Two hot people look at each other. Desire pours out of them. They rip off each other's clothes and immediately start petting and panting. Sex happens, everyone orgasms, and the whole thing is steamy and super graceful...
Ha! Only in the movies, bb. In real life, sex is farrrr different. It's more awkward, messy, and sometimes, not happening at all due to a lack of sexual desire.
A low libido is completely normal and common... but no one talks about it, says Shadeen Francis, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy and social justice. "The national standard of sex education [in the U.S.] is fear-based, abstinence-only curricula, which doesn't include anything about desire," says Francis. "Without information about what desire is, where it comes from, and how we can maintain it, people often feel like it's a magical thing that happens to them, rather than a practice they can be in control of."
But you can be, with a little help. Here are expert tips for getting turned the eff on (just like they do on TV, but way more realistic!) on the reg.
Forget what "sex" is supposed to look like.
When you see two actors going at it on-screen, it usually appears one way: Heteronormative, orgasm-centric, and all about penetration, says Yael Rosenstock, author of An Intro-Guide to a Sex Positive You and founder of Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC. This feeds into the thinking that there's a "right" and a "wrong" way to have sex. "This idea really affects people and their desire because it doesn't provide an environment where they're able to explore what actually feels good," Rosenstock says.
Desire is v. different for every person. It's possible that, if you're not feeling aroused, it's because you haven't figured out the thing that turns you on (like watching certain types of erotica or having specific spots on your body touched). Do yourself a solid and experiment a little so you can figure out what works for you.Continue reading below ↓
Do whatever you can to destress.
Stress is a major sex drive killer so—obvious alert—make sure you're getting enough sleep. Oh, and keep your bedroom as a sacred sex space by leaving your cell phone out in the hall, avoiding doing work in bed, and making sure your room is clutter-free. If you're feeling extra fancy, spritz your sheets with some lavender essential oils.
To nix sex stress specifically, decide with your partner that climaxing isn't going to be the end goal. Reframe your sessions to be about getting closer and having fun with each other, and performance anxiety will fade, says Rosenstock.
Give yourself some love.
Francis says that prioritizing your wants in life can help you access them more easily in the bedroom. Cha-ching! That means hell yes you can (and should!) #treatyourself to a massage or take a day off when you need it.
And did we mention that the best form of self-care is masturbation? "Sex typically begets sexual desire,” Rosenstock says. So, giving yourself a little undivided attention can help get you revved up for sessions with a partner. Think about it like going to the gym: Getting started can be difficult, but once you're in a routine, you tend to find yourself wanting to go. "Obviously I’d never condone having sex when you're not feeling it," Rosenstock clarifies. "This is something you’d do where you feel safe, and with someone that you trust." And that person can be you.Continue reading below ↓
Talk to your doc.
If lifestyle changes aren't enough to get the fires raging, it might be a good idea to have a convo with your doctor. Factors like birth control, your menstrual cycle, and other medical issues can affect your sex drive, or it could be a sign of an actual medical condition.
But the most important thing to remember? There are ebbs and flows to sexual desire—and being in the midst of an ebb is incredibly normal. Taking care of yourself and your needs is how you're going to get back in the sack.
*Survey was conducted by Women's Health & Cosmopolitan, in partnership with a pharmaceutical company that sells a drug to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.