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Heather Corinna replies:
I'm an 18 year old girl with almost no sexual experience. This weekend I fooled around with my boyfriend for the first time ever and realized something--I was getting wet, but not horny. I also realized I hadn't been horny at all in the past few months. Is something wrong with me? How do I get my sex drive back?
It's emotional, it's intellectual, it's chemical and physiological, it's both personal and interpersonal, it's spiritual, it's metaphysical, it's historical, it's aspirational. Our sexuality and libido isn't something that exists somehow separate from all of the rest of our lives and who we are: there are connections to it in every aspect of ourselves and how we live our lives.
That given, there's rarely one simple, pat answer for a person who is finding they are not feeling sexual desire, or feeling it at levels they'd like to, especially without having a whole lot of background on that person. For instance, were we having a conversation about this, I'd ask you, in no particular order, things like:
• How is your general health right now? How is your sexual health?
• Are you at least moderately active? Do you also get enough rest?
• Do you have a lot of stress? How do you manage your stress?
• How do you feel, overall, about your sexuality? What ideas about sexuality did you grow up with?
• What has your sexual history been like in terms of masturbation? How often is sex for you with a partner and how often is it solo?
• What have your experiences with sex been like with your partner(s)? Have they been satisfying, and if so, how satisfying physically, emotionally, spiritually? If not, why do you feel they haven't been, or what areas of your sexuality do you feel haven't been satisfying? How well do you two communicate about sex?
• Do you feel confident and safe with sex, or do you feel unsafe, or maybe like you're a bit lost and need more information or background?
• How are you defining and experiencing sex? How often is sex for you intercourse, and how often is it any number of other things, such as oral sex, manual sex, massage, making out, et cetera? Is your definition in decent alignment with the way your partner defines and experiences sex?
• What's your body image and self-image like? What's your overall identity and self-esteem like? How is the rest of your life going, outside of sex and your sexual relationship?
• What times of your fertility cycle are you finding you have higher or lower desire?
• How is your relationship right now, in general and when it comes to all of the dynamics with sex?
• Do you feel like your current sexual relationship is in alignment with your sexual orientation, your gender identity and your overall sexual identity?
• Do you feel supported -- by your partner, by friends, family, community -- in being a sexual person, and as the unique sexual person you are?
• How is your partner handling your libido being lower (than you'd like, then his is, whatever the sitch is)? How do you feel about it emotionally yourself?
• What worries do you have about libido, sex or sexual partnership? What worries does your partner have? Have you two communicated those and talked them through?
• If the sex you are having carries pregnancy risks you don't want to take, are you using methods of birth control you feel comfortable with? How about safer sex: are you comfortable managing that and with how your partner is (or isn't) cooperating? If you are taking risks of pregnancy, to try and get pregnant or not, how do you feel about those risks?
• What does feeling horny mean to you and feel like for you? How do you identify those feelings?
• Is partnered sex -- of whatever kind -- something that you want right now, something you feel ready for, something that feels right?
• Are you taking any medications for anything which may have sexual side-effects, such as antidepressants or birth control pills?
• Do you feel like there is a "right" level of libido?
• What do you find really gives you pleasure in life, and how do or don't you incorporate those things into your sexuality and sex life?
I'd ask all of those questions because the information we'd need could be in any one of them, and is probably in more than just one of them. Like I said: it's complex stuff.
Before I say anything else, know this: there is nothing abnormal about libido being inconsistent, and sometimes being or feeling nonexistent. Our desire for sex does not tend to be something that is the same every day, or in every given sexual scenario. Some days it can be very high-key, other times very low-key, other times somewhere in the middle. That variance is normal, and is based on a huge array of aspects of our bodies, minds, hearts and lives.
As well, if you are just stepping into partnersex, or your sex life full-stop (including the one you have all by yourself), then you're just starting to cultivate an awareness of these things and start observing them. It sounds to me like you do have a sense of what it means for you, personally, to feel desire (to be "horny"), if you're noticing not feeling things despite wetness (which may or may not be about you being aroused: at certain times of our fertility cycles, women are more wet). But as time goes on, your sense of that is going to improve, have more information from time and experience to bring to your evaluations, so it might be a bit hasty to get too hung up on this right now. Too, if this is all new, you probably feel nervous or anxious about it, so we'd expect that to have an impact on your feelings of desire.
However, looking at questions like those I have asked is valuable regardless, because questions like that can give us a lot of information about our sexuality that can help us to have better sex, and a sex life in the best alignment with us as individuals. Some of those questions also may show you why your desire seems to feel lower than usual.
Maybe you've been stressed out, frustrated or worried about this, or nervous about your sexuality or starting a sex life: stress is a big culprit in libido changes or lulls. Maybe you need the sexual dynamics you have with your partner to be different, or to be having different kinds of sex. Maybe you need to be sure the sex life you have isn't just with your partner and make more time for masturbation. Maybe you need to explore what your own desires even are, work on body image or self-image, switch a medication out, eat more, get more rest, fix a problem spot in your relationship, get more exercise, step away from sex for a while so you can work on the rest of your life. There are a myriad of possibilities, and likely not one easy answer or one magic button.
And that's okay. Again, it is okay for us to have times when we don't feel a lot of desire: we don't have to have sex all the time, nor any more often than we feel the desire to. We also don't have to feel sexual all the time in order to be whole, healthy people: our sexuality is just one part, of many, of who we are. Through your life, like most people do, you'll likely find that your sexual desire waxes and wanes, and that there are times when your sex life is a bigger part of your life than it is at others.
For now, look at those questions, give them some thought, maybe talk with your partner about some of them. I'm also going to leave you some links to look at which might give you some more information to evaluate this with. But while you're doing all of that, see if you can't let go of a lot of worry about lower desire right now. I doubt there's anything wrong with you at all, nor anything you need to get your knickers in a twist about. Plus, relaxing about all of this very well may do the trick, all by itself.
Here are those links for you: