midlife sexLately my email box has been full of articles on the topic of libido/desire.  Most of them are poorly disguised marketing ploys, scare tactics designed to make women feel inadequate.

Sexual desire isn’t something you can fix by eating more blueberries or indulging in oysters. It’s not as simple as popping a pill. We can’t force it–in fact I can think of nothing worse than feeling obligated to fake desire in order to please a partner. Especially if the subliminal message is that a woman’s job is to satisfy her man sexually and therefore she must do whatever is necessary. (I do believe there are times when we can approach the possibility of having sex without desire, and allow ourselves to be open to what shows up. Or doesn’t. And I talk about that in my book, Inviting Desire.)

In my own past experience and in what I hear from women, the struggle around sexual desire is a real one for some of us. And there are many businesses out there trying to capitalize on the popular notion that women with low sexual desire are broken and therefore need medicine or expensive toys/vibrators to stimulate their brains or bodies into feeling desire.

But here’s the thing: We Are Not Broken.

When sexual desire is absent, or not showing up the way we are told it should, the default is to label women as faulty. Broken.

So let me repeat this. Low sexual desire does not mean you are broken.

Women face such conflicting messages about their sexuality. We are raised to be “good girls” and then exposed to thousands of images of women as sex objects–while being told to remain chaste, pure, virginal. Then as we reach the menopausal years we are told that sex will become horribly painful. But we don’t really need sex anymore because older people don’t enjoy sex.  The men around us are using Viagra and other ED drugs and have a perpetual hard-on that we are expected to enjoy and be willing vehicles for–regardless of how we might feel about our own body or the relationship.

And then we struggle with our own sexual desire? Of course we do.

I believe that we/women have to educate ourselves about our bodies, our senses, our personal rhythms, and our wants and needs. We also have to understand that we are not broken. Our sexuality is normal, because there is no ONE way to experience sexual desire.

How do we do this? Maybe that process is one of reeducating ourselves in how to love and live in our own bodies. Some women may need to be taught how to pleasure their bodies—with specifics. Some women may feel the need for permission to own their sexuality. (You may want or need something completely different.) That isn’t something we were taught. Or encouraged to do. We talk about the mechanics of sex but fail to talk about the incredibly simple yet amazingly complex idea of pleasure—ours, his (because most of us are raised in a heterocentric culture) and the pleasure to be had with a partner.

There are women in their 50’s who have never had an orgasm. Who can’t locate their clitoris. Who have never looked at their vulvas. They are in some sense disconnected from their bodies–because it’s the way we were raised as women in this culture. Sadly too many women feel shame about their bodies and their sexuality.

My frustration with the way we approach sexuality and the experience of women who share their stories with me was the impetus for writing Inviting Desire.

The first step to inviting desire into our lives is to embrace our bodies—just as they are.  In the book I help women to think about what their bodies need.  Starting with the basics–how do I respond to tastes, sights, smells, touch. What feels good, what turns me on?  I encourage women to touch themselves, to feel their bodies in the most basic tactile way. Then to go deeper, to explore sexually–not just to learn to have bigger better orgasms.

The book is written as a series of daily readings to help women learn how their bodies respond to pleasure and what they want. There is a day, with exercises, on how to ask for what you want and how to cope when it’s not working in a relationship. There’s a day for those women who are not in relationships–because they’re still sexual beings. We talk about a ‘sexy toolkit’ of items and skills to help women understand their desire.

My goal for the book, and my work, is to help women embrace their sexuality and their bodies. The basic premise is not that we are broken as women, to the contrary we have these lovely bodies and wants and desires just wanting for us to give ourselves permission.  Inviting Desire does that through a series of articles, with simple exercises designed to get you thinking and exploring ways to expand your desire. It’s not an overly explicit book; it’s not a book about how to please a man or be a better lover.  It is a book about how you bring desire into your life–what you do from there is up to you.

Here is the link to buy the book, if you’re interested. And, of course, I’d love for you to do so.

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