Well Being

Sex (Re)Ed: Just How Much Libido Is “Normal”, Anyway?

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How many times are we made to feel inadequate or like there is something wrong with us because we are not living up to Hollywood's set of ideals about how often we should be having sex? Women in the media are often portrayed as ravishing, insatiable sex-pots with libidos that blow the roof off any bedroom (female Viagra, anyone?) who seem to want sex all the time. But is that reality? Of course not. Still, that doesn't stop us from wondering exactly what is normal when it comes to our sex drive. So we took our questions to sex expert, Dr. Kathryn Hall who is a clinical psychologist and author of Reclaiming Your Sexual Self: How to Bring Desire Back Into Your Life.

It seems that everywhere we turn, there is more sexual advice about how to increase our libido. Doesn't that just create a lot of pressure and make us feel like something is wrong with us?

Yes – it seems as though we are being told that there is a “one size fits all” libido–and it's the libido of a 20-something with a great body and no children, chores or background trauma. And yes, I see a lot of women who are concerned that their sex drive is too low, when after talking with them for a few minutes it is apparent that they are tired, stressed, having relationship issues etc… In my book I make the point that for women, our sex drive is like a canary in a coal mine–it is often the first sign that something is out of balance in our lives, and it usually is not our hormones. When we address the real imbalance (too much work, not enough money, anger at partner, etc.) our sex drive usually rebounds.

Is it really necessary for women to increase their sex drive?

In some cases, yes. After having ovaries removed precipitating early menopause that our bodies haven't adjusted to, the side effects of many SSRI antidepressants or the results of a depression itself can cause a drop in sexual desire that needs to be addressed. If women are in a relationship with a partner who wants to have a sexual relationship, she needs to be attentive to this and her partner's need to feel loved and desirable.

How do you define a “normal” libido?
I don't talk about normal. If you are happy with your libido, that's great. If you want sex once a year and your partner is good with that too, there is no problem. If you want sex every day and that is not a problem for your relationship, there's no problem. But if you miss having sexual desire, sexual interest, daydreams and fantasies, and if you want to look forward to sex and not dread it, then there is a problem.

How much sex drive is normal as we age?
Women's sex drive is higher when we are younger and higher when we are in a new relationship. Our sexual desire is often tied to how we are feeling in general–our health, their body image and relationships. It is important to note that while feelings of lust (feeling “horny”) may not happen as frequently when we age, many women report that once sex starts, they have desire.

How does our libido change throughout the month and our menstrual cycle?
The research on this is mixed, because for some women they are very influenced by hormonal fluctuations and some aren't. Many women find a spike in desire after their period because they have been sexually abstinent during their menses. Some find a spike in desire at the time of ovulation; others don't.

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