Q&A- I Want Him to Have the Desire

libido, desire, sexuality Today’s question is a common one among older women visiting my website—lack of sexual desire. In this case  both parties are experiencing low libido.

Walker,

I have a serious questions for you. My male partner is without libido and from what I gather, this is nothing new to him. We’ve talked about it and both feel if I were to instigate sexual activity he’d jump right in. The problem is I don’t have any desire, either. I am on Prozac but have been for years and don’t think that’s the problem. I’m in my 60s and my partner is in his mid 50s. Neither of us are really bemoaning the lack of sexual activity but obviously it bothers me more than I thought or I wouldn’t be posting. Honestly, I don’t want to be the instigator. I want him to be. I want him to have the desire. Thoughts?

 

Jett,

Since we have met in person I’m going to take more liberty than I might with a stranger. You and your male partner have talked and I assume you told him you want him to instigate more? He needs to know what you want in order to figure out his role as your partner, and he needs to give you an answer—even if it’s not the one you want to hear.  This is a tough one because the responsibility lies with both of you and I am unwilling to tell you what you ‘ought’ to do to bring him out…especially if it feels likes an expectation that you will carry the burden of initiating sex. It needs to be mutual or one of you will end up resenting the other.

So, a few thoughts here:

  • Plan a night every two weeks for intimacy. I know it sounds forced but if you make a date then it becomes a mutual agreement—to be in that place and to consent to some level of intimacy. It doesn’t have to start with an explicit agreement to have sex but maybe a sexy movie (Lady Chatterley’s Lover or something similarly appealing). You sit next to each other, have a glass of wine or something relaxing, and make physical contact–holding hands, a caress–something. Alternately you could read to each other if that’s something you like doing (one of my biggest fantasies is being read to).
  • Send him an invitation. “I want you to ravish me tonight.” “I want a foot massage that lingers and turns into ___________”. You’re asking and inviting–telling him you are receptive and desirous of his company. Wrap the invitation up in a silk scarf and ask him to use it creatively (if one of you might like that kind of thing). You are trying to fuel his fire as well as your own.
  • Therapy/counseling is an option if you think that the two of you might need some help sorting out issues that are standing in the way of sexual desire. Or a dialogue:
    • This is what I like about our sex, ___________________.
    • When we do this I always feel ___________________
    •  I feel like I want more of ___________, or I’m missing those times of _________________

You both do this as a written exercise and then share if you are both willing. Shared or not the exercise might spur some awareness of what is keeping one of you from initiating sex.

  • This is rarely my first suggestion, but has he had his testosterone level checked? Or in general had a medical exam recently to see if everything is OK?
  • You could be the instigator for a while, hoping that the resumption of sexual activity gets him interested in sex more regularly. I think that for women, and I would assume for some men, desire is part mental and practice helps us fine-tune that particular muscle, if you will. The more you have it, the more you want it kind of thing.

 

I haven’t touched on your lack of desire. Maybe a good place to start is by getting yourself more aroused? I’d suggest a private sexual meditation practice (more to come on that). The focus is to get in touch with your body through touch and self-stimulation. It’s not about reaching an orgasm but increasing feelings of arousal–feeling the sensations when you touch yourself, awakening the skin and genitals. Combine this with a broader level of self-care like massages, surrounding yourself with sensuous experiences, and thinking about arousal and sex. You want to think yourself into feeling and being sexy.

It’s about you. AND…when we’re feeling more sexually awake we are sending out sexy vibes. Your partner will sense this and hopefully he’ll respond. You might suggest he work on his awareness around desire too.

I think it’s wonderful that the two of you are talking about this. Bravo!

And, two book suggestions:

Partners in Passion, A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love  by Mark Michaels & Patricia Johnson. It’s getting rave reviews and comes highly recommended.

A Passionate Marriage, Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch. I loved this book.

Women’s Low Sexual Desire-Is It a Medical Problem or Something Else?

The Little Pink PillThis article was originally published at MidlifeBoulevard.

If you’re following the news reports about flibanserin, referred to as the female Viagra, or “the pink pill’, you know there’s been a lot of debate over the need for a pill for women who suffer from low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)*.

There are plenty of issues involved, from the idea that the FDA discriminates against women to the fact that the most ardent supporters of thos “promising” medication have some financial involvement with the drug’s manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals. And, somewhere in the midst of this debate is the question of women’s sexual dysfunction and how to best address it.

