The world is full of products, drugs, and advice geared toward boosting people's sex drives. But how do you know if your sex drive actually needs boosting? What is a normal sex drive, and what is an indication of a health or relationship issue?
Low sex drive in women is often normalised, but if you would like to be able to get sexually aroused during sexual activity, you absolutely can and should work toward that. Not being able to get turned on or achieve orgasm can be a sign of a health issue, Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist, founder of FLOLiving.com, and author of Woman Code, tells Bustle.
"We should look at our sex drive as a biomarker, just like we look at the color of our periods to indicate our overall health and hormonal balance," she says. "However, you have to factor in your life circumstances — are you going through a stressful period at work, with family, are you post partum, or dealing with a chronic illness? If so, then don't be hard on yourself about your sex drive. Expect it to be lower or non existent while you move through that phase."
Plus, the societal ideal of always being ready for sex isn't realistic or necessary for every couple. If you want to alter your sex drive, it should be because it bothers you, not because you're comparing yourself to anyone else. "Ultimately, your sex drive is normal and healthy if it works for you," Astroglide's resident sexologist Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. "One person might desire sex daily and another might crave it once a year. If you identify as asexual, you may not ever want sex, and this is normal and healthy for you."
If you want to know if your sex drive is healthy, here are some things to consider, according to experts.
1. People's Sex Drives Get Unfairly Judged By Different Standards
Our idea of what a "normal" sex drive is often is influenced by sexist and racist ideas. If you feel like your sex drive is abnormal, ask yourself whether you'd feel that way if you belonged to a different group. "What our culture celebrates as healthy for white males in their 20s is unfairly judged as unhealthy for women of color in their late teens," says Jess. "It’s important to look at health through an intersectional lens, as cultural expectations of sex serve to privilege some while oppressing others."
2. You Don't Have To Match Your Partner's Sex Drive
Mismatches in sex drive are common among couples, but they don't have to spell the end of a relationship. Nor do they mean that if you have a lower sex drive than your partner, you have to have more sex than you want. If you have a higher sex drive, however, you do have to respect when they don't want to have sex. Couples with mismatched sex drives often figure out compromises so that nobody feels pressured or unsatisfied, says Jess.
3. Your Sex Drive Naturally Fluctuates
Sex drive naturally ebbs and flows and declines with age, so a decrease in sex drive is not always a problem, says Dr. Jess. You may also notice your sex drive fluctuate with your menstrual cycle, which is also normal. "You will feel most interested in sex during the 10 days during ovulation and the first half of the luteal phase, when estrogen and testosterone are surging," says Vitti. "The rest of the cycle, depending on your overall hormonal balance or imbalance, you can certainly be interested in sex, but you will need to use lubricant, as it's naturally a dry time."
4. A Declining Sex Drive Can Indicate Health Concerns
"Hormonal fluctuations, health issues, smoking, stress, fatigue, medications, and mental health concerns can impact our levels of desire," says Jess. Low libido can be particularly related to unstable blood sugar or health conditions affecting hormone levels, like PCOS, endometriosis, and fibroids, says Vitti.
"If you have reason to believe that a decline in desire may be related to a medical issue, schedule a check-up with your medical practitioner to voice your concerns," Jess says. "Medical treatments may include a change in medications or hormone therapy administered via cream, patch, pill or suppository ring. Bear in mind that these treatments do not offer a quick fix, nor do they address personal, relationship or lifestyle issues that impede desire."
5. It Could Also Point Toward Emotional Issues
Another reason you might have a lower sex drive than before is that you may not be completely satisfied in your relationship. Maybe you've gotten bored with your sex life, or maybe you're struggling with emotional issues not directly related to the relationship, like poor body image.
"When a relationship is a source of distress, sex often tapers off, and when we struggle with poor body image, our desire can also disappear," says Dr. Jess. "Improving communication and levels of intimacy provides a foundation for rebuilding desire, as does engaging in activities that boost our self-esteem. Sex may also lose its appeal on account of predictability or boredom, so a more straightforward fix might involve novel experimentation."
6. There Are Natural Ways To Increase Your Sex Drive
While some drugs and procedures have been developed to treat low sex drive, their efficacy is limited, and there are plenty of natural, gentler treatments out there. Jess recommends regular exercise, masturbation, fantasizing (with the help of porn or erotica if you'd like), and experimenting with new things in bed.
"Having said all this, you may not experience a change in sexual desire by implementing any or all of these strategies, and that’s OK," she says. "All that matters is that you’re comfortable with your level of sexual desire. You don’t need to increase or decrease it based on cultural expectations."