Sexual desire is a natural and complex aspect of human life, and it is important to recognize and embrace its diversity. There are a lot of common misconceptions about female sexuality, and these unhelpful messages come at women from both secular and faith communities.
In this blog post, we will focus on normative female sexual desire, aiming to shed light on common misconceptions, provide support and validation, and promote healthy attitudes toward female sexuality. By understanding and celebrating normative female sexual desire, we can foster positive relationships with our bodies and enhance our overall well-being in addition to enhancing our sexual intimacy with our partners. We can return to God’s original desire for sex in Genesis when the author writes that Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.”
Breaking Stereotypes of Sexual Desire
Society often perpetuates stereotypes about female sexual desire, which can create confusion, shame, and unrealistic expectations. It's crucial to dispel these myths and recognize that normative female sexual desire is just as valid and diverse as male sexual desire. Every woman experiences her unique desires and preferences, and there is no single "normal" or "right" way to experience and express sexuality.
However, this is not the message that faith communities and the world broadcast. The best example I can think of how Christian culture depicts female sexuality is, oddly, the Netflix show Bridgerton. The female leads are depicted as experiencing spontaneous desire, getting turned on quickly in a variety of situations, and having easy, frequent orgasms. The women in this show are also depicted as having apparently no sexual desire at all until they meet the person that will become their husband. This creates a confusing dichotomy that is often replicated in Christian culture that women are supposed to have no desire until marriage and are then expected to experience desire frequently and quickly.
Some of this same confusion is replicated in other secular and religious messages where women that have high desire are both simultaneously seen as desirous and shameful, and women with lower spontaneous desire are seen as pious and frigid.
The truth is that female sexual desire is extremely varied. Some women, 20% of all couples based on current research, have higher desire than their male partners. Some women experience spontaneous desire, while others need time to feel aroused in what is referred to in research as responsive desire. This is the difference between a light switch and a dimmer. Most women experience both types of desire at different points. Orgasms are easy to achieve for some women through vaginal intercourse, and other women need additional stimulation. In fact, the most current research reports that only 25-40% of women achieve orgasm during vaginal intercourse.
Several factors can influence normative female sexual desire, and it's important to acknowledge that these factors can vary greatly from person to person.
1. Biological Factors: Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, and certain medical conditions can impact a woman's sexual desire.
2. Psychological Factors: Emotional well-being, self-esteem, body image, stress levels, past experiences, and relationship dynamics can all play a role in a woman's sexual desire. Feeling negatively about oneself tends to lead to lower desire. Additionally, feeling positive about one’s relationship and past sexual experiences leads to an increase in desire.
*If you have experienced past sexual abuse or trauma, it is normal to struggle with sex, even in safe relationships. You are not broken, but it might be helpful to have additional support as you heal. Several therapists at Remain Connected work with sexual abuse survivors and would be honored to support you through your healing.
3. Social and Cultural Factors: Societal attitudes, cultural norms, religious beliefs, and upbringing can shape a woman's understanding of her desires and affect her willingness to express them. As discussed above, social and cultural factors can largely influence a woman’s view of her sexuality and lead to shame and comparison. Ways to combat negative cultural messages will be discussed below.
Embracing and Nurturing Female Sexual Desire
1. Self-Acceptance: Understanding and accepting your sexual desires is an essential first step. Recognize that your desires are unique and valid, and don't compare yourself to others or feel pressured to conform to societal expectations. This also means accepting your body at whatever size or shape it is. You are altogether lovely, and you do not have to conform to cultural norms and expectations for that to be true.
2. Open Communication: Building a foundation of trust and open communication with your partner(s) is crucial. Expressing your desires, needs, and boundaries in a supportive and non-judgmental environment can enhance intimacy and satisfaction. If you need additional support in communicating about sex, couples counseling is a great resource to provide a safe environment to begin these conversations.
3. Mindfulness and Self-Care: Taking care of your overall well-being can positively impact your sexual desire. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, stress reduction, and self-compassion can create a conducive environment for nurturing your sexual desires. As Ted Lasso (quoting Walt Whitman) says, “Be curious, not judgmental.”
4. Educate Yourself: Seek out reliable sources of information about female sexuality and desire. By learning more about your body and sexual response, you can gain a better understanding of your desires and explore new possibilities. For great resources from a Christian perspective, we recommend The Great Sex Rescue by Shelia Wray Gregoire and Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau.
Female sexual desire is a diverse and beautiful aspect of the human experience.
By challenging stereotypes, understanding the factors that influence desire, and embracing our individuality, we can cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with our sexuality. Remember, there is no "normal" or "right" way to experience desire, and by celebrating and nurturing our desires, we can lead more empowered and authentic lives. We can reclaim the gift of sexuality that God has given us to connect with our partners and relieve the shame and anxiety that the world has placed around female bodies.
Begin Working With A Therapist in Marietta, GA
If you feel that your sexual desires are causing distress, significantly impacting your relationships, or if you simply want guidance in exploring your desires, consider reaching out to a qualified therapist or sexologist who specializes in female sexuality. Our team of caring therapists would be honored to offer support with in-person and online services from our Marietta, GA-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
Other Services Offered at Remain Connected Counseling
Our team knows you may experience more that sexual desire issues. This is why we are happy to offer a variety of services including teen therapy, anxiety treatment, and EMDR therapy. In addition, we also offer Pastoral counseling, life transitions therapy, depression counseling, and more all under a Christian counseling lens. By using online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. Learn more about our team of dedicated therapists and contact us for more information.