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Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 
Issue #121 Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 

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credit Emily Scarlett Romain / Kintzing

Not In The Mood? These 4 Factors Might Be Causing Low Libido – Here’s What To Do About Them 

Libido: even in our increasingly sex-positive world it’s still a topic loaded with shame and blame. Women with high sex drives are often vilified, and despite the fact it’s estimated that up to 75% will experience low libido at some point, the causes are rarely discussed. Instead of low libido being understood as a natural response to physiological issues or external factors such as stress, thanks to patriarchal ‘norms’ and representation in the media, it is often portrayed as a failing. 

“Women’s libidos have long been policed by society,” says Dr Sarah Welsh, gynaecologist and co-founder of sex-positive, sustainable sexual wellness company HANX. “If your libido is ‘too high’, you might be called promiscuous. If your libido is ‘too low’, you’re made to feel like there’s something wrong. Women have also been stereotypically framed as being assistants to male pleasure, which makes opening up about having libido issues feel like ‘admitting’ to lacking as a sexual being.”  

Across life stages and sexual preferences, there are myriad issues that can impact sexual desire. Here we discuss some of these major ‘blocks’ and discover how to overcome them. 

1. The Impact Of Stress   

Deep-routed gender inequalities, particularly in long-term heteronormative relationships, mean many women are maintaining careers alongside caring responsibilities and unequal household labour. “When I ask women what’s getting in the way of sex, the biggest response is that they’re too tired, too busy and too stressed,” says Laurie Mintz, a licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist and author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters And How To Get It.  

The Solution: Stay Mindful 

Mintz suggests keeping a time journal to figure out where you can carve out moments for self-care. She strongly recommends yoga because “an empirical study found that women who do yoga have more orgasms”. Similarly, mindfulness is associated with sexual desire. “Too often, women are thinking either about their partner’s experience, how they look or about something on their to-do list. Mindfulness is the antidote to that,” says Mintz, who recommends practising mindfulness informally, then applying it to sex. “When brushing your teeth, focus on the sensations in your mouth. When your mind wanders – and it will – take it back to the sensations in your mouth.”  

Next, try mindful masturbation. “You’ll turn up your sex drive the more sex you have – including with yourself,” says Mintz. Having learned to stay in the present, alert to your senses and sensations, it will be easier to be mindful during sex with a partner. As Mintz says, “The greatest irony of good sex with a partner is you are completely focused on your own sensations.”  

2. Pain – Both Physical & Emotional 

As with many areas of women’s health, research is sparse – but studies suggest up to one in 10 women find sex painful, which can lead to anxiety and, ultimately, avoidance. One cause of pain is vaginismus, which “causes involuntary spasms of the vaginal walls, which can make penetrative sex difficult, painful or even impossible”, explains Welsh. There is a lack of research into and reporting of the condition, but one study reports it affects between 7% and 68% of women.  

Pain can also be emotional, “Those experiencing depression often find a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, which can include sex,” says Welsh. “Certain antidepressants are also known to reduce libido.” 

The Solution: Seek Support & Focus On You 

Welsh recommends telling your GP outright you suspect you have vaginismus. If the thought makes you feel uncomfortable, she has this advice: “Speak to them as if this were something routine, like a migraine. You’d probably say, ‘I’ve had this problem for X months. It always happens when I do Y. And it feels like Z.’ You may be prescribed vaginal dilators – plastic or silicone devices that help stretch the vaginal tissue, to make penetrative sex possible and more comfortable.”  

When it comes to emotional pain, Welsh recommends starting with various lifestyle changes: upping physical activity to “increase blood flow to where it counts”; eating the rainbow to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients; and supplementing with “libido-boosting maca root powder”.  

Welsh also suggests taking sex off the table for a while and focusing on other forms of intimacy such as kissing. “By removing expectations, you might find you are able to get in the right headspace for more,” she says. Another useful tool is masturbation, to “remind yourself how and where you like to be touched, without pressure or expectation to orgasm”.  

Sex and relationship psychotherapist Miranda Christophers agrees the focus needs to be on “pleasure, not pressure”. “This could be thinking about what you find sexually interesting or pleasurable, or perhaps thinking about the context of when you last experienced sexual desire or arousal. What was happening, and what led up to it?” Christophers highlights that if your libido has been impacted by sexual trauma, you should seek “professional help such as with a psychosexual therapist who works with trauma.” 

3. Hormonal Changes 

A huge body of research has demonstrated that the hormonal shifts associated with women’s menstrual cycles affect sexual desire and arousal. “During the pre-ovulation phase, oestrogen levels rise and you may experience an increase in sexual desire,” says Welsh. “During ovulation, around the middle of the menstrual cycle, some women experience a surge in libido, however, during the post-ovulation luteal phase progesterone levels rise which can lead to a decrease in libido for some. [This] may also be accompanied by fatigue, bloating and mood swings, which can further impact desire for sex.” Research has also shown that 43% of women experience a drop in sexual desire when using hormonal contraceptives.  

The Solution: Tune In To Your Cycle 

“By tracking changes, you can schedule sex to better build anticipation and ensure it happens at your peak horniness level,” says Welsh. And when it comes to hormonal contraception, effects on libido are usually more prominent when you first start a new method. “If you’re experiencing a lowered sex drive beyond a few months, speak to your GP as there are many varieties which may work better for you,” says Welsh. “If your libido really isn’t getting on with the pill, consider switching to non-hormonal options, such as condoms.” 

4. The Weight Of Expectation 

Sex-drenched popular culture can give the impression everyone is having more sex than us. “While sex is all around us, it’s not an accurate portrayal and much of it sexually objectifies women,” says Mintz. That has knock-on effects on expectations: “Women think they should enjoy dirty talk, should enjoy penetration without foreplay, should orgasm from penetration alone. There’s also objectification theory; if women are objectified in the media, they come to internalise those messages and objectify themselves, focusing more on their appearance and the other person’s pleasure than their own.” Porn is another negative influence. “I find that younger women struggle with pain and difficulty orgasming because their partners are imitating what they see in porn,” says Mintz.  

The Solution: Communicate 

“Communication is key in all sexual encounters – including hook-ups,” says Mintz “Tell them, ‘This is what I like, and I don’t like that.’” She is also “a huge advocate of sex toys and lubricant. Vulvas are not supposed to be touched dry, and using a lube means you’re wet so you develop an association, while both vulvas and penises have receptors for vibration.”  

Mintz emphasises the importance of reframing our very idea of sex, to give equal importance to all forms of sexual intimacy. “Women who have sex with women have more orgasms,” says Mintz, “not because they have the same anatomy, but because they communicate more, take more time, and they don’t revolve the entire encounter around penetration.”  

She argues that our entire sexual vocabulary needs overhauling. “We use ‘vagina’ for our entire genitals, therefore linguistically erasing the part of us that gives us the most pleasure,” she says. “We use the words ‘sex’ and ‘intercourse’ as though they’re one and the same, even though most women don’t orgasm from intercourse, and the word ‘foreplay’ suggests it’s the lead-up to the main event. All of that reflects and perpetuates the over-valuing of male sexual pleasure. If we overvalued women’s pleasure, we would call foreplay sex, and intercourse post-play.”  

Christopher adds that, “How people like to be stimulated and what turns them on varies from person to person. Sex is a mind, body and emotions process, so exploring what is pleasurable and feels good in all these ways enables people to understand what is enjoyable for them.”  

Laura Potter is a freelance editor, writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in The Observer Magazine, The Guardian’s Saturday magazine, The Times Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health 

Photo credit: Emily Scarlett Romain / Kintzing

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