Conventional wisdom tends to be more convention than wisdom, and the idea that women have a low libido while men’s sex drive is stuck in high gear is a perfect example. Truth be told, a lot of guys don’t find their engines running as hot as they might like.
“It’s an interesting hidden problem,” says Louanne Cole Weston, PhD. Weston is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist in Fair Oaks, California. “Men who have a reduced sex drive don’t want to talk about it, and the women with them don’t want to talk about it either. The women are afraid if they say much about it, people will think either the man’s really gay, or she’s a ‘bad lay’ or too unattractive to stir his passions. And the man has the myth that you’re supposed to want it all the time, anywhere.”
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
In her role as a sex therapist, and as former author of the WebMD Sex Matters board, Weston has found that low libido in men is a much more common complaint than our popular culture would seem to indicate. She says, “When people wrote in about the discrepancy of frequency and desire, about 40% of the time it was men wanting less.”
Exactly what is a low libido?
According to Weston, the definition of low libido is subjective -- and defined by the person who has one. “A man has to perceive his libido as low, and it has to be distressing to him,” she says. A partner may have a vote in the matter and may have initiated a trip for both of you to the sex therapist, but it’s what works (or doesn’t) for you that counts.
Couples need not feel they have to have sex a certain number of times a week to have a good sex life. “It’s really about compatibility,” Weston says. She recalls a pair of married scientists who came to see her about the frequency of sex in their marriage because they were afraid they were freaks.
“They came in saying, ‘We have sex twice a year, once on Christmas and once on his birthday. Is there something wrong with us?’ We went through it all and found they didn’t really want to change. They were coming in out of cultural pressure. Their true joy lay in doing what they were doing together in the lab. They liked each other; they didn’t fight. Sex was not a high priority for either of them. They were real cerebral types. I think we met twice and then I sent them home. I said, ‘I’m not going to make you guys broken; I think you fit very well together.’'