13 Mar The Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice for Sexual Desire
If there are times when you don’t experience sexual desire you’re not alone. It is an issue which affects women of all ages.
I love the approach Lisa Brotto, Director of the Sexual Health Lab at the University of British Columbia, is taking in approaching the issues of low libido in women.
As this article notes, in the United States the approach is scientific and cure based—in other words American scientists are labeling low sexual desire as a disease and creating a pill. In Canada, Brotto is studying “the ways that pain, stress, and emotion contour women’s sexual interest.” She advocates the benefits of a mindfulness practice for sexual desire.
“For the past decade and a half, she has been exploring how mindfulness can help women overcome persistent sexual challenges and connect them to their desire. She believes the ancient practice of nonjudgmental awareness holds the key to the mind-body conundrum; in other words, great sex is mostly a matter of paying attention.”
Great sex is a matter of paying attention. YES.
It’s a mistake to assume older women don’t want sex, even if at times the level of desire is low. We shouldn’t make blanket assumptions about women of any age, or orientation. What we do know is that we don’t have enough information geared specifically to the needs of older women.
At a recent meeting of the North American Menopause Society, Holly Thomas, MD, noted, “Sex is important to these women … and they expressed the desire to push back against a society that tells them to suppress their sexuality, that they should not be sexual as a woman over [age] 60.”
The challenge is to figure out what ‘our’ normal might be like and then use that information to explore how to tap into our sexual desire. For example, feeling pain during sex isn’t ‘normal’ and in many cases it can be treated by a medical doctor. What older women need is information, support and a willingness to look at their sexuality free of shame and embarrassment.
There is room for medical interventions and there is also room for the mindfulness practices Brotto is teaching. Behavioral and attitudinal changes in how we view our body’s capacity for pleasure are probably an excellent starting place.(hint: she shares more about her specific work in the article.)
I have always thought that creating a pill, a ‘pink viagra’ to try and fix a woman’s low libido overlooks how and why women experience sexual desire. It’s an attempt to monetize women’s sexual challenges. Poorly, I might add, when you consider that men and women have different arousal patterns.
If we don’t know what we like, if we are shut down from our body to the degree that we don’t deeply feel sensations and arousal of course we’re likely to have less sexual desire.
Sexual desire isn’t something older women were taught. We were taught the mechanics of sex, the “birds and the bees” and the rudimentary facts about menstruation and pregnancy. We were taught that our naivete, our ‘virginity’ was our best virture. We were never taught that having pleasure is a good thing. We were never taught that giving ourselves pleasure, or asking for erotic touch was important. Or within our right as sexual beings. Given that scarcity of information and the stigma women face in proclaiming their sexual desire, it’s no wonder so many of us aren’t in touch with our bodies and unaccustomed to asking for what we want during sex.
Take a look at the Brotto article linked to earlier, I love her focus on learning to pat attention to our sensations. And, you might want to check out articles on my website about giving and receiving pleasure which I’ve listed below. Do a little reading, maybe read about my book, Inviting Desire, A guide for women who want to enhance their sex life, and by all means see your healthcare professional if you’re experiencing pain or severe dryness. Sometimes our desire decreases if there is discomfort or pain during intercourse—there may be treatment for that. See a gynecologist, preferably one who specializes in midlife sexual health. You owe it to yourself to advocate for your sexual health and your right to receive pleasure. No matter what your age.
- Read more about Inviting Desire
- How to Rekindle Sexual Desire
- Changing Our Relationship to Sex, Sexuality and Our Bodies
- Age Doesn’t Define a Woman’s Sexual Desire