#GirlBoner Monday: 5 Sex Drive Myths

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” — Walt Disney

I wonder if Mr. Disney imagined that his insight would appear in a Girl Boner post. You’re welcome, WD! Actually, I should thank him. The fact is, we can’t embrace something we don’t believe in. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate quote to introduce a post on female sex drive.

The other day a young woman phoned into sex expert Dr. Drew’s radio show, Loveline, concerned because her sex drive seemed excessive and surpassed her boyfriend’s. The following chat went essentially like this:

Dr. Drew: How often do you want to have sex?

Woman: About once per day, sometimes more.

Dr. Drew: And you’re how old?

Woman: 22.

Dr. Drew:  That sounds pretty normal. There’s nothing wrong with you.

Me: WAHOO! *cheers loudly and wishes to hug Dr. Drew*

That woman could have been me around that age. Not only did I desire sex as often as she expressed, but my libido surpassed that of numerous boyfriends. I, too, wondered if there was something wrong with that equation. I’ve since learned otherwise, but seldom hear such issues discussed publicly.

We’re told repeatedly that men desire sex far more than women do—so much so, it’s considered common knowledge. I can’t tell you how elated I am that researchers, educators and activists are beginning to explore and debunk these myths (though, sheesh! We have a ways to go…). Myths about female sexual desire can be damaging on multiple levels. They teach girls and women that their desires are wrong, prevent those desires from thriving, dissuade women from recognizing or embracing their sexuality, encourage limits on sexual pleasure and damage relationships. Learning more about sex drive myths can go a long way toward minimizing these complications. Today, I’ll highlight some of the biggies.

female sex drive girl boner

Myths About Sex Drive

Myth #1: Women peak in their 30s.

Facts: This notion is based on one study, published in 1953, in which researcher Alfred Kinsey found that female participants in their 30s experienced more orgasms than participants in other age groups. In reality, women tend to gain confidence over the years. As a result, we experience greater orgasm strength and frequency as we age. For many women, our twenties are particularly stressful and insecurity-ridden times. As we’ve discussed here previously, stress and insecurity damage libido. We’re also far less encouraged than males to explore sexually during young adulthood.

Myth #2: Guys think about sex every seven seconds.

Facts: There was never a study to back this up. Research published in the Journal of Sex Research in 2011 showed that college-age men think about sex about 19 times per day, compared to 10 times per day for college-age women. Women are less likely to admit to sexual thoughts, however, and women who have positive body image, masturbate and read sex-positive publications, such as Cosmo, think about and engage more in sex than women who don’t. In other words, gender averages are pretty darn close and variable.

Myth #3: Women want fewer sexual partners than men do.

Facts: Large-scale research published in Current Directions in Psychological Science showed that, with use of statistical controls, males and females desire the same amount of partners. One of the controls involved determining the truth in the participants’ responses. Men are more likely to exaggerate their sexual partner total, the study found, while women tend to round the number down.

Myth #4: Casual sex appeals less to women than men. 

Facts: Numerous recent studies show that men and women desire casual sex equally, but that women are more likely to experience shame and depressive moods afterward. Sexually active women, particularly with multiple partners, have long been considered “sluts,” by societal standards, whereas men are either considered studly or normal—the “Boys will be boys” mentality. Those popular notions aside, desire for sex with strangers and acquaintances comes out equal. Both genders are also prone to experiencing desire for greater intimacy within and following such encounters over time.

Myth #5: Emotional intimacy guarantees high sex drive and great sex.

Facts: Feeling like we’re best pals with a partner is a great thing, but it doesn’t necessarily boost libido. Other crucial factors? Feeling desired and sexual play. “We’ve all been brainwashed to think emotional intimacy is the best thing,” says Kathryn Hall, author of Reclaiming Your Sexual Self. “But lots of couples get really emotionally intimate and their sex life tanks anyway.” Hall recommends forgetting about what we consider normal, and instead embracing whatever makes us feel sexy. Everyone’s “normal” is different, and we can all have gratifying sex lives. What matters is cultivating a sexual lifestyle that suits us and our partners.

For more on female sexual desire and related myths, check out this New York Times magazine article, What Do Women Want?

