Desire/Arousal

 

A student from the University of Maine wants to know....
My girlfriend sometimes goes sometimes for weeks without being interested in sex. However, the instant she is again, she assumes that I'll be ready to respond to her every solicitation. Is it normal for women's desires to swing like this?

Male, Junior

Dr. Caron's Answer: Thank you for your question. There seems to be two parts to it - one related to her expectations of you when she is interested, and the other which has to do with changing desire. I would like to address the latter one first. Sexual desire varies considerably from person to person - and is not necessarily based on gender....for example, there are men who go for long periods of time without showing any interest and then all of a sudden seem to have a desire for sex. Variation in desire is normal. There are some people who just seem to have low desire all the time  - it has never been a big issue, while others seem to go through life with very high desire. In terms of the fluctuation in a person's desire, hormones can certainly play a role for some women - and perhaps this is the case for your partner. And as you have seen firsthand, sexual desire also varies from time to time for an individual. A person who used to be interested in sex on a daily basis may find that for whatever reason, they don't have time or it is not a priority at this point in their life and vice versa.  In your situation, you say she seems to have no desire for weeks and then is interested.  Hormones, her work schedule, and energy level could all be playing a role, or even how well things are going between you in your relationship. As your relationship continues, you may be able to discover what seems to trigger her desire or non-desire.... and be better prepared for what is in store.

The other part of your question has  to do with expectations.... in your case, you say she is not interested at all for weeks and then once she is interested, she expects an immediate response... which does seem unfair.  We are not robots, able to respond on command.  Unfortunately, some people do hold onto the misconception that all men are ready and interested in sex at the drop of a hat..... we hear about studies that say that men think about sex hundreds of times a day... so why shouldn't he be able to perform this instant?  As you describe your situation, it appears you have a wonderful opportunity for the two of you to have a heart-to-heart about what has been, until now, unspoken ground rules within your relationship. It is time to negotiate. Having the conversation outside the bedroom will be useful, and making it clear that you want to improve the relationship - not cause problems - will reassure her that this conversation is important.  Try to be honest. Let her know how you feel - which should include the part about her not desiring you for weeks (which may cause hurt feelings for you), as well as her expectation for an immediate response when she is interested. No one wants to feel pressured to do things they aren't ready for.  Use this as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Best wishes.



A student from the University of Maine wants to know....
I have been seeing 2 commercials for Vasoplex and Climatique on TV and I was wondering if you knew much about them and if they work. Both of these products are supposed to increase the sex drives of women. I was also wondering where you put the substance to increase the drive and what it actually does?

Female, Sophomore

Dr. Caron's Response: These products are basically lubricants with menthol - so when you apply them directly on the clitoris, they provide an interesting sensation. I have not heard a lot of positive comments on either of these products, or on others like them. You may want to check out their websites for details on the chemical make-up and read testimonials by users. In terms of increasing a woman's sex drive, it is interesting to note that one's interest is not usually heightened with something found in a tube..... but rather by looking within the context of her world and her relationship. In other words, if a woman finds herself with a low sex drive, it may be more useful to look at what is going on in her life - such as being tired, stressed out, or burned-out; or by looking at what is going on in her relationship - perhaps she is in a relationship that lacks connection, trust, honesty, and/or commitment. So before ordering a magic pill or lubricant, it may be important to look at these other issues. Many people find their sex drive or turn-on’s are based on caring, touch, warm shared feelings, and the interest in mutual respect.




A student from Boston University wants to know…

I am only 22 years old and I have no desire for sex. I went out with a great guy for 3 and a half years. He was my first and he tried everything he could to pleasure me. We experimented and nothing worked. I could never got off except for an outer orgasm after he rubbed the outside of my vagina. Other than that, sex didn't work and I hated to do it because it never pleasured it. What can I do? I think I may be one of those women who just cannot get off. I want that full body experience, but I can't and it drives me to hate sex. Again, what can I do? Is there a particular way I should try to have sex? Am I doomed to never have that ultimate sexual orgasm that I hear so much about? Thank you for your help!
Female, Graduate Student


