Factors that may affect female sexual desire
Female sexual desire and response is a complex and diverse mixture of cultural, hormonal and emotional influences.
Emotional Mind / Culture
Chronic stress is a factor that affects female sexual desire, as our hormones become off balanced when they are focused on managing stressors. We can imagine it as information overload, as the brain can only handle a limited amount of stimulation at a time.
I feel that I cannot touch on sexual desire without spending some time discussing trauma. Suffering is held in the body in many unique forms of emotional and physical dis-ease.
Our culture has become flooded with various conditioned thoughts, insecurities and fears. Society plays a role in what is considered to be acceptable for female sexual desire. For example, religious beliefs, upbringing, and exposure to media (especially television) are all factors that reinforce negative self-talk and body self-criticism in our western culture.
Next time you are intimate with someone, pay close attention to the thoughts running through your mind. If you are not hearing reinforcements to have a great and loving experience, set it aside for later and focus on what currently feels yummy to your body.
It’s not the thoughts that are the problem, it’s our attachment to them which causes suffering. A thought is harmless unless you believe it - Byron Katie
The Physical world and our Bodies
Some may feel desire when:
- Their partner respects and accepts them for who they are
- They feel confident both emotionally and physically
- Someone is desiring or approaching them in a sensual way
- Explicit cues like erotica or porn is present
- Seeing/hearing others have sex
The list could go on, but my point is that our internal brain state can influence our sexual responsiveness.
Have you experienced painful sex? Perhaps there has been a change in your external experience or other inspirational systems. The most desirable sexual circumstances may not necessarily be the culturally accepted ones. Therefore it doesn’t matter what the context is, as long as it brings pleasure!
Medical conditions and medication
Medical conditions like (but not limited to) vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, etc, could also affect female sexual desire. Determining the cause of issues like these can be difficult however, so I suggest to talk with specialized care.
Likewise, some pharmaceutical medications can also affect female sexual desire and response.
How life transitions alter sexual desire
Phases of Menstruation
Desire patterns change throughout each phase of our menstrual cycles as a result of hormone fluctuations between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Sexual appetite accelerates as we lead up to ovulation (when we are most likely to conceive). The cervix rises as well, therefore sex might be more comfortable during this time. On the other hand, production of progesterone lowers the cervix back down. Having our cervix bumped at the wrong time can sometimes alter our state of arousal.
Another note on the cervix
Female arousal itself is interestingly related to a separate rise in the cervix. In other words, the body is communicating that she is ready for penetration. Once risen, stimulation and contact with something like a penis may bring forth all sorts of orgasmic experiences and feelings.
Vaginal lubrication is also either more or less prominent during the phases of our cycles, so having some water-based lube could be helpful. Keep in mind that sometimes arousal takes more or less time to become fully ready for penetration.
Reproductive hormones influence female desire and arousal in a way that is complex and subjective. Each person could feel more or less aroused at vastly different parts of their cycles.
It is observed that pregnancy brings on a change in female sexual desire; some feel more aroused, while some feel less. The cause could be hormonal, but there is also a natural increase in blood flow around not only our genitals, but our entire body. In 2015, a study took place showing that sexual activity significant decreased as women got closer to the third trimester, but it was mainly unsatisfying partner relationships which was the significant factor affecting the quality of desire and arousal.
There are many changes in sexual function associated with normal menopause. Some being:
- Increased/Decreased sexual desire
- Increased/Decreased clitoral stimulation
- Increased/Decreased sexual responsiveness
Changes in any way are very normal and are a reflection of a transition into a new bodily experience.
How we can support sexual desire throughout our lives
My biggest advice to people wanting to support female sexual desire is to firstly pay attention to their stressors and the impact this has on their body. When the brain perceives any type of threat in our environment or experience, there is a biological change that occurs: a release of adrenaline and cortisol, followed by physiological things like increased heart rate, suppressed digestive functioning, etc. The body is created to cope with stress, but only to a certain extent. Coping with stress is the body’s way of trying to prepare for some sort of action to occur. In order for our body to come back to a state of ease and balance, we need to complete the cycle - The Stress-Response-Cycle, as Emily Nagoski explains in her book ‘Come as you Are.’
It would be nice to solely tell you “to have better sex, just calm down!”
...Well no shit, right?
It is inevitable that we will experience stress throughout our lives, but we need to learn how to manage it. We need to release and express the emotions that are swirling within us:
- Shake out your arms, legs and hips
- Drink water
- Let out a primal scream!
- Forgive, thank and love yourself through your current situation
Find an instructor to guide you in tracking your cycle to find out what your sexual arousal and desire rhythms look like throughout each menstrual cycle.
Comment about your personal sexual response patterns down below!