By Stacey Nadelhoffer
If you are a woman in a relationship in which sexual desire is an issue, it’s easy to get the message from our culture that there must be something wrong. Everywhere we look in the media—on TV, in magazines, and on the internet—women are portrayed as needing to be sexually attractive and constantly desirous. It’s easy to get the message that if our sex life doesn’t match up with that, there must be something wrong with us.
Fortunately, through research, our understanding of sex drive in women has evolved. We’ve moved from the strict, physically focused “sexual excitation” model of Masters and Johnson that suggested that if we’re adequately stimulated, we’ll be aroused and interested. While this model was helpful, it didn’t address some other, vitally important factors in our understanding of sex drive. More recent research is revealing that sexual desire in women falls on a wide continuum of interest, all of which can be considered normal. And we now understand so much more about other motivators for sexual activity in women, such as emotional closeness, commitment, and bonding. Emotional intimacy in particular can be significant factor in sexual desire in women.
If you are a woman struggling with sexual desire, or a couple with dissatisfied with the frequency of sex, sex therapy can help you take a more compassionate view of yourself and your spouse and better understand the factors that may be impacting your relationship, such as the level of intimate connection, the degree of trust in a relationship, comfort with vulnerability, and power issues between partners. Sex therapy can help you understand your interest in sex in ways that our culture cannot.
In sex therapy, we might be looking at whether the couple is aware of what builds their sexual feelings. Are you able to communicate your interests or what you enjoy doing before or after sexual play? Are there distractions which make it difficult to focus on sex? Do either of you feel negatively about the sexual situation, perhaps feeling used rather than loved? Is your sexual repertoire limited, limiting sexual expression? Do you incorporate enough foreplay?
As one can see, there’s really so much more to sexual desire than thinking there’s something wrong with you or thinking you are stuck. Sex therapy can help you and your partner explore the factors that have impacted your sex life, connection to each other, and identity as a sexual being.