Are libido differences really about libido–or are they often about orgasm?

We’ve been talking about libido all month, and how to navigate libido differences. And as I’ve been repeatedly saying, our survey of 20,000 women (and others) have shown that often when a woman stops wanting sex it’s because sex never did much for her in the first place.

Like Keith and I were talking about on our Start Your Engines podcast yesterday, why should women want something that does nothing for them?

There’s a (rather graphic) scene in the movie Spanglish (which is honestly a very insightful movie about marriage) where Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni (who are married) are having sex. The wife in this marriage is very self-centered, and the husband is trying to navigate the relationship and deal with this when he feels very lonely. And as they’re having sex, she reaches orgasm, and then stops sex. She’s done, and she’s satisfied, and she’s happy–and then she decides it’s over. And he’s left hanging.

It’s one of the only movies I’ve ever seen that portrayed it well, and I think every male watching that movie will understand what frustration that must be to the guy. How is it that sex is over just because she’s done? Why doesn’t she care about him?

And yet, what we found, is that in over 50% of marriages, this exactly thing is happening all the time–just in the opposite direction.

Married Christian women do orgasm about ten percentage points more than the general population of women, which is great. But we still reliably orgasm only 48% of the time, compared to 95% for men.

That’s a huge orgasm gap.

And so, should it be any wonder if many women stop wanting sex? If men lived that Adam Sandler-Tea Leoni scene several times a week for years, how would many men feel? And yet this is exactly what happens to women.

I know many women don’t fight for their own orgasms, but that’s also because we grew up hearing in books like Love & Respect that sex is a men’s need, not a woman’s need, and that it’s our duty to give him release. So we prioritize a man’s orgasm, and figure that we’re selfish if we want one.

In the long run, this will cause low libido women. 

Lack of women’s pleasure can eventually cause sexless marriages.

I’m not saying that’s the only reason for sexless marriages, and I wrote last week about 10 questions husbands could ask themselves if their wives didn’t want sex. I know there are more issues than just her pleasure. But we’ve found that this is the biggest reason that women lose libido, so I want to highlight a few comments that came in off of that post.

One man humbly wrote:

> > 2. Did you take time to ensure that your wife felt pleasure?

I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this before. I’ve tried to turn it around and focus on her as well, but in the past I haven’t been as good about this as I should have been

10 Questions to Ask if Your Wife Doesn't Want Sex

Responding to a comment I made saying, “And many, many, many women who report that their husbands won’t do foreplay, because intercourse should be enough,” Emmy wrote:

Indeed. I’m married to one such a guy. I’m really puzzled, where on earth does it come from. I know it is not out of malice. He really is convinced foreplay does not “belong”. It is not that he would not want me to have any pleasure. He rather takes for granted I automatically do.


10 Questions to Ask if Your Wife Doesn't Want Sex

Another woman told this story:

Immediately after my husband I were married I started having very frequent and painful UTI’s. After every sexual encounter no matter how many prevention techniques I used, I always had an infection and was constantly running to the doctor and on antibiotics. Nothing I did helped. After six months of this (even a trip to the ER it was so bad), I was ready to never have sex again. And instead of receiving compassion from my husband, he gave me advice that we need to have more sex. His logic was that my body needed to adjust to being a wife and the quicker that happened the better. And so the mindset was reinforced that sex is not for me. My pleasure has nothing to do with it. I do not matter in the marriage bed. This is an extremely hard mindset to break. After over a decade of marriage, I still feel that sex has very little to do with me – other than my body has to show up.

The UTI’s finally started to lesson in frequency after my infected gall bladder was removed. My immune system was on over load and couldn’t fight off infections in multiple spots of my body. That was year three of our marriage.

I have never recovered from this horrible start. My husband has never apologized and I can’t seem to move past it. I just feel stuck. Even after all these years, sex is a duty and I can count on two hands the orgasms I have had. How does a wife try to move forward with out her husband understanding the amount of trauma that he helped cause? As much as I try and talk with him, he just doesn’t seem to understand. I want an intimate and passionate sex life and I need compassion and selflessness from him in the bedroom. I hope all husbands understand that.

10 Questions to Ask if Your Wife Doesn't Want Sex

Or here’s a question that just came into the blog that’s quite typical:

I am in my 60’s been married to one man for 42 years and have never had an orgasm. Do you think it is too late for me?

THIS is what happens when we emphasize a man’s orgasm and ignore a woman’s pleasure.

How can a couple be regularly having sex for 42 years and have it be entirely about his pleasure, and never about hers?

This is far too common. We do this far too much, and we do it for good reason. Our Christian marriage resources tend to tell women that sex is a duty, and they don’t tell men that her pleasure is HIS responsibility. Rebecca, Joanna and I turned in our second-to-last edits on our book The Great Sex Rescue on Monday, where we looked at the best-selling Christian resources, and compared the messages in them to our survey responses from 20,000 women. It’s amazing how women’s sexual pleasure is ignored in almost all general marriage books, while women are constantly told not to deprive their husbands of sexual release.

I used to talk primarily about how low libido wives can boost their libidos (and I do think that’s vitally important, and I hope my course can help!). But it is only part of the puzzle–an important and crucial piece, but only one piece.  And in doing our survey, we found this huge group of women for whom sex had never felt good at all, or else rarely did.

And so perhaps libido isn’t always about libido.

Maybe we just need to give women something to look forward to.

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Again, I understand that there are often many more issues (hence why I asked 10 questions of higher libido men, and not just one about pleasure). And I understand that for many women, sex does feel good, but exhaustion and emotional labor get in the way of being able to want sex. I do get it.

But perhaps if we normalized the idea that women should feel pleasure, too, and that it shouldn’t be acceptable to go for 42 years without an orgasm, we’d see far healthier sex lives.

And if this is a problem for you, we’re working on our Orgasm course right now! 

It should be ready late October, and we’ll have a men’s add-on to it that will help talk men through how women orgasm, the importance of women’s orgasm, and what he can do to make it more likely. So it will be a course for both of you! Make sure you don’t miss it by signing up for the email list. Then you’ll be notified as soon as it launches (and you won’t miss the launch period special!)


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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