Sex File: My sex drive seems to have disappeared

Q. I've lost my libido. I read somewhere that masturbating can help to build it up again. Is that true? Or will it just make me even less interested in sex with my husband?
Sex File: My sex drive seems to have disappeared
Couple having problems in bed
Couple having problems in bed

Q. I'VE lost my libido. I read somewhere that masturbating can help to build it up again. Is that true? Or will it just make me even less interested in sex with my husband?

A. There is plenty of research to confirm that women who masturbate have higher libidos, but correlation is not causation. Is it that women with higher sex drives do it? Or does doing it increase sexual desire? There is no consensus on that issue, but several studies do confirm that it helps women to become orgasmic, both alone and with a partner.

It makes sense, of course. When women become more familiar with their bodies and understand their responses, sex is more likely to improve. There's good reason sex therapists have been recommending it to women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder for decades.

There is a lot of evidence to show that it has a beneficial effect on sexual function. One 2015 study that was published in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy found that women who engaged in solo sex not only had significantly more orgasms and greater levels of sexual desire, but also higher self-esteem, and greater marital and sexual satisfaction. While women are about half as likely to masturbate as men, several studies have found that women with a higher education are more likely to than those without.

As long as you actually like your husband and still find him attractive, you don't need to worry about the possibility of your experiments diminishing your appetite for sex with him. A 2008 British study led by Makeda Gerressu at University College London found that women who masturbated had more sex and also had a broader sexual repertoire. If you don't like your husband, the issue becomes a bit more complicated because we also know that flying solo can be used as a substitute for having satisfying sex within a relationship.

So although the steps I hope you will take probably will help to kick-start your libido, it is certainly worth giving some thought as to why your sex drive disappeared in the first place.

Female libido is not linear. It fluctuates according to monthly cycles, pregnancy and menopause, not to mention global pandemics. Stress can have a deleterious effect on your mind, body and appetite for sex. It is fine for you to let things slide for a while if you are feeling stressed or exhausted; although if you are feeling particularly strung out, orgasm creates an endorphin rush that will help you to relax and get a better night's sleep.

However, we mustn't ignore the elephant in the room here. You make no mention of the quality of your relationship with your husband, when there is clearly a possibility that your marriage needs some attention. Libido does not exist in a vacuum.

If you and your husband are having problems, you need to start talking about how to reconnect.

In long-term relationships, sex has a tendency to become formulaic. If the issue is simply boredom, you need to think of ways to inject some excitement into your sex life.

More often than not, libido responds strongly to novelty - and although solo sex is usually a solitary experience, it doesn't have to be. Disclosure is a very powerful way to shake things up in a relationship so, for starters, tell your husband that you want to explore masturbation as a way of increasing your libido. Why not ask him to help? Sharing the experience with him may teach you both a few new tricks along the way.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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