The word libido comes from the Latin word for lust and typically refers to a person’s desire for sex. Also referred to as “sex drive,” libido is a psychoanalytic word defined as “all of the instinctual energies and desires that are derived from the id” (Dictionary.com).
Differences between male and female libido
The male libido is not quite the same as the female libido. For example, experts say a female’s sex drive is fluid, while a male’s is generally higher (keep in mind that is not true for everyone). Here are a few key differences:
- The male sex drive is stronger and more straightforward
- The source of a woman’s sex drive is more complicated and harder to pin down
- Females put a higher value on emotional aspects of sex
- Females seem to be heavily influenced by cultural and social factors
- Men think about sex more often
- Men are more likely to want sex more often and from multiple partners (perhaps this is why the majority of prostitution is a man seeking sex with a woman)
- Men are more likely to masturbate
- It is typically far easier for a male to orgasm
- Females are more likely to have a sexual problem
According to Sociology Professor Edward O. Laumann, PhD: “Sexual desire in women is extremely sensitive to environment and context.” Furthermore, many couldn’t even tell you what turns them on. Men, on the other hand, can tell you exactly what turns them on.
“Men are very rigid and specific about who they become aroused by, who they want to have sex with, who they fall in love with.” – Sex researcher J. Michael Bailey
What causes decreased libido in women?
Apart from a natural reduction in sex drive due to age, there are many factors that can lower a woman’s desire for sex. Relationship issues, hormonal imbalances, and stress from work are common causes for a decreased libido. Other causes include:
- Sexual disorders such as HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder)
- Interpersonal relationship problems including the birth of a child, partner performance troubles, and responsibility to family members (such as caring for a grandparent)
- Sociocultural influences such as peer pressure and the media’s image of “sexy”
- Medical problems including obesity, endometriosis, thyroid disorders, and fibroids
- Medications such as antidepressants, birth control, and drugs to lower blood pressure
- Psychological problems like depression
- Surgeries such as the removal of ovaries
- Lack of sleep, bad diet, and lack of exercise
Low libido in young women
Most of the advice in this article is not for young women. Typically, younger ones do not have issues with low libido. However, the number of female aged 30 and younger who are frustrated with a lack of sexual desire is increasing.
“I think a lot of women are distressed out there and feel bad and think something is wrong with them,” says women’s health specialist Dr. Carolyn Nemec. “The younger patients hear so much about menopause and a lot of these women – aged 18 to 30 – don’t feel they have a voice. We need to focus on them.”
The most common culprits of low sex drive in young female are: birth control pills, relationship problems, and antidepressants. In addition, nearly 10% of females between the ages of 18 and 44 suffer from HSDD. That percentage jumps to nearly 15% in women ages 45-64.
How to increase female libido naturally
My first word of advice: don’t be shy. Talk with your partner; talk with your doctor. The solution to your problem might be easy; but then again, it might not be.
In some situations, supplements can help. “Before trying an herb or a supplement, think about what you can add or subtract from your life: exercise, weight loss, treating a condition, or changing a medication. These can all help,” advises Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD.
Here are a few supplements to consider:
- Iron (an iron deficiency can dim libido)
- Tribulus terrestris
- Maca/Peruvian ginseng
- Panax ginseng/Asian ginseng
- Ashwaganda root
- Muira puama
- Dark chocolate (try eating a small piece while thinking sexual thougts)
- Avena sativa
- Suma root
- Tongkat ali
If you suffer from stress, shift the focus from intercourse to foreplay and pleasurable bedroom activities like massage and oral sex.
Products that can increase the female libido
Research shows that females are less responsive to drugs than males when it comes to raising the libido. This is most likely due to the fact that sex is more emotional and psychological than physical for many women. Consider that virtually all sexual enhancement products for men focus on the physical attributes of stamina and erection. For women, it’s not so simple.
More than 40% will experience some sort of sexual problem during their lifetimes. Many times the “problem” is low libido. But the problem only needs to be treated if it becomes distressing to the woman or if it affects her relationships.
Many products, drugs, and supplements that claim to boost a woman’s libido work simply due to the placebo effect. Since females seem to focus on expectations, they are more likely than men to experience a placebo effect when taking a sexual enhancement product.
“It’s really important for women to realize that any of the over-the-counter products they may use have not been tested for efficacy and safety,” says Jan Shifren, MD, of Harvard Medical School. In most cases in which the product works, it’s a placebo effect. And that’s okay as long as the product is safe.
Considering all the aspects that make up a woman’s sex drive, many doctors agree that a drug should be the last thing she considers. That being said, an effective libido booster for female needs to:
- Either protect present hormones or provide additional hormones
- Increase blood flow to genitals
- Provide lubrication
- Enhance pleasure
- Contain powerful herbs such as those listed above
Sex therapy and relationship counseling are often very effective in solving sexual troubles in women. Changing medication (for example, type of contraceptive) is sometimes an easy fix. Estrogen cream can be used to treat vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women.
Testosterone is linked to male and female libido. There was once a testosterone patch developed for females, but the FDA rejected it after concerns that long-term use would cause negative effects. Beware of doctors who recommend testosterone treatment for women.
Read a romance novel! It might sound silly, but for many, reading a sexual fantasy has the same effect that watching porn has on men. Try it out and see what you think!
Click here to learn more about Flibanserin, the chemical in Addyi that is said to increase sexual desire and pleasure in women.
There were nearly 5,000 studies published between 1990 and 1999 regarding male sexual function. There were only 2,000 published on the topic of female sexual function. According to experts, however, research into female sexual function is finally catching up.
“This is one of the first times we’ve seen really high quality studies for sexual dysfunction in women,” says Shifren. “I think it’s very exciting, not only that we’re hoping to have more products available for women, but that the studies are going on and they are well-designed studies.”