Dr. Caron's response:
You say you do not reach orgasm from the act of intercourse but you can reach orgasm by stimulating the outside area around the clitoris. Despite what you have heard about some "ultimate sexual orgasm," you need to know that for most women, intercourse just doesn't do much. The equivalent for men would be to rub his thigh and ask, "Did you come?" For most women, clitoral stimulation is needed for orgasm to occur. When it comes to intercourse, the clitoris is located too far from the vaginal opening to receive adequate stimulation from thrusting alone (the clitoris is found in the folds of skin outside and above the vaginal opening). It is not surprising to hear you have not been able to reach orgasm this way. Many women are unable to reach orgasm solely through penetration of the vagina. Most couples find it helpful to incorporate techniques for making sure the clitoris is adequately stimulated either before, during or immediately after intercourse. I should also point out that some men (your partner included) may not realize that the clitoris is strategically located outside and above the vaginal opening. For many women, stimulation around this area is essential for reaching orgasm. Such stimulation does not require intercourse or a penis. It's going to be important for you educate your partner about this and then gently show him. He won't know unless someone tells him. Many men (and women) have been told that "real sex" means "penis-in-vagina" only; many of us recognize that sex involves much more than this. Best wishes.


A student from the University of Maine wants to know….
When our relationship started over 2 years ago, my partner and I had a great and active sex life---for the past 6 months or so, things have died down a lot. I've heard terms about "lesbian bed death" and such. Is there a lot of truth to this? Is there anything we can do to get our sexual desires back? We both take antidepressants, which is likely a contributing factor….Female, 24, Graduate Student

Dr. Caron's Answer: First of all, I need to say that this is one of the most common questions I receive from couples who have been together for several years. It may be reassuring to know you're not alone. There are lots of possible reasons for low desire. Please know that a person's sexual desire (or "sex drive" as it is commonly referred to) moves up and down throughout the course of his/her lifetime. There are many things that seem to impact on our sexual desire. Low sexual desire has been associated with such factors as depression, anger, stress, habituation to a sexual partner (the novelty and risk are gone), fear of loss of control, religious orthodoxy, sexual assault, medication side effects, conflict, and fear of closeness. You are right that anti-depressants can have an effect. Talk to your doctor about this and about possible changes in the type of medication. However, if you have both been taking them all along, this would suggest that it may be something else. The most common reason for low desire is ROUTINE! Anything that is routine, which happens over and over again in the same exact way, becomes boring or stale. Even sex. For too many couples, sex becomes a routine that happens at the end of the day, when you're both exhausted, just before falling asleep. If you believe your low desire is related to routine, then I would suggest talking with your partner about how you can "spice up" your relationship. It's important to make things different: changing your positions, places, and times; adding little surprises; doing the things that used to turn you on which have now fallen to the side. It's important to find ways to vary your experiences - this means communicating and negotiating with your partner. I should also point out that some therapists believe that relationship issues are the most important factors contributing to desire problems. Some people experiencing low sexual desire say they are very unhappy in the quality of their relationship with their partner, particularly in the expression of affection. This may be something to look at? It is true for you? If there are things that are upsetting you, it may be time to settle those having a conversation about what is happening in your relationship outside the bedroom will be important. Sometimes those issues get taken into the bedroom with us and it is hard to put them aside and just enjoy the pleasure. Finally, I just want to say that if you and your partner are comfortable with the relationship as it is and neither of you have a need to be sexual right now then fine. Trying to live up to someone else's expectations of what should be going on sexually in your relationship can actually cause more problems. You two need to figure out what works best for your relationship. Best wishes.


A female sophomore from MCC wants to know:
I have recently found a new boy friend after many years of waiting for one and constantly being under stress for my past two years at college for various reasons. I really love the guy that I am with and I want to share everything with him. However when I was spending the week with him for spring break I have found that my sexual desire was virtually non-existent. And this feeling has been there for awhile. And it is becoming a real problem because I want to be with him and be satisfied by him sexually. My non-existent sexual desire has made me not even want to masturbate to see what turns me on. the only time when I am in the mood is when i have to take the extra energy to get into it, which is very tiring within itself, and the other time is when i am extremely drunk. Please help me with this problem that is plaguing my sex life.


