Reader Question #23: Libido, come home!

Everyone dies alone, cat wee or no cat wee.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My libido has largely picked up and walked off somewhere else. I’m waiting for it to come back from a trip to the corner store to buy cigarettes, but so far it hasn’t showed up.

It started in my late twenties after a series of flopping relationships and three years later I’ve hit my thirties and haven’t had sex in about three years.

The trouble is, I’m at a point where I’m looking ahead at the rest of my life and I don’t really feel like dying alone with seventeen cats. I only have one now, but we know how this story usually goes. Plus, while I don’t miss sex, I do miss affection and sleeping in the same bed with someone.

I also miss my younger, more libidinous self. She was a lot of fun and I have some great stories because of her, but I genuinely don’t know if she’s ever going to open the front door, Fantasia’s in hand, or not.

I’ve thought about exploring sluthood. I think it might have the ability to re-awaken my dormant sexuality. But unfortunately, where my body goes, my heart often follows and I don’t want to put my emotions through the kind of rollercoaster it might entail (which, now that I think about it, may actually be why I stepped off the sluthood boat years ago). On the other hand, there’s a whole world of human experience, monogamous or slutty, I am missing out on and I think that sucks.

Option #1 sluthood=libido=emotional rollercoaster/soul-sucking loneliness and despair/fantastic sex/valuable life experience. Option #2 long-term relationship=no libido=companionship/awkward sex due to lack of libido/inflicting my lack of libido on some poor guy resulting in relationship trouble, or Option #3 get another cat.

Are there other options I’m missing?


Dear Conflicted:

I’m going to try to answer your question without once using the words “get your groove back,” but you need to do me a favor, too.

I don’t know how cats became the ultimate metaphor for sad, lonely spinsterhood and dogs became the symbol for carefree happy couplehood, but cats are just cats and dogs are just dogs.  If you like cats, have a cat.

In my entire checkered past of dating, I’ve met exactly two dudes who were uncool with cats. One had a severe allergy.  Understandable. One made a joke about how he was hoping that I didn’t have a cat, since  I seemed really cool and he had trouble meeting cool chicks without cats, possibly as a Pick-Up-Artist-style trick to lower my self-esteem to get me to talk to him.  You know how you don’t get me to talk to you?  Pass off a shitty, lazy stereotype about single women in the hopes that I’ll try to prove that I’m not like all “those” women.  I was exactly like “those” women.  My answer was something like “Oh man! You’re right, I AM really cool, but I also have a cat.  Too bad!  We’ll never know what might have been.”

So your first step towards getting your mack back is to stop defining yourself as the the sad media picture of lonely single women whose singleness is a disease that needs to be cured and your cat is just one of the symptoms, like a furry tumor.  Even in a joking, self-deprecating way.  Even if Liz Lemon does it.

As Amanda from Pandagon points out, Liz Lemon has her reasons:

If I may shift to seeing the character of Liz Lemon as an individual person with her own idiosyncratic needs, instead of a generic Single Woman Cursed With Singleness, I would like to offer another interpretation: Liz Lemon sabotages relationships because Lemon doesn’t want relationships.  Yes, on the show she’s always bellyaching about being single, but that’s characterized as part of her neurotic obsession with doing things the right way, filling out a checklist in life…. She’s characterized as someone who abhors having people in her personal space and is largely indifferent to sex, two personality traits that would be severely compromised by having a boyfriend.  When she does date someone, it’s only because she’s convinced herself he’s not going to put any demands on her, and then when he does, she picks a fight with him and leaves.  It’s a great portrayal of a loner, and I think it confuses people because we’re all socialized to believe women can’t be loners.

Thank you for your patience during Today’s Media Criticism Hour.  Now to return to your actual question.

I think a good first step is to remind yourself that you have a body. One of the best parts of sex is the way that it connects you to your body and makes you fully alive in your skin. During a dry spell, it’s easy to get disconnected from your body and ignore the little things.  Below, in no particular order, is a cocktail of things that might work.  Pick and choose what might work for you.

