for our relationship? Or Does it become unhealthy only because one party isn’t satisfied? And do I need to feel sexually desired or is that just society in my head telling me how we’re supposed to act? I don’t know anything about non-sexual relationships (and our culture does not really advertise them as a possibility) so I’ve definitely thought about this as a “problem”. I’m also not even sure who I could talk to about this. I’m uncomfortable telling even close friends that we haven’t had sexual activity in over a year. However, he just started a new medication that seems to be helping a bit (with everything thank goodness! Mental illness is a real beast!) so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to reach a point soon that keeps us both satisfied.

      1. I’m so sorry Kristin. If sex with my spouse was suddenly removed from my life that would be a really difficult thing for me. That must be incredibly frustrating. Sending good vibes that the new medication will help, or that you’ll be able to find another solution.

  9. This made me sob. I have been dealing with this for over 20 years. It is the ONLY problem in my marriage, but a huge one. My husband wants to go outside of our marriage to get his needs fulfilled (since I am obviously not able to do that) . I always say no, but aren’t I being selfish? The shame of having this problem eats away at me. I stay awake at 3 am thinking about it, determined to fix it, but with no idea how.

    1. No, you absolutely are not being selfish. You are being honest and honesty and trust are the foundation of a good relationship. I deal with this shame as well and I try to remind myself (and my husband) that the alternative is having sex when I do not want to have sex and I just can’t bring myself to do that most of the time.
      I also find it healthy to turn the tables (at least in my mind). What if the “problem” wasn’t our lack of desire but our husband’s extra desire? What if they are the ones that need to make the change? What if we are not broken or lacking but instead natural and normal?
      One thing that has helped me a lot is seeking counseling and being very honest with my therapist about these issues. I’ve gotten some really useful strategies that have helped to alleviate some of the tension over time (for example, choosing one day a week that we will ALWAYS have sex so that I can plan and prepare ahead of time, and one day a week when we will never have sex even if I want to so that it creates a sense of shortage in my mind).
      This whole topic is so hard and I am sending you big hugs across the Internet. <3

  10. Im interested in this topic, as there’s a huge discrepancy between mine and my husband’s desire levels… he wants it all the time, I want none of it… when we do engage (mostly i just give in to satisfy him, and i often wonder how wrong/right that is) i sometimes have pleasure and sometimes just want it to end as quick as possible… Very curious to hear more about it!

  11. I have also had (male) doctors poo-poo my lack of desire. They commented that if I choose to go ahead and have sex, and if everything functioned (could get aroused, produce lubrication, have orgasm) – then they didn’t see my lack of interest as a problem. Sigh. All the more reason to change doctors and get proactive.

      1. There are doctors who are trained in sexual health. If you look on the website ISSWSH- providers are listed in your area. There is and has been a huge discrepancy in sexual health care between genders. Women are coming forward and do have options now with providers, medications and other therapies.

  12. I’m a 35 year old breast cancer survivor. I am on some heavy duty meds to suppress estrogen (I take a monthly shot to shut my ovaries down, and then an estrogen blocking pill on top of that). It has wreaked HAVOC on my lady bits and libido. My gyn was sympathetic, and asked me to talk to my oncologist about localized estrogen (i.e. the ring) but my onc said that was a no-go. I asked if there was anything else I could do…surely normal-aged menopausal women have this problem and there must be some sort of solution?? She assured me that yes, some menopausal women have this problem, most take some sort of estrogen to fix it, and the ones you can’t just don’t have sex anymore. How is this acceptable for any age? I’m surprised we don’t have more research/solutions for this.

    Anyway, I know this isn’t exactly relevant to HSDD but it’s just such a sore spot for me (literally and figuratively…ha!). I wish there was an easier way to talk to someone about options and solutions…all I know is that my insurance probably won’t cover it!

    1. “She assured me that yes, some menopausal women have this problem, most take some sort of estrogen to fix it, and the ones you can’t just don’t have sex anymore. How is this acceptable for any age? I’m surprised we don’t have more research/solutions for this.”

      Yes. This. You’ve expressed it so clearly. Certainly there are women who would be fine if they just didn’t have sex anymore. But if you’re a woman who likes and enjoys sex, and you have it medically taken away, with no suggestions or options for improvement? That seems unacceptable.

