The Libido Lowdown on Women’s Desire

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Writer’s Note: Please note that the word “women” in this article is intended to be inclusive of anyone who identifies as a woman, including transgender, gender-fluid, and non-binary individuals.


I’m going to write a little story I’m uncomfortable telling. Because all good discussions begin with bravery and will. With this story, I realized how much I had a “problem” with publicly discussing sex and the desire that pairs with it. Spoiler alert: this article is about being horny. Horny!! There, I said it!

Anyway.

I got my first vibrator when I was twenty-four years old. It was a tiny, plastic vibrating turtle—a gag gift from a girlfriend’s holiday gift exchange. That year’s theme was blatant, bubbling “sex.” I bought my friend some titty tassels and lube that warmed up with friction. When I opened up my turtle, at first I thought it was a bath toy. I had never owned a vibrator. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever had an orgasm before and that unsureness was a deep reminder that I certainly hadn’t. Because when I did finally have one, boy was I sure. 

Anyway, I tried it a week later in my high school bedroom, where I was living at the time (ugh). The room was pink and blue. I locked my door and turned on Nicki Minaj’s album, Pink Friday. I got under my blush sheets. The tiny turtle, fully charged and the size of a lime, gave me a Valentine’s Day Fourth of July in the middle of winter.

Not many people know it almost took me three decades to have a plump, happy orgasm. I was deeply embarrassed by my hunger for it, equally hurt by my sexual ignorance and confused by the quiet joy of sensual impulse.

I’ve only told this story to my girlfriends at the holiday party. Not many people know it almost took me three decades to have a plump, happy orgasm. I was deeply embarrassed by my hunger for it, equally hurt by my sexual ignorance and confused by the quiet joy of sensual impulse.

I wanted to write this because my fear and silence show me how women’s attitudes toward sex and horniness can be altered by society’s stigma against women openly enjoying blissed-out, yelping, guttural sex fantasies. As women, how we discuss our sexual desires and pleasure makes people uncomfortable and, in turn, allows us to feel the grime of our inner shell. Throughout my life, I have craved pleasure. And yet, being straightforward about it hasn’t served me in any way. All throughout high school and college I stifled my personal desires for sex toys, porn, orgasms, and deep discussions around all of it. Anything a man had in craving sex, I didn’t believe I needed. Men owned their horniness in a messy, public way. Mine was safer tucked under blush bed sheets.

Slight pivot: I feel as if this all explains the reason Fifty Shades of Grey was such a breathless, private obsession (Writer’s Note: even if it was horrifically written).

Anyway, speeding ten years into my life later, a pandemic has hitched me into a downward spiral of feeling horny in small gifted moments, as I constantly claw my way out of the pockets of birth control and depression and isolation. This odd, straight-lined pulse of desire, the lack of what I’ve experienced all my life, has been frightening. Why? I have spent a majority of my life stifling my sexual pleasure. And now I’m spending my days looking for its throb.

This odd, straight-lined pulse of desire, the lack of what I’ve experienced all my life, has been frightening. Why? I have spent a majority of my life stifling my sexual pleasure. And now I’m spending my days looking for its throb.

Sex is sex and pandemics change us. But, no matter what sensuality and transformation means for each person, I want women to be able to talk about the lack of it, the brightness of it, orgasms, porn, desire, the complicated dryness of its absence, and everything in between. That’s why I’m writing about how I struggle with sharing my enthusiasm for horniness and all of the shifts our bodies take us through. If we’re able to write and speak candidly about what turns us on, what makes us clam up, every edge, we would be better for it. 

What does being horny mean to women? Why do men get all the credit for being open and dirty? Why does the stigma toward women make us unaltered, messy, disgusting animals if we openly talk about how much we enjoy sex? Why does the stigma equally make us feel like lifeless shadows without it?

On my Instagram, I asked my followers to give me the lowdown on their libido. How did they feel about being horny? Is there a stigma when women talk about sex? Over 300 women voted on each question and their answers told me something very interesting. First of all, we value sex. Eighty-two percent of the women answered “yes” when asked if sex was important to them. Sex is so important to me. In my relationship, in my conversations with friends, in my daily life. I don’t want to feel shameful admitting that, even though sometimes it feels like a dark secret.

As predicted, the pandemic’s fog has altered sex drive for some. Sixty percent answered they were less sexual since the pandemic began. To the forty percent that are hornier, my hat goes off to you. I am hereby green with envy. But, it proves that women can feel differently about what makes them sexual. My horniness is greatly affected by emotions. Sad, angry, and complicated feelings are not enticers for me. Not all women are the same. And I wish we’d stop packaging us all up in a pretty little bow that way. Why do we have to bundle us all up into this beautiful bouquet of roses? 

No matter what sensuality and transformation means for each person, I want women to be able to talk about the lack of it, the brightness of it, orgasms, porn, desire, the complicated dryness of its absence, and everything in between.

Which leads me eloquently into the next set of results. Sixty-two percent answered “no” when asked if they felt any guilt or shame associated with their sexual desires. And sixty-six percent didn’t feel uncomfortable candidly talking about sex. Maybe this is because we shouldn’t (need to) feel this way.

A few things are clear here. Women care deeply about their sexual desires and should be able to speak openly of them, because they want to. Additionally, desires rise and fall like a tide. Every woman is different. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t proud of how much we live and breathe our most urgent and erotic fantasies. We think about sex…a lot. Being horny is not a male-only sport. 

According to my worst internet enemy (WebMD), “Study after study shows that men’s sex drives are not only stronger than women’s, but much more straightforward. The sources of women’s libidos, by contrast, are much harder to pin down.” But, are they? Why can’t women be both straightforward and fluid? Why do we own this woozy, mysterious way of desire? Why do we have to complicate women’s sexual desires so much? Is that part of the problem?

I found a piece of the answer. In the Medium article, “The Enduring Myth of ‘Complicated’ Female Sexuality” about how male and female sexual desire actually differ less and less than originally thought, it reads, “In the past 20 years, experts have revisited these long-held beliefs about sexuality. In part because more women now work as researchers, scientists are more closely examining women’s biological, social, and psychological drives when it comes to sex—and finding that men and women differ less than previously thought. Researchers are even rethinking how sex studies are conducted in the first place and whether outdated methodologies and social norms have perpetuated the myth of the sexually complicated woman.”

Throughout history, male anatomy has always been the baseline of research. Women differ from that standard and haven’t had a full voice in the matter until recently (i.e., the 1990s and beyond). Which, to me, explains pretty much everything (i.e., the discomfort in hearing about women’s erotic thoughts and the general notion that lady-sex is mysterious and complicated). Here’s the thing (insert a metaphorical clap in between each of these words):

EVERYONE [CLAP] IS [CLAP] SEXUALLY [CLAP] COMPLICATED [CLAP]

Let’s say it again for the class: “Sexuality is inherently complex, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to say one gender is more complex than another,” (Medium). And that’s what makes sex and desire and horniness so beautiful. “Women are just as likely as men to be the higher-desire partner,” the article explains, “But the media doesn’t portray them that way. That can be impactful for the woman. It makes her feel like there’s something wrong with her.”

Women don’t need to own this mysterious, complicated idea of sex, even though society has been coddling it for so long. Desire is a multifaceted experience and it’s important to recognize that as a collective.

Women don’t need to own this mysterious, complicated idea of sex, even though society has been coddling it for so long. Desire is a multifaceted experience and it’s important to recognize that as a collective. Women are not outliers if they are open and candid about their sexuality. We should be able to experience pleasure alone, with others, or not at all. And that’s it.

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