Is it a medical issue? It sounds like you are not even thinking about sex or masturbating.  Do you by chance live in a northern clime where this time of year it is always winter and never Christmas?   It could be seasonal affective disorder or regular old depression.  If you’re taking certain medications that can affect you, too. How are you sleeping?  Are you eating and exercising normally?   Get yourself checked out:   Ladyparts and all your parts.  Get tested for STDs. Make sure your birth control is up to snuff. Take your vitamins.

Get touched by a pro.  By which I mean:  Get a massage.  Can’t afford a massage?  Most any city  is going to have a school of massage, and the students need to practice on people, so you can get a free or very cheap massage.   Lie there mostly naked on a table and let a kind stranger rub the tension out of you, hopefully with the help of an unguent that will make your skin feel as soft as a baby’s bottom.

Eat for pleasure.   I have no idea what you eat, so I don’t want to fall back on stereotypes of takeout and sad frozen dinners, but it is sometimes difficult to cook elaborate things “just for one” – it’s way more fun to do it for an appreciative audience.  I don’t want to go all Eat, Pray, Love on you, but I recommended reading MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me or How To Cook A Wolf.  Here’s a quote from the first one:

People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security and about love, the way others do?

They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.

The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.” – MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

Do whatever you can to skew your eating toward pleasure.  Eat really fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meat rubbed with fresh garlic and spices, homemade soup – whatever you love and gets you excited, cook it or obtain it for yourself and make eating a daily ritual of pleasure.

Acquire “les accoutrements.” This link is NSFW, but it is pleasant and not-sleazy, and hopefully where you live there is a place like this that is run by women and that offers customer reviews of products.  Buy yourself something nice.  Also think about acquiring some new pr0n.  Do you like stories?  That’s a pretty not-threatening, not gross way to get your mind working again.  If you’re not feeling it you’re not feeling it, but the chances that you’ll take matters into your own hands is higher if you have the right stuff on hand.

Make yourself pretty.  You’re already pretty, I’m sure! But what could you do to put in a little maintenance that would lift your spirits and make you feel good?  Get an awesome haircut.  Donate clothes that don’t fit or flatter you and that you don’t love.  Scrape the dead skin off your feet.  Moisturize.  When was the last time you got new glasses or contacts or had your eyes checked?  Get something in a color that really flatters you.  God, I hate a makeover montages in movies about single women so much that I made a whole movie criticizing that very thing, but it is true that when you look better you feel better, and this is all about paying attention and making yourself feel awesome and not about pleasing someone else.

Get your head on straight.  This may require a therapist, or it may just involve a journal, but spending a little time exploring past relationships – what you wanted, what you expected, what you got, how you reacted, what your feelings were, when you settled when you shouldn’t have, when you sabotaged your own happiness when you could have let the little things go, when you got addicted to some Darth Vader in exchange for good sex, all that messy stuff – write it down or talk it out. Fully feel those feelings, have a good cry, get it out of your system.  What would you do differently knowing what you know now?  (The answer is usually “nothing,” but there’s no shortcut to figuring that out for yourself).  Everyone has baggage from their childhoods and old relationships.  If you know what you’ve packed in yours you stand a better chance of not punishing future people you meet for things that happened in the past that are not their fault.

Kick ass at your life.  Be awesome at work.  Be awesome in your friendships.  Be awesome in your hobbies and pleasures and leisure pursuits.  Be awesome at things you study.  If you don’t feel awesome, act like you feel awesome until you do, or change what doesn’t feel awesome.  If there’s been something that you’ve been putting off for some magical future day, do it.  Or start it.  Or at least Google it to death on your lunch breaks.

People are attracted to productive people who have figured out their own bullshit and who are going after what they want in life.  As a bonus, if you don’t find anyone and remain single all your days, you’ll be a happy, productive person who has figured out her own bullshit and is going after what you want in life.

Which leads me to…

You have to get back on the horse sometime.  It doesn’t have to be in a slutty way (don’t let Intern Paul talk you into anything), though I can write you a Craigslist Casual Encounters Ad right here and now.

“Wanted:  Make-Out Slut To Make Out Like Teenagers”

I want a nice, smart, friendly, nerdy, cool man to come over and make out with me.

I’ll supply:  Comfortable couch, breath mints, and a movie we can pretend that we’re watching.

