Sex drive | Is it between your legs or between your ears?
Is sex drive between your legs or between your ears?
Sex drive is a force of nature when you are glossy, young and healthy. But what happens when your body is suffering? Is horniness just a response to physical stimuli or can your brain want sex despite the state of your body?
This Christmas, in between successive waves of social calls, I visited one of my oldest and dearest friends who had just had a baby. She was doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. More than that to be fair: she had had a shower. And had even been to the hairdresser’s, which, let me tell you, was much more than what I remember from myself when I had just had my firstborn.
G. and I often talk about sex, especially after a few drinks. This time around, though, there was only decaf coffee and discussion concentrated on the little bundle of joy, suckling at her non-stop throughout my visit. When I say non-stop, I mean non-stop. I didn’t get to see the baby’s face at all during the couple of hours I stayed. And then at some point, when we had covered the basics of childbirth, episiotomy, epidurals, choice of paediatrician and diapers, we got to the relevant part for this post.
‘Tomorrow I have an appointment at the gynaecologist. Finally!’
‘Do you have any stitches to remove?’ I asked, trying to decipher the ‘finally’ part of my friend’s statement.
‘Nope… But I do hope she will give us the green light to have sex again.’
‘Say what, G.?’
I almost coughed up half of a kourabie I had in my mouth. Wait a second. Did G. mean that apart from managing to dress up every day with a newborn in the house, she was actually aspiring to have sex too?
‘Yeah, we can’t hold ourselves anymore. I am telling you I can’t wait! It might hurt in the beginning, I am afraid it won’t be good physically, but I miss the intimacy too much.’
I admit it. I felt a new kind of respect -bordering on awe- for my friend. Proud as I was of her for not giving in to the usual postpartum sexual indifference, I couldn’t help reflecting on my own sex drive these last weeks.
When libido fails you
Here’s the thing: by Christmas, everything being relative, my sex drive had been abysmal for the best part of a month. My hormones had been acting up and everything in my body felt bloated and sore. A recent biking accident had left my lower back aching and me walking like a bad imitation of the hunchback of Notre Dame. The incessant Greek Christmas feasting had been the coup de grace to any sex drive there was left.
Xander had been understanding and all, but the fact is sex had been tougher than what we are normally used to. Not that we hadn’t had sex. We did. Just less often and in a less elaborate manner than usual.
‘Are you sure you are not stressing, Xander? We’ve been on vacation almost for a week now and we’ve had sex what, 2-3 times?’
‘Don’t worry, baby. I am good. I am half-sick myself. It’s just your body going through a rough patch. I know you are not growing cold towards me.’
‘As long as you are not freaking out, babe.’
It still got at me. My libido was suffering because of aching breasts and back stiffness and there was G. telling me that after having expelled a 4 kg lump out of her vagina four weeks ago (and having had virtually no sleep ever since) she couldn’t wait to have sex with her husband?
I wondered. What is it that makes you want to have sex when your body doesn’t feel horny? Isn’t sex first and foremost a physical need?
Don’t get me wrong; we‘ve been running a sex blog far too long to be under the illusion that sex is just a physical thing; just an itch in the genitals asking for a scratch. Obviously, when Xander and I fantasize in bed, we are augmenting pleasure through a purely intellectual exercise. Feeling horny might be a reaction to a physical stimulus, but then the brains take over and embellish the whole experience. I get this.
Sex can be about other things than just horniness: intimacy, love, infatuation, just feeling alive or even possessing or controlling someone. In these cases, the sex drive relies mostly on the brain and less on a physical need. Is it possible though, that your mind may want sex while your body doesn’t? It certainly looks like it. Your brain can be screaming out loud yes, yes, yes, bring it on, all while your body is waving a huge STOP sign to all directions.
Brain over body
What happens when you are sick and nauseous because of medication? How do you deal with sexuality when a disability means that to just move your body into any position you need help from your partner? How do you behave sexually when you are going through the nth round of IVF and you want to punch your partner when s/he as much as looks at your nipples, let alone proposes penetration? When sex is not the effortless pleasure that it’s meant to be, how do you keep desiring it?
There are no easy answers. But my Christmas experience opened my eyes and Xander and I decided to look deeper into these questions. We are planning some more interviews for the next months and we promise to come back to the subject.
One thing is sure: you have to follow your body. No choice there. Whether it’s telling you to slow down or insist despite the discomfort, the decision is yours. You can’t be anything else than who you are. And whatever you are going through, take the time to explain how you feel to your partner. Let him/ her be a part of it. Sex drive has its ups and downs. It’s alright. It’s like a living organism. It needs its space to breathe. At the same time, you not being comfortable with full penetration, for instance, does not have to mean that your sexual intimacy should be non-existent.
‘Aliki, I am exhausted, but I still want you, babe!’
‘I know what you mean, love, don’t worry. I will be right here tomorrow morning too.’
Your sex drive is part of who you are
Sometimes we don’t want sex physically, but we wish we wanted it and that’s enough. Sex is a primal need and sex drive goes beyond horniness, hormones, stiffness, aches or discomforts. It’s about feeling human, feeling alive. My experience hasn’t been a walk in the park, but it’s nothing compared to more severe problems, such as traumatic childbirth or long-term disability. To all of you out there who deal with issues like these on a long-term or permanent basis, there is only one thing to say. You have my deepest admiration. And, no matter what, keep the flame alive!
Photo credit: Pexels – Pixabay