real life

Everything you thought about the male libido is wrong.




The rampaging male libido is dying, killed by stress and exhaustion.

That’s the news from Australian sex therapists, either from their own clinical practice or from research.

Which is kind of a relief, isn’t it? Not the stress and exhaustion bit (been there, done that) but the fact that men will now be relieved from their duty of pretending they want to be top performers all the time. If you think about that critically, for even a minute, you know how unrealistic it is to imagine that men are permanently ready for sex.

Elaine George, who is midway through her PhD research into male sex drive, says the stereotype that men want sex at every opportunity just isn’t true any more, if it ever was. Her colleague Margaret Redelman has seen a definite increase in male clients who say they are experiencing low desire or a drop in desire. And recent Chinese research shows that sexual satisfaction for a couple is a two-handed play; in other words, it’s good for both of you and if you are having trouble, chances are your partner is too.

As a sex therapist, George wanted to find out exactly what gaps there were in the study of desire. What she discovered was that all the research on libido was about women. Did we enjoy it? Why didn’t we enjoy it? How could we enjoy it more? It was almost as if the study of male sexuality had no questions which needed answering. Even researchers had brainwashed themselves into thinking that men didn’t have a problem with sex.


When she started doing the numbers, she discovered more than half the men she surveyed had no interest in daily sex and about one in six men said they would prefer to have sex once every three or four weeks, far distant from the mythology of a sex fountain.

Left holding a heart-shaped pillow when your partner doesn’t want sex. We’ve all been there, right?

George says often men are in denial about their own lack of desire. Or they think there is something wrong but are too afraid to discuss it. Or think there is something wrong when they measure themselves against the stereotype of wanting sex 24/7.

In a significant number of cases, it’s the lifestyle. She says most sexual issues are an interplay of biological, psychological and contextual. ”Stress and fatigue are two significant factors in contributing to a decline in sexual interest and that’s the first time it has ever been identified in proper clinical research,” says George.

And Redelman, who is a practitioner in the area of sex therapy, says that men present for help when they note a negative change from how they have performed or felt previously. She says that contrary to the idea of men always being hungry for sex, in about one-third of the cases she sees, women have the higher sex drive. ”The humiliation and shame attached to being the lower sex drive male partner makes the situation more hidden and men reluctant to seek help,” she says.

There may also be a little bit of relationship slackness, or what she calls the ”lazy lover syndrome”, which presents as desire discrepancy or low libido but is in fact disinterest or ”too much bother” to make love with that partner.


How does she know it is laziness? ”These men usually masturbate at a normal frequency and do not have low libido.”

Jenna Price

She diagnoses overuse of pornography, affairs or idiosyncratic masturbation styles as the cause of the disparity.

What fascinates George is what happens when the partner of one of these men comes to her for help – and may feel as if her partner’s lack of desire is somehow her own fault, if we really have to think about that fault in what should be a team effort. As George advocates, sex is never a one-way street.

Bang-Ping Jiann, from the School of Medicine at National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, surveyed more than 2000 men and women about their sexual functioning. I have absolutely no concept of gender stereotypes in China so I asked him whether there was this same idea of sexually driven men.

He said there were precisely the same perceptions of Chinese men – and his research, published earlier this year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, showed there was a direct correlation between female and male desire. ”Women’s desire and men’s desire are affected by each other,” he said.

His findings contribute even further evidence to the research which shows that the way men and women relate to each other is closely interdependent and is always in the context of how the couple are getting on – and moving on from the idea that any of us has a fixed attitude to sex will free us all.

For some of us, that may even mean surprising our partners. At least once a week.