You bring:  Lips, good dental hygiene, and a clear, unshakeable understanding that everyone will be keeping their pants on and completely zipped/buttoned/sealed for the entire event.  Bonus if you have experience building sweet blanket forts.

Please send a photo and a brief description of why it would be fun to make out with you.

You will get tons of responses.  Some will be very generic and annoying and badly spelled.  There will be some cock pictures – you can mock those.  And some will be from someone who is nice and smart and who wants to just make out with you for an evening, and you might have a really great time – take your pick.  All I ask is that if you use it (this goes for everyone here), I get dibs on any funny stories that result.

If you know that physical contact without emotional connection is not your bag – that it’s dangerous for you – then don’t start with that.  You’ve dated before, so you know how to do it.  Hit the online personals and date your sweet face off until you find someone who pushes your buttons in the right way, keeping in mind Captain Awkward’s Rules of Dating:

  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Do it  (go out, get in touch, ask the person out) sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you, so focus on whether the actual experience is fun for you and whether you like them.  To quote Commander Logic, don’t try to talk yourself into buying ill-fitting thrift-store pants because you want them to fit sooooo bad.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head (In your case, Conflicted, this might be comparisons to past relationships and worries about the future).
  7. Don’t go on a second date with anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.

Have fun and let us know how it goes.  And let me put this out to the readers:

Have you ever lost your mojo for a while?  How did you get it back?



17 thoughts on “Reader Question #23: Libido, come home!

  1. i had one really un mojo like time period after numerous surgeries, kids, and a nice little weight gain – my mojo was 100% restored by a lovely medication retool. so, i’m all about visiting the lady docs, and if on crazy meds, people who specialize in nothing but meds for the head. one size does not fit all – being less crazy is nice, but being less crazy AND full of mojo is nicer.

  2. i have similar issues plus the added problem of chronic yeastie (not the sexiest). and am in a long-term relationship. i’ve been on birth control pills for almost 10 years now, so i’m going off them for a while to see what it does to my hormones and body. lady doc says the pills are a huge factor for decreased libido. not to mention the risk for heart attack, stroke, blod clots, yeast infections, etc. people forget what an imposition hormone therapy is on the body. and they just hand it out like candy in college – not that it’s a bad thing, but i’m probably not the only girl who have never really felt the natural rhythms of my own body. Conflicted, if you are on birth control pills, that may be a factor. it’s a terrible tease really. “TAKE THESE PILLS, you can have as much sex as you want and never get pregnant – no condoms necessary! Oh, but you’ll never actually ever want to have sex.”

    1. not that I’m all “this worked for me it will work for you too!” but…after 3 years of asking my OB/GYN whether my OCs were causing physical problems, a specialist took $2K and said, “why yes! yes they are!” and made the very point you made–they’re handed out like candy in college. definitely a real thing to evaluate.

      1. I feel so much better after going off hormonal BC. Long live a piece of plastic covered in copper wire!

  3. I’d probably add “9. Tell (more than one) trusted friend/relative all your potential plans about going out that day/night just to cover your butt in case your date is a potential Mr. Goodbar. And I’m not talking about the candy.”

    Paranoid? Maaaybe…

    1. Oh, this goes without saying and should be standard procedure for any online dater. Be paranoid, get full contact information, Google extensively, tell other people, meet in a public place first, etc.

  4. Captain Awkward, I love you, but I am pretty conflicted about the advice given here myself.

    I’m a sex-lovin’ lady, but I don’t really develop a sex drive myself until I’m already super romantically into a person, and I’ve had plenty of low- and no-sex drive friends who are perfectly content in their relationships (romantic, platonic, and otherwise). this includes people who really enjoy physical affection but not necessarily sex.

    The approach of this low-sex-drive being a bad thing that must be corrected … I don’t think it’s necessary. I think the problem is less about her libido or lack of it and more of a general attitude towards it.