      It’s hard to imagine the medical community concluding that a similar solution would okay for men.

      Clearly, we don’t take the sexual needs of women as seriously as we do the sexual needs of men. Crossing my fingers you’ll find a fix sooner than later — 35 is so young!

    2. I am a practicing OB/Gyn, who specializes in sexual health. Many of my patients are cancer survivors and want to reclaim their sexuality. There are treatment options for you besides HRT, that can address HSDD and dyspareunia- or sexual pain. There is hope!

  13. Thank you a thousand times over for starting this series and sharing info surrounding this and other sexual health issues.

  14. For 25 years, I had zero sexual desire for my husband. We separated and I have a new partner that I have constant sexual desire for. Constant. In my marriage, I thought it was because of my hypoactive thyroid. It wasn’t.

    1. Super interesting! That’s the second or third comment with a similar experience. It makes me wonder about what we’re teaching young women about desire, and it makes me wonder how many women are married to people they are not attracted to.

      How many women are taught their sexual desires need to be ignored? Or that their desires don’t really exist? Or that whether or not they feel desire isn’t important?

  15. If I’m being honest, this looks like advertising designed to make money off of women’s fears that they don’t have enough sex to keep a husband.

    I worry that the idea of what an appropriate amount of sexual desire might be based on a cultural expectation established by and for men. This is anecdotal and based solely on my own experience, but I dated women exclusively for years and never questioned the amount of sex that I was having or how. People joke about “lesbian bed death”, but what if infrequent sex (by men’s standards) is a natural progression in desire for some women? I have the same amount of sex now with my male partner but he feels that it isn’t as often as he would like and it has caused me to question my own desire and wonder if it is “enough”.

    I have had so many conversations with other women who began relationships thinking that they had a perfectly healthy libido only to discover that their male partners had been lead to believe that committed sexual relationships involved sex every day. Or twice a day! And that if they don’t acquiesce it is 100% their fault if he leaves because apparently “healthy” women love sex! All the time!

    Remember the Sex and the City movie? When Miranda’s husband cheats on her and we all know that it’s because they haven’t been having sex and that it’s HER fault. The fear of being “frigid” runs deep in a lot of women and it’s informed by the fact that a “healthy” amount of sex is dictated by men’s desire.

    When I look at the Right To Desire website I am primarily hopeful and relieved that there is a name for something that so many women have struggled with and that they have medical recourse. But I am also concerned that what men consider “low sexual desire” might just be “healthy amounts of sexual desire” in many women who now believe that they have a medical problem and are further responsible for their male partner’s sexual dissatisfaction.

    I would like to see a website titled “Obligation to Calm Down” designed for men where they are told that 1 out of 10 men put undue pressure on their female sex partners because of the messages that they receive telling them that they deserve lots of sex because it is “healthy” and then redirecting them to a drug company selling them prescription drugs to douse their libido.

    1. “what if infrequent sex (by men’s standards) is a natural progression in desire for some women?”

      I’m sure that’s totally true, Jen. And I don’t why the opposite wouldn’t also be true — that more frequent sex could also be a natural progression in desire for some women.

      I’m struck at how personal the comments are here. There are many women commenting who immediately see themselves in the descriptions of HSDD and are glad for the info. I think we can assume they find their lack of desire troubling. Is it troubling because society says it should be troubling? Or is troubling because they used to love sex, and miss that? Or some other reason altogether?

      And there are other women commenting here that feel judged by the idea that lack of desire would ever be considered a “problem” or not “normal”. I totally get that. If someone is happy with their current level of sexual desire, why should they be made to change or feel less than?

      It all seems to come down to each person’s immediate experience. For me, sex is a key part of my overall health. If my desire left, I know I would be distraught and would take that very seriously and would want to find a solution to bring it back. At the same time, I understand other women feel differently about the importance of sex than I do.

      I confess, I have a hard time relating to the idea that wanting daily sex is a horrible thing. And again, I know that’s because the benefits of sex for me far outweigh any negatives.

      The way the argument plays out in my mind is: If a man or woman said they were committed to working out everyday for an hour, because they wanted to stay healthy and they love those positive endorphins, we would all think that’s wonderful and admirable.

