3 min

Lust or rust

Reinvigorating a woman's sex drive

Dear Dr Ren:

I’m a 41-year-old dyke who read with interest your answer to Silver Daddy about boosting his libido with testosterone (Issue 325, Feb 2). I’ve been coveting T ever since. I could use a libido boost too, but I’m not transitioning and I’m reluctant to grow a goatee. Do you think I just need a pinch, like a Cialis weekend for the guys?

Pharmaceutically Hopeful

Dear Hopeful:

Before you get too envious of the boys’ Cialis weekends, remember that some men use erection-enhancing drugs because they need them. Women’s bodies, on the other hand, require no mechanical prerequisites to enjoy sex.

The sexual boost men experience with replacement testosterone (T) can work for a few of us women as well-the operative word being “few”.

Our bodies maintain a small but essential level of testosterone. Testosterone and its related androgens make estrogen, and we have storage facilities for it throughout our bodies. We produce T in our ovaries and indirectly through our adrenal glands. We even cleverly store T in our fat cells, especially after menopause.

But to benefit from the libido-boosting effect of T as men do, women must be T-deficient, which is rare.

With a lower than normal T level, we may experience lessened sexual desire and responsiveness, a loss of energy, and a lack of feelings of wellbeing. In other words, we’re not much interested in anything, including sex. But those symptoms can have many causes, and T deficiency is usually far down on the list of suspects.

T therapy is worth investigating for women who have had their ovaries surgically removed or who experience a precipitous drop in energy and libido that cannot be otherwise explained.

Check with your doctor.

For the few women who are T-deficient, there are tests to diagnose the condition, effective treatments to correct it, and fun activities to celebrate the cure. Sexual appetite and energy levels are restored. An added bonus is that, because we need so little T, we can more easily afford the more costly delivery systems that lower the risk of potential liver damage.

This news does not, however, address the problem of low libido for most of us. The solution to that problem is more complex.

Regardless of how we express our sexuality now, almost all of us were raised to be heterosexual women. We were trained to be receptive to sexual advances and encouraged to be attractive rather than assertive. For those who identified early as lesbian, rebuffing invitations from men came easily and earned us social points. Few escaped the ‘good girls don’t’ lesson. Though those messages may not have applied precisely to us, they were inescapable.

Layer atop these social mores women’s lower testosterone levels (T drives sex), and our greater investment in the intricacies of relationships, and we have a soup of complications about simply getting to bed. Once the new relationship energy that ignites the first 12 to 18 months has cooled, two trained non-initiators are at risk of waiting longingly for the other to ask her to dance. There may be nothing wrong in the desire department; the problem may lie in the awkwardness of getting the action started.

If this leads to a gradual estrangement from lovemaking, sex slips from its priority position. We are not having much sex, and we are not thinking of sex nearly so often either. Actually, it’s thinking about sex that is often the fix for flagging libidos. If you want to lift your libido, here are some tips (dilute or fortify depending on your sexual personality): read a bit of erotica or watch some porn today. Tomorrow, re-inventory your sex toys, or buy something new. The next day, sit in a café window and ogle the pretty girls for fantasy material. Wind all that into a masturbation session in which you plan your girlfriend’s next seduction. That should get you feeling sexual again and motivated about your next encounter.

All of this presumes a certain comfort with sexuality, which is not always the case. If you need to start smaller, do so. Examine sexuality’s place in your life and work toward expansion. Challenge the messages that told you sex was bad and you were bad for being sexy. Lust or rust.

When you have your own mojo humming again, start talking (yes, using words) with your girlfriend about your desire for sex with her. Ask her how she would like to be approached, and how often. Let her know your wishes too. Negotiate. Tell her specifically what you like about sex together. Make suggestions and ask questions.

Once sexual discussion becomes commonplace, it becomes easy to transition between words and deeds. Communication gets and stays clear and that awkward hesitation about initiation disappears. Lovemaking becomes part of the flow of the relationship again and both of you feel better connected and more energetic.

Libido doesn’t come knocking on our door. It is our personal responsibility to maintain and keep it healthy. Like being lifelong learners or keeping up our gym memberships, we must exercise our sexuality to keep it robust. A combination of mental, emotional and physical tending of our sexual gardens will keep our libidos blooming with no need for pharmaceutical fertilisers.