This week's newsletter comes from Looni team member Jasmine Poulton and is continued from Part One.
. . . The thing I was sure would never happen to me finally did: I became jaded. I swore off love. "Never again! I'm done. From now on, it's just my dogs and me!" To make this all the more fun, the world as we knew it felt (still does) like it was falling apart before my eyes. Cue existential crisis . . .
Losing my belief in true love, experiencing climate anxiety, and growing doubts about the future of humanity caused me to spiral into a deep depression. The crux of my depression was surrendering the one thing I had always wanted: a family. I felt that if I lacked the desire or strength for another relationship, and if the planet continued on its trajectory of instability, I would no longer have the option of becoming a mother. This realization left me stranded not only in a sense of isolated hopelessness, but also suddenly without a purpose.
While my motivation for daily tasks was massively affected, the thing I noticed the most was the complete loss of any semblance of libido.
Most days, I didn't think about sex at all. Others, I would feel pressure to try to arouse it, but nothing worked. A new vibrator, a little porn, fantasizing. Zilch. Missing in inaction. Gone. It was like I had lost all interest in physical pleasure but had also lost sensation and the ability to orgasm. By this point, it had been a number of months since I'd actually had sex with a partner, so while I felt maybe it was something I was just going to get used to living without, I couldn't help wondering whether this was normal, or if there was something wrong with me...if I was broken.
Returning to the topic of the development of sexual desire, I began to wonder if there is a "normal" amount to have, and if so, what that looks like. The few times I was caught exploring my sexuality as a child, I remember feeling ashamed, as if it were something dirty that I needed to hide. Media and societal views have often encouraged and accepted male sexual desire while frowning upon it in women. You know the story: a man sees an object of desire, expresses desire, and the woman either reluctantly agrees or makes an excuse for not being in the mood. While I generally felt very confident expressing my desires to partners I was comfortable with, the idea that I should wait to be pursued can be hard to shake.
Am I supposed to want to have sex? Was this really an issue that I should be concerned with, or was it not such a big deal?
In my case, it became something that I had to face. My ex, whom I had broken up with earlier that year, convinced me to get back together. While I felt some anticipation at the idea of having sex again after so long, the excitement of it being new yet familiar reassured me that my elusive libido wasn't irrevocably lost. However, the thrill of the new tends to wane over time. While I would say my libido has hung around to a degree, it's far from what it once was. I can easily go weeks without feeling the need to have sex. While my boyfriend is very understanding, I know he misses the days when I would make moves on him 24/7. And I miss that too. The attraction is definitely there, but it doesn't seem to be translating to arousal within my body. The reasons for this vary from not feeling sexy because I'm spotting, having pain from my endometriosis, or feeling the beginning of a yeast infection. Sometimes I think I just don't have the energy, but then we get started, and I remember how much I love it and don't want it to stop.
For me, the build-up to having sex is crucial. This includes going on a date, lots of kissing, slow undressing, and foreplay. I don't like being expected to jump into action without warning, although there are times when that's fun too. Personally, I find that taking a puff of weed right before we get started greatly heightens my sensations.
I am currently on a journey to address the imbalance of my hormones naturally and have already seen some improvements. I am learning to honor my body's needs, be patient with my struggles, and recognize that there is no wrong or right way to be. Our bodies are with us for the whole ride, and it will likely be a smoother journey if we practice understanding and working with them.
Want to share your thoughts on this or connect with others about their experience with libido and everything else menstruation? Stop into Looni's home on Geneva
Here are a few favorite plants that can be made into warm drinks to support libido:
- Damiana - a beautifully scented warming, aromatic herb that gently relaxes the body
- Kava - a root that warms the body, helping it to relax and open
- Maca - an adaptogenic root filled with nutrients to support vitality
- Cacao - also packed with nutrients, it contains mood-enhancing components like anandamide and phenethylamine. Add rose, kava, or maca with cacao all together.
I also highly recommend Netflix’s 3 part mini series called Pleasure. It includes interviews with Dr. Nagoski.
🩺 SCIENCE AND SPIRIT 👁️ — incase you missed it last week
🧑⚕️ from Looni’s medical adviser, Dr. Stephanie Colantonio
Humans are sexual beings, and exploring our bodies is a natural part of our development from a young age. When I worked as a pediatrician, parents often confided in me their concerns about their toddlers playing with their private parts. I reassured them that this behavior is totally normal.
Above all else, I want to reassure you that wherever you are in your sexuality, you are normal. Sexuality is a part of who we are, but it is not a constant or uniformly expressed experience. Our sex drive, or libido, can fluctuate due to various factors such as menstrual cycles, illnesses, life events, and changes in relationships, as Jasmine beautifully shared.
Sex educator and researcher Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., explores the concept of sexual temperaments or personalities in her book, Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. She explains that everyone's brain has sexual "accelerators" that respond to anything associated with sexual arousal, or what turns them on. Similarly, our brains also have sexual "brakes" that respond to potential threats, such as physical or emotional stressors. However, each person's accelerators and brakes have different sensitivities. For example, someone with highly sensitive accelerators and less sensitive brakes will be easily turned on.
The key takeaway is that we are all different, and no temperament is inherently good or bad. These traits are learned through experience, not innate. Understanding our own accelerators and brakes can help us better navigate our sexual experiences with both our partners and ourselves.
Nagoski emphasizes the significant impact of context on our sexual 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 speaks to the fluidity and complexity of sexuality, which is always changing.
Another important point 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 understand our truth, the author discusses examining our experiences versus our expectations. Our expectations of sex are like a map based on media, society, family, culture, and so on. Our actual sexual experience is the terrain. There's nothing inherently wrong with the terrain just because it doesn't always match the map! We can learn to create maps that better represent our experiences.
To love our truth, the author refers to practicing nonjudgment and releasing how we think we should be and accepting where we are. This plays a big role in the joy of sex. As a mindfulness student and teacher, this makes a lot of sense to me, but it is certainly easier said than done. It takes practice and sometimes a little extra support.
We’re always happy to hear from you. Whether it’s to let us know if there’s something we can do better, share a personal or experience, or an idea for a personal story, etc. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.