Zoom's Lead Gynecologist Cynthia McNally, MD, is seeing more women in their 20s and 30s worried about low sex drive. Maybe a little too worried. Turns out, there's a lot of confusion about what constitutes "normal" female libido.Here are a few fascinating truths about female arousal that will put things in perspective — and help you decide if you need to see a doc.
Countless studies have revealed differences between male and female sex drive, but here's one that's especially eye-opening: In a research lab at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, individual men and women were asked to watch pornographic videos. Scenes included sex between men and women, men and men, women and women, as well as masturbation, naked calisthenics, and copulating bonobo chimpanzees.As subjects watched, they were asked to press a button to indicate when they felt turned on. At the same time, arousal was objectively measured in terms of genital blood flow.Overall, men's perceived arousal matched up with what was happening in their lap. But that wasn't the case for women: Female subjects often showed physical signs of arousal, yet didn't feel turned on. "For women, there's a larger psychological component," says Dr. McNally. "If we're not mentally focused or comfortable in a sexual situation, there's very little potential for pleasure." Concerns about pregnancy, STIs, relationship problems, or just a long to-do list can derail desire. And Dr. McNally wants everyone to know that's normal. "It's not a sign of a sexual disorder," she says. "It's just the way we're wired."
Another fascinating and confusing reality is that a woman's libido is constantly changing. Some women find themselves losing interest in sex as they get older, while others report feeling more sexual in their 30s than they did in their 20s. In a committed relationship? Your desire could dwindle over time — or not. And don't even get us started on the impact of hormonal changes related to your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or certain medications.Add in constant exposure to hyper-sexualized female icons, and it's no wonder so many women are worried that they should want sex more. Estimates on the prevalence of arousal disorder/hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) among U.S. women are as high as 46%. That’s almost 1 in 2 women who are dissatisfied with their interest in sex.The truth is that there's no such thing as a "normal" sex drive. If you're unhappy with yours, talk to your gynecologist about what's going on. "Getting to the root of the issue usually takes some trial and error," says Dr. McNally. "A doctor can guide you through that process and either alleviate or address your concerns."Ready to talk to a doctor about sex drive? Schedule a visit for gynecology.