There isn’t really going to be a true female equivalent to Viagra because it’s not a drug designed to work with the female anatomy. Viagra increases blood flow, including flow to the penis, which can make it easier for men to get and sustain an erection. It’s all about mechanics, nothing to do with women’s low sexual desire.

The issue for women is about desire. Or is it?

There have been no studies I’m aware of that indicate a significant number of women have clitoral dysfunction. Do women really have HSDD or is that just a new way to create an illness so pharmaceutical companies can make more money? Would a pill fix what ails us as women? Not in a world where the norm is intercourse, which as we know, rarely provides the stimulation of the clitoris so necessary to achieving orgasms.

Maybe women, who don’t feel desire in the way they used, to have other issues contributing to their lack of interest in sex?

I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. A partner who doesn’t want, or know how, to provide the stimulation necessary to bring a woman to orgasm.  He doesn’t understand or appreciate the role of the clitoris.
  2. Fatigue and stress related to child rearing, a stressful job, caregiving, family issues, illness, menopause, financial challenges and on and on… If we’re stressed out we don’t have the energy to feel sexy.
  3. A failing relationship. Sex isn’t very satisfying when 2 people aren’t enjoying their time together. It takes mutual engagement and connections to build and sustain intimacy. Lack of interest in sex often indicates relationship problems of another nature.
  4. Sexual trauma—Child sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape and possibly genital-related surgery (hysterectomy, cancer) can lead to a fear or reluctance to have sex. Genitals may feel numb or hold residual pain. Trauma can resurface at different times in a woman’s life and have varying impacts on her relationships and her sex life.

No pill in the world is capable of fixing those issues. They each call for creative problem solving, therapeutic support or other life/ relationship changes

~

A recent study of French women  provides an answer that resonates with my experience and thoughts on the question of female desire. Researchers studied 251 women ranging in age from 18-67, all sexually active.

“The women in the study–176 who defined themselves as “orgasmic,” and 75 who defined themselves as “not orgasmic”- answered questions about the emotions, thoughts and behaviors that typically play a role in being able to orgasm, during both sex and self-stimulation.”

And what they found was that women who regularly reached orgasm during sex reported more erotic thoughts.

“Study author Pascal De Sutter, professor of sexology and family science at the University of Louvain in Belgium said “It seems that women have no problem focusing on erotic fantasies when they are on their own, but women who do not have regular orgasms during intercourse seem to have more difficulties focusing their attention on the present moment when they have sex with their partners.”

I love what Elke Reissing, the director of the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, has to say. She suggests “that mindfulness approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunction might be helpful for women who have trouble achieving orgasm. Mindfulness techniques could help women focus on the present moment during sex and thus increase their arousal and reach orgasm.”  (Source)

When I talk about stepping into one’s desire and practicing sexual meditation, I urge women to focus on their bodies and their feelings of desire. By taking the time to think about sex, knowing what we want and what feels good we are focusing our minds on our bodies, our arousal and our desires. This awareness of our own bodies is what helps us achieve orgasm.

If a woman goes into sex thinking she’s not going to be satisfied, or she needs to be doing the laundry, writing the business report or whatever, she’s not present to her partner. More importantly, she’s not present to her own body and her arousal.

When we feel our genitals tingle and become wet. When we feel arousal as blood flows into our labia we are present to our bodies. We feel each sensation and touch and we recognize our arousal. That’s when we’re most likely to have an orgasm or, at the very least, feel pleasurable thoughts and an increased level of sexual satisfaction. And when sex feels pleasurable and we are satisfied—we want more. It’s not about ‘fixing’ a dysfunction, or popping a pill. It is about us stepping into our full sexual capacity as women, creating what we want and allowing ourselves to give and receive pleasure.

* “HSDD is defined as an absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that does not have an obvious cause, such as depression or libido-suppressing drugs, and that causes distress to the sufferer.” (Washington Post) Read more….

 

What do you think? Is this really a Disorder?

OKCupid Turns Dating Game Into a Rat Race

OKCupid, dating, matchAs if it weren’t crazy enough already…..