      For me, sex with my spouse provides a very similar outcome but in a quarter of the time, with no additional costs (no transportation, no workout clothes, no gym costs, no equipment costs…). And it benefits two people instead of one, plus strengthens the relationship. Why wouldn’t we celebrate that as an awesome option? (Not a requirement, just an available option.)

      Anyway. I LOVE your thoughts and appreciate your openness in discussing this.

      P.S. — Before anyone freaks out at “quarter of the time,” sure I enjoy long, leisurely sex when we can fit it in. But shorter sessions work too! As long as an orgasm is involved, I’m good.

  16. Thank you Lillian, Kerry and Jen for articulating thoughts I have as well.

    I feel it’s great to discuss women’s sexuality more and I see how HSDD diagnosis could be empowering and useful for some women.

    However, I have lots of reserves about the Right to desire website, including :
    – it’s clear that it is sponsored by a pharmalogical company
    – when you click on the link for the solution to HSDD, you are asked to provide personal info before receiving more information. I believe that a neutral organisation that has women’s interests really at heart would provide upfront and complete information on all treatments possible, including therapy, couple’s therapy, etc.
    – I cringed at the phrase “Enough with the excuses” written in one of the videos. In my mind, I hear a man’s voice saying that sentence to his partner who does not want as much sex as him. I find this appears to reinforce the societal pressure on women to meet men’s sexual expectations.

    The narrative of: “you want it even if you say you don’t want it” is way too present in our society, and when talking about HSDD, I think one needs to be careful not to reinforce this.

    I had a thought similar to Jen in her last paragraph above: how many men are diagnosed with hypersexual desire disorder? What if a company was selling them a pill to lower their desire?

    Out of the 10% of women that are said to suffer from HSDD, I wonder how much than number would drop if women were told than their lower level of desire, or their momentary lack of desire (e.g. after giving birth) is normal. Or if their partners simply lowered their expectations for sex (there can be intimacy and physical touch without engaging in sex). One of the criteria for diagnosing HSDD is that the lower sex drive is bothering the woman – this is a very subjective criteria, as opposed to hard science. It is one criteria that could be influenced by societal pressure…

    For me personally, I have low desire, but I believe it is linked to the fact that I have a very hard time climaxing. I am slowly addressing this, and unpacking the shame associated with sexual pleasure in my upbringing. I also think that couple’s therapy might be needed, because my husband does have a role to play in this. I see this as a little journey for me and for us as a couple.

    While I appreciate knowing HSDD exists, and I believe doctors and therapists do need to know about it, I find the situation to be so much more complex than what is presented on the website.

    I would be interested in reading a post that interviews an independent sex therapist to discuss issues related to female desire.

    1. Lots of good stuff to think about in your comment. The paragraph that stood out to me is:

      “Out of the 10% of women that are said to suffer from HSDD, I wonder how much than number would drop if women were told that their lower level of desire, or their momentary lack of desire (e.g. after giving birth) is normal. Or if their partners simply lowered their expectations for sex (there can be intimacy and physical touch without engaging in sex). One of the criteria for diagnosing HSDD is that the lower sex drive is bothering the woman – this is a very subjective criteria, as opposed to hard science. It is one criteria that could be influenced by societal pressure…”

      It sounds like you’re taking the 1 in 10 women suffer from HSDD statistic and translating that to mean 1 in 10 women are dealing with lack of desire. But I don’t think that’s true. I would guess that it’s more like 4 in 10 women are dealing with lack of desire at some level (maybe higher?). And maybe 25% of those women would have HSDD show up in a brain scan. I think we both agree that lack of desire does not automatically equal HSDD.

      I also agree that whether or not a lower sex drive is bothering the woman is subjective, but I don’t see that as problematic or unusual, because in my mental health interviews with doctors, the criteria is very subjective as well.

      I would say that I’m grateful people are willing to openly discuss the topic of sexual desire in women, and that there’s room for a TON more research here, and room for a TON more options here (therapy, medicine, etc.). For example, in your case, you’re very aware that your low desire stems from shame around sexual pleasure (you’re not alone!). If brain scans were done on you, would they indicate HSDD? I would assume no. There seems to be a clear difference between those who are working on hangups around shame, and those who are experiencing HSDD.

