unblush interview: talking about low sexual desire
Millions of women in the US are oh-too-familiar with a frustrating decrease in their desire for sex. About one in every ten, in fact. Despite that, it’s not something that’s widely talked about.
unblush believes it’s time for women with low sexual desire to start speaking up. Because losing your desire for sex is a big deal. And when one of us speaks up, the rest of us should listen, because there’s a lot we can learn from each other. Experience can be a great teacher—even when it’s not your own.
This time, we’re listening to Sarah P., a woman with low sexual desire who has not been diagnosed with HSDD.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about 13 years. I’m in a relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together six, almost seven, years and he’s amazing. And I love cats (laughs).
How did you notice you had low sexual desire?
So, it was, like, a new relationship and at first I just thought, you know, sex is something you’re supposed to do, right? That’s what a healthy relationship is, you have sex, you make your partner happy, your partner makes you happy.
But I realized that it was like a chore for me. I felt obligated. I was solely doing sex because I felt like I was supposed to, and I wanted to make him happy.
I’m laughing about it, but we really haven’t had sex in, I don’t even know how long. It’s been at least six months and that’s so embarrassing for me to say that.
I realized that it was like a chore for me. I felt obligated. I was solely doing sex because I felt like I was supposed to.”
— Sarah P., a woman with low sexual desire who has not been diagnosed with HSDD
How did that affect you?
It’s embarrassing because…I’m a woman in my 30s. I feel like this is the time when—I don’t know where I got these ideas of what it’s supposed to be, through the media, through friends—that this is when I’m supposed to have my sexual “awakening.” Whatever that means. And I am not having that.
I know what I want out of a relationship, what I want to be able to give in our relationship. But without that desire to do “it” I don’t really know how to get there. I just feel like there’s something wrong with me.
I feel like an outcast. I don’t feel like it’s something that a lot of people relate to. Even my mother is talking to me about the sex she’s having. I just, I feel like I’m missing out. I feel ashamed.
And I suppose it takes up a lot of room in my brain that I don’t realize. The same way if you hold secrets that they eat away at you, it’s a secret in a sense. It takes up a lot of unnecessary room that could be spent on something else.
Do you ever talk about low sexual desire with anyone?
I do have friends but it’s not something that I talk about with them. Because I don’t feel like people relate. I guess I’m just not comfortable discussing the fact that I have lost the desire. I feel like I’ll feel judged.
So I just, I haven’t really talked to anybody else who has dealt with it on the same kind of level that I have. And who knows, like, maybe I’ve encountered women, maybe I have friends that have low sexual desire. But maybe we’re all just too ashamed to talk about it.
Do you feel pressured to want sex? Or to have sex?
From my boyfriend? No. From, like, society? Yes. From expectations for myself and what sex is supposed to be? Yes. I just feel like it’s something that I’m lacking.
I feel like I’ll feel judged. I mean, that there’s something wrong with me. That I’m not relatable, that I will be less sexy to someone, you know? I think, too, most women want to feel desired or sexy and all that stuff, but…the fact that I have no desire to have sex, it takes something away from that.
Have you been able to find much information about low sexual desire?
I’m trying to remember if I looked up anything about low sexual desire on the Internet when it first happened. I feel like any research I did was fairly limited. I don’t feel like low sexual desire is something that’s really out there, though. You know, like for men. But you don’t really hear of it with women.
It’s interesting because, like, you would think that guys feel shame about taking a [medicine for erectile dysfunction] but they don’t. Or maybe they do and they get over it. I don’t know (laughs).
Would you be interested in learning about medical treatments for low sexual desire for women?
Yeah, I’d be curious.
Learn about a treatment option for HSDD
You know, scientists think that low sexual desire can be the result of chemicals in the brain being out of balance. It’s more of an “up here” kind of thing than what happens “down there.” Do you think that matters?
It takes some of the blame off. I feel a little bit less shameful. If there’s something wrong with my chemical makeup, like, there’s no reason to be so hard on myself.
There’s a medical condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder. HSDD for short. It’s defined as low sexual desire that women find frustrating. About one out of 10 women in the US has it.
I would love to get all of these women in a room (laughs). That would be great. I wish we could open up a conversation about it so that women with low sexual desire would feel a little less isolated, you know, a little less alone.
If I say, “unblush” to you, what do you think that means?
“unblush?” To me, I think it means to face your fears. I think it means to not have shame, not be embarrassed to be wholly you. I should do something about low sexual desire because I can’t just expect that one day I’m going to wake up and everything is going to be normal. It’s been a long time and that’s not the case.
If you don’t talk about it, if you don’t say that there’s a problem, how can someone tell you that there’s a solution?