OKCupid made the news last week—in one of those ways that businesses don’t typically prefer when it comes to getting publicity. It seems that, in the name of “research”, OKCupid started tinkering with users’ experiences on the site. According to the New York Times, “…OKCupid on Monday published results of three experiments it recently conducted on users. In one test, it obscured profile pictures. In another, the site hid profile text to see how it affected personality ratings. And in a third, it told some hopeful daters that they were a better or worse potential match with someone than the company’s software actually determined.

I’ve used OKCupid  in the past and I’m back on the online dating site now. The study reveals a high degree of manipulation and disregard for the feelings of OKCupid users. It doesn’t necessarily change my opinion about the dating process or my trust in the secret formulas used by various sites to help users find that “one true match”. But, I do feel a higher degree of skepticism about anything OKCupid now tells me about prospective matches. Match.com and eHarmony also use various calculations to lure us into their sites–with guarantees of “happily ever after” compatibility. Current eHarmony ads are focusing on their marriage successes. It really all boils down to sales and marketing.

If you’re in the dating game, chances are you have some idea of what type of person you want to date. And you probably have a number of things, dealbreakers, that you do not want in a date or partner. Yes? I know I do. For example, if a guy is wearing camo or a ‘wifebeater’ and is standing in front of his bathroom mirror, smart phone in hand, taking his own photo? We’re not a match. And, I do have more serious criteria for what might or might not work for me personally. We all do.

The challenge is not to have such rigid expectations that you overlook someone who might turn out to be a delightful date because he doesn’t meet your height requirement or he has Corgis and you prefer Labs.

There is no way to capture the real essence of a person in a website profile. OKCupid said that more conversations occurred when they removed photos. Maybe. I admit to using photos as a quick screening tool (see above). And, given that people can, and do, misrepresent themselves in photos, profiles and statistics what you read and see is not necessarily the truth. That’s why it is essential to communicate through emails and phone chats before that first meeting.

I tend to sort profiles by the percentage of our match–based on answers to questions OKCupid provides. It’s a place to start. Now that I know the folks in charge consider human manipulation OK and necessary to improving algorithms I’m less likely to trust their suggestions. I applaud their honesty while disliking the seemingly casual approach of treating users like lab rats.

How do we assess compatibility when using online dating sites?

It has to be a multi-faceted process. You can’t just pick based on good looks or breast size. Age? Maybe. I don’t want to date someone over age 70, but given that most dating sites don’t verify users any one shave off years with abandon—and many of them do. That’s where emails and phone chats help to establish your commonalities and show up glaring discrepancies.

Compatibility is more than physical chemistry. It includes intellectual, emotional and sexual chemistry. There has to be something that grabs you in the moment and makes you want to keep learning about the other person. Physical attractiveness may be important to you, but what about physical chemistry? That isn’t readily apparent until you find yourselves face to face.

Sexual compatibility may become a more important issue as we age. OKCupid is one of the few sites that doesn’t ban married individuals—I see that as a good thing because those men and women are going to put ‘married’ in their status rather than lying as often happens on Match. Then you get to make an informed choice. Is someone Bi-, do they want a Poly relationship? Are they just looking for sex? Have they given up on sex? These are all things to consider when looking around in a world where choices and lifestyles are more openly diverse than ever before.

It’s all a matter of what you’re looking for on your next date, sexual adventure or journey towards a long-term relationship.

Having dissed OKCupid, let me say that I think the site is no better or worse than the majority of online dating sites. It depends on what you’re looking for. What I like about OKCupid, in addition to the transparency of users, is the question and answer feature. There are thousands of questions you can answer, with the opportunity to offer additional details. You can compare your answers to potential dates and see where you match up…or diverge. For example, a question about cheating on a significant other, or whether it’s acceptable to read a partner’s emails can tell you about someone’s ethics, jealousy, or control issues. You can see how a potential date lines up on the issues of importance to you–religion, politics, abortion. Use this information as one of the various components in assessing compatibility.

I can’t give you a surefire technique for getting a date. The key to assessing compatibility, as I see it, is to have some ideas of what won’t work but to be open to the element of surprise.

Want to hear OKCupid founder talk about their experiments? Here’s the interview on  NPR. And, here are more articles on online dating.

Do you have dating stories or questions?

 

Image from Morguefile  (hope the rats don’t gross you out but they were so right for this article)

Q&A- My Doctor Recommends a Vibrator, What Should I Choose?

