Shameless Woman

Pursuing an integrated life of sensuality, health, healing and rejuvenation

Cracking The Code on Female Sexual Desire

Is female sexual desire being measured on a male model?

I have been working with a major news outlet on the issue of low female sexual desire. The talking heads and big pharma are calling this "low libido", and they are trying to fix this with a pill.  I'm not so sure they are taking the right approach.

The media outlet asked me to find women, perhaps my coaching clients, that would be willing to come out and talk about this. Noone wants to; not a big surprise there! Would you want to step forward as a person with "low sexual libido"? Geez!  With the men they had to switch out erectile dysfunction with "ED".

I would rather they called it "Desire Untapped" or "Desire Yet Unspoken". Now, that is language I can wrap my libido around. That is what I once was - a woman who didn't understand my own sexual desire. I knew the desire was there, but it felt more like a simmering pot, close to boil, but not quite there.

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I wanted to boil, as so many of us do.  I wanted to feel like those women look on "Sex in The City" ,  but I wasn't them.  I would never be them.  I was a mid-life Riverdale housewife, and fertility advocate.  I had to find my own way and I did. But along the way, I learned a lot about what makes women tick.

I became fascinated with what turns us ladies on as sexual creatures.  I realized that I really didn't understand how most women's sexual desire worked. For instance, did you know that women's sexual desire is considered by many sexologists as "responsive desire," while male sexual response is usually characterized by "spontaneous desire." This is the way that many sexologists are parsing apart "Responsive and Spontaneous" sexual desire. And frankly, I didn't love that language or concept either. It made me feel like a receptacle of male desire instead of having my own.

"Responsive desire" is when the agreement  to have sex happens after some kind of sexual initiation has begun.  It can look like this: You are reading a book, and your sexual partner makes a sexual advance such as kissing your neck. You weren't thinking about sex in that moment. You were reading your book, but then you start thinking "Oh My" this feels good. And the books falls to the floor.Sex happens. What book?

This is contrasted with "Spontaneous desire",  which we tend to associate more with our idea of male sexuality.  This can look more like,  you are sitting in a business meeting, at a dance club, or simply walking the dog in the park and, for no apparently obvious reason, you think, "Sex would be good right now." You are going to sleep or waking up, your are in the shower or eating a pizza and you think "I'd like to have some sex!"

Regardless of what body or identity you have, if you're more of a "responsive" desire person you might have worried that your interest in sex was abnormally low. You might think you have low libido! A lot of us worry about sex. Do we want it too much or too little? Worrying about how much we do or don't want sex is something that many of us spend a great deal of time and money on. Countless books and articles are centered around how much sex is too much or too little?

So, let's use the modality of "Responsive desire" (more female) versus "Spontaneous desire" (more male) to look at this question as it applies to women.

And why all of this interest in female libido all of a sudden? I mean it's everywhere.  As a woman, I am glad that the world has started to care about my sex life, and as a sex coach I care deeply about women and their sexuality.

But what is truly driving this? Could it be that big pharma which cashed in big time on Viagra sees another big marketing opportunity in my sexual desire and the model for that sexual desire is going to now be based on male sexuality as many female sex advocates are contending?  It's possible.

Or could it be that women are more self-aware than they have ever been and want to try on being more "spontaneous" in their sexual expression? Perhaps women are having their own desire to become more "untapped" and try on some different models of sexual desire and response.

You know, lots of men take erectile dysfunction drugs who don't need them. It's a big part of the market. It's called "Performance Enhancements" in the male world of sexual Olympics.

Is it possible that women will want to enhance their sexual response as well?  There are now sexual enhancement gels on the market to kick up orgasm for women such as Zestra and Sex Butter.

I bet we are going to be hearing more about this. Female sexual empowerment is emerging again into the cultural zeitgeist. I think it's because women have finally become comfortable with having their own money and their own independence.  We are just beginning to come to the place where we are ready to feed ourselves pleasure.

I love this new attention around female desire. I think it's important. The more we talk about female sexual desire, the more women will come to understand their own individual curve of desire. And if they want to shake up their desire and arousal curve with pole dancing, female sexual enhancement products, a new vibrator, sexy yoga, belly fit, burlesque classes, sex coaches and sexuality workshops - then why not? It's all about making women comfortable so they can reach for what they want.

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Pamela Madsen is a fertility/sex educator, blogger, author of Shameless and founder of The American Fertility Association.

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