I was brought up to believe that men want sex all the time. I mean, of course I was. In American culture, wanting sex is presented as a core element of masculinity. The feminine sex narrative is the opposite. Women are presented as having to be lured or seduced into sex.
I knew I wanted to have sex and thought about it a lot, but I figured whatever I wanted, a man would want more. So when I got married and my needs for sexual frequency surpassed my husband’s, I felt like something must be wrong with me that he didn’t desire me enough to jump my bones every single time I suggested it.
In the early years of our marriage, the only reason I could fathom that my husband wouldn’t want to have sex with me was that I must not be attractive enough. Every magazine I had binged by the pool with my girlfriends set up an equation that looked like: be attractive enough by doing x + attract a man = have sex with that man in order to get and keep a relationship. No one had ever prepared me for the reality that sometimes men just don’t want sex. Just as sometimes women just don’t want sex.
So many times I tearfully told my husband that I just couldn’t believe he was attracted to me. Had he married someone he just wasn’t that into? He told me over and over that wasn’t the case, he was attracted to me, and he did want me. He told me so many times, he got tired of saying it, yet I still couldn’t believe it. It contradicted what I thought I knew about sex. Men want more sex than women, all the time. This idea is an insidious form of sexism that hurts men and women. The truth is that sexual desire varies across all genders and can change based on circumstances.
It took me time and many tears to figure out the truth for my relationship. Now I can comfortably say that I’m hypersexual–not just for a woman, but in general. And my husband is not. I didn’t know that was possible when I was younger. My culture didn’t give me a narrative to process this kind of information. I figured how much I wanted sex must be average or on the low side of sex drives because that’s what I learned all women’s sex drives were like. With only that story to guide me how could I have known otherwise?
Even though I have a high sex drive, it isn’t consistent across time. My husband and I both struggle with mental health issues. In the midst of depressive episodes, each of us has experienced a plummet in libido. I gave birth last year and while I was more ready to jump back into sex postpartum than other new moms I knew, my sex drive really hasn’t been the same as before I had a kid.
I’ve learned to cope with the variance of sex drive in my marriage: sometimes he wants more, sometimes I do, often we’re balanced. On average, though, I do want more sex than my partner. When I am the higher drive partner, I’ve learned to take care of myself sexually. I’ve realized that my relationship to my own sexuality is an independent sexual relationship from the one I have with my husband. I’ve learned to embrace my own sexuality as a powerful core trait to build on, and I’ve explored where that energy leads me.
I’ve learned to communicate what I need more clearly. It turns out that when I tell my husband exactly what I need, whether that’s foreplay, sex, or erotic touch, he’s much more willing to try things to make me happy. And finding creative ways to bridge that divide has made me a more embodied and empathetic sexual being.
Do you and your partner have equal sex drives? If they vary, how do you deal with it? Have you explored solutions to satisfying your sexual needs? What are they?