Have you ever worried that your sex drive is excessive? Are you surprised by any of these myths? How have they affected you? You know I love hearing from you! All respectful thoughts are welcome. For more between-post fun, please join me and the #GirlBoner community on Facebook and Twitter. ♥

Leave a comment

41 Comments

  1. I think it’s impossible to “study” this or make some academic or scientific determination about drive.

    Mine has always exceeded the people I’ve been with. But that’s specific to me. I think women can control their urges better than men. I don’t remember who said it but the line “women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place” is close to accurate. But if you believe every Twitter feed or blog post by women on the Internet then you’d think there were 100 million wannabe porn stars out there.

    again, it’s tough to say for sure. I bet men and women are the same in the area of drive, overall. we’re just freaks, lol

    Reply
    • Hey, Lance. Thanks for weighing in. I do believe it’s possible to study from these issues from physiological, sociological and behavioral standpoints. I also feel it’s vital when people–namely women, in this case–are being repressed and otherwise harmed. The myths, of course, damage men as well.

      As far as women having more control over their urges, I feel that other issues are often at play–social standards and expectations of both genders being a biggie. Women should be encouraged to embrace their sexuality and desires, IMO, just as men should be encouraged to express and nurture their sensitivity. Complex stuff, and I appreciate your insight!

      Reply
    • Dear Lance,

      I hope you realize you’ve reinforced almost every negative stereotype about men…. so if you’re wondering why women want sex with you less than you do with them, perhaps a good look in the mirror is in order.

      Women have incredible sex drives, we also have other things (and stress) we prioritize above getting laid. Also, women can have amazing orgasms via masturbation, whereas having sex means running the risk of getting pregnant, contracting an STD, or having to put up with a man’s B.S. afterward (or before…. or during….). A sexually aware and sensually alive woman does not *need* a man for pleasure. So when we DO go for sex, it IS because we want the touch, the companionship, the connection with another person (energetic and/or emotional). All too often, especially in the casual hook-up, the sex is just mutual masturbation…. That’s fine if that’s what you want. Just realize not all women want that, just as we don’t NEED sex with a partner to have incredible orgasms. (Men don’t either, but most men never realize their orgasmic potential.) So partnered sex is not about orgasms. THAT is an aspect of women’s mentality that most men just don’t understand.

      Then you jump to the other extreme that the women who DO speak up about their sexual desires or activities must be wannabe porn stars. So typical. No matter what a woman does in her sexual identity, we’re just stereotypes — don’t want sex, we’re cold fish; really like sex, we’re wannabe porn stars. Grow up.

      trish

      http://www.ArousedWomanBlog.com

      Reply
  2. I always felt that, for me and the guys I’ve known, the “every seven seconds” thing was ridiculously implausible…but 19 times a day sounds almost as absurdly LOW, makes me wonder how they did the research and whether those college-age men were able/incentivized to fib their stats downward a little.

    I should keep a tally or something. Though I’d have to temporarily unfollow this blog and unlike GB on Facebook, which are undoubtedly skewing the results for everyone here…

    Reply
    • That number was just the average from one study. Some guys probably pondered sex 5 times per daily hour, others once or twice. So many factors influence sex drive, and it’s a highly individual thing for both genders.

      If you wanna tally your sex thoughts for your own purposes, no one at GB Central’s gonna mind. 🙂 I think many guys would be surprised at women’s tallies, if we kept and shared them.

      Reply
      • So I looked up an article on the study, which may be the one you were looking at: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/sexthoughts.htm

        “The college-student participants carried a golf tally counter to track their thoughts about either eating, sleep or sex every day for a week. Each student was assigned to just one type of thought to record.”

        So I guess what I was saying is that with that sort of system, it seems pretty likely that some of the participants will feel ashamed or self-conscious about how often they *really* think about it (there’s plenty of evidence that people do this sort of thing in even anonymous surveys) and click less often than they should. I’m sure the researchers know this much better than I do, but there’s probably not a lot they can do about it. I suspect a lot of people, because of the shame issue, would be like “well, that person’s hair that walked by smelled really good and I got a little twinge for a second, but that doesn’t count, does it?” and not click the tally counter. Which also jibes with your statement that people who are more comfortable with sex think about it more often…maybe they do, but I bet they’re also a lot more willing to acknowledge those thoughts, or recognize them AS “sex thoughts” when they happen.

