Last year the unthinkable happened: I lost my libido.
I confided in some close friends and was shocked by their responses: “I can’t remember the last time I felt horny,” “My libido’s been AWOL for years,” and “Join the club,” they said.
I felt like having a toddler tantrum: “I don’t want to join the lost libido club!”
Up until then my sex drive had ebbed and flowed in accordance with how I was feeling about my relationship, where I was in my menstrual cycle, and whether I was feeling good about my body or not. But, even when it dipped, it never went away completely: I always knew it was still there and that it would soon pick up again. I relied on my libido to keep me connected to the sexual part of me that gave me passion and pleasure in my life.
Last year all that changed.
Last year I got stressed about work, I was grieving the death of my best friend, I got a virus that lingered and lingered until it became a vague collection of ‘post-viral symptoms’ that left me feeling tired, weepy, and gaining weight. And my libido disappeared.
I felt the loss acutely: a part of me was missing.
My partner waited patiently as the days turned into weeks and then into months. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I just can’t”.
I began to get scared about what this meant for our relationship; I felt rotten for pulling away from sexual touches but equally I just couldn’t go there because I didn’t know where there was anymore.
The longer it went on the more anxious I became: what if I never got my libido back? And worse: what if I could never bring myself to make love with my partner again?
There seemed to be a simple solution: just bite the bullet, put myself into a sexual situation, and reclaim the sexual part of me. But that was way too daunting. So how about starting with masturbation, I wondered. That felt easier. Although I didn’t really have a physical urge, I decided to try caressing myself anyway, with no goals other than to give my body a loving touch. It was comforting but not very erotic.
What I needed, I decided, was something that didn’t involve sex but did help me to remember that I am a sexual being.
“Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female self-knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage; female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as a medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom.”
In other words: this stuff is important to us.
My lost libido made sense given what else was going on in my life but I couldn’t accept it. I knew it wasn’t my natural state and I was desperate to get back that spark that gives me a sense of aliveness and a curiosity about life.
There can be lots of other times when women feel disconnected from their sexual selves: during pregnancy and childbirth, and then during child-rearing; hormonal changes during our menstrual cycles and the menopause; during periods of illness, stress, and bereavement; and simply when life takes over and our sexual selves get repeatedly de-prioritised until it’s hard to remember they were ever there in the first place.
Some women remain disconnected from their sexuality: it may just not seem that important with everything else that’s going on in their lives; or perhaps it just seems too difficult to get it back.
I could remember how it felt to inhabit the sexual part of myself and I was keen to have that in my life again, so I decided to experiment: what could I do that involved my sexual self but didn’t need to involve sex?
My creative self stepped up to the bar: make something, she said, something that is a tangible expression of your sexuality.
I knew about different ways to express my sexuality: I am an erotic writer, I once did a burlesque class, and earlier that year I’d had my photos taken in an alternative ‘boudoir’ shoot. This time I needed solitary activities that involved doing something just for me.
I used what I already had: a pile of fabric scraps turned into a sumptuous, celebratory cushion shaped like a vulva; images and words from magazines and Pinterest turned into a mood-board collage; I took a deep breath and allowed a new, erotic story to take shape on my computer screen.
My creativity fed my sexuality and engaging both enabled me to inhabit that space once again – the space of my vibrant, curious, life-loving sexual self.
Since then I’ve developed these creative-sexuality ideas into a series of six activities called Play Dates. They are available for any woman who wants to explore, express and celebrate her sexual self – all from the comfort of her own home, no partner required.
I was overjoyed when I felt the first stirrings of my libido returning. I’ve learned not to take it for granted but to nurture and enjoy it. It still ebbs and flows but now I don’t feel so anxious as I have new methods of staying connected to my sexual self and more ways to express that part of me. And, all in all, I’m very glad I decided not to become a member of the lost libido club.
Play Dates available from The Ladygarden Project
Contact Anna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Doing something creative around sexuality for International Women’s Day? We’d love to hear from you for an upcoming feature on the event.
Photos: Paper couture panties by Angels & Violets