Ever since the hellish job that drove me to freelancing and sex work two and a half years ago, my sex drive has been as flat, dead, and dull as a sheet of paper.
I started making improvements last year, coming out of my depression and relearning my worth, but putting one of my pets to sleep only days before a cross-country move (to a city I’ve come to dislike) iced all the progress I’d made.
This is a common theme in my life, attached as it is to the endless cycles of depression that have plagued me since I was a preteen. I never lose my interest in the general concept of sex and sexuality, but it’s like all the wires connecting that interest to my personal enjoyment get snipped and have to be repaired.
I’m still finishing up that repair work, so I figured I’d share some of my strategies in case others are going through a similar experience.
1. Scrutinize and deal with the source.
This is the first and most crucial step in the process of reviving your sex drive. A loss of libido is nearly always a symptom of a problem rather than the problem itself, and you can’t treat the former if you ignore the latter.
Are you going through a depressive episode? Having problems in your relationship(s)? Feeling badly about yourself? Having health issues or eating poorly? You should start tackling the source before you home in on its effect on your sex drive in particular.
2. Avoid masturbating for any reason other than obvious physical arousal.
I’ve noticed that, especially when I slide into a rut, masturbating becomes just A Thing to Do. If I’m bored or tired or alone without any plans, I’ll rub one out—usually really, really quickly and without much pleasure aside from the moment of orgasm.
If I find myself doing this a lot, it’s a sign I need to stop bored-masturbating for a bit.
I compare this to sleep hygiene. Since I’m prone to sleeping all the time when I’m in a depressive spiral, one of my previous therapists impressed on me the importance of, well, not letting myself. No naps, no oversleeping, no hanging out in bed when it’s not bedtime. Good sleep hygiene ensures that, when you do sleep, it’s the best-quality sleep you can get—the kind that your body needs.
Your body doesn’t need masturbation or sex as much as it does sleep, but I think—for me, at least—it’s a similar concept. If I’m jerking off not because I really want to but just to do something, it’s not that different from me lying down for a three-hour nap because I don’t feel up to functioning regularly.
So I restrict myself to only ever touching myself sexually when I’m turned on to the point of being wet. (The best indication of physical arousal might not be wetness for you, so adjust this as needed. You know how it feels when you’re turned on.)
3. Stop using vibrators.
This is basically an extension of the above. When I’m masturbating as A Thing to Do, I’ll use a powerful vibrator like the Hitachi or the Wahl because 1) it’s quick and 2) I don’t need to be aroused to use it to get off.
Getting myself off with just my fingers can be difficult for me, and I can’t do it without being really, really turned on. It also makes the experience last longer and ensures I’ll feel pleasure beyond just the orgasm—all of which is good, I think, when I’m trying to remember what about sex I enjoy.
4. Revisit porn and erotica that have gotten me off in the past.
This is another strategy I adapted from ways I combat my depression generally. When I’m spiraling, I lose interest in activities I usually like. Making myself take up those activities again after I’ve set them aside reminds me why I liked them in the first place, and it encourages me to keep doing them.
So, I load up the hottest porn scenes I own and reread my favorite smut (often fan fiction, I’m not gonna lie). I might not respond to it as strongly, but I usually still respond—which can lead to me getting physically aroused, which can lead to me getting off with my fingers, and so on.
5. Encourage sexy daydreams.
This can be especially good if your loss of desire is a result of your mind being full of other topics. If I’m stressed about something or preoccupied with how miserable I feel, there’s not much room for feeling sexy and wanting to do sexy things.
So, you know when you’re lying in bed at night, loose and drowsy, just waiting to fall asleep? I take that time to daydream (nightdream?) about sex. When I’m sleepy and relaxed, my brain is more welcoming of sensual, pornographic thoughts, less likely to interrupt by returning to those other topics, and more keen to let fantasies flow.
Like with rewatching porn and rereading smut, it seems to remind me of the pleasure in sex and at least gives my libido a few kicks to try to get it going.
6. Write an erotic story or two.
Watching and reading porn are fairly passive exercises. Creating sexy content yourself, on the other hand, requires you to engage with your own sexual interests and fantasies more directly.
This strategy can be tricky, though. If my sex drive is still totally dead, trying to force myself to write smut will only frustrate and upset me and possibly set me back. If I try and don’t like the results, it can turn into yet another thought for my overfull brain to get distracted by.
So the way I approach it is this: If I have an idea for an erotic story and want to write it, I make myself do it, and it gives me a solid push forward. If not, I accept the repairs to my wiring aren’t far enough along yet, and I stick with passive consumption.
7. Have sex.
I’ve tried to think of a softer way to approach this particular step, but there isn’t one. So, in all truth, sometimes I just need to make myself engage sexually with my partner, even if I’m not in the mood.
Again, though, this can be tricky. If I’m actively against the idea of sex, then forcing myself would be a mistake and probably do more harm than good. If I’m “meh” about it or in that weird state of wanting-to-enjoy-it-but-being-certain-I-won’t, then an extra push can be good.
Like so many of these other strategies, it’s all about reminding myself what it is about sex and sexual pleasure that I enjoy. Every time I’ve had sex after a long, sexless depressive episode, my reaction is “Why did I stop wanting this?” Then I want it again.
I’ve also found that the more I have sex, the more I want sex. This isn’t true for everyone, certainly, but if it’s as true for you as me, sometimes you just have to force yourself past that self-imposed mental block before you can get it to crumble.
8. Communicate your needs.
Lastly, but most importantly, if you’re in a relationship, it’s imperative that you communicate what your partner(s) can do to support you when your sexual desire has taken a plunge.
Do you need them to back off, take sex off the table entirely, and give you space? Do you need them to keep making overtures and sexual comments, no matter how many times you turn them down? Maybe you need them to be more forthright about when they find you attractive or what they enjoy about sex with you. Maybe you need them to give you wide berth.
What I need depends on the source of my dropped libido and where I am in my repair job. And I admit, sometimes it’s hard to remember to be open with my partner when I’m so focused on myself. But it’s necessary—not just because being honest about your needs will benefit you, but because it will benefit them as well.
All eight of these, as I’ve said, are strategies that I’ve used and am using now to recover a dulled sex drive. If you’re dealing with the same, I hope one or more of these will give you ideas about how you can recover your own.
But maybe you have your own strategies, and if that’s the case, I’d love to hear them. 🙂
(And just to be clear, in this post I’m referring exclusively to an unwanted drop in what I consider to be my “normal” sex drive. A low sex drive, or none at all, is only a problem if you’re unhappy with it. Otherwise, you don’t need to change a thing!)