Libido: myths and paths of desire

Libido: myths and paths of desire

How to understand and accept variations in libido while questioning gendered ideas about desire?

“Women are still often placed in a situation that denies them an autonomous relationship to their body and their sexuality. Because they have been told repeatedly that their pleasures are fundamentally emotional or irrational, because Freud said there was only one good orgasm, passing through one good penis (...) it lasts until nowadays the idea that it is up to men to bring orgasm to women.”

Sarah Barmak in Jouir: in search of the female orgasm (2020) talks about the desire of women, pointing out that many of them still suffer from dissatisfaction and suffer from received ideas about the causes of the lack of desire. Yes, because libido clichés die hard, and sometimes keep sexualities in a choreographed and wobbly state. Around this subject revolves a multitude of questions. First: what can be due to a drop in desire? What should you pay attention to in order to observe variations in libido? What preconceived ideas associating libido and gender persist in 2021? How are these myths from the patriarchal culture a source of oppression and reinforce the culture of rape? And why is it essential to deconstruct these stereotypes in order to reinvent sexuality?

The libido: variations, pathologies and care

 By researching the notion of desire, we quickly realize that it is a very difficult term to define in the context of sexual well-being. ⁠Sexual desire refers to a strong and instinctive feeling of attraction towards one or more people, the satisfaction of which could lead to joy / enjoyment in the broad sense. ⁠ also call it libido, although the difference between the two is sometimes blurred. ⁠One thing is certain: there is no “normal” level of desire , nor any logic of intimate relationships attached to the phenomenon.

Desire takes multiple forms and proportions (light, burning, absent for asexual people). It is also subject to strong variations. The decrease in libido can indeed surface after a stress in the personal or professional trajectory of a person, after a period of illness (cancer, urinary tract infection) or hormonal fall (dysmenorrhea, menopause). It can also be linked to psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, alcoholism) and trauma, including sexual abuse. In short: all these factors that clearly do not make you enjoy.


Sometimes, we confuse the variations of libido with what can in fact be an anatomical pathology: for example a malformation, a vaginitis, a cyst or a vulvar or testicular problem. This type of disorder is still often ignored in medicine or misdiagnosed, creating a feeling of guilt in particular among women who suffer from it (that famous moment when you are told: “It's in your head”). Do not hesitate to consult a specialist if you have the slightest doubt.


Blue balls and other myths of patriarchal culture

 The received idea related to the most frequently encountered libido is that which associates it with gender: the male libido would be stronger and the female libido weaker. The social treatment of this myth (because to date, there is no scientific proof of this data) has serious consequences. Indeed, the high male libido is much more valued socially and identified as “natural needs” … This same image which serves as the basis for the justification of sexual drives.


Conversely, in the context of heterosexual cis relations, we can still hear a lot of nonsense. First, that the female libido is dormant; second, that women could not have intimate relations without love; and finally, that women who have several partners or who assume an active sexuality are easy girls. In the same way, the only data are questionnaires or surveys whose results are biased by concealment and non-expression of the desire of people who identify as women. Guilt-ridden for their desires , married women must however always remain sexually available to their partner.


Thus, two diktats confront each other in the field of libido: that of performance for men and that of sexual availability for women. So the question is: are men really craving sex or is it a social construct that says men have to have sex or they don't feel good? We can evoke in this context the legend of the blues balls which, although it corresponds to a real physiological phenomenon, serves as the basis for many sexual coercions. We also note that this subject is still reserved for men while people with vulva / vagina / clitoris can also feel this feeling of congestion.


Sexuality is not innate, it is learned and reinvented . Respecting, stimulating one's desire and exploring it is possible (but not mandatory) ⁠ at different levels: relaxation, oil massages, but also and above all communication with his/her partner(s). You can also keep a notebook to observe your variations in libido (low or absent, generalized or limited to certain situations, etc.), observe the impact of sport and masturbation on your desire. The important thing is to give it time by trying to abandon the mental shackles resulting from the patriarchal culture and to resist contradictory injunctions.

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