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Female sex drive: Why slow and steady wins the race

A woman’s libido may take its sweet time to warm up, but it’s always worth the wait by the end.

You’re watching a movie with your male partner when a sex scene comes up. He’s quickly turned on by the mere suggestion of it, so his hands get adventurous soon enough. Sadly for him, your hands are still busy shoving chips in your mouth.

It’s all Netflix and no chill for you tonight— you need to know what the main character does next.

What does this lead to? Nada. You’re simply not in the mood for it. And it’s not the first time it’s happened, either.

You start to wonder if there’s anything wrong with you. Are you depriving your partner of their needs? Or is he just being too horny too often?

The slow start

In reality, that awkward moment has a lot to do with your sex drive or libido. This describes your enthusiasm for sexual activity, whether alone or with someone else. It also influences your mental and physical well-being to a certain extent.

The stereotype rings true to a certain extent: Studies show that men do have a stronger and more straightforward sex drive. It doesn’t take much to turn them on since male pleasure is pretty much linear. But for us women, things can get a little more complicated than that.

The ancient Chinese compare men to fire that easily flares up, while women are like water that will take time to heat up but will also cool down slowly.

That’s not to say that sex is everything a guy could ever want from you. They seek emotional intimacy in the relationship just as much as you do (if not more). We just don’t always see eye to eye on what sex is for.

Women often think that intimacy has to be built before hitting the sheets. Meanwhile, men believe that sex is their way to build intimacy in the first place— it’s their own special way of baring their more sensitive and vulnerable side.

The roundabout route

It’s relatively easy to track down what fuels a man’s libido. A woman’s turn-ons? Not so much. Fortunately, we’ve been successful in spotting a handful of factors that can heavily influence our sex drive.

Sexual response

There’s no doubt that a positive sexual response can increase our sex drive. But if Rosemary Basson’s model of sexual motivation is anything to go by, a woman’s path to pleasure is designed differently.

For one, our motivations are divided into two: approach and avoidance. They’re two sides of the same coin. One focuses on pleasure and intimacy, and the other builds on your anxieties, like the fear of your partner leaving the relationship.

Then there’s your context. This refers either to the situation during which you have sex (immediate) or the state of your relationship in general (influential)— whether it’s been long term, on the rocks, or gone the morning after.

What goes on in our mind can make or break our sexual response, even when it has little to do with sex. A woman in a calm and collected mood is more receptive to arousal than someone dealing with stress or frazzled nerves.

Last but not least, we have our sexual script, our expectations around the act. We would, of course, be closed off the idea of doing the deed when we see it in a strongly negative light.

Sexual orientation

How much does our sexual orientation weigh into what we find stimulating? Surprisingly little, as it turns out.

In an unprecedented study conducted by Northwestern University, men and women of various orientations were asked to watch erotic films, during which their sexual responses— both verbal and physiological— were recorded.

The men’s results were just as predicted. If they were straight, they liked male-female and female-female sex. The gay men enjoyed male-male sex. All of them simply gaped at the bonobos.

Women, on the other hand, were more interesting. They got turned on by all forms of sex, even videos of chimps getting it on. However, their verbal responses were still more aligned with their sexual orientation. 

This only goes to show that men are more rigid (pardon the pun) about what stimulates them, while the female arousal is more fluid in nature even when her sexual identity is not.

Society and culture

According to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, women’s sex drives are more heavily influenced by their environment compared to those of men. Here are some of his interesting findings:

  • Women take into account their peers’ beliefs and opinions on sex.
  • Those with strict religious practices are more likely to be less open to the idea of sex. It didn’t necessarily make a difference for men.
  • Cognitive dissonances between their projected beliefs and actual practices are more common in women than men.
  • A higher level of education accompanies a wider variety of performed sexual practices. Education wasn’t even an influential factor for men.
  • Their willingness to perform sex is more likely to change as they age.

All these stark differences could be partly explained by the differing cultural and societal expectations for men and women, especially when it comes to sex.

The quick boost

Understanding what affects our sex drives is just the first step. These are a few concrete steps you can practice to rev up yours:

  • Give a pep talk. Honesty and trust can build a stronger emotional connection between you and your significant other. Set aside some time for intimacy and sex.
  • Make a pit stop. Don’t be afraid to suggest new things to try out. Foreplay, a new position, or even some sex toys can add some excitement to fuel your sex drive.
  • Set in motion. Both physical and mental health can affect your sex drive. Exercise regularly, find better ways to cope with stress, and get rid of any bad habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

Our sex drive may not have a headstart, but that doesn’t mean we can no longer enjoy the ride entirely. Now it’s all up to you to get back in the race by applying this to your next “Netflix and chill” session. Movie marathon, anyone?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is libido?

Libido is the more technical term for sex drive, which describes your enthusiasm for and interest in any form of sexual activity, whether you’re all by yourself or in someone else’s company. It also influences your mental and physical well-being to a certain extent.

Is there such a thing as a “normal” sex drive?

Doctors can diagnose conditions of low (hypoactive) or high (hyperactive) libido, which do suggest a rough benchmark for sex drive. But “normal” can also be relative to your partner. So long as you two agree on when and how often you get it on between the sheets, then there should be no problem at all.

Do men have a higher sex drive than women?

Studies show that men do have a stronger and more straightforward sex drive. It doesn’t take much to turn them on since male pleasure is pretty much linear. But for us women, things can get a little more complicated than that: Our sex drive is more dependent on the ebb flow of our menstrual cycle.

What are the factors that can affect my libido?

Factors that can affect the sex drive of ladies like you are the circular nature of our sexual response, the fluidity of our sexual arousal, and the beliefs that we picked up from the society and culture we grew up in.

What can I do to improve my libido?

Natural ways of boosting your sex drive include fostering honesty and emotional intimacy with your partner, trying out new experiences, and taking better care of your health. When you strive to do these three things, you’ll find it easier to be open about the things that tickle your sexual fancy.

Is it safe for me to drink medication to increase my sex drive?

In many cases, medication isn’t necessary to improve your libido— try working it out with your partner first. If this doesn’t work out, or in the event that you find yourself being much less responsive than usual, consult with your trusted doctor to seek the medicine that will work best for you.

Posted by Prism Kristensen

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