High Libido Woman: Nature or Nurture?

Am I con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly wired to be hornier than the aver­age woman, or is there a "nur­ture" com­po­nent that I have inter­nal­ized? Today, we exam­ine some of the exter­nal fac­tors influ­enc­ing a woman's high libido ⁠— and her will­ing­ness to act on it.

High Libido Woman: Nature or Nurture? 1

I don't think that sex­u­al expres­sion is pure­ly an indi­vid­ual thing. Women have to nav­i­gate the cul­tur­al land­scape, dis­cern­ing what's safe and what will help them resource for sur­vival. Our envi­ron­ment and econ­o­my impact if and how we choose to have kids, when, with whom, and how we date.

In some ways, I'm priv­i­leged to be in the "right" time and place. My cir­cum­stances allowed me to explore sex­u­al­i­ty as much as I have; these fac­tors over­lap and syn­er­gize. I don't take them for granted.

Financial Background and Ability to Meet Physical Needs

First things first: the priv­i­lege of finan­cial secu­ri­ty goes a long way. All of the fol­low­ing seem­ing­ly basic things con­tribute to stress reduc­tion, hor­mone health, and reg­u­lar ovulation:

  • Access to health­care ⁠— repro­duc­tive and otherwise
  • The time and mon­ey to fos­ter a nutri­tious diet
  • Not wor­ry­ing about how you'll pay your bills on time
  • Getting ade­quate sleep
  • Having the time to exercise
  • Knowing that the cops will some­what val­ue my life

Owning a busi­ness and set­ting my sched­ule helps with some of the above points. However, whether you're a 9–5 staffer, solo­pre­neur, or home­mak­er, sur­vival comes first.

Then fol­lows the phys­i­cal expen­di­ture required to ovu­late and build up the uter­ine lin­ing. If a cis woman's body sens­es that it's super stressed and not ade­quate­ly resourced, it might not release ade­quate sex hor­mones to have a baby. At that point, try­ing arousal gels can help a lit­tle, but it's like putting a Band-​Aid on a bro­ken arm.

Similarly, some aphro­disi­ac foods work, but the effect isn't nec­es­sar­i­ly super direct. Oysters might look a cer­tain way, but you can cred­it zinc and pro­tein for their roles in nour­ish­ing one's repro­duc­tive sys­tem.

Kinship, Community Care, and Family Structures

If I got preg­nant out of wed­lock, it wouldn't be stress-​free per se, but I'd at least trust that I have the resources to man­age it. Being a sin­gle mom wouldn't nec­es­sar­i­ly mean I'd have to do every­thing alone.

For one, I have an old­er queer sib­ling who wants to have his own kids but can't. He has expressed mul­ti­ple times that he'd be hap­py to pro­vide for and help raise a niece or nephew.

What's more, I came from a cul­ture where multi­gen­er­a­tional house­holds — with grand­par­ents, aunts, and uncles under one roof, rais­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren — were con­sid­ered nor­mal. It's not as stig­ma­tized as it seems in the United States, where the nuclear house­hold reigns.

In oth­er words, I have enough of a social safe­ty net that an acci­den­tal preg­nan­cy would not only be tol­er­at­ed but wel­comed by my fam­i­ly. And I don't have to wor­ry about my safe­ty being inex­tri­ca­bly linked to appeas­ing one provider as an inti­mate partner.

With the priv­i­lege of back­ups upon back­ups upon back­ups, that's one less sex-​related stres­sor for me to wor­ry about.

Expectations of Caregiving Placed on Me (Or Not)

On the flip side, I don't have to care for a child, sib­ling, spouse, or aging par­ents yet. I may even­tu­al­ly, but I didn't inter­nal­ize the mes­sage that my worth depend­ed on how well I took care of oth­ers. And I can't say the same for all oth­er women.

So many women pride them­selves on their super­hu­man care­giv­ing, then strug­gle with pri­or­i­tiz­ing that same lev­el of love for themselves:

  • Who's tak­ing care of them?
  • Who cel­e­brates them?
  • How do they relieve the pres­sure to be the per­fect wife, moth­er, daugh­ter, etc.?
  • What brings them joy when not defined by their rela­tions to others?

