I polled some of my female friends to share a moment when they instantly knew they were no longer interested in having sex with their partners. "I was having a bad day and he said, 'Stop being sad, it's making me feel weird. Can you just be happy tonight?'" "He was talking about how many other women found him attractive...while I was naked in his bed."
From a man's perspective, it can seem like anything could cause a woman to suddenly decide she no longer wants to have sex. Whether it's the belief that passion fades in long-term relationships or the stories about how getting married killed someone's sex life, there's a lot of data out there suggesting that sex just isn't as important to women as it is to men.
But, from a purely animal perspective, the females of a species are hardwired to have that biological urge to create new life. That is the definition of a sexual being.
So, why do these inherently erotic creatures have a seemingly infinite number of triggers for a total drop-off in sexual desire? Well, much like the drive to have sex, these triggers are evolutionary, too.
After much deliberation and discussion with women, I've come up with a way to understand and address these triggers. I put them under the umbrella term of "anti-sexuality."
Anti-sexuality is an experience or thought that discourages sexual arousal and/or makes future sexual prospects less enticing.
Let’s talk about the three main triggers of anti-sexuality. Then I'll explain how all these things interconnect and play out in real-world scenarios.
1. Physical disgust:
It's actually been demonstrated that the automatic anti-sexual lockdown women sometimes experience when they're grossed out by something acts as a safety mechanism to protect them from disease due to the added risk of physical penetration. This "gross-out" factor can be caused by environment or a sensitivity to either of your bodies.
It sounds pretty obvious, and most guys reading this will know they shouldn't have pizza boxes and beer bottles lying around the house, but subtler things like bed sheets that aren't freshly washed, or a stuffy bedroom, can start to trigger a woman's gross-out alarm, depending on how much sexual energy she has at the time.
Saying you'll clean the house but not following through can have a similar effect.
It's not that women always require an antiseptic environment in order to feel aroused, but the environment is a factor. And when it's compounded by other elements, it can be the deciding factor.
Environment can also work to your advantage: Candles, incense, nice music, clean sheets, and soft blankets can play a huge role in turning a woman on.
Think of it this way: Every time a woman is asked to compromise her sexual desires because "there's not enough time," or "that's too much effort," you're slowly chipping away at her desire for sexual intimacy by making it unfulfilling and, eventually, anti-sexual. Lighting candles can make such a difference, and it requires so little effort. Why not just do it? Doesn't she deserve to feel good?
Most women I've spoken to report that if they've been sweating (post-workout or a yoga class), they have a hard time getting aroused, feeling sexy, or even believing they're pretty. A woman needs to feel fresh and clean before she feels sexy. One of the women I spoke with said, "No way I'm having sex with my husband until I've showered."
She wants her body to be clean, so it's likely that she wants yours to be clean, too. You're going to be physically intimate. She doesn't want to think about all the gross places you've been during that experience.
Clean clothes, clean fingernails, and freshly brushed teeth go a long way. When I asked my girlfriend about the whole physical disgust thing, she said, "Well, I prefer that we've both showered recently."
After asking her to be more specific, it turns out that "recently" means up to three hours before. Over three hours is considered "not so recently."
If you aren't sure what your girl's standards are, just eliminate the issue by following the three-hour shower rule and keeping a tidy environment with a candle or two.
2. Mental stress:
A day spent juggling tasks, managing people, or finding solutions to pressing problems locks her body into the sympathetic nervous system—the fight-or-flight response.
This presents an obstacle, because a woman's body generally requires relaxation before sexual arousal can happen.
When she's had a long day at work, the idea of arousal feels like it's miles away, and she's going to need three hours for foreplay before she can get there.
While she may definitely feel too tired, what she's actually experiencing is an inability to shift gears into the parasympathetic nervous system—the rest-and-relaxation response, which is the precursor to female sexual arousal.
You can offset stress with something as simple as a long hug that lets her surrender into your body once she gets home from work. It tells her she's safe, that you missed her, and that you love her—all things that tell her it's OK to relax and let go of the stresses of her day.
3. Emotional disconnect:
While physical disgust and mental stress can certainly be strong enough to trigger anti-sexual lockdown on their own, the most powerful branch of anti-sexuality is emotional disconnect. This happens when a woman feels like you don't care about her.
(It's not about whether you think you've done enough to express it. Right or wrong, it's the physical sensation in her body that either allows her to be turned on or not.)
When a woman is figuring out whether or not she feels like having sex, her body will replay the most recent experiences of emotional intimacy (or lack thereof) to assess if there is enough of a connection to spark sexual arousal and desire.
Has he called or texted me recently to see how I'm doing?
Has it felt lighthearted and playful, or stale and transactional?
Our culture's dominant narrative is that sexual desire should just happen spontaneously because that's how it's experienced at the beginning of a relationship.
The truth is, in the long term, a woman's sex drive is actually responsive to her circumstances. It's the feeling of emotional connection with a partner that actually turns a woman on.
Emotional intimacy and emotional disconnect are constantly moving a woman's body toward or away from sexual arousal.
That's why texting her throughout the day, greeting her with a long hug, and lighting candles are all great ways to ensure that anti-sexuality never becomes any issue. At their core, all of these seemingly disparate gestures demonstrate that you are thinking about her and that you care about her.
The interplay between the three branches of anti-sexuality cause all kinds of arguments and misunderstandings about sex.
Say your wife comes home tired from a long day at work, where she had a co-worker blow up at her an hour before she left. The house has been in disarray for a week because you've both been super busy and haven't had time to keep up. Her body would be registering at a 5/10 on the anti-sexual scale. Your next actions are going to play a huge role in how the evening plays out.
On one hand, you have the option to be frustrated because she's been letting this co-worker bother her for over a month now. Then you can choose to ignore her because "If she doesn't want me to fix it, there’s no point talking about it."
The problem with this decision is the emotional disconnect she's going to feel. It will push her into a full anti-sexual lockdown—a stressed-out, tired woman in a messy house who's just felt a massive smack of emotional disconnect when she needs support is not going to be willing or eager to move into arousal mode.
That experience will linger in her body, compiled with similar experiences from other days, and build up into walls of bitterness and resentment over time.
What if you choose to make a different decision, though?
What if you were there to greet her at the door with a long hug where she could relax into the safety of your arms and feel welcomed the home?
From there, you could choose to bring her to the couch and let to her talk about her day so she felt like you cared about her.
Instead of offering solutions, just listen while you rub her shoulders or feet.
This is the fastest way to help a stressed-out woman stuck in the sympathetic fight-or-flight mode move into the parasympathetic rest-and-relax state.
It's from this relaxed state that she's able to realize just how supportive and caring you've been to her, which starts to turn her on...and how the rest of the night goes is for the two of you to decide.
Do you see just how much power the decisions you make have on your relationship? By understanding anti-sexuality, you can understand why your partner struggles to feel sexual sometimes and help her move back into that state of openness to arousal.