Sexual Desire and Pleasure

One of the difficulties of talking about sexuality is the need to clarify what meaning we attach to the words and terms we are using. Sexual desire is one such word.  While people may assume that we all know what we are talking about, it’s actually a complex concept that involves a person's biological drive to pursue sex, their worldview (personality), values and beliefs, and the motivation to act on their sexual urges.

The more positive a woman's expectations and beliefs about her sexuality, the more likely it is that she will want to behave sexually.  However, interpersonal and emotional factors have the overall greatest impact on a woman's sexual desire, but are the aspects that have often been ignored in many models of human sexual response.

What does this mean? A woman might have a strong sexual drive but situations may prevent her from acting on her sexual drive. For example, if she is angry with her partner or dealing with a stressful situation at her job. Situations like these can even make a woman’s sex drive disappear completely. On the other hand, if a woman is not experiencing a strong sex drive but feels close to and intimate with her partner, she may still experience enjoyment and pleasure out of a sexual encounter.

For the same reasons, when we talk about the sexual problems that women can experience, it is important to move away from the genital and mechanical models that are most often used to define women's sexual 'dysfunction.'

If you have less sexual desire and/or pleasure than you want, consider the following factors:

  • When did you first notice you had lower sexual desire than you wanted?  What was going on in your life?
  • Are you having any health problems?
  • What birth control pills, medications, vitamins, and/or herbal preparations do you take?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, coffee, and/or use other drugs?  If so, how many (much)?  How often?  When? 
  • Are you depressed?  Are you taking an antidepressant?
  • Are you concerned that you might become pregnant?  Are you trying to get pregnant?
  • Are you worried about getting a sexually transmitted infection?
  • Are you protecting your relationship in some way by not having sex?
  • Are you resentful or angry at your partner?
  • Is your partner a satisfying lover?  Is there something you would like your partner to know about his/her lovemaking?
  • Are you and your partner good at getting sex started together?  If not, what happens when you initiate sex?  When your partner starts things?  Why do you think you have trouble with this?
  • Do you have a history of sexual abuse or trauma that you believe is affecting you now?  In what ways?  Where can you get help to deal with this?
  • Do you have young children to care for?
  • What other pressures and demands do you have in your life outside of your relationship?
  • Do you take some time for yourself?

 

Adapted from:

Women's Sexualities by Carol R. Ellison, PhD. and

www.newviewcampaign.org/manifesto3.asp