As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, stopping the virus remains our top collective priority—and that’s the way it should be. Still, depending on your personal quarantine living situation, it may also be impacting your relationship. In this edition of Good@Sex, Alexandra Fine—sexologist, co-founder and CEO of Dame Products, and Well+Good Changemaker—delves deep into whether existential stress and a resulting low libido would be better treated and relieved by having sex or not.
My relationship with sex and pleasure has always been solid, but lately, I've been stressed. Not by work, relationships, or my schedule, but rather by existential stress in light of the endless stream of violent images aimed to spread awareness about racial injustice.
In some ways my stress is good—it keeps me aware of and focused on fighting systemic racism—but it's also squelching my sex drive. Would it be more to my benefit to urge myself to engage in sex as a means to release some of my stress and low libido, or would I be better off cutting myself a break for the time being, and not adding "low libido" to my list of things to worry about?
Instead of thinking of some outside force “squelching your sex drive,” you may simply not be prioritizing sexual pleasure in your life.
But before we unpack what that means and how to reprioritize sexual pleasure, let’s acknowledge an unfortunate reality: Violence and oppression are always happening. Systemic racism against Black people is far from new, but right now in the midst of this modern civil rights movement, many non-Black people are waking up to the ongoing injustices, and are prioritizing the mental space to understand it and to the work to change it. And that is great, and that effort must continue.
The fight to make the world an equitable, safe place is a marathon, not a sprint. That means everyone needs to consider how to prioritize having a healthy, pleasure-focused sex life that can exist alongside pursuits in social justice.
That said, the fight to make the world an equitable, safe place for all people is a marathon, not a sprint. I say this not to permit anyone to take a break from doing the work, but rather to consider how the work can be maintained as a continuous and sustainable and priority. And that means everyone needs to consider how to prioritize having a healthy, pleasure-focused sex life that can exist alongside pursuits in social justice.
Really, this question of whether to have sex to alleviate stress and low libido or to abstain from sex so as not subject yourself to undo pressure comes down to two “what should you do?” questions:
1. Should you cut yourself a break?
Definitely. You are facing your discomfort by committing to learn, grow, and do the work. And you're doing great. So wiggle your toes, take a breath, sigh, roll your head around, mmm all that good stuff.
As for your sex drive, it's a naturally oscillating illusion. You don’t need to have sex to live, just like you don’t need to work or work out to live. (Though, to be sure, all of the above are healthy pursuits that support a well life). Maybe sex isn’t meshing with your focus on anti-racism work right now; that’s okay. You will be okay.
So take a beat. Sit. Breathe. Notice what you are feeling, notice why you are feeling it, take another breath. Now, refocus on the discomfort and ask yourself why—what’s causing that? Promise yourself to care beyond your intent, and focus on your impact. Now glow with new growth. Continue growing, and feel good in that worthy pursuit. At some point, you may feel more than good—you may even feel in the mood.
2. Should you engage in sex as a mean to release some stress?
It sounds to me like you have a handful of worries and stress beyond a low libido. Perhaps it’s time to sit and face those worries and then also take time to be present, to be alive, and to know joy so you can ask for it in your daily life.
Sex can be a powerful way of connecting to your body, your pleasure and the present moment. So, should you engage in sex even if you're stressed and don't feel into it? You should do what your body is telling you to do. You may need to prioritize listening to it to know what it’s saying. You hold the answers you're seeking.
Ultimately, I think being uncomfortable right now is part of doing the work to grow. But be careful to not let your stress about this lack of comfort keep you from doing this work period. Prioritize taking care of yourself—whether or not that includes having sex—because doing so is a vital prerequisite for being able to take care of others and make a difference.
As CEO of Dame Products, Alexandra Fine translates the nuances of our sexualities into human-friendly toys for sex and sexual wellness products. A lifelong student of sexual health, Alexandra earned her master’s in clinical psychology with a concentration in sex therapy from Columbia University. In founding Dame Products, she intends to start necessary conversations, to listen rather than assume, and to create products that enhance intimacy.
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