Sex With Susannah: I Have Zero Libido!

I am a 25-year-old in my first long-term relationship. We have been dating for nine months, and it is going swimmingly. He is smart, kind, and generous. Here’s the problem: I have zero libido. I mean zero. I don’t want sex, I get no pleasure out of having sex (nor out of masturbation), and I certainly can’t orgasm. However, I WANT to want sex and enjoy it (duh!). This is causing relationship problems — he is frustrated that he can’t get me off, and I am frustrated that I can’t get off (not to mention worried about what the hell is wrong with me). I have never had sexual responses with anyone, including myself, so this definitely isn’t his fault, although he feels like it is. The doctor tells me it’s in my head. The sex therapist tells me that if I haven’t been abused, my problem must not be real (thank god I have not, although I maintain that my problem is real). There are no other sex therapists in my town, and most books seem directed at post-menopausal libido loss. What can I do?! I am frustrated and stressed about this (which I’m sure doesn’t help), but I need help. – Love’s Libido Lost

Dear LLL:

What to do, indeed! It sounds like you’ve got the first part of the relationship equation down — you landed a great guy — but now your sex life is the issue. It’s great that you’re in hot pursuit of finding an answer; that’s half the battle. So, is the problem psychological or physiological? As it turns out, it may be both. For the expert opinion, I turned to Ian Kerner, a nationally renowned sex and relationships counselor and best-selling author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.

According to Kerner, orgasming and emotional connection are inextricably intertwined for women. Men have sperm to burn, while women have a finite supply of eggs. Therefore, women are programmed to be hyper-selective when it comes to picking a suitable mate. Is it possible that you’re “holding back” physically because you’re “holding back” psychologically? If that’s what’s going on subconsciously, you may find some, er, relief by seeing a licensed psychologist who gets you, versus a dismissive doctor or specialized sex therapist, to get at the deeper issues that may be blocking your path to a good time in the bedroom.

“Also,” Kerner notes, “she says she’s nervous and anxious.” At this point, your sexual dysfunction may be a self-perpetuating problem. “New research is showing that the female brain differs from the male brain in that parts of the female brain associated with perceiving anxiety and stress need to deactivate in order for a woman to experience orgasm,” Kerner reports. Therefore, a woman’s brain has to “turn off” before she can “turn on.” To circumvent this stress cycle, Kerner suggests exploring sexual fantasy. “Fantasy helps [you] to relax and disconnect, and that’s one of the reasons women fantasize during sex more than men.” Always wanted to be a naughty school girl to his teacher? Ever thought of playing the patient to his doctor? “With fantasy, the brain is the biggest sex organ, so a little goes a long way,” Kerner advises. “Just dimming the lights, having a glass of wine, and sharing a sexy fantasy during an extended process of foreplay will help with mental deactivation.” A trip to the costume store for outfits and props never hurt either.

What should you not do? Give up! Masturbation may be the key to unlocking this mystery. “I always joke that men are ill-cliterate, but sometimes women need to develop more clitoral familiarity, as well,” Kerner notes. “Does she know how to pick the right vibrator and apply consistent stimulation?” For solo-sex tips, Kerner suggest the sexually sympathetic salespeople at “You can talk about your issues with masturbation, what you’re doing, not doing, and they can help you pick out the ideal vibrator.” If you can learn to get off on your own, it won’t be long before you’re getting off with him.

Good luck, LLL!

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