real life

Jean Kittson: "A woman’s libido is complex. It can go for all sorts of reasons."


Jean Kittson

There are many influences on a woman’s sex drive. Remember when sex drive meant in the back of the car, parked behind the shower block, on the way to the beach? Remember youthful sex drive at all?

I have people to do that for me now. I sit on the couch with my teenage daughters watching TV and most of the time they have their heads down fiddling with their phones, but every now and then they glance up at the TV and say, ‘He’s hot,’ and when I look more closely, sure enough, there is a bloke with a twelve-pack taking off his shirt, to whom I hadn’t given a second thought because I was following the STORY.

Who was delivering the story with his shirt off was inconsequential as long as he emoted and spoke clearly and with a little more volume than I used to need. But not to young, hormonal women. Even when multi-tasking on their iPhones and apparently taking in the story through their pores, they are on high alert to hotness.

We share this alertness with every other living species – science and David Attenborough tell us. At every layer and level of our female beings, in every instinct, we are seeking a mate, a sire, a stud (if we are a mare), a stag (if we are a deer), an inseminator, a provider (unless we are a mantis or another one of those species where the female is inseminated and then bites the bloke’s head off to avoid having to fake orgasm), a father to our offspring. And while we are auditioning the males on offer, we females of all species are apparently giving them an intuitive DNA and genetic assessment to propagate the strongest likely specimens of the species. All of which manifests in the teenage verdict: ‘He’s hot.’

“Your sex drive is determined by whether or not your bloke has just cooked dinner. And it can go back into neutral before he has finished washing up.”

This womanly alertness to hotness continues until about the first time you are up all night with your first child. Then the only hotness a woman registers is the temperature of the baby’s bath water or if the baby has a fever (elbow for the first, your own cool cheek for the second; do not confuse the two).

Then it waxes and wanes, wanes and waxes, often in sync with furniture and personal waxing, and house cleaning, school, holidays, work, sleep, stress and then menopause, when it not only wanes, it pours. Yes, menopause is when the only hotness we register is when we sweat all over the bus seat.

This is because our hormone levels switch our libido on and off like the knob on your radio. No hormones, no reception. Suddenly your sex drive is not determined by whether he has bought you dinner and listened to you intently all evening and presented you with a single long-stemmed rose created from emeralds and rubies. Your sex drive is determined by whether or not your bloke has just cooked dinner. And it can go back into neutral before he has finished washing up.

It is often said that a woman ‘loses’ her libido, which is not helpful, and it simply puts the responsibility back on the overburdened shoulders of the woman. That’s right, it’s always our fault! A woman does not lose her libido; it’s not like ‘Gosh, where did I put my libido? Has anyone seen my libido? I have looked everywhere and I can’t find it. I hope I didn’t accidentally throw it out. I hope it wasn’t in that bag I sent to the Salvos. I’ll have to pray to St Anthony and hopefully it will turn up like the car keys did that time.’


A woman’s libido leaves her.

Some experts say it leaves after children because a woman is no longer looking for a mate and this enables her to concentrate on her new role as nurturer. I am sure for some women this is true. Just as for some women it isn’t true. For other women, their libido diminishes as a direct result of menopause and their fluctuating hormones.

“And if it does suddenly stop and if there is no other reason (affairs, footy, farting, his), it’s usually hormones.”

A woman’s libido is complex. It can go for all sorts of reasons. It can gradually fall apart like a pair of sexy silk knickers that have been through the wash just once too often.

Or, over the years, it can simply get pushed aside so often it ends up in the back of the drawer or in the box of ‘special things’ along with the honeymoon stockings and suspender belt and a musty old bag of pot-pourri you can’t bring yourself to throw out. Or your desire suddenly stops. It simply leaves you. It slams the door and goes AWOL.

It pops up the street for bread and milk and doesn’t come back. Because many women who suddenly find themselves without a libido didn’t want it to happen and when it does happen many women feel a great sense of loss.

Feeling desire and being turned on is a very enjoyable experience. It means fun and physical intimacy with your partner, and it enriches your relationship, and it’s also a quick de-stress when you haven’t got time for a walk, and as a bonus it can lead to a good night’s sleep.

And if it does suddenly stop and if there is no other reason (affairs, footy, farting, his), it’s usually hormones.

It’s biological. You are no longer looking for a mate and Mother Nature wants you to go into the next phase which is not rooting around, it is looking after your children’s children.

That seems to be the perceived wisdom on why we women as a species get menopause. So that we can be attentive grandmothers.

Which might have been on the cards once when generations of home care were provided by grandma and grandpa, but nowadays if the crafty oldsters aren’t down at the club, they are cruising Margaret River wineries in their Winnebagos or walking the Andes or still heading off to their own offices.

And with our children having children later and later – the average age is now 31 – we are often not needed as grannies till we are 70.

A multi-talented performer and writer, Jean Kittson is one of Australia’s best known and most popular comedians, amusing audiences in theatre, film, print, on radio and  television. This is an extract from her new book ‘You’re still hot to me: The joys of menopause” which you can purchase here.