Understanding How Your Own Libido Works Will Help It Thrive

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Being sexually active is an exciting and liberating time of a young person’s life.

Some of us will spend our time trying to figure out what kind of sex we actually like, navigating the ebbs and flows of our own sex drive and are sexual partners’ — all with the hope that we have some good sex.

But what happens when it suddenly feels like the breaks are on your sex drive and you don’t feel like having sex at all?

Intrusive thoughts like “is there something wrong with me?” and “where has my libido gone?” enter your mind, and all you’re left with is your past sexy self feeling like a hot mess.

No fear!

Melbourne-based sexologist, author and self-described sex detective Chantelle Otten is here to help on all things libido, and how to become your own best sexual partner — the most reliable person under the sheets anyway.

What Is Libido?

Sexual wellbeing for people with vulvas has been so absent in the conversation that it can feel daunting to ask the simple questions, like what even is libido and how do I understand my own?

Claire: I first wanted to ask what it is essentially? From what I’ve read, it’s someone’s sexual drive or desire, and it shouldn’t be confused with arousal.

Chantelle: Arousal is the way that your body reacts to sexual stimuli.

So you might start feeling a little bit turned on or wet. Your nipples might get hard, you might get an erection. Your body starts to kind of get warm, a little bit flushed. You may be a little bit shaky. This is the arousal process, [and] so that’s how your body is reacting.

Whereas libido is more about you wanting to have an erotic experience.

It’s the wanting that’s there, and that can be something that comes spontaneously where you go, “Yes, like I really want to get laid, I really wanna fuck right now. I wanna make love”, or whatever. 

Or it can come on from being responsive, and that can be more from someone touching you.

Understanding Our Own Libido

Claire: Before we talk about a lack of libido. I think it’s important that we kind of understand what we like and what drives it. Right?

Chantelle: Of course. I mean, you know, writing down all of these things that make you feel really good is super important. 

What are all the external factors? So what are your stress levels? How’s your mental health going? What medications are you on?

What’s your hormonal status? What’s your body image? Do you have any medical issues? How’s your diet? 

All of these things are within our control and things that we can do to make sure that we have a good handle on our health from a psychological, physiological, interpersonal and sociocultural aspect.  

And, you know, we also have to go back and look at things like shame and things like how we were taught about sex, what our ideas are, what does sex actually mean to us. 

Libido is kind of like driving a car.

So if you’re driving your little libido desire car and you’re going, yes, like all of these things are putting accelerators on for me. I feel hot today, my hair looks good, I have fresh sheets, my partner’s not tired, or whatever it is that turns you on — you’re driving it and you’re putting more accelerators on.

Or you can start feeling really anxious, and this is starting to put the break on your car as well.

So what we like to do is really look at how many accelerators you’ve got on and hopefully there are more than the amount of breaks that you have on.

What can you do to take your foot off the brakes? Alleviate some of that pressure as well.

Why Do People Experience A Lack Or Loss Of Libido?

Claire: Which brings me onto lack of and loss of libido. Is it better to phrase it as low sexual desire or can people actually lose their libido?

Chantelle: Everyone will have their own way of looking at it. And look, I think it’s just what works for you.

If you feel like it’s gone, you have to think is it fully gone? Am I not desiring sexuality or myself in any capacity? Or is it just situational? Is it with this person? 

If you’re doing the same thing, you just might be bored. Doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your libido. It just might mean that your desire for that certain activity needs to be shifted.

Are you doing the same thing in the bedroom every single time? Because it’s very hard to desire something that you know, and you expect is going to be there and it’s going to be something that you’ve tried before.

It’s like eating the same meal for dinner every single night. You just, you’re just like, I have to eat it now cause it’s in front of me.

You can work on maintaining excitement within the relationship and that takes two of you. It takes open conversation, it takes barriers. You can’t have access to your partner all the time. You need to have your own individual lives and your own individual interests.

For a lot of people [sex] is also not acceptable.

I see so many patients who come from different backgrounds that go, I have to wear like clothes that cover me up from the neck down, I can’t wear any tight clothes, I have to be conservative. I think I might be queer or I might be bisexual and I don’t know how to talk about it. And it can be an extremely isolating and lonely place.

We also don’t talk about things like sexual pain.

We don’t talk about things like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, you know, all of these things that can very easily impact a lot of people. 

How Do We Help Our Libido Thrive?

Claire: What advice would you give to someone who is single, maybe is struggling with their libido, but also wants put themselves out there for hot girl summer and get into the groove?

Chantelle: I think don’t be afraid of toys. They’re just there to be extensions of your sexual self and to add fun into your sex life.

There are things that sex toys can do that your partners vulva, penis, hands and mouth cannot do. 

And yeah, for libido, the more you masturbate or the more you have sex, the more that you want it because it’s releasing a lot of endorphins that make you feel really good.

We are our best sexual partners, and I really do firmly believe that if we know how to have a little bit of fun with ourselves and hopefully we’ll be able to instruct someone else to do that to us as well.