Mismatched Libidos, Redux

There’s been a lot of this going around, so maybe, in fits & starts, people are getting more used to the idea of even talking about mismatched libidos. I do workshops on the topic at Dark Odyssey and other sex-positive places, and I’ve always found Dan Savage’s “leave” a little harsh. That said, one of the things I always mentioned in my workshops is that if sex is the top of your priority list, & you want a lot of it, or certain kinds of it, don’t bother torturing anyone who has a lower libido/less adventurous style. That is, if there’s anywhere that compromise is going to be key, sex is is it, & if you’re not wiling to compromise, and even occasionally stand on top of your libido, then Savage’s advice is exactly right.

But most of us can compromise pretty significantly with sex if we’re having a lot of other itches scratched. Where the line is between self-denial and reasonable compromise is tricky no matter the issue, and while I know they might take away my High Libido Club card for this, sometimes there are things that are more important than sex. (& Sometimes, there aren’t, which is often the part the low libido types don’t understand.)

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.