        None of that changes or disagrees with anything you’ve said. I think men and women do tend to be closer than most people realize (though the study does note a very real difference in how often men think about not only sex but other physical needs…we just tend to be simpler beasts), and a person’s individuality probably has a lot more to do with it than gender. I just strongly suspect that that 19 number should be higher (and that the 10 should be, too…heck, given what you’ve said about women being less likely to admit to those thoughts, maybe this would move them even closer together). 🙂

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested that maybe the whole “women peak in their 30’s” had more to do with growing confidence that comes with maturity. I also think that as women mature they become more comfortable at saying what they mean and asking for what they want…Of course that leads to more sex. The stigma attached to women who were “too free” exploring their sexuality was another hindrance, of course. Great points!

    Reply
    • Excellent points, Kitt! Openness and comfort with stating our wants is hugely helpful, and arguably magical. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hey, Kitt!

      Another theory behind the “women peak in their 30’s” is that the walls of the vagina begin to thin a little bit, so all those yummy erogenous spots and zones are more readily available for touch and stimulation. 🙂

      BUT! Don’t believe the “peak” B.S. At 30, we’re just getting revved up!! And if you can train yourself to notice those pesky warning signs of peri-menopause, you’ll be able to manage your hormone levels as you pass through the “change of life,” so you’re STILL a rockin’, sexy, orgasmic babe well into your 80’s. 🙂

      AND I agree with you on the whole confidence thing!! I’m 40, and I’ve never been more whole and sex-confident in my life… I was always sex-positive, but NOW, I totally own my zone! 😛

      trish

      http://www.ArousedWomanBlog.com

      Reply
  4. Oh, MAN, I wish I’d read this when I was 21-22. I was in my first longer relationship, and I wanted sex all the time — and he didn’t. You’re absolutely right about the social and cultural norms that influence how we think about sex, and double standards are still so rampant in our society, specifically the slut/stud dichotomy.

    Reply
    • You and me both, Emmie! Speaking of stereotypes worth busting, I’m loving your fem-power superhero activism. The pen as our sword… 😉 Write on.

      Reply
  5. I will say this — sex is nothing like in my 20s and 30s and even my 40s — it’s better – lots and lots better. I’m in my fifties. My libido is higher, orgasms much more intense, stronger – the whole danged thang just feels better and who knows why – I ain’t complainin’ *laugh* — I do keep myself in shape, so maybe that helps, but still *shrug* So, don’t discount an “older woman” y’all — she just may surprise you and WHUPOW your ass all over that bedroom – just say’n! Teehee. I used to think about it a lot (and still do, maybe more so) but the end result was never as good as it is now. WHEE HAW!

    I don’t believe I have to be “in love” to have great sex, either. I’m married, and if I suddenly were not, well, I’d wouldn’t wait until I “fell in love” to have sex – why do that? I ain’t gettin’ any younger, you know *grin*

    Reply
    • You’re an inspiration, Kat! I LOVE hearing that. I personally find older women beautiful, inside and out—particularly when they have spunk. 😉 I think it’s important for all of us to see that, and foresee it in ourselves.

      Agreed on great sex, with or without romance! Sex can be HOT, regardless. I totally dig your attitude.

      Reply
      • 😀 Welp, you are pretty danged awesome and I suspect you’ll kick ass well into your hunnerts – like I hope I will 😀

    • AWESOME! Vagina power!!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. August, thank you for your candor and for following through on what is certainly a God given mission to liberate the understanding of female sex from anything less than being a fully vibrant and even leading partner in sexual expression. It has taken me a few blogs to fully appreciate your strategic contribution and see it as the labour of love that it is. You are courageous to do this and much appreciated.

    Reply
    • I’m touched, Börje. This work really does feel like my life’s purpose, and every word of encouragement means a great deal. Thank you!

      Reply
  7. I wonder if some of these myths came about based on studies done in high school and college locker rooms. The guy’s locker room. Because I have to say that I can identify with this statement: “…my libido surpassed that of numerous boyfriends.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that at least one of these myths was nothing but a bunch of B.S. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Love the artwork you found for this post! So colorful.

    I’m glad you placed that first myth in there. I’ve heard that one and wondered why. After your facts section that makes a lot of sense and helps me know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  9. I know that when I’m around elderly people, I think about sex 0 times per hour. 🙂

    Then I realize that one day, I’m going to get really old, then I start thinking about sex again. 🙂

    Reply
  10. I can’t say that any of them caught me completely off-guard except the one about women wanting multiple partners. I know that comes from being brought up in a religious household, but I think I hoped that one was a bit true…guess I will have to live with it!
    Scott

    Reply
  11. Emmie said exactly what I thought as I read these stats, August.