Dr. Caron's Answer:
What do you want to do? It sounds to me like you may have a fine platonic relationship -- One that you enjoy being with, but you do not share sexual experiences. How does the man feel about this? Is this something he is happy with? I believe men and women can share friendships that are not sexual; although, I think this is relatively rare. I suggest you sit down together and discuss the relationship openly and see if you are in agreement. He may not be the right person for you to have a sexual relationship with. I think the feeling of pressure you relay can certainly effect things. Can you talk to him about this? Maybe by sharing some of your feelings with him, you can begin to have an open, honest discussion about the relationship.


Question from a Student at UCSD:
I've always wanted to have a longer penis, my sexual partners hardly reach orgasm, is it the performance or the size of my penis? If the size don't matter, how can I improve it? If the size really matters, then what is your advice? (Male, Senior)

Dr. Caron's answer: Woody Allen once said that he was the only man he knew who suffered penis envy. I think he was wrong. It's fairly common for men to worry about their penis size. Some people have suggested that since the growth of the penis is one of the marks of puberty, somehow the association between penis size and manhood is made. Unfortunately, men's magazine's frequently advertise penis enlargers which exploit male anxieties (and don't work, by the way!). In it's unerect or unaroused state the penis is usually between 2-1/2 to 4 inches. In it's erect state the penis is usually 5 to 7 inches. Some are slightly smaller, some are slightly larger. It's important to know there is no relationship between the size of a man's penis and his ability to have sexual intercourse or to excite his partner. A larger penis will not make a woman have an orgasm any more that a smaller one will. The clitoris is located outside and above the entrance to the vagina. Perhaps talking with your partner about what would feel good or lead her to orgasm (in terms of touching or techniques) would be helpful.


Question from a student at the Michigan State University:
I feel that my boyfriend doesn't get into sex, or isn't turned on. What can I do to make it better? (Female, Sophomore)

Dr. Caron's Answer:
What do you want to do? It sounds to me like you may have a fine platonic relationship. One where you enjoy being with this person, but you do not share sexual experiences. How does your boyfriend feel about this? Is this something he is happy with? I suggest you sit down together and discuss the relationship openly and see if you are in agreement.

It might be important to examine if your perception of his lack of interest has been this way all along, or if this is something that you see as a more recent change? That may help guide the conversation you have with him. If he refuses to talk about it, you'll have to think about your own needs and options. For example, is it worth it to stay in a relationship that is not meeting your needs?

I am interested to know if you have been together for quite awhile and this is something that you have observed over time. If so, it is important to recognize that anything that is routine, which happens over and over again in the same exact way, becomes boring or stale. Even sex. If that is your situation, you may want to talk about how you might spice up the relationship: changing your positions, places, and times; adding little surprises; doing the things that used to turn you on which have now fallen to the side. It's important to find ways to vary your experiences - this means communicating and negotiating with your partner.

Finally, recognize that loving relationships thrive on mutual respect. I am not sure that you can make anybody feel turned on and interested because you're feeling turned on and interested. Generally, "turn-ons" for men include caring, touch, shared feelings, and the interest in mutual respect. Best wishes.


Questions from a student at University of Oklahoma: Can being in good physical condition increase your desire to have sex?
Male, First-Year

Answer: There are many positive benefits to being in good physical condition. Feeling fit helps us feel better about a lot of things. We often feel better about ourselves when we feel we look our best. Being in good shape often leads to positive feelings about life; our desire for many things increases.


Question from a student at Syracuse University:
What can I do when I want to make love, but my partner isn't "in the mood"? How can I get him in the mood?
Female, Senior

Answer: Loving relationships thrive on mutual respect. I am not sure that you can make anybody feel romantic and sexy just because that's the time you're feeling romantic and sexy. Generally, "turn-ons" for men include caring, touch, warm shared feelings, and the interest in mutual respect.

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