On the one hand, I think the term "self-​care" has large­ly been cor­po­ra­tized and stripped of its polit­i­cal con­text. At the same time, I under­stand the intent when sex toy mar­ket­ing sug­gests prac­tic­ing self-​love by buy­ing more toys.

Ultimately, it's about what the toys sym­bol­ize ⁠— that you deserve time for your­self to feel good and do you for you. And at least to the same extent that you buy gifts for oth­ers, you deserve nice expe­ri­ences, too.

For a woman to pri­or­i­tize her plea­sure can feel like a rad­i­cal act in a cul­ture where mag­a­zine head­lines at the gro­cery store check­out shout, "69 MORE WAYS TO BLOW HIS MIND IN BED!" And the lux­u­ry of pri­or­i­tiz­ing my joy out­side the bed­room has made all the dif­fer­ence in the bedroom.

Finding Like-Minded People and Redefining "Normalcy"

My Millennial self has said, "Naruto fan­fic­tion was my sex­u­al awak­en­ing," and strangers my age have nod­ded, "That is so valid."

It's now rel­a­tive­ly easy to con­nect to a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple sim­i­lar to you. Contrast that with life before the advent of the inter­net, when sex­u­al urges, queer­ness, and kinks were far more hush-hush. 

If you were a sadist in a very small Catholic town pre-​internet, you may have thought you were a mon­ster who would burn in hell for the rest of eter­ni­ty. And it's under­stand­able to self-​isolate and rumi­nate in shame when you think nobody around you would even remote­ly get it.

Meanwhile, my ado­les­cence start­ed with Quizilla's lemons and limes, then anony­mous Tumblr porn .gif reblogs, then pro­gressed to FetLife. The idea of women being the sub­jects of plea­sure ⁠— irre­spec­tive of the male gaze ⁠— had been repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed to me.

In high school, lit­er­al­ly my first read­ing in AP US History was called "Puritans and Sex." That class made it clear that sex­u­al­i­ty was, is, and will be a huge part of our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness as humans.

You couldn't slut-​shame me. Not when I knew that:

  1. I was far from alone in my fan­tasies and desires.
  2. Haters gonna hate. Their judg­ments of my sex­u­al expres­sion are cloud­ed by their inse­cu­ri­ties (and some­times igno­rance of how bod­ies work).
  3. The legal, risk-​aware, con­sen­su­al activ­i­ties I do are ulti­mate­ly nobody else's busi­ness but my part­ners' and my own. 

Internalized Narratives From External Sources About Pleasure

Sex edu­ca­tion that revolves around STIs and preg­nan­cy pre­ven­tion is like a cook­ing class where you only talk about food­borne ill­ness­es. It's an incom­plete pic­ture. ⁠What about how great food can be?

This sec­tion might be a tes­ta­ment to my innate curios­i­ty as much as my exter­nal cir­cum­stances, but it's still worth men­tion­ing. The nar­ra­tives we hear about female plea­sure (or lack there­of) in child­hood and ado­les­cence can leave a last­ing impres­sion on us:

  • I learned about the cli­toris from a mag­a­zine — and found mine pret­ty ear­ly on 
    • How I learned about pelvic floor exer­cis­es was a sim­i­lar deal via anoth­er women's magazine.
  • I found an abun­dance of roman­tic and erot­ic fan fic­tion writ­ten by girls for girls. There was nev­er, ever any doubt for me that girls get horny, too.
  • I was a geek for Mary Roach's sci­ence jour­nal­ism in high school, includ­ing Bonk, her book about the silli­ness of sex research. The accom­pa­ny­ing TED talk about orgasms is pret­ty great, too. 
  • Bonk also men­tioned breath and ener­gy orgasms — and from there, I read Barbara Carellas's book, Urban Tantra, which taught me the tech­niques and the impor­tance of mind­set in pleasure.
  • At 19, I won­dered, "What the hell is a jel­ly dil­do made of?" and went down the Google rab­bit hole to find the begin­nings of the sex toy review community.

