Not in the mood for sex? It’s normal
Have you ever been at work when you feel the urge to have sex out of nowhere? Have you ever felt not in the mood but then your partner starts whispering in your ear and sending shivers down your spine? Have you ever felt totally non-responsive to your partner’s advances, no matter what he tried?
Don’t worry—these are all normal responses that have a lot to do with how a woman’s body is wired. You may feel spontaneous desire, which is when you suddenly want to have sex without any sexual stimulation. This is a lot more common in men (75%) than women (15%), according to Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are.
On the other hand, you may feel responsive desire, which is when you—you guessed it—respond to sexual pleasure. There are more women (30%) than men (5%) who identify with this type of desire exclusively.
These numbers explain why your partner may initiate sexy time more often than you do. But hang on, maybe you’ve felt both spontaneous and responsive desire in different circumstances. This is totally normal—about 50% of women experience both types and 85% of women have responsive desire as their dominant style.
Now let’s say you’re getting it on with a partner. You feel turned on, but you’re dry down there. Or it may be the opposite—you may not have the slightest interest in having sex at the moment yet you feel wet. Again, these are totally normal situations and the concept of “arousal nonconcordance” can explain what’s going on.
Basically, the feeling of being turned on and how your genitals react are different things that have some overlap. For men, the overlap is 50%. For women, it’s a lot lower at 10%. The concept is that your genitals may automatically react to something sexually relevant, like the mention of sexual positions, but not necessarily sexually appealing to you. The key here is to value what you feel and think more than how your genitals react.
Now what if you feel turned on and you’re wet, but you still feel some resistance? Nagoski says this is because your body has different sexual brakes and accelerators, according to the Dual Control Model. Here are some examples that you may or may not relate to.
Sexual brakes that turn you off:
- Body image issues
- Relationship conflict
- Feeling obligated to have sex
- Feeling guilty or ashamed to have sex
- Trauma history
- Lack of sleep
Sexual accelerators that turn you on:
- Your partner’s appearance or smell
- Novelty: a new partner, a new sex position, or a new sex toy
- Physical stimulation by your partner
- Visual stimulation like watching a sexy film
- Audio stimulation like hearing people have sex
- Making up after a fight
- Reaching a relationship milestone that makes you feel closer to your partner
You’ll notice that these brakes and accelerators encompass sexual matters, yes, but also your relationship and your overall well-being. Each person has a unique mix of these, and arousal is all about turning on the accelerators and turning off the brakes.
What’s interesting is that research shows that turning off the brakes is more important than turning on the accelerators. So things like romance, role-play, and erotic novelty are good, but getting enough sleep, unpacking emotional baggage, and working on body image issues are even better for most people.
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