      But of course, I have no idea because I’ve never seen research on that. Let’s demand it! If a woman is experiencing lack of desire and wants to know why, she should be able to confidently identify that in her case it’s totally normal, or it’s a mental health issue, or it’s a lack of a specific hormone, or she’s asexual, or there’s something else happening that we don’t know about yet. We need better data, and a better understanding of female sexual desire in general.

      I totally agree that this is a complex topic, and I think we need to be very clear that a lack of desire does not automatically equal HSDD.

  17. I spoke to both my endocrine d doc and my pcp multiple times in my early marriage about low desire and they both said, well, you have little kids, so… and offered no help. It was a source of contention for a long time in my 12 year marriage. I read Come As You Are (mentioned above) and found a lot of comfort understanding that my desire style (responsive, not spontaneous) is very common in women and sometimes being open to sex even when I’m not initially in the mood is enough to get the ball rolling. Also, overcoming shame and being really open with my partner about what I want and need. (I used the word sloth to describe how slow we needed to go.) How many of us know what feels good but are afraid to ask? And yes, there is no one to talk to about sex, especially married sex.

  18. For many years after I was very first married, I belonged to a private LiveJournal community for only married, religious women called Sacred Intimacy. We used it to talk out our sex problems in a private place with women of like minds.

    Sex is work for women; hard to get a comfortable position, lubrication is always needed, experimentation and communication are both key, gentle stretching is often needed. You’ve talked in the past of needing and loving a vibrator. We also talked of sex toys and lingerie… many things to get the woman excited about sex.

    We often encountered women who just weren’t aroused, who were never into sex, who forced themselves to do it because they knew that their husbands enjoyed it. Many of them thought of it as a gift to him, a service, a help or a relief.

    We never had a name for it, but we often told these women that this was not normal, that they should try to seek medical help. We’re not medical professionals, just women with lots of different talents and aptitudes and areas of the world. But we encountered it way too often.

  19. This is a really interesting perspective for me because I have always heard that women have less desire than men and that is what is normal. Because I have always had a higher sex drive, I thought there was something wrong with me or that I was a sex addict! Now that I’m an adult in a sexually healthy marriage, I’ve been able to learn more and find that I’m just fine. I think we need to reframe all conversations around sexual health. Instead of making people feel like there is something wrong with them for being different, maybe framing it as “if you and your partner and happy, great! If your quality of life is suffering, then that’s the time to seek help.” Then of course making help much more accessible.

  20. One thing that I haven’t seen anyone comment on is the age factor in women’s desire. I don’t know what to say to a young (20s/30s) woman who isn’t happy with her level of desire. For older women (late 40s/50s and older) past childbearing, could a biological decrease in desire correspond with lowering estrogen and FSH that happens in menopause and peri menopause? I think there is something to this, like eyesight and hearing decrease with age. Often there are physical issues also, some related to menopause, that younger women don’t necessarily have. So, it seems logical that desire would wane past childbearing since it’s not biologically “necessary” anymore. This might not be the case with men, so are older women feeling stressed and worse about their decreasing desire, when in reality it could be very a very normal side effect of aging? I wonder what the scholarship says about this.

  21. I think sometimes there is a less “clinical” reason for the decreased desire. I know that I had little to zero sexual desire for years and years, but I did nothing about it. I figured I was simply a woman who didn’t like sex. I saw it as something I did only to please my husband. It took a major shift in my mindset before anything changed for me. I came to realize that I deserved to get just as much out of sex as my husband did and I began to figure out ways to make it more enjoyable for me. Most of this is taking note of my thoughts regarding sex. I had come to view it as something only for men and I resented my husband for needing “it” more than he needed me. But as I worked to change my mindset our sex life has come full circle (thanks in a big part to listening to podcast lectures by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife). I now have a high desire for sex, which is so great! One other thing we’ve done that has really helped me is to make sure I orgasm every time. This took some time and effort to figure out what worked for me, but it has made a world of difference. I have a few friends who hate sex and one even asked me if anyone REALLY likes it. I told her YES! It made me sad. This definitely needs to be talked about more.

  22. Pingback: Join Us February 12 for a Right to Desire Twitter Event - Mom 2.0 | Moms + Marketers + Media

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