    But, eh(!), better now than never, right? I have got to hop over to her blog to discover what the fern-power is all about.

    As for sex and how often it hits my noggin. More now than even before in my life. Because I know more now, I’m more open about it now, and I don’t attach sex-debilitating social stigmas to what I choose to do with (and to) my body.

    Go #Girl Boners!

    And, now, after reading this, after having had a good workout, after having a sudsy shower and treated my body to yummy lotion…

    Hand me one of those clickers. I’ll change the bell curve on those stats. 😉

    p.s. Not to be a contrarian on Bill’s observations about the golf tally study, but…were I given an assignment to click each time I thought about sex, that would be the primary thing on my mind. Cute butt. Click. Oooooh. Bedroom eyes.Click. Satin sheets on sale? Click Where can I find more men to ogle? clickclickclickclickclickclickclick.

    Reply
    • Hahaha…this is a good point, too. My main point was that these things are really hard to study reliably, because only the person in question can know what she’s thinking, and by letting her know you want to know when she’s thinking about it, in one way or another you’re likely to change the way she’s thinking. Which is why whenever I see one of these studies cited I want to go straight to it and figure out how they measured it, what questions they asked, etc., etc.

      Oh and Emmie’s blog is awesome, but the one you’re going to be looking for is http://searchingforsuperwomen.com/. 🙂

      Reply
      • These issues can be tough to study. I have access to the full study you mentioned, which is super in-depth, but can’t share it. (More coming on all of that–exciting book stuff. :)) As you know, I’m pretty research-obsessed (ha) and seek out large, prima studies. Lots of quality stuff is out there. Of course lab research is only part of the deal.

      • Of, of course, and I hope you’re not taking any of this as a criticism of you or your research, sources, etc. I’d never impugn your…well, your anything. Pretty big fan. 🙂 But YOU know how I like my numbers (sometimes), and I’m reading a book that is kind of stunning in the way it reveals how limited we are in our abilities to quantify things. I’m sure that study is as good as it gets and is really useful, including your purposes (basically “men don’t think about sex twelve thousand times a day, and men and women are a lot closer on this than most people think” — I have no doubt that that’s true and the study helps show that).

        I’m just skeptical that, however in-depth and well-run it is there will ever be a study that will allow us to say with any certainty that “people [or a subset of people] think [X] an average of [Y] times per day.” Or even, “Jane, who is the very person we studied, thinks about sex an average of 100 times a day.” There’s just no reliable way to access that information without tampering with the sample. It CAN tell us that that number is probably nowhere near 12,000. 🙂 Just important to approach that sort of thing with a bit of uncertainty, and not treat the actual numbers that come out like they mean more than they do. I’m sure the researchers here probably did approach it that way, and it’s not like you’re depending on those exact numbers being right on for anything either…just expressing my skepticism about the numbers themselves.

        Yay for exciting book stuff!

      • Totally. I respect all of that, and wouldn’t be much of a journalist if I didn’t keep such things in perspective. No problems at all with your number fervor, as long as we stay focused here on all things GB! Because really, what else is there??? 😉 Thanks for weighing in.

      • Just realized I said “of, of course” rather than “oh.” Heh.

        Oh, a lot of very widely-read and -respected journalists have NO IDEA how to handle or properly weigh statistics. You’re way ahead of the curve there. You wouldn’t be so brilliant or such a favorite of mine if you didn’t keep those things in perspective, but you could still do just fine in journalism. 😉

        Hey, maybe some GBs out there get triggered by discussions of biases in research…Rule 34 and all that…

  12. Raani York

     /  June 14, 2013

    *chuckle*
    I remember my first boyfriend (we both in our early twenties), that he thinks I’m not normal, because I wanted to make love with him by far too often… (about two to three times a week…?) After about one and a half years into our relationship he explains he’s BORED with having sex.
    (I found out later, he was bored with having sex with only one woman at a time… but since I’m a “one-man-one-women”-girl I didn’t feel like sharing him)… I’m afraid from that day on our relationship died a long and painful death.

