Do you remember the first time you felt aroused? I do. I was very young, and while I didn't understand that these tingly, warm, and exciting sensations were related to sexual desire until much later, the biological reaction was always there—albeit tinted with innocence. Think pillow humping, mom's lingerie catalogs, or perhaps a soap opera smooch.
As a sexually active adult, I always thought my libido was unusually high. I would wait for the moment my boyfriend went to shower in the morning so I could quickly give myself one, two, maybe three orgasms. This was something I could do alone in three minutes instead of the three hours it might take with a partner. I would also do the same thing right after sex, not because I hadn't been adequately pleased, but because I just wanted more, more, more.
Even if I knew sex wasn't likely to result in climax for me (time/skill restraints and such), I still wanted it ... all the time. Then everything changed—my libido left me.
The complete loss of my sex drive happened suddenly, but it was the result of a multitude of factors that gradually accumulated over time. When I was around 24 years old, an abnormal pap smear required the removal of some risky cervical tissue through a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). This procedure prohibited me from having intercourse and caused me to bleed for a few months. As a result of this procedure, I was referred to my fourth gynecologist, who finally diagnosed me with endometriosis after years of symptoms and medical gaslighting.
Soon after, I developed a stubborn case of bacterial vaginosis (BV). The treatments provided by doctors failed, and it caused a real blow to my sexual confidence. It lingered for months and my main symptom was a fishy-smelling discharge, something I had never experienced before. My partner at the time wasn't bothered, but I was embarrassed. This was the first time I started to dread his advances. It wasn't because I didn't want to have sex, but because I didn't feel sexy.
Not long after I got rid of BV with alternative methods, I began suffering from chronic yeast infections, which dealt another blow to my once enthusiastic sex drive. This, coupled with my worsening endometriosis and fibroids, which caused me pain and bleeding during and after sex, as well as a hormonal imbalance that caused irregular bleeding throughout the month, slowly took away the spontaneity and intimacy with my partner.
I grew resentful of my own body, riddled with shame and frustration at all the ways in which she was letting me down, no matter how hard I tried to support her.
Despite everything, the fire within me still burned, albeit more privately. What I mean is, I masturbated, a lot, okay?
Fast forward to late 2021. It had already been a tough few years for all of us. I had just gone through a painful breakup that finally shattered the spirit of the adamant hopeless romantic within me. I tried dating again, with both men and women, but was met with disappointment after disappointment. The thing I was sure would never happen to me finally did: I became jaded. I swore off love, declaring, "Never again! I'm done. From now on, it's just my dogs and me!" To make things even more interesting, the world as we knew it felt (and still feels) like it was falling apart before my eyes. Cue the existential crisis.
Until next time,
Jasmine Poulton x
🩺 SCIENCE AND SPIRIT 👁️
🧑⚕️ from Looni’s medical adviser, Dr. Stephanie Colantonio
Humans are sexual beings, and exploring our bodies is a normal part of our development that begins at a young age. As a pediatrician, parents would often confide in me about their toddler's private exploration, and I reassured them that this behavior is perfectly normal.
Above all else, I hope to reassure you that regardless of where you are in your sexual journey, you are normal and valid.
However, sexuality is not a constant or uniform experience. Our sex drive (or libido) can fluctuate due to various factors such as our menstrual cycle, illnesses, infections, life events, and shifts in relationships. As Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., a sex educator and researcher explains in her book Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, we all have different sexual temperaments or personalities. Our brains have sexual "accelerators" that respond to sexual arousal and "brakes" that respond to potential threats. Each person's accelerators and brakes have different sensitivities, so someone with highly sensitive accelerators and less sensitive brakes will get turned on more easily.
The point is that we are all different, and no temperament is inherently good or bad. These traits are not innate but are learned through experience. By understanding our own accelerators and brakes, we can enhance our sexual experiences with our partners and ourselves.
Nagoski also emphasizes the significant impact of context on our brakes and accelerators. Factors such as setting, relationship characteristics, life circumstances, and play or fantasy all contribute to our perception of something as a turn-on or turn-off. This highlights the fluidity and complexity of sexuality, which is always changing.
The final bit I'll share from Come as You Are is what Nagoski calls the ultimate sex-positive context: confidence and joy.
"Confidence is knowing what is true about your body, mind, sexuality, and life…
Joy is loving what is true about your body, mind, sexuality, and life."
I just love this.
To know our truth, she discusses examining experience versus expectation. Your expectations of sex are like a map, based on media, society, family, culture, and more. However, your actual sexual experience is the terrain. Just because the map doesn't always match the terrain doesn't mean there's something wrong with the land! We can learn to create maps that better represent our experiences.
To love our truth, she refers to practicing nonjudgement. Letting go of how you think you "should" be and accepting where you currently are plays a significant role in experiencing joy during sex. As a mindfulness student and teacher, this idea resonates with me. However, it can be challenging to put into practice. It takes time and sometimes extra support.
There is SO much more we could discuss about libido and sexuality. This is a great starting point; more to come here …
If any of this intrigues you, I highly recommend giving yourself the gift of Emily Nagoski's book Come As You Are. I'll leave you with this last gem...
"Pleasure is a gateway to accessing your fullest, truest personhood. Pleasure is where you find a no-holds-barred connection with yourself and with those you love most. Why? Because pleasure only happens in a context where your brain feels safe enough to be completely entirely you, without shame or social performance or "shoulds." Ecstasy comes to us when we leave behind everything that doesn't delight us or sparker curiosity. Ecstasy comes when we surrender to pleasure without reservation. You're allowed to like pleasure. And the first step toward that is simply to notice it with non-judgment."