Is our sexual health the final unexplored frontier?

Mother Pearl is a London-based blogger who recently set up ‘The Pearl Diaries: The hopeful, helpful, empowering guide to managing your sex drive’ to share her experiences of having a low sex drive and talk about what’s out there to help women like her

I’d tell my mates if I had the flu, no problem. In fact I’d be shouting from the rooftops about how crappy I felt and could someone come bring me a Lemsip.

And now thanks to the work of some amazing charities and public figures to challenge stigma, I rather sheepishly tell my friends about my anxiety and how I sometimes struggle.

But what I still find hard to talk about is my sexual health. Or, more specifically, my lack of sex drive.

Now, the first thing we often think of when we say ‘sexual health’ is a very clinical definition. Visions of condoms, pregnancy, STDs and rather unpleasant swab sticks is what I think of.

But our sexual health is so much more than that.

Just like it is important to boost our physical and mental wellbeing, it is also important to look after our sexual wellbeing. So why don’t we talk about it?

Us Brits are quite prudish. I know I was never brought up to talk to my family or friends about my Neverland region. Look at how British I am, I can’t even use the word ‘genitals’ without having to make a reference to something else!

Instead, I remember shy visits to the STD clinic, laughing with mates at university about getting tested, then being very tight lipped about my results if they weren’t positive. It takes a brave person to let you know they’ve got an STD. Chlamydia maybe – what’s a bit of the clap between friends? But genital warts, crabs, herpes… they’re a definite ground-opening-up-kill-me-now issue that takes a lot of courage to tell others about.

Even worse than that is the incredibly isolating world of having a low sex drive.

I’m only 30. I’m female. And I feel like the stuffing has been knocked out of me. Or more specifically, my desire to have sex.

It’s an issue no one talks about. In the public eye, sex sells! We’re bombarded by sex, in our adverts, our papers, our movies, sitcoms, even our novels.

But what happens if we’re one of the over 40% of women that don’t often want to have sex? Or find it hard to get turned on. What then?

Most of the articles out there are ‘quick-fix-here’s-something-I-made-earlier’ style about putting on some sexy pants, adding broccoli to your diet and Bob’s your uncle – instant sexpot.

But our sex drives and sex lives are so much more complicated than that. And women out there with the same problem deserve more. Goodness knows, men with the same problem have all sorts of options and resources at their disposal if they don’t always feel like getting it on.

I’ve found that the traditional measurement of female libido is a feminist issue. That is, it is thought to be more ‘normal’ for women to have a lower sex drive.

For a start, this is definitely not true for all women. But also our libidos are compared directly with those of men, quantified using statistics around number of times we think about sex, or the number of times we’d like to have sex in a week. And we’ll always come up short because some of us work differently, perhaps valuing context, quality and intensity over frequency.

There are so many reasons beyond the biological why some women have low libidos – after all, we live in a world which prioritises male sexual pleasure, objectifies women, and attempts to control our bodies by ‘slut shaming’ us if we enjoy sex and calling us ‘prudes’ if we don’t. Is it any wonder that many women just don’t know how to get turned on?

I’ve also found that so many people panic if they struggle to want sex, or get aroused. I’m sending out a more hopeful message that everyone at some point experiences this, whether it’s a one-night, short-term or long-term problem.

I want women to start talking more about our sex lives, discovering more about female desire, and giving each other advice and tips to better manage, or accept, our sex drives if they are usually quite low.

I’m not a medical professional, or a sex therapist, or trying to peddle a hidden agenda. I’ve just got a vested interest in sharing what I’ve learned to let other women know they’re not alone and give them a space to connect.

Image depicts woman lying on a bed, looking pensive

Courtesy coloredgrey on Flickr