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Not Tonight, Dear: Why We “Don’t Feel Like It”

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

We are complicated sexual creatures. For us, arousal isn’t just a matter of plumbing; rather, it’s intricately connected to how we feel about ourselves, our partners, and the rest of our lives. There is no “turn-on” pill; there is no magic potion. And while it’s true that the way we experience arousal and sexual pleasure evolves and changes as we age, there’s every reason to expect that our sexual experience can be even more relaxed, adventurous, and fun—just like the rest of our lives—if we pay attention to our overall mental and physical health. Because for us, the kneebone’s connected to the thighbone—everything’s connected.

This concept was brought home to me once again at a presentation I heard at the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) by researcher Mara Meana, Ph.D. from the University of Nevada. Dr. Meana examined the reasons women might decide not to have sex, even if they were aroused and feeling sexual desire.

Of course, those reasons differ depending on the woman’s life stage and personal situation, but what struck me was that the three main reasons that married women gave for avoiding sex were:

  • Fatigue and the need to conserve energy
  • Boring sex
  • Negative body image

Sound familiar?

So, you may like having sex; you may be feeling aroused; you may be attracted to your partner, but you still avoid the time, energy, and emotional vulnerability of intercourse because of one or more of those three “disincentives.”

I think this merits a closer look because boredom, fatigue, and a negative body image are powerful ways to stifle that spontaneous, buoyant spirit we’ve so richly earned at this stage of life. In the next few posts, I’d like to examine these disincentives in greater detail and suggest some ways to overcome them.


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