The Emotions of Sex
And how understanding them can increase your sex drive
Sex drive seldom just happens. It’s the relationship between all of our core emotions and how we deal with them that determines how much we feel like sex. By changing the way you look at sexual desire, from a drive to one of the emotions of sex, you can ignite your fire again.
A New Way of Understanding Sexual Desire
What we used to think of as a drive (hence the phrase sex drive) is now seen as more of an emotion. An emotion which, just like any other, can be affected both positively and negatively.
Emotions are like compasses - they tell us what we need, communicate these needs to others, and motivate us to take action.
There are lots of feelings, but according to emotions expert Tomkins, when stripped down to their core, there are really only nine. These are:
- shame and guilt
- disgust, and
- dissmell (a term coined by Tomkins)
As you can see, Tomkins didn’t believe sexual desire was one of our core emotions. But I’m sure many of you, like me, would say that desire is something we definitely feel, just as we feel all other emotions.
When our libido is ignited, desire is felt with every fibre of our being - urging us to engage in sexual activity, be it with a partner(s) or on our own.
Emotions of sex and how they affect one another
When we’re doing #allthethings to increase libido (trying new positions, scheduling sex, and working out) and none of it is a success - going back to basics is important.
This means checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling.
Why is this important? Because it’s often the relationship between our core emotions that determines what we feel - and this is true of sexual desire, as well.
- joy is a feeling that urges us toward positive connection with other people and because of this, happiness can often spark sexual desire
- anger is a feeling that arises when we need to set boundaries - and boundary-setting seldom leads to desire. This is because desire is about connection and boundaries are about distance.
An emotional inventory
To better understand the relationship between your overall feelings and your lack of desire, you can do a quick emotional inventory. This exercise contains two of our core feelings and will help you determine what might be blocking your emotion of desire.
Anger or irritation is an important feeling as it helps us establish boundaries and protect ourselves. However, both the emotion in itself and how we deal with it, can affect sexual desire negatively.
Use the following questions to suss out how you've been feeling lately and coping with irritation.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most annoyed), how annoyed have you been in your love relationship(s) this past week?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoyed have you been in your other relationships this past week (friends, family, work/school)?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoyed have you been with life in general this past week?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being whenever needed, 1. being not at all), how much have you established boundaries or talked about the situation at hand, when you've been annoyed this past week?
If you scored high on irritation and low on setting boundaries or talking about irritation - this might be one of the reasons for your low sexual desire.
Dealing with complex emotions isn't always easy. My free resource, A Manual For Emotions, is a good place to start if you want to understand your feelings better and get help dealing with them.
Another option is seeking professional help, for example, seeing a sex therapist, psychologist, or couples’ counselor.
Communication in the relationship - be it romantic, friendship, or a professional one, is important.
Mental health professionals can help you work on these skills and how to cope with anger and irritation in a constructive manner.
Sometimes neglected - joy is one of our most important emotions of sex. This emotion is all about connecting with others and being able to experience pleasure. Because of this, it's important to do a quick check in with yourself on how happy you've been lately.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the happiest), how happy and fulfilled have you felt in your love relationship(s) this past week?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy and fulfilled have you felt in your other relationships this past week (friends, family, work/school)?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy have you been with life in general this past week?
Feeling down or experiencing depression affects us deeply. If you find yourself scoring low on happiness, this may be one of the reasons you're experiencing low libido.
Ask yourself why you believe you're feeling this way - has something happened lately that's weighing you down? Are you more anxious than normal? Have you been neglecting self-care?
What can you do to increase overall joy? Think small: what can you do with only 10 minutes to make yourself happier?
Emotions and Sex Go Hand in Hand
Your libido likely needs more than strawberry-flavoured lube and new positions to get going. A rampant sex drive isn't just a question of hormones and biology - it exists in the space between all of our core emotions and how they relate to one another.
If you want to experience more desire or have better sex, you need to begin to understand your emotional life and shift your perspective on desire from a drive to a feeling.
By checking in with yourself and all of the emotions of sex, you can start to put the pieces together and increase desire.
Leigh Norén is a sex therapist with a Master of Science in Sexology. She helps people reduce stress, shame, & anxiety surrounding sex-so they can get their sex drive back and enjoy their partner again. If you're looking to understand the connection between sex and emotions, download her free resource, A Manual for Emotions.
Originally published at Therapy by Leigh.