Low Libidos & Gender Essentialism

I’ve done a few workshops on mismatched libidos over the years, and what surprised me the most when I started out was how many men profess to having lower libidos, and how much shame men can feel when they don’t have the kind of libido that’s on all the time no matter the circumstances. That men always have those kinds of libidos is a myth which is sadly reinforced by how almost all coverage of low libido issues is about women, such as in this NYT article of a week ago.

It’s problematic because it confirms a lot of unfortunate cultural mythology. Along with the expectation that men always have the higher libido is the one that says women always have lower ones. (That one is true doesn’t mean the other is, by the way. More bullshit binary thinking at work there.) Aside from the obvious heterocentrism that’s usually at the heart of this kind of gender essentialism — as if, in lesbian relationships, libidos are matched because both people are women! – the added hurdle of feeling gender atypical when you’re already feeling sexually atypical makes working on this stuff, or even admitting it, doubly difficult.

So for the record: lots of people of all kinds of genders in all kinds of relationships have low libidos, & all kind of people of all kinds of genders in all kinds of relationships have high libidos. The problem, as many of you know firsthand, is when your libido doesn’t match your partner’s. The one thing that I repeat frequently when I do these workshops is that having a low libido that’s satisfied by having sex once a season is not a problem — if you’re partnered to someone whose libido is the same/similar. It’s when the quarterly libido partners with the twice a weekend libido that problems arise.

One Reply to “Low Libidos & Gender Essentialism”

  1. Agreed! I’m also always bothered by the idea that women generally having a lower libido than most men being seen as a “problem” for women or making women “disordered”. Why is it never seen as a men’s problem? We’re not seeing drugs marketed to lower men’s libidos. We’re not hearing talk about how men lowering their libidos or finding other outlets for that energy would make women’s sexual experiences better and women to feel less pressure to have sex to make the relationship work better. It’s male privilege and the male standard at work and it doesn’t help anyone.

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