Sex is supposed to be a great gift from God–and most of us would love to experience it as that great gift!

But often we never seem to want it. We want to want it–but our bodies don’t seem to cooperate. Our minds don’t seem to cooperate. We wish we could feel more passionate.

I’m in the middle of our “What’s Killing Women’s Libido?” series, and I want to talk today about two things which influence whether or not we feel the urge to have sex. 

First, though, if the problem isn’t lack of libido as much as it is that sex just never gets you to orgasm, and you don’t experience pleasure, the orgasm series is likely a better place to start! If sex isn’t doing much for you, it’s no wonder you don’t have much of a libido!

At the same time, our ability to respond sexually and reach orgasm is highly influenced by outside cues. When our brains say, “Oh, hey, this is sexy-sexy time!” then our bodies can respond and want to respond. But if our brains aren’t saying, “this is the sexy-sexy time!”, then it’s much harder to get in the mood. So we have cues that tell us this is sexy time, and that get us to start wanting sex. 

Emily Nagoski, in her book Come as You Are, talks about this phenomenon, and relates it to brakes and accelerators. 


When it comes to libido:

Brakes: Anything that says, “no, wait, this isn’t really sexy-sexy time right now.”

Accelerators: Anything that tells you, “Oh, wow, it’s sexy-sexy time!”

Here’s the problem: Many of us have super sensitive brakes or super sticky accelerators–or both. 

When you have super sensitive brakes for your libido

Many of us may think, “hey, it could be sexy-sexy time!’, but then it’s really, really easy to get us to stop thinking that way or feeling that way. So the feeling comes over us, but then it quickly gets extinguished, like someone threw a bucket of water on it. Think of that as super sensitive brakes.

You think, “you know, it might be really fun to have sex tonight!” You may even start to think happy thoughts about it. But then you realize how tired you are. Thoughts come into your head about everything you have to do tomorrow. Or maybe you mention to your husband that you might like to get it on, and something in his face looks like he’s thinking, “well, it’s about time,” and now you’re done. Nope. No way.

It’s not that you weren’t interested; it’s that suddenly you feel nothing remotely sexy anymore. In fact, if anything you feel a little ticked off. A little overwhelmed. Totally distracted. Or exhausted.

It seems that unless conditions are absolutely perfect, you can’t maintain that desire to have sex. Sure, the thought occurs to you and you may even get excited, but it’s just so easy to extinguish it. The wrong smell. The least bit of physical discomfort (shoot, I think I’m going to fart a bit!); the most subtle signal from your husband that he’s not thinking exactly the same thing you are.

Maybe when the kids are still up you’re actually hurrying to get them to bed because you’re excited about what you have in mind for tonight! But then as soon as they’re in bed you checked notifications from your phone and there was an annoying one from your sister and now you can’t stop thinking about it. Or you noticed that there’s a ton of laundry to be done.

You just can’t sustain it.

Your brakes are super sensitive.

When you have a really sticky accelerator for your libido

Then there’s the other side of it–where the accelerator just doesn’t work that well. You have to push down super hard to get the car to go at all, or to get the car to speed up.

You’d love to want sex more. Evening’s coming up, and you’re really hoping the feeling strikes. You try to get rid of distractions.

But no matter what, you just don’t feel it. Nothing feels “sexy” to you. It’s almost like you’re dead down there. You have to concentrate so hard to get aroused, and you never seem to think of sex spontaneously. Or when you do think of it, it’s like a duty or a chore rather than as something to look forward to.

Nothing in your surroundings or your emotions or your thoughts is really telling you, “this is my sexy sexy time!”

And, of course, sometimes both of these things can come into play!

When figuring out libido: What says “sexy sexy time” for you?

One of the ways to get over this brakes and accelerators problem is to figure out, “what cues do I need from my environment, and my emotions/experiences, to tell me: hey, this is sexy sexy time!”

What is that time for you?

Sometimes our accelerators aren’t working simply because we haven’t actually been pressing them at the right time. Figuring out what you actually associate with sexy sexy time can help a lot!

So here’s an exercise you can do:


Identifying your accelerators

Think back to two specific sexy escapades that you really enjoyed.

Now ask yourself: What led up to that escapade? Ask yourself questions like:

  • Were we away on a holiday or at home?
  • What was the day like with the kids?
  • Did we eat out or eat at home?
  • Was it spontaneous or was it planned?
  • What time of day was it?
  • What were we doing just before this? Watching a movie? Talking? Snuggling?
  • Where in the house were we?
  • What was I wearing? What was he wearing? What was on the bed? (or wherever we were)?
  • Where was I in my cycle?
  • What had I been thinking about that day?
  • Had we just watched a movie/TV show?
  • Did I exercise that day?
  • Had we had any good conversations that day? if so, what were they about?
  • When we started to have sex, how did we lead into it?
  • What was work like that day?

Compare your answers for the two escapades. Were there any similarities? Do you notice any themes?

This is a good habit to keep doing over the next few months, whenever you have a particularly good sexual experience. Get out a notebook and write down what led up to it. What were you feeling that day? What were your interactions like that day? How did sex actually start?

You may start to have an idea of what gets you turned on. Maybe it’s “he put the kids in bed that night so I had some time to myself.” Maybe it’s “we spent an hour just watching a show and I was lying in his lap.” Maybe it’s “I had an amazing day at work and I felt on top of my game.” Maybe it’s “we spent time talking about what we wanted to do on vacation, or with work schedules, or planning for the future.” Maybe it’s “I just came in from a 2 mile run and I felt amazing!”

You may start to see that certain things get you more in the mood. Certain things get you invigorated, excited, or something else.

What about identifying your brakes?

Our post on 15 things that kill a woman’s libido can likely help with that!

But you can also repeat the accelerator exercise, but do it in a different way. Think back to two unsuccessful sexual escapades–nights (or days!) that you were hoping were going to go in a different direction, and then it just didn’t work. And ask yourself those questions. Do you see any similarities? Are there things that kill the mood for you?

What do we do once we know our brakes and accelerators?

Do more of the accelerator things, and do less of the brake things! Try as much as you can to minimize the brake things in your life, and to maximize the accelerator things in your life.

Our Boost Your Libido course (which we’re revamping as we speak; the new edition launches later this month!) helps you do just that–minimize the things that dampen libido and maximize the things that tell you, “this is sexy sexy time.” 

And once we understand these things about ourselves, then it’s easier not just to blame ourselves for having no libido or for being so unsexual, but instead to understand, “oh, my body just doesn’t think this is a sexy time right now. So what can I do to change the narrative?”

It’s not about blame but empowerment! And after all, that’s what can really awaken libido.

The All New Guides to Great Sex!

Available now!

Imagine building a great sex life--from the ground up!

What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH--with no harmful messages?

Welcome to the The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex.

Get them NOW!

And let's make these the go-to wedding shower gifts!

Brakes and Accelerators for Libido

Do you have an accelerator issue or a brake issue–or both? Let’s talk in the comments!

What's Killing Women's Libido? Series

Plus don't miss our revamped Boost Your Libido course, launching soon!

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

Related Posts