Two per­sis­tent under­cur­rents were at play:

  1. I was fas­ci­nat­ed by the human body.
  2. I con­sumed a lot of media writ­ten by oth­er girls and women — who clear­ly, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly enjoyed what they were doing.

The lat­ter meant my per­cep­tions of sex­u­al­i­ty were root­ed in what women enjoyed. Further, it decen­tral­ized the penis as the pin­na­cle of plea­sure, expand­ing my def­i­n­i­tion of what sex could look like. By many people's stan­dards, that's not a "tra­di­tion­al" point of view. But pri­or­i­tiz­ing my plea­sure is my "nor­mal."

An Abundance of Men Who Give a Shit About My Pleasure

Since I attend­ed a STEM-​focused school with a gen­der ratio of 2 boys to one girl, my expe­ri­ences were quite dif­fer­ent from the aver­age het­ero person's. I had many close male friends and still do — my for­ma­tive expe­ri­ences with them were often positive.

That's not to say that the guys around me were all mature or com­pe­tent (lol), but at least I had a base­line under­stand­ing that plen­ty of them were hap­py to serve me.

What's more, despite my first time's awk­ward­ness and dis­com­fort, my part­ner was undoubt­ed­ly enthu­si­as­tic about going down on me. Even when it wasn't yet stan­dard for me to have orgasms dur­ing part­ner play, they still at least tried to take care of me before, dur­ing, and after. And they often asked, "What did you like and what didn't you like?"

Excellent com­mu­ni­ca­tion about sex was my base­line. By the time I encoun­tered a dude who didn't give oral or care about his partner's plea­sure, he was the weird one to me. Once mul­ti­ple orgasms were con­sis­tent for me — through my solo work med­i­tat­ing, Kegeling, and deep pen­e­tra­tion — that only fur­ther raised the bar for partners.

It reached the point where I aver­age 10 of mine for one of theirs. And I sel­dom ques­tion whether I'll come when hav­ing part­nered sex — casu­al or oth­er­wise. (If I don't think I'm like­ly to orgasm dur­ing fore­play, I usu­al­ly don't esca­late it beyond that.)

The fol­low­ing het­ero con­cerns don't apply to me:

  • "Hahahahaha, men can't find the clit."
  • "Hahahaha, I'm not going to come any­way. EXCEPT TO MY SENSES."
  • "If you have to ask whether she came, she didn't."

…but they're unfor­tu­nate­ly a real­i­ty for many straight women. And yeah, if you've had most­ly neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences with sex, it may take time to gath­er evi­dence con­trary to that imprint. I don't blame you for not want­i­ng to engage in it with a partner.

Closing Thoughts (i.e., It's Never "Just" You!)

I've pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten a sep­a­rate, in-​depth expla­na­tion about the rea­sons for the orgasm gap in het­ero cou­ples. (Hint: It's not because vul­vas and vagi­nas are complicated!)

But it's not "just" about the body parts, nor does buy­ing a vibra­tor in the name of self-​love solve the prob­lem at the root. Furthermore, sex­u­al shame and repres­sion aren't "just" about you. They're also about the social and polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment in which you:

  • Formed your beliefs about the world and what nor­mal­cy means to you
  • Developed your defense mech­a­nisms for nav­i­gat­ing the peo­ple around you
  • Decided which plea­sures were safe (or not) to pursue

I might be some­what lib­er­at­ed per my own voli­tion, but I'm also lucky in many ways that added up to big orgasms over time.

How have your upbring­ing and cir­cum­stances shaped the way you date and have sex?

This post was spon­sored. As always, my words are my own. The exter­nal links don't nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect my views.

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1 Response

  1. D. Dyer says:

    Reading this made me real­ize how much being a queer per­son who though I’m some­what androphilic views cis men as entire­ly option­al to my sex­u­al and roman­tic life if not my pro­fes­sion­al one has impact­ed my abil­i­ty to take up sex­u­al space.

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