Despite all the advice in online sex columns or glossy magazines touting the "best sex positions to make you orgasm" or the "surprising kama sutra moves that will spice up your love life," your libido often has other things on its mind. If your sex drive has been a little lackluster lately, don't despair. More young American women are reporting they just don't feel like it either. According to a 2008 study of 31,000 U.S. females 18 and older (published in Obstetrics and Gynecology magazine), about 43% of women reported sexual problems and an overall lack of desire.
But celebrity gynecologist Sherry A. Ross, MD, who treats Reese Witherspoon as well as Gigi, Bella, and Yolanda Hadid and authored She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Health, Period, has a simple explanation as to why. "Intimacy, sex, and orgasm often all begin with desire," she told MyDomaine. "If you don't have any desire you will not be able to have an orgasm, plain and simple, mission will not be accomplished. Understanding the cause of the sexual dysfunction is the most important step in optimizing a treatment plan. Relationship counseling, stress reduction, sex therapy or a weekend away with your partner without the kids may be all that's needed to get you back on track." Intrigued? Ahead, Ross shares more reasons our libidos are lacking, and the simple habit that will get it back.
Get in Touch With Your Sexuality
Just as in life, having confidence in the bedroom involves understanding who you are and getting in touch with yourself. Ross says our sexuality is just as much a part of our lives as eating or sleeping. "Sexuality is an important aspect of our well-being, and in a healthy romantic relationship it's as important as love and affection," she explained. "Enjoyable sex is learned. Sure, there's instinct and maybe a dusting of magic involved, but you don't magically have an orgasm without having an active role in making it happen."
Talk About It
If you're in a relationship and you have no to little sexual desire, then Ross says it's time you had an honest discussion with your partner (and with yourself), acknowledge each other's likes and dislikes, and learn how to satisfy each other. "Open and honest conversations are necessary to make the sexual experience optimal for both of you, whether you have multiple partners or self-esteem to spare," she said. "For women, the sexual experience can be broken down into four parts: desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, and orgasm. I know you've heard it before, but it can't be overstated; your largest and most important sex organ is your mind. It's what makes all the parts come together in what can (and should) be a sublimely satisfying experience."
"Your largest and most important sex organ is your mind."
Check for Hypoactive Sexual Disorder
If your lack of libido moves from so-so to not at all, then it might be time to investigate it further and seek out a professional. Hypoactive sexual disorder, the most common female sexual dysfunction, is characterized by a complete absence of sexual desire. Since sexual desire in women is much more complicated than it is for men, Ross says that for the 40 million women who suffer from this disorder, the factors involved may vary. "Unlike men, women's sexual desire, excitement and energy tend to begin in that great organ above the shoulders, rather than the one below the waist," she notes. "The daily stresses of work, money, children, relationships and diminished energy are common issues contributing to low libido in women."
Other causes may be depression, anxiety, lack of privacy, medication side effects, medical conditions such as endometriosis or arthritis, menopausal symptoms such as a dry vagina, or a history of physical or sexual abuse. "It's not a myth after all that women are more complicated than men," she said.
Learn How to Have an Orgasm
If you're having sex and just expecting an orgasm to happen to you, think again. Ross says orgasms are learned, and you cannot expect anyone to show you how to have one until you know your own sexual body mechanics. "Learning how to have an orgasm is not a rite of passage," she said. "In fact, 10% to 20% of women (of all ages) have never had an orgasm. Women typically have sexual and emotional issues that get in the way of intimacy, which interrupt the four parts of a sexual experience for women."
For some women, explains Ross, finding and enjoying sexual intimacy and sex is difficult: "43% of women report some degree of difficulty and 12% attribute their sexual difficulties to personal distress," she said. "Women must first understand what brings them pleasure and in their pursuit of happiness, they have to understand where their clitoris is and how to stimulate it. This is why masturbation is so important." Which brings us to her next tip!
Masturbation Is the Key to a Better Sex Life
For many of us, just uttering the word masturbation feels naughty and taboo—much like the word vagina—but Ross says this is a big reason women aren't having the best sex of their lives. And frankly, we need to get over it. "Women must first realize that having an orgasm is a normal and healthy experience with proven health benefits," she said. "The more in touch you are with your body and sexual desires, the more comfortable and confident you will feel discussing them."
If you're not sure where to start, then Ross says it's time you learned. "Masturbation is a skill and it has to be learned, just like walking, running, singing and brushing your teeth," she said. "I encourage women to masturbate so they know how to pleasure themselves first and they can help their partner understand what brings them to orgasm. A recent study revealed that 89% of women masturbate and 95% of men. Masturbation tends to be the very first sexual experience to bring on an orgasm for both sexes. Unfortunately, masturbation is a topic that is strictly off-limits in some circles."
If you want to know more about your intimate health, shop Ross's book below: