Dr. Karen Gless, Ph.D.
It’s amazing how many couples have problems with women’s sexual arousal. The man may feel he can’t get his partner turned on or the woman may feel like her libido has rolled over and died. Lack of desire for sex has many causes. But you can’t find out the source of the problem if you can’t admit there is a problem and discuss it with your partner. Unfortunately, because most people are so embarrassed about sex, they can hardly talk about it.
You might get the impression from talk shows and women’s magazines that women are willing to talk about anything and everything about relationships. But when it comes to sex, that isn’t always true, especially where women’s sexual arousal is concerned. Some women think men ought to know how to please a woman and they shouldn’t have to say what they like or dislike.
Listening to One Another
The problem is that people have very different expectations and assumptions about what is right in a relationship. He may have heard that kissing with lots of tongue or playing with her nipples is the sure way to get her turned on. She may be too embarrassed to say she doesn’t like playing tonsil hockey, or that he is being too hard or too gentle with her nipples.
The solution to women’s sexual arousal is spending more time listening to each other’s feelings and less in doing what you think you should do. In dining and in sex, people have different tastes. It helps to talk about things your partner can do that increase your arousal. So how can a couple discuss individual likes or dislikes when it comes to sex without fearing disapproval or ridicule.
How to Talk about Sex
Nearly everyone is sensitive to being criticized, but this is especially true for men around sex and what it takes to produce women’s sexual arousal. Most men are sensitive about being told what to do in sex and, especially, being told what they do that is wrong. Their blood pressure goes up and they act as if they are being scolded.
Research tells us that couples respond better to a partner’s complaints if these complaints are not personal attacks. This is especially true when talking about women’s sexual arousal. Starting with criticism is called a harsh beginning. For example, saying, “When we have sex, you just don’t know what to do. What’s wrong with you?” is a harsh opening. Instead, saying, “I’d like to talk about our sex life. Maybe we could share some of those special things that turn us on. What do you think?” is a soft beginning and has a much better chance of leading to a positive discussion.
Finding the Causes
Once couples start talking about sex with at least a little comfort, they can start to learn what is causing their problems. Low desire has many causes. Depression is a common cause of both relationship problems and low desire. One symptom of depression is anhedonia, which means “lacking interest in pleasure and sex.” Depression seriously prevents women’s sexual arousal.
Painful intercourse and physical problems such as low thyroid or hormone imbalances can lead to low desire. And there is nothing like pain to stop women’s sexual arousal. Diabetes and other diseases can also lead to low desire. Unfortunately some people find it so embarrassing to talk about sex that they will live with the frustration instead of talking with their partner, their doctor or a counselor and getting real help.
Let’s face it, if you don’t have a medical problem, it’s time to pour a glass of wine and have a heart-to-heart talk about your sex life. And don’t talk about what is missing or what he should do. It works better when you and your man talk about what it takes to produce women’s sexual arousal in a kind of a general way–and, of course, you are going to include what it takes to get you aroused. That way, he doesn’t feel like you are criticizing him. And don’t forget, he gets to talk about what turns him on. Who knows, some of his ideas might turn you on too.
Most of the time couples can solve the problem of low desire with a combination of sensitivity, being open to change and having fun talking about what feels good and sexy. When you can’t do it on your own be sure and connect with a therapist who really understands women’s sexual arousal.