Women, traditionally, are said to be the sex with the lesser interest in, well, sex. While men are off trying to spread their seed far and wide, women around the world participate in a collective sigh of, “not tonight, honey” as they roll over and turn off the bedside lamp. At least, that’s what media myths about female sexuality tell us (while simultaneously sexualizing us).
But studies have found that women actually can have strong sex drives (shocking, I know). This conflicting information tells us that women are expected to not want sex as much as their male counterparts but also that women are super sexual and can/should/need to be tapping into their sexual prowess more often.
So, what does it mean when you want to want sex but you just….don’t?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple explanation for low libido. Dry spells can be attributed to many different things, from lifestyle factors to hormonal fluctuations. But, still, a lack of interest in sex—if it bothers you—shouldn’t be shrugged off.
Low libido can cause problems in a relationship (specifically those where sex was, at one time, important), at work, and with your body image and self-confidence.
A decade ago, a woman would likely have either sucked it up and had sex even when she didn’t want to or been told by a doctor to lose weight or pop some prescription drugs to get her sex drive back.
Now, we need to look at the way our millennial lifestyle affects our sex drives and what we can do about it in a way that addresses the unique challenges we face.
How being a millennial contributes to a lower sex drive
Millennials are thought to be more entrepreneurial and driven than generations past—and a lot less sexually active, too. According to an article by Melissa Batchelor Warnke in the Los Angeles Times, millennial abstinence can be attributed to “a culture of overwork and an obsession with career status, a fear of becoming emotionally involved and losing control, an online-dating milieu that privileges physical appearance above all, anxieties surrounding consent, and an uptick in the use of libido-busting antidepressants.”
And, in my experience, she isn’t far off.
I work all day, running a freelance business (something many millennials do). I also met my boyfriend on Tinder and take antidepressants to manage the chemical imbalance in my brain. The millennial trifecta. Do all of these things affect my sex life? Absolutely. By the time I’m in bed with my boyfriend, sex is usually the furthest thing from my mind. I’m not alone in this.
A fellow millennial friend of mine is married with two kids. “Sex is just…not it for me right now, if that makes sense,” she tells me over sushi and sake. “I love my husband but I’m working and taking care of the girls. I don’t even miss it really. Mostly, I just feel guilty for not wanting it. I know my husband does.”
Careers, kids, and copious amounts of antidepressants (which doubled between 1999 and 2012) are all sex-drive killers, at least for millennials. That’s not even touching on the fact that millennials tend to be more cautious than any previous generation—physically, financially, and emotionally. In a world where dating apps make looks the primary basis for attraction, while at the same time creating a deep disconnect in communication, it makes sense that people aren’t as eager to jump into bed and risk being hurt. A one-night stand isn’t worth getting ghosted.
Add the massive amounts of student loan debt, bleak job prospects, and a general lack of financial security and it really can’t be that shocking that millennial women are either choosing not to have sex or just have no desire to do so. Here are some statistics to consider:
- 33. 8 percent of men and 44.4 percent of sexually active young women don’t enjoy sex because they experience pain and anxiety
- Millennials are more likely to have fewer sex partners than their parents but are also more accepting of premarital sex
- We’re more likely to use condoms than our parents were
These observations certainly shed light on why millennial women aren’t having as much casual sex. But what about those of us in committed relationships? Obviously, there are some emotional and mental barriers to a healthy sex drive that seem more prominent for millennials than for other generations. But there are also physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes that aren’t generation specific. From hormonal changes to relationship issues, not feeling the desire to have sex in a relationship can be blamed on any number of things. Some of these include:
- Inability to orgasm
- Pain during sex
- Medications, like antidepressants
- Fatigue, from a career, raising kids, or dealing with an illness
- Mental health problems
- Poor body image
- History of sexual abuse
- Lack of connection with your partner
Sexuality, skewed by the media
These causes for a decreased or absent sexual desire are common. But for the millennial woman, they represent a larger issue. They indicate lifestyle choices that bring us closer to career success and financial obligations and further away from the real connection and communication that we crave. To be clear, sex isn’t a prerequisite to fulfillment (just ask anyone that falls on the spectrum of asexuality). Many people live happy, full lives with minimal or no sexual relationships.
That being said, millennial women, myself included, are often confused by the lack of sex drive present in our lives. If I were comparing my sex life to those of the characters on Girls, Mistresses, Scandal, or any other TV drama with female leads, I’d feel inadequate and like something was wrong with me. If that is our standard for sexual normalcy (I know it is, my comparison above wasn’t hypothetical), our perspectives are going to be skewed.
TV shows and movies that depict sexually awakened and bold women are important. They are a new wave of entertainment that doesn’t pigeonhole women into the stereotype of decades past. But it’s important for us to realize that they are fictitious and not an accurate portrayal of the majority of real women’s sex lives. Every woman is allowed to have as much or as little sex as she wants, without commentary of any kind. It would be helpful if a more balanced view of sex, both casual and committed, were represented.
How to get your sexual mojo back (if you want to)
All of the above was intended to highlight facts, trends, and ideas that contribute to the average millennial women feeling like the sexual satisfaction promised to us by Carrie Bradshaw was a scam. Now more than ever, women are comfortable with their sexuality. That refers to both orientation and frequency of sexual activity. But, while our mothers certainly had dry spells and lacked sex drive from time to time, it’s different for us millennials.
We have a new set of challenges and, if you want to overcome your lack of sex drive, there are a few things you can do.
- Leave work out of the bedroom: You’re not going to feel sexy answering emails at 11 pm. By making your bedroom a work-free zone, you can designate it for sleeping and sex. This allows your mind to transition between work and play. When I stopped bringing my laptop to bed, I started having sex more.
- Don’t make texting your main method of communication: Texting can be useful for logistics and a quick hello, but if you’re using it as your main mode of connection, you’re missing the opportunity for real intimacy. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or playing the field, talking face to face adds a level of connection that can lead to more sexual desire. Seriously, an eggplant emoji isn’t going to turn you on as much as some IRL foreplay.
- Know what you want in bed: Consent is key to any healthy sexual relationship. You can become more comfortable with giving (or denying) consent by knowing what turns you on in bed. The more you know about your own sexual desires, the easier it will be to communicate them to a partner.
- Manage your stress levels: You can’t snap your fingers and erase your student debt or land a job that will eliminate all of your financial woes. I get that. But you can only do what you can do. Low libido often results from feeling too stressed out to get in the mood. And, as women, it’s normal to need to be mentally and emotionally turned on before becoming physically excited.
- Make wellness a priority: A decade or two ago, wellness may have been defined as the absence of disease. Now, it’s more about thriving. Low sex drive is a symptom of not being well—physically, mentally, or emotionally. Putting your own wellness as a priority by exercising in a way that feels good, eating to nourish yourself, and practicing self-care is a sure fire way to get your sex drive back.
I’m recommending these because I have personally tried them and found them helpful. Just know you’re not alone and there are plenty of things to try that can help improve your libido…if you want to.
If you have other sex-related questions, you can reach out to Blood + Milk’s resident sex expert, Kait Scalisi, at firstname.lastname@example.org.