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Revving Up a Low Libido: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Is your sex drive as strong as the next guy’s?

I don’t want to have sex tonight, honey; I’m medicated

Moved by her research on low male libidos, Weston wrote a blog entry entitled “Top Ten Reasons Men Don’t Want Sex.” That entry generated a great deal of traffic. Seems a lot of people were in on the secret.

The leading reason men don’t want to have sex is medication, usually SSRI-type antidepressants and antihypertensive drugs prescribed for men with high blood pressure. All of these drugs are known to have sexual side effects including low libido.

Fatigue is another oft-cited reason for a low sex drive, as is that all-encompassing nemesis, stress. But some doctors are skeptical of men who cite work-related stress as the cause of their low libido.

Mark Epstein, MD, is a psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and author of Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life. He says that while men may indeed be preoccupied with their work, that’s usually a secondary reason for a reduced sex drive. “If there is not an illness,” Epstein says, “the main reason for a flagging libido in men is drugs or alcohol.”

According to a New York Times story, there had been a Viagra explosion in Spain, where men take great pride in their reputed virility. The culprit? Western-style work ethics, according to Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra (sildenafil citrate). But Epstein points to the party-all-night culture as a more likely cause for low male libidos in that country. As one Spanish reveler confessed in the article, “After a night of hard drinking or taking Ecstasy, I take Viagra to make sure I can perform.”

So it seems that one answer to a low libido is to get your priorities straight.

Low libido remedy: Just do it

Once the more obvious causes for a man’s low libido have been eliminated -- prescribed medications, drug or alcohol abuse, or low testosterone -- couples must often work through discrepancies in their relationship to arrive at a solution.

“I start looking at what she says she wants in terms of frequency of sex versus him,” Weston says. “Then I start to look at the meaning they both give to being sexual together. For some people, it’s the direction they turn for feeling better about themselves, and they use sex in a self-centered way, not one that connects with the partner. Some people would take the sex even if their partner was just participating in a sort of lackadaisical kind of way. There are times when I suggest they look to see if there can be what I call ‘gift giving.’”

In Weston’s parlance, gift giving occurs when one person is not so interested in sex “but is willing to do things that are sexually stimulating for the partner to the point of orgasm.” This could be you, when your wife is interested and your mind is elsewhere, or it could be her, hoping to get you in the mood. “If they’re willing to do the gift giving and not the mercy-duty sex,” she says, “sometimes what I call the ‘coffee syndrome’ can kick in.”

The coffee syndrome is analogous to a host at a dinner party asking, “Who wants coffee?” Weston says, “And maybe one person says they do. You start pouring and someone says, ‘Did you make enough for me to have some, too?’ The whiff of coffee in the air makes you want it. Sometimes the feeling of sex in the air, if you’re doing something to pleasure your partner, can make you turn the corner and want it yourself.”

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