Q&AI got a question from a woman in her mid-50′s who is having some issues with dryness and her sexual response time.  Elizabeth* saw a doctor who gave her a prescription for Premarin and suggested she get lubricant and a vibrator. The doctor didn’t give her any suggestions about vibrators or exactly how she was to use a vibrator to help boost her sex life! She turned to me for some advice on purchasing a new sex toy.

The great thing here is that Elizabeth and her husband, both in their 50′s and married for over 20 years, are working proactively to keep their sex life going as she experiences some aging, or menopausally, related changes. And, she has a doctor who understands that sexual health calls for a variety of approaches beyond medications. Though admittedly the doctor needs to do a better job of directing clients to good resources or having information in the office to help women get started with sex toys.

Elizabeth and I chatted several times as I got more information on what she really needed. My previous article on lubricants was in part directed to her questions.

I want to break her question down into a few parts and answer them separately.

Elizabeth relayed to me that “It takes me a while to get going. By the time I’m ready – he’s done. We’re trying to spice things up a bit and we’re thinking a vibrator would help me get ready faster. I’d like to try new things but I want to take baby steps – he seems to be willing to do anything.” Without knowing the intimate details of her sex life let’s talk about arousal and response time.

Women vary in the time it takes to become fully aroused and wet. Lubrication varies as does everything else about us—we are all unique. Menopause can cause some women to lose much of their natural lubrication. The vagina lubricates as a response to arousal. So, if a woman isn’t sufficiently aroused she is not going to be as wet as she might be when fully stimulated. When I hear that “It takes a while to get me going” I wonder if she and her partner are spending enough time getting each other excited and ready for a deeper level of intimacy. There is no standard ‘prep’ time and there is no reason not to extend the playtime before going to penetration. Adding lubrication can be part of the fun–get your partner to rub and massage you with lube; it should excite both of you and will ensure that you are slick and slippery enough to enjoy sexual activities without discomfort.

“By the time he’s ready – I’m done.” Maybe it’s time to add extra stimulation? Timing orgasms isn’t all that simple for many of us. Men have a muchvibrator, Lelo, Good Vibrations, sex toys shorter arc from arousal to climax, unless they’re able to slow down and time themselves to match a partner’s pattern. This is where a small vibrator, like a Lovelife Discover Mini Rechargeable Vibrator (I have several Lovelife toys and find them easy to use) or perhaps Lelo’s Mia 2 Rechargeable Vibrator. Both are relatively small and streamlined… they aren’t bulky or fancy, making them a suitable first vibrator. Plus their size means they can easily be used during intercourse or when receiving oral sex. Used on the clitoris this kind of vibrator adds the added stimulation needed to bring her to orgasm, or become fully aroused before moving to intercourse. Elizabeth, you can use this before or during intercourse to give you a boost. Ask your husband to wait for your signal as to when you’re reaching that point so he can try and time his climax with yours. (And for heavens no “are you there yet?”)

If you’re new to vibrators and want to improve your capacity to achieve orgasms, I would suggest you spend some time in self-pleasuring to learn more about your body’s response to touch. What turned you on 10 years ago may not be as effective today, so take a little “me” time, with a good lubricant and your new toy. Spend time touching and exploring with fingers and then add the toy in.  You’re learning how you like to be touched, how much pressure you like, where the vibration feels the best and so on. Then you can take that information and share it with your husband–show him how you like to be touched, guide his hands, or better yet have his sit back and watch–a huge turn-on for men!

As for lubricants to use with your sex toy–the Lovelife is made of silicone so you can’t use a silicone based lube on it. You can use water-based and oil-based lubes. Any of the water or silicone based lubricants can be used on the Mia, it is made of a hard plastic. If you’re going to be self-pleasuring without your sex toys (or condoms) you can use any lube–I love coconut oil. It’s organic and leaves your skin feeling very soft.

Elizabeth wants to take small steps and I applaud her for knowing her comfort level, so I’m not recommending fancy vibrators or sex toys and nothing too expensive. It’s important that she like this first vibrator and feel comfortable playing with toys. Then? The sky’s the limit.

 

*Elizabeth is not her real name.

The links are all to products on the Good Vibrations sex toy shop–one of the longest running and reliable sex toy shops around. I have an affiliate relationship with them; if you buy a product through my link I receive a (very) small percentage from the company.