Is it true that the less sex you have, the less you want?

Image: iStock.

There are a lot of sex myths floating out there in the ether. Like the claim that men ‘need’ or enjoy sex more than women do, or the misguided belief that oral contraceptives offer protection from STIs as well as pregnancy (argh!).

Considering the amount of misinformation out there, you’d be forgiven for being a bit suss when someone tells you something like “the less sex you have, the less sex you want”. Is that just another urban legend, or can sexual desire really be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’?

According to sexologist and author of #singlebutdating, Dr Nikki Goldstein, there is some truth to this age-old claim.

“I think we [women] get to the point where we haven’t had it for so long we actually have the capability to switch off that part of our brain,” Dr Goldstein says.

“Whether it’s casual sex or a relationship, when you think about what your body is doing from a hormonal point of view, women stay mentally stimulated, physically stimulated for a lot longer. We gradually build up. Men are more up and down. Women have a few orgasms and then they start getting really turned on.”

Watch: Tara O shares her tips for a better orgasm. (Post continues after video.)

Much of it comes down to what’s front of mind, and the effect of positive physical and emotional memories that can re-trigger our desire.

“Once we start doing it, we start wanting it more because the environment we’re in stimulates us. Say you had really good sex last night and you have a moment where you’re tired at work and you go, ‘Oh, that‘s how I got tired’ – anything that triggers the memory of what happened has the capability of turning us on,” Dr Goldstein says.

“I think, as women, it’s on our brain. When we’re not having sex, we don’t think about it; when we’re having sex, we think about it.”

There’s also a hormonal component, Dr Goldstein adds — physical intimacy prompts the release of oxytocin and other sex hormones, which then course through the body. However, she ultimately believes it comes down to mentality.

"We start wanting it more because the environment we're in stimulates us." (iStock)

"It's that memory. It's very present with us if we've been having good experiences, and then carries on to wanting another experience," she explains.

Regardless of the specific cause for craving less sex than usual, don't freak out — there are ways to work through it. Sex therapists tend to agree that making an effort to get back into the swing of things, so to speak, is a positive first step to take. And no, a 'plus one' is not necessarily required.

"When we're saying you should 'just have sex', it doesn't matter if you're in a partnered relationship or not. You can still have sex with yourself," Dr Goldstein says.

"If you want to increase sexual desire, why not experience your own body first, and your own pleasure? Even if you do have a partner, you can use it to increase desire. It's nearly easier." (Post continues after gallery.)


Aside from having more sex, it's important to be mindful of the other factors that could be contributing to your feelings towards sex.

Dr Goldstein says our highly-sexualised society can put women under a lot of pressure when it comes to knowing what they actually want or desire — and how they feel about it.

"Do we look at the 50 Shades of Grey movement or pick up a glossy mag and go, 'I'm not doing that, so there must be something wrong with me'?" she says.

"When we get into that head space it can actually put the brakes on sexual desire, because it's more about ticking off the list and achieving the goal you think you should than doing what works for your own life."

Watch: Dr Goldstein answers the relationship questions she's asked most frequently. (Post continues after video.)

Furthermore, having a daily schedule so hectic you barely have time to breathe, let alone think about sex, can also play a significant role in how aroused you're feeling.

"If there's a lot of pressure on you at work or in your relationship, or you have two young kids and it's really stressful, that can really have an impact on sexual desire," Dr Goldstein says.

Maybe it doesn't matter how much we're just getting in there and doing it or self-pleasuring or things like that, when we're so busy and so stressed, that needs to be addressed first before we look at sexual desire."

In this instance, Dr Goldstein recommends finding and implementing a habit that will help to "train your brain" to feel more calm. This might be a form of meditation or something that has a similar effect. "Then you'll have a better headspace and more tools to then address any of the issues in the bedroom or the relationship," she says.

Have you ever found this to be true for you? How did you overcome it?

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