    Conflicted does note that she doesn’t miss sex and there’s also a flaw in her option-#2: the idea that only a “poor guy” would be stuck with her. Some guys have low sex drives naturally, just like some women have low sex drives naturally. Yes, sex is personally pleasurable and awesome for creating bonds–but the idea that a relationship is worthless without it when it’s something both partners know/are aware of/alright with (which DOES happen)…isn’t really true.

    my advice? it sounds like you want companionship and maybe at some point something more, and it’s being pushed down because you think you’ll have to have sex X amount of times a week/month/etc to make someone else happy. if you’re concerned about being hurt, (which is always a risk no matter what–sorry there, but it’s part of the human experience you might be missing out on!) the best thing you can do is go slow and be honest. I don’t even think this casual encounters ad even has to be as risque as making out–it could just be cuddling, or holding hands. what are you most comfortable with, or miss the most? go from there. it is totally possible to find the right people for that, and I’ve made plenty of friends who would just come over and hold my hand, or come fall asleep with me, and it was pleasurable and comforting for both of us and created some great friendships, because those people understand going as far as I’m comfortable with and no further. when I want to go further with a person, I do, and I don’t let anyone sway me otherwise. part of which is being comfortable with myself, which a lot of the things Captain Awkward offers are quite helpful for (I love Toys in Babeland and my favorite “make myself pretty-feeling” thing is sleeping naked!)

    and p.s. massages are great!

    1. This is all really great, solid advice. Thank you!

      I don’t think that having a low sex drive is inherently a bad thing, as long as everyone is comfortable, and, as you mention, honest. Barring anything medical, the letter writer had a libido before and will probably have one again when the emotional attachment is right, and I think that a general strategy of awesome self-care and not putting pressure on herself will work.

      I am with Dan Savage that people should be honest about what kind of sex drive they have – it sucks being at one extreme and with someone who is at the other, someone is always feeling pressured or disappointed. Relationships change over time and can be full of sex or without a lot of sex and still be fine relationships.

  5. I deep-sixed the sex drive this summer, while triathlon training. Who needs men when you are spending at least eight hours in the saddle of your beloved bicycle every weekend?

    Then, flirting happened. A nice, foreign boy playfully bit my bicep while I was out one night. Sex drive? Back online. Immediately.

    So, I let flirting do what it was supposed to do — act as practice and primer for all things to come.

  6. I had thoughts similar to April’s, but I really want to back up the thing about hormonal birth control. If I take it, I have no drive. I just had my Mirena yanked (for other reasons) and, even though they say the amount of hormone is incredibly low and localized to your uterus, I am pretty sure that it was affecting my wider hormone balance–drive, skin, even body hair perhaps.

    Trying to effect birth control without hormonal options kind of sucks, but I am definitely a happier and sexier person without.

  7. I just wanted to step in and white knight for hormonal birth control a bit here– I lived through 6 years of being debilitated every month before finally seeing a doctor and easily fixing the problem that I’d been threatening to get a hysterectomy to solve, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    That said, it does lower my libido– although for me this is a good thing, being an ugly girl in a demanding degree program. Gives me one less thing to think about, although inconveniently as soon as I start to fancy someone it tends to emerge from dormancy.

    Good luck to the letter writer. I agree with your suspicion that it could be a medical issue.

    1. Yes, it is a life-saver for many people, and to be fair when I was on it 1) I did not make a baby 2) my skin was very clear. Works as advertised!

  8. Oh, please tell me you’ve posted that craig’s list ad.

    Also, I lost my groove after a bad relationship with some nasty cheating and the side effects that come with that (simply terrible diseases)…coming back…medication. And recovery time. And then what got me back in the saddle turned out to be one of my good guy friends at the time.

    We hung out a lot and ended up doing the deed. Then we thought about making it work, decided against and stayed friends…

    …Who had happened to do it once or twice.

  9. I’m also relatively libido-free, and since I decided to stop picking up guys I had no interest in, sexual contact-free as well. The difference (if there is one) is that over the 5-6 years I’ve felt this way, there have been like 2-3 guys who have done it for me amongst the many that have not. So I am suspecting I’m just really, really picky on an involuntary level (and also need some emotional connection). Which, you know, still sucks since I am fine without sex but miss companionship and hugs and things too. Unfortunately, things like online dating and making out with random guys tend to work out with me thinking “well, this guy is perfectly nice/attractive/funny, so why don’t I like him?” And then I give up. 😦

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