Top things to know about women’s and people with cycle’s sex drive:
Women and people with cycles have a fluctuating sex drive
There is no right or wrong amount of sex to be having
Everyone is entitled to a pleasurable, comfortable sex life
As a sexual medicine specialist, one of the most common sexual complaints I get from women and people with cycles is that they feel like they have a low sex drive or low libido. Many of these people describe feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or broken, often thinking that something is wrong with them.
They don’t need to feel this way. Sexual desire is not linear; there may be changes that happen throughout your life (1). Self-reflection and open communication with your partner(s) and, if needed, your healthcare provider can make these transitions comfortable and even empowering.
1. There is no “normal” amount of sex to want or to have
It is typical to be curious about how much sex other people are having and what constitutes “normal” or “abnormal.” In reality, there is no normal, there is just the right amount for you. In fact, Rosy conducted a State of Sex Survey and found that 2% of couples have sex daily, 3% of couples never have sex, and the rest are somewhere in-between. Frequency of sexual intercourse can change over your life too. One study found that people in their 20’s had sex more frequently than people in their 60’s (2). The right amount of sex to be having is whatever is the right amount for you. This can differ between people in a relationship. We often hear that one partner may desire sex more than the other. With open communication many couples find what works for them. If this is a source of struggle in the relationship, it may be time to reach out for help. A certified sex coach or sex therapist can be a place to help you find the next steps.
2. Desire changes throughout life
Sexual desire changes throughout your lifetime for mental, emotional and circumstantial reasons. Our sex drive is influenced by nearly everything; our menstrual cycles, hormonal birth control, relationships, infertility, pregnancy, breast/chest feeding, menopause, medical problems, medications, prior sex education, trauma, body image, stress, and more; you name it, it affects how we feel about and experience sex (1).
Sexual interest naturally fluctuates throughout the many phases of our life, from puberty through pregnancy and postpartum and beyond menopause–there is no one way you should feel!
3. There is a difference between sex drive, desire and sexual arousal, and finding out what works for you will help
As you’ve read above, your sex drive, or your body's physical/biological need for sex, depends on many factors such as hormones, stress, diet, exercise and more. How much you desire, or wish, to have sex is different–it is more mental than physical (3). Sexual arousal is our response, both physical and mental, to how we are exposed to sexual stimuli, which can be anything from reading erotic stories, to talking about sex, to physical touch. Researchers have found that there are many ways to experience sexual desire, with two theories being “Spontaneous sexual desire” and “Responsive sexual desire” (4). Spontaneous sexual desire is the experience of feeling aroused seemingly out of the blue (4). Responsive sexual desire is when a person feels physically “turned on” first, and then they feel the desire for sex in response to that physical arousal (4). But sexual arousal is a complicated process that isn’t fully described by any of these arousal models. One way to know whether you are aroused and desire sex, is to pay attention to what turns you on when you are on your own, but know that being aroused with another person is different to being aroused on your own. Try starting by reading stories about sex, or masturbating. A small study has shown that women’s sexual desire can increase through reading stories about sex (5).
4. Everyone deserves to have orgasms
In heterosexual relationships, 95% of men report that they usually or always orgasm during sex, compared to 65% of women (6). In same sex relationships, men and women faired more equally, at around 85% (6). So why are fewer women orgasming during heterosexual sex? It has a lot to do with women’s pleasure being deprioritized, as well as poor sex education and stigma around open conversations, leading to bad sex.
There are many ways to experience an orgasm; clitoral and vaginal are just two. One study showed that 73% of women prefer orgasm that includes clitoral stimulation such as stimulation with a hand, oral sex, or a vibrator (7). I have spoken to some women who live their whole lives thinking there is something wrong with them because they can’t have an orgasm through penis-in-vagina or penetrative sex. This is a direct result of how we talk about sex, how we see sex in movies and the sheer lack of accurate sexual education that most of us experience. All women and anyone they’re having sex with need to have proper sex education in order to make sex better for everyone involved. Finding out what helps you achieve climax can lead to a more fulfilling sex life, but while orgasms are great, feeling pressured to have an orgasm at a certain time can make sex stressful.
5. Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder is a condition that affects sexual desire
Sometimes low desire isn’t about your stress level, your partner, responsive desire, or lack of orgasms. It is estimated that between 8-19% of women might have hypoactive sexual desire disorder or HSDD (8). We don’t fully understand what causes Female Sexual Interest Disorder, but we do know there are multiple factors that can contribute including altered hormone and chemicals in the brain, genetic, environmental and medical factors (1, 8). Female sexual interest/arousal disorder is a lack of sexual interest/arousal for at least six months and causes a person significant distress or worry as a result (9). There are two FDA-approved medications for premenopausal women with HSDD, Addyi and Vyleesi (10, 11). If you think you might have HSDD, it is definitely worth a conversation with a healthcare provider well-versed in women’s sexual health to evaluate the options that are available for you.
Sexual desire can change throughout your life, and accurate education and access to passionate experts and interventions can help you navigate those changes. Rosy is proud to partner with Clue to bring women the evidence-based resources that women deserve to prioritize sexual health.
Download Clue and start tracking your sexual activity today.