Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
- Many sex drive myths are based on out-dated gender norms.
- Sex drive varies from person to person regardless of their gender.
- A person’s sex drive might change over the course of their life.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Sex drive (or libido) is the instinct, desire, or energy to engage in sexual behaviour. There’s no right or wrong frequency or amount of sex. Everyone has their own baseline of what “normal” libido is because it varies from one individual to another.
“Desire for sex is based on a variety of factors, including how we feel mentally and physically, the setting, the stimuli, the person(s) we are with. Sexual desire ebbs and flows in response to situations,” says Justin R. Garcia, MS, PhD, whose a sex researcher and executive director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
There are a number of myths surrounding sex drive like how oysters stimulate desire and all men have a high sex drive. It is important to debunk these misconceptions to prevent people from spreading inaccurate information and to prevent folks from putting unnecessary pressure on themselves or partners
Important: A lot of myths about sex drive stem from out-dated gender norms that aren’t true or inclusive. Gender doesn’t affect a person’s sex drive.
Here are some of the most commonly held myths about sex drive that we need to stop believing.
Myth 1: Women have a lower sex drive than men
Aside from the false, though common, assumption that there are only two genders or sexes, a 2014 study showed that sexual desire manifests similarly among men and women based on sexual arousal and motivation, as well as the frequency of sexual desire. It also concluded that gender norms and inaccurate methods used in research influence supposed gender differences.
Libido can be affected by pregnancy, breastfeeding, illness, menopause, or andropause because of hormonal changes, but it doesn’t mean that women inherently have a lower sex drive than men. “Any given woman may report a much higher or much lower baseline interest in sex than any given man,” says Garcia.
Myth 2: Oysters are an aphrodisiac
Foods like oysters, chocolates, strawberries, and honey are often thought of as aphrodisiacs, which increase sexual desire when consumed. However, this claim isn’t supported by science. There is limited research suggesting that any specific food can increase sex drive, but a well-balanced diet can improve overall heart health which often supports better sexual health, says Seth Cohen, MD, MPH, assistant professor of urology and director of the division of sexual medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Many may find chocolate– or any other sensually appetizing item– appealing because it is often a source of pleasure, supporting a person’s interest in further good feelings, including sexual enjoyment.
Myth 3: You can never increase your sex drive
Sex drive can increase or decrease depending on various circumstances, so it is possible to boost your libido when it is lower than what is normal for you. According to Cohen, an individual can do this by engaging in movement or exercise you enjoy, reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and having a diet that aligns with your health needs. Lack of quality sleep also affects sexual function, so get about seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and check out these tips for how to sleep better if you’re having trouble.
Myth 4: People with chronic illnesses or disabilities always have a low sex drive
It’s a common misconception that disabled people are less sexual than able-bodied people. “Some people experience their sexual pleasure differently than others, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily have more or less interest in sexual activity,” says Garcia. Chronic illnesses and disabilities may affect sexual function or arousal, but it’s wrong to think that they don’t enjoy or can’t have sex. Keep in mind that pleasure and intimacy don’t look the same for everybody and there’s more to sex than penetration.
Important: A person’s libido may fluctuate throughout a their life. Everyone goes through different phases or undergoes illness, emotional stress, etc, so its important to check in with your partner and always ask for consent before engaging in sexual activity even if they normally enjoy sex.
Myth 5: All men have a high sex drive
“All men do not have a high sex drive. I see plenty of men daily from the ages of 20 to 80 who have low sex drive for various reasons, whether depression, anxiety, stress, low self esteem and body image,weight gain, poor diet,multiple medical problems, and more,” says Cohen. Sexual desire varies, so the basis for a “high sex drive” is subjective. It’s also harmful to everyone involved to think men have a high sex drive, it puts unrealistic standards on men and harmful expectations for others.
Myth 6: Age is the only factor that can reduce sex drive
While it’s true that sex drive can change with age, there are plenty of psychological and physical factors that can affect it. Mental and emotional well-being, and habits such as smoking, drinking, and certain drugs, can all cause a low sex drive. Relationship factors and fears of consequences (such as an STI or pregnancy) can also greatly hinder a person’s sex drive.
Important: Medical diseases, fatigue, and hormonal changes influence libido as well. Some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and antiepileptic drugs are found to reduce sex drive and affect orgasmic response.
Myth 7: You need to have sex often to maintain a high sex drive
“Frequent sexual activity is not necessary in order to maintain a healthy and satisfying libido,” says Garcia. While it’s true that having sex can increase the desire for more sex, “most people can become aroused and experience sexual desire in the absence of recent sexual activity, even after long periods of abstinence,” says Garcia.
Myth 8: Pornography doesn’t affect sex drive
Porn, specifically ethically produced porn, in and of itself is not problematic, what can be problematic is how people engage with porn. However, pornography can decrease sex drive by conditioning an individual’s sexual arousal to elements of pornography that don’t reflect in reality,leading to unrealistic ideas of intimacy, relationships, and body image expectations. Sexual imagery can also increase libido by encouraging a person to have a deeper sexual relationship with themself and by priming their sexual excitement. However, many people who watch pornography, either alone or with a partner, continue to have sexual desire even without pornographic stimuli, says Garcia.
Myth 9: Having a low sex drive means you can’t enjoy sex
“Someone can have relatively low sexual interest, but then become aroused rather quickly,” says Garcia. People often have what is called responsive desire, which means that while they may not feel the urge to initiate sex, they do still enjoy it. Even though an individual wants to have sex less frequently than they usually do, they can still enjoy it as much as they did before. “Sex is satisfying in itself. A low sex drive just means you want less of it,” says Cohen.
Myth 10: It’s wrong or bad to have a low sex drive
Everyone’s sex drive is different and it normally fluctuates over time. However, if your low sex drive is distressing you or negatively affecting your relationship, you can seek a medical professional or sex therapist to discuss your sexual health and address possible causes.
Important: You can generally consult sex therapists for concerns about sexual function and obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) and urologists for treating reproductive health problems and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re not sure who to consult, you may get in touch with a primary care physician and they can refer you to a specialist.
“Low sex drive is not bad, but if it’s zero for long periods of time, then further medical workup is warranted,” says Cohen. It may be a sign of underlying health problems such as an arousal disorder, the inability to attain or maintain sexual interest.
It’s also possible that someone with low or no sexual desire is asexual.
Many of the myths around sex drive are generalizations about a particular group of people or misinformation about the factors that affect libido. According to Garcia, “scientifically accurate sex education is woefully lacking especially here in the United States,” which might explain why there are questions and misconceptions around sex, including sex drive.
It’s important to understand that the desire to engage in sexual behaviour largely varies between people, so you shouldn’t automatically assume that everyone has the same sex drive as you. Before engaging in sexual activity, have an honest discussion with your partner/s about individual desires to establish clear boundaries.
“In the world of sexuality, variation is the norm,” says Garcia. If you’re concerned about your sexual health, seek a medical professional for a consultation.
Related articles from Health Reference:
- How to practice tantric sex: a slow, meditative form of intimacy that can improve relationships, according to sex therapists
- 5 ways to have multiple orgasms for intense, longer-lasting sex
- How often couples should have sex, according to 3 sex therapists
- 4 ways to lower your sex drive and maintain a healthy relationship
- Sex addiction is a type of compulsive behaviour disorder that could be the sign of a more serious underlying health condition