Just because you have a responsive libido doesn’t mean you don’t have a libido!
I make this point repeatedly in our revamped Boost Your Libido course that launches next Monday, but I really want to drive this home today:
Just because you don’t have what we call a “spontaneous” libido does not mean you’re less sexual, that you can’t enjoy sex, or that you don’t want sex.
Emily Nagoski really made waves with her book Come As You Are when she popularized the notions of a “spontaneous” vs. “responsive” libido. I’ve talked about this a lot too, but basically a spontaneous libido is someone who feels the desire for sex before any kind of sexual activity starts, and a responsive libido person is someone who responds sexually when the sexual situation is started, or when her environment tells her, “it’s sexy sexy time now.”
More men have a spontaneous libido, and more women have a responsive libido, but, as with most things, this is on a bell curve, and women can have spontaneous libidos and men can have responsive libidos!
Right now we’re in our series on what’s killing women’s libido, and I want to talk today about how the way we see libido can actually kill libido.
Responsive libidos are libidos. Period.
There is nothing wrong with you if you are not a spontaneous libido person. It does not mean that you don’t want sex. It does not mean that you’re not a sexual person.
It just means that you need something to respond to, because sexual feelings don’t come spontaneously to you. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy sex!
One of the questions we asked in surveys leading up to the Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex was about arousal level when any kind of sexual activity started.
We found that there was no difference in the feelings post-sex between women who started sex already aroused (so more spontaneous people) and women who weren’t at all aroused, but were confident they were going to get there.
In other words, whether you were a spontaneous libido or a responsive libido, as long as you were confident you were going to have a fun time, then sex tended to end the same way–feeling blissful and connected to your husband.
This is so important to understand, because one of the biggest libido killers is women thinking, “I’m just not sexual,” or “there’s something wrong with me because I never want sex.”
We didn’t find that! As long as you are able to respond (and you have something to respond to!), things can go very, very well.
When we don’t understand this dynamic, we can cause shame and make her retreat from sex.
I once had a question from a woman that went something like this:
My husband gets upset with me because he says I’m not attracted to him. He says that other women are all over their husbands, and they see their husbands and they immediately get turned on. But I don’t work that way. So he tells me that I’m making him feel insecure and I’m making him feel like I don’t want him because I’m never just in the mood.
When we do have sex I really enjoy it, but I have to admit the feeling doesn’t come over me very often. But he insists that other women aren’t like that, and I”m a freak. He insists that all of his friends’ wives are all over them all the time. Is this true? Is there something wrong with me?
One thing I found funny about this question was, “how would he know what other women do?”
But it is true that in media, women’s libidos tend to be shown as the same as men. They’re panting first, they jump into bed, they want to get it on.
That’s great if you’re like that! And many of us are at the beginning of a relationship. But often that does change.
Again, though, this does not mean that you can’t respond sexually or that you’re not sexual.
The problem comes when we assume that spontaneous libidos are the only types of libidos.
If we assume that only people who are panting first want sex, then we can assume that we actually don’t want sex! We can say no. We can never initiate. We can feel schlumpy and distinctly unsexy.
That’s where reclaiming the power of a responsive libido comes in.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a power in a responsive libido. If you know that your body can respond, and if you know that you can enjoy sex, then even if your body doesn’t seem to be crying out for it, you can decide “this is going to fun tonight!” and jump in.
Now, if you’re not sure it will be fun tonight because you have a hard time with orgasm, then that’s the piece you have to solve first. We’ve got an Orgasm Course specifically for that!
The Orgasm Course is Here to Help You Experience Real Passion!
Figure out what's holding you back. Open the floodgates to orgasm.
But if you normally do enjoy sex, then it’s time to get your head in the game!
If you know you can respond; if you know your body can enjoy it; then much of that response and enjoyment comes from believing that it’s going to be fun for you! That’s what we found.
When you have confidence it’s going to be fun, it tends to be. (Again, it’s hard to have confidence if you don’t regularly reach orgasm, which is why that’s the piece to be solved first).
When you’re berating yourself for a libido that doesn’t work like your husband’s, though, then sex is unlikely to be very much fun.
Shame messages aren’t sexy.
But messages like, “You actually love this! This is something that is going to make you feel amazing and help you sleep. This is going to rock your world, and you deserve it!”–well, those can get things started.
What are the messages you’re telling yourself about sex?
Are you telling yourself that you’re not good enough, that you don’t work like other women, that you’re inadequate?
Or are you telling yourself, “Okay, this can be awesome! This is just what you need! Let’s go for it!”
It’s not about whether or not you’re turned on right at the outset. It’s about what you think can happen. And if we can reclaim the power of a responsive libido–well, then that distinction between responsive and spontaneous can actually start to disappear. Because we can start to say to ourselves, “this is something that I want, this is something that I deserve, this is something that is good for us…” and that can function just like a spontaneous libido!
In fact, when we measured the women who said their libido was equivalent to their husband’s, and we talked to them about it, that’s pretty much what they described. It was unclear who initiated. It was unclear when arousal started exactly. Because they just knew that sex was good, and so they saw it that way. And it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I wish we could all stop telling ourselves that we’re “less than” and start seeing our sexuality with confidence.
You don’t have anything to be ashamed of. I hope you can feel that to the very tips of your toes and the very hairs on your head. Even if sex has been difficult (it is for many!). Even if orgasm has been elusive (it is for the majority!). Even if libido has been hot and cold.
Your sexuality is a part of you, and it isn’t good or bad. it just tells you where you’re at. But the good thing is that as you accept that, then you can start to embrace it, rather than feel shame about it. And that can make sex a much more positive thing in your marriage!
We’re going to talk about this a ton in our Boost Your Libido course, and I’m so looking forward to the relaunch next week! I hope it really helps you.
What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!
What's Killing Women's Libido? Series
- 15 Things that Kill Libido for Women
- A Tale of Three Brains and Libido
- How Brakes and Accelerators Influence Libido
- What are Responsive vs. Spontaneous Libidos?
- PODCAST: Have we made sex a yes space for men?
- PODCAST: What's killing women's libido? (coming at the end of the month)
- Don't miss our sexual confidence series, too!
Plus don't miss our revamped Boost Your Libido course, launching soon!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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