    Reply
  13. theworld4realz

     /  June 15, 2013

    I’m really, really relieved to read this because my hubz and I are kinda backwards in the libido department. At least, I *THOUGHT* we were backwards! Now, I guess, based on what you’re saying here, we’re quite normal. I kept thinking maybe there was something “wrong” with us, since my speed is set on overdrive and his speed is kind of cruise-control. In a way, it works for us, because while I have spiced up his experiences, he has somewhat tamed me, so to speak. Still — those stigmas are ingrained so deeply, I couldn’t help but feel “dirty” for wanting more than my spouse, and he couldn’t help but feel like I might be disappointed. Thank goodness we have open discussions, or this could have been a real problem. As it is, we were merely confused and mildly concerned, but overall content to let it play out however it plays out. I will definitely share this post with him — I’m sure he will find it as enlightening as I do! Thanks for sharing such great information, August! 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! Indeed, there’s nothing backward about your situation at all. I hope knowing that only adds to the fun you and your hubby share! 🙂

      Reply
  14. Good work August. I haven’t listened to Loveline in quite a while, but I do like that Dr. Drew.

    Do you know http://www.thedirtynormal.com ? Emily is crazy smart and always has interesting things to say, plus she’s got that academic bent and cites interesting research.

    I think that alleged norms like “men are sex crazed beasts b/c of biology” and “women see sex as relationship building” are often overstated and there’s a complex relationship with culture and implicit expectations that affects the research. When you break down the numbers the cultural myths don’t stand up. I find the “everyone knows [men/women] are X” to be lazy and generally not very useful. When we open things up and ask how sex works / feels / exists to US individually, is when we get real answers.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Joe! I haven’t listened to Emily, but is sounds as though her work is right up my alley. I’ll definitely check her out.

      You’re absolutely right about keeping the conversation going and taking sex-related notions with a grain of salt. I really appreciate the insight.

      Reply
      • You bet. I think you’ll like Emily, she’s wicked smart….I don’t comment often on her blog but she rarely writes something that doesn’t make me think out loud.

    • Joe,

      You’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. It is all about communication. As I like to say, a “relationship” is really a “relate-tionship,” how 2 (or more) people actively *relate* to each other. Everybody is different, just as every body is different.

      And as for some of those “studies,” I’m at the point where I will trust my own experiences with my own body before listening to some “empirical” science experiment about women’s sexual function (that was probably led by a team of men).

      How ridiculous is this? A recent “study” concluded that the women’s G-spot does not exist after all. What was the “study?” A few research fellows looked at the results of 60+ previous studies, and came to the conclusion the G-spot doesn’t exist. Seriously. They didn’t do ANY research like asking women, examining women, watching women masturbate — nothing! Nor did they bother to look at the research of the Viennese urologists who definitively found the female prostate on ultrasound in 2007.

      So, I look at any “study” with a wary eye, and judge the “findings” individually. And I’ll put my personal experiential anecdotes above any “study” conducted by a man looking to make a name for himself in the academic or scientific world. 🙂

      trish

      http://www.ArousedWomanBlog.com

      Reply
      • Excellent points, Trish. As a journalist and, I admit it!, research junkie, it drives me NUTS when people start quoting studies that consisted of a small group of hand-selected folks…or simply studies that they know very little about. Social and sexual scientists are awesome resources, seeking to answer questions many of us have. Even they don’t claim to have all (or even many) of the answers. I do think that qualifiable research is great for upholding other material—like that (most important!) personal experience and body awareness.

        Thanks so much for weighing in. The world needs more people like you!

      • Jeez… Men should NEVER write about what want from the perspective that men can get into our heads to get into our pants! Grrrr! 🙂 I love men, and I would never assume a man’s thought process. That’s why I prefer having a conversation, actually communicating with him over his wants and needs, rather than making up dialogue in my head that may or may not be accurate to how HE feels, what HE thinks.

        Ugh.

        There is a book I want to review so badly because there is *some* good info in it, but the author comes across as a smarmy, misogynist jerk, and I’m afraid people will buy it anyway (I don’t want to give him those royalties off the sales. :-P).

        I wrote these 2 articles, and yes, men complained. Oh, well…… 🙂

        http://arousedwomanblog.com/2012/03/15/oped-how-i-like-my-sex-bare/

        http://arousedwomanblog.com/2012/03/06/the-truth-about-the-hard-fuck-pulling-out-talking-afterward/

        trish

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