Do you ever feel not so sexy? You know, like you'd rather watch TV or eat a sandwich than do the horizontal mambo? Does it seem that the whole world has a more exciting erotic life than you do?
We sure are pressured to perform when the standards are set by the endless blast of lasciviousness coming from mass culture. This could be seriously messing with our sexual self-concepts and sending everyone into angst overdrive.
So how do you know if your libido is in the normal range?
What the experts say
"I break sexual desire into: the drive, the rapport with your partner and your erotic mood and frame of mind. If you don't have much in the urge compartment, then you want to have a lot in the other two areas. If women or men don't feel a great deal of horniness or urge and that's what they're waiting for, they could be waiting for a while. Some people have a too limited view of what sex drive is; they think of it as solely biological. Depression, medication, general health and level of fitness can affect urges. Some clients wonder how they compare to a norm, but the norm has a broad range. The issue is more about how they are enjoying themselves."
BIANCA RUCKER, RN, PhD in counselling psychology, Vancouver
"Women who were given a placebo showed a significant increase in their sexual function across all domains: desire, feeling sexually aroused, ability to have an orgasm. It's hard to figure out exactly what happened. There was a lot of behaviour change going on. I encounter a lot of women who want to know what normal is. We're still driven by a culture that privileges men's pleasure and men's views. That's not to say that men can't have low sexual desire - a very taboo subject that few many men will admit to. There's a view that libido is just a biological drive, and if you don't have it there must be something wrong with you."
ANDREA BRADFORD, gynecologic oncology and reproductive medicine, U of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
"There are some general things people can do, like feeling rested, not being anxious about something else, and feeling relaxed and available. It's about being connected to a partner and not just coming from grocery shopping or doing the dishes and having to think about sex. It's about switching the mind. What do you need to do to put a boundary between the rest of life and your sexuality? Making it a duty is probably not going to improve desire, but I like the idea of being intentional and making it a priority.''
JOAN MARSMAN, registered sex therapist, Toronto
"We asked in the National Health and Social Life Survey in 92, ‘How often do you think about sexual things?' About 51 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women said at least once a day, so there's about a 2:1 ratio. You could explain this as a cultural bias that men are supposed to be sexually ready at all times, while women are raised to be more demure. On a national sample, we measured C-reactive protein, a stress response protein known to be associated with sexual interest. The higher your score on C-reactive protein, the lower your interest in sex. The average score for men is half as high as for women. There is evidence that men are more interested than women. One argument you might make is that women because of fertility have an adapted lower level of sexual interest. For men, it doesn't cost anything."
EDWARD LAUMANN, professor of sociology, University of Chicago
"We're now realizing that to be ‘sexually neutral' may be completely normal for a woman. I deal with women who wish they had more desire. I see so many women with chronic vaginal infections. Another big problem is vaginal pain with sex. The key is prevention. I'm using vaginal Valium now for people who have a condition where the muscles clench and the body doesn't relax. Women need to know that there are new treatments for these conditions. Also, oral contraceptives can decrease sex drive by increasing proteins that bind free testosterone. Fatigue is the big sex-drive killer."
CAROLYN NEMEC, director of women's health at MetroHealth, Cleveland, Ohio