As a sex therapist who specializes in low libido, I can tell you right off the bat that this is a tricky question to answer, as the way we look at sexual desire is steeped in a lot of cultural myths. The answer you get will probably differ – depending on how you believe libido works and how many of these myths you buy into.
The running idea is that men desire sex more often than women. In fact, not only is men’s sex drive seen as greater – it’s often portrayed in media as a constant.
Men are seen as being in a continual state of sexual arousal and want and need sex all the time. What we believe about people with other gender identities in comparison to women’s and men’s libido, has yet to be discussed within popular culture.
“The notion that women’s sexuality is somehow lesser than men’s is actually quite new. Before the 1700s we regarded both sexes as obscene, passionate and immoral. This meant we believed women and men were equally sexual and that sexual pleasure wasn’t just a male priority. ”
This however shifted in the 18th century when we started to view women’s sexual pleasure and desire as something unnatural. Something sick.
Women went from immoral beings to morally superior beings who were deemed fragile and passive. Men were still viewed as sexual and depraved.
Considering the recent shift in our ideas about sexual desire, it would appear that the way we view the sexes and their capacity for libido isn’t something we can take for granted.
HOW LIBIDO WORKS
The question of who has more sexual desire not only has to do with our view of the sexes, it also depends on what our beliefs about libido are.
We tend to see it as a spontaneous, hormonal urge, much like thirst or hunger.
Sexological research, however, shows that this is an old fashioned way of looking at libido – at least when the idea is ascribed to women. You can read more about this in my blog post on sexual desire vs. sexual arousal.
There are in fact two distinct styles of sexual desire – spontaneous and responsive. The spontaneous libido is the one we’re most used to. It’s a feeling that appears out of the blue, right in the middle of us having dinner or going for a walk.
“Responsive desire, however, is a reaction to us getting physically aroused. For responsive desire to take place, it needs to be sparked by something – perhaps a sexual fantasy, a glance from an attractive stranger, or sensual touch. ”
Generally speaking, men are more inclined to have a spontaneous desire style, whereas women drift more towards a responsive desire style.
This means that men’s desire might be seen as more potent, as it functions the way we’ve been lead to believe libido works. However – when taking into account that libido is complex and not always spontaneous – the view of who has more sexual desire becomes complicated and more difficult to answer.
Studies that have looked at the difference in libido levels between the sexes have found that men’s libido is slightly higher than women’s.
“However, the statistics show that there are bigger differences within the genders than between them. This means that the differences between the sexes is smaller than pop culture would have you believe. ”
LOW LIBIDO IN BOTH SEXES
In my private practice as a clinical sexologist, the most common sexual complaint, among all sexes, is low libido. This is also backed up by science – 15-25% of men and 15-40% of women experience low sexual desire.
Adding to this, men oftentimes seek help for erectile dysfunction. The causes for erectile difficulties are many – but one of the most common ones according to my experience, is definitely low libido. This help-seeking pattern is also a trend found among sex researchers.
This means that although the statistics show that women are likelier to suffer from low sexual desire, men also suffer from it, however, their primary reason for seeking help normally has more to do with erectile function than the feeling of sexual desire.
“This begs the question why men more readily seek treatment for sexual arousal problems than sexual desire problems. Could it be because of the focus we put on male genitalia as opposed to the lack of attention focused on female genitalia? ”
Both sexes have an erection when they become physically aroused – the clitoris stiffens as well as the penis – however, an erection is more visibly prominent in those with penises than in those with vulvas/vaginas.
As we live in a world where a great deal of women don’t even know that they might have a responsive desire style, women many times believe there’s something wrong with them.
“They think that their libido somehow is low or non-existent, because it’s not spontaneous. I’ve seen this over and over again in my private practice. ”
When taking this into consideration, it becomes apparent that we perhaps yet have to see which sex has more desire – or perhaps in fact as much desire as the other. Until women know what they need to get their mojo going, we likely to be stuck in the age-old question of who wants sex more.
So – when asking the question who has more sexual desire it’s important to take all of the above into account. When doing this you quickly realize that the differences, although they exist, aren’t always so easy to interpret and understand.
If sexual desire is viewed as spontaneous – we will more likely draw the conclusion that men are more prone to having a higher sex drive than women.
If we, however, look to common reasons for seeking treatment, the picture becomes more complex as men not only want treatment for low sexual desire, they also want help regarding erectile difficulties – which just so happens to often be caused by – low libido.