Science Vs Sex Drive: The Dirrrrrrty Science

a close up of womans neck

My take on the libido-increasing episode by the Science Vs podcast.

I’ve spent the last few months working on my biggest project to date, and it’s all about how to increase women’s sex drive.

You can imagine my glee this morning when I woke up to Science Vs’ latest podcast episode, Sex Drive: The Dirrrrrrty Science.

(I’m a huge fan of Science Vs, by the way. Shocking, I know.)

It tickles me to know that show host Wendy Zukerman and I have been researching the same topic at the same time. More importantly, however, I had a burning question:

Do our findings match up?

Let’s find out.

How to Increase Sex Drive, According to Science Vs

Any conversation about sex drive, it seems, has to start with hormones.

Boost Testosterone…to Normal Levels

Search for libido enhancers, and you’ll find beaucoup supplements, therapies, and topical treatments designed to increase testosterone.

Typical levels of testosterone are associated with sexual function. This is especially true for cisgender men and may be true for some cis women and transgender folks.

As Wendy and the team found, however, increasing testosterone only helps people with lower-than-average levels of it. This is why it’s called hormone replacement therapy, not hormone overload therapy.

There’s also the issue of whether the treatment you use actually restores your levels. While many herbal supplement and topical ointment brands claim to boost testosterone, researchers have yet to find one that actually does.

Conclusion: For people with typical testosterone levels, adding more of the hormone has no impact on sexual desire.

Other Hormones

person putting a drop on test tube

Wendy and the team looked into other hormones as well. These include:

  • a luteinizing hormone associated with an increase in women’s sex drive right before ovulation
  • kisspeptin, a hormone switch that initiates puberty.

So far, however, none of these new hormonal studies have shown a meaningful increase in sex drive in cis men or women.

I was surpsied that estrogen was left out of the episode. Though reserved for postmenopausal women, estrogen replacement therapy can relieve vaginal dryness and pain during sex, increasing sex drive if these are barriers.

Conclusion: When it comes to hormones, get your levels checked if you think they might be low. If they are, your doctor can prescribe a treatment to balance your hormones and increase your sex drive.

The Puzzle of Increasing Women’s Libido

woman leaning on glass window

With testosterone therapy providing a fix for most cis men, premenopausal cis women and afab folks are often left floundering for low sex drive solutions.

Unfortunately, every hormonal, supplemental, and medicinal libido booster researched by Science Vs. produced no or minor increase in sex drive for women.

Sex Drive Supplements

“It…kind of helped?” Wendy verbally shrugs in reference to research on maca, ginkgo, horny goat weed, and ginseng.

She even tries maca herself, admitting that she may have felt “a bit sparkly” afterward but was also ovulating at the time. When she took it again the next day, it just made her gassy.

Scientists equate the small libido boosts from supplements to what you’d expect from the placebo effect. While that can and often does produce notable results (Science Vs did a great episode on the placebo effect a couple of years ago), most women hope for something more…explosive.

It’s notable that some supplements do actually increase blood flow to the genitals. This produces erections and clitoral engorgement.

However, erections and engorgement aren’t the same as desiring sex. You can be physically aroused but still not want to have sex.

Also, Wendy warns, an investigation found that as many as 60% of these supplements are laced with Viagra. Many were also tainted with other ingredients not included on the label.

Conclusion: When it comes to the unregulated world of sex drive supplements, the science just isn’t there. You also really can’t be sure what you’re consuming.

Libido Boosting Medicines

white and blue medication pills

What about FDA-approved treatments for low sex drive?

Flibanserin, brand name Addyi, is a daily pill prescribed to increase cis women’s libido.

“You can’t really take it with alcohol,” Wendy’s guest Caroline Pukall, a sex researcher, explains. “And there are tons of side effects like fatigue and nausea.”

What can you expect if you push through all this? One additional satisfying sexual event…every two months.

Another option is Vyleesi, which is injected before sex. Caroline warns that it makes 40% of people who take it nauseous, however.

There is hope for cannabis, which has been shown to increase sex drive in some women when used before getting intimate. It may even attach to receptors in our genitals that help with this.

Cannabis is certainly worth a try if you haven’t tried it already. Just be aware that it doesn’t work for everyone. For some, it actually leads to vaginal dryness.

Conclusion: Medications may produce results, but can also have very unsexy side effects. For some people, cannabis may be an effective and natural libido booster.

Something We Can Do

young couple in casual clothes enjoying coffee and chatting

When we look at the research, increasing libido in women seems to be less about taking a substance and more about taking action.

For instance, studies show that gender roles undeniably contribute to the rise and fall of women’s sex drives.

In heterosexual relationships and marriages, women tend to do a larger portion of household labor and calendar management, Wendy reports. When this is the case, women’s libidos drop.

Meanwhile, couples with an even distribution of housework report having sex more often. This is especially true in relationships comprised of two women.

When women disproportionately perform household labor they can start to perceive their partner as a dependent. Surveys of women with low sexual desire find that many agree with the statement, “Sometimes I feel as though my partner is like an extra child I need to look after.”

That’s not very sexually inspiring.

Uneven labor distribution is just one potential problem, sex therapist Heather Goltz explains in the episode. Pretty much anything that can cause resentment—whether conscious or unconscious—will have the same effect.

One sign of underlying issues: A woman who masturbates, but doesn’t crave partnered sex. This suggests that sexual desire is still there, but something about the relationship needs attention…from both partners.

How do you address this? Communication and meaningful action, such as a redistribution of household labor.

“If you can’t talk about it, or you talk about it but nothing changes, that can all build up,” Wendy summarizes. When that happens, the issues keep snowballing and finding their way to the bedroom.

Conclusion: Talk about imbalances in your relationship and work to address them to increase the desire for partnered sex.

The Secret to Increasing Sex Drive

selective focus photo of old couple standing together with trees in the background

Wendy shares one study that focused on “extraordinary lovers,” or couples who remain sexually active into their senior years. In it, researchers found that sex drive is mostly fueled by great communication and feeling in sync with your partner.

Heather agrees.

“The biggest misconception is that libido is something that just happens and doesn’t take any work,” she says.

Work could look like couples therapy or making an effort to try new things. For example, couples who stay sexually active for decades tend to engage in unique or risque activities to keep things spicy.

According to Heather, sexual variety becomes especially important as our bodies change with age. Having sex the way we’re used to can become more difficult or impossible over time.

Perhaps most importantly, increasing your sex drive should be about having the sex you want in the amounts you want it.

As Caroline puts it, “For people to explore and learn their bodies and own their sexual power and their scripts, that is almost heaven.”

When Women Own Their Sexual Power

I really, and I mean really, enjoyed this episode of Science Vs.

The findings mirror my own as I’ve worked to build my sexual activation program for women.

The only thing I would add for women is this:

Your sex drive is yours to activate.

  • Women in happy, healthy relationships with evenly distributed household duties can increase libido if they want to.
  • Women who are dating and hoping to build a long-lasting relationship can boost sex drive to better enjoy the journey.
  • Women who want to experience more casual sex can increase sexual desire for more passionate trysts.
  • Women who are single can seek erotic inspiration for their own sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

You can do whatever you want with your sexual energy, from ignoring it to continually seeking new ways to empower it.

In the mood for empowerment? I’ve got something just for you:

The Sensual Sources

The serendipity of this episode’s timing has left me feeling inspired. If you’ve read this far, I’d like to pass that inspiration along to you with a sneak peek into my upcoming sensuality offering for women.

In my work with women and others looking to increase their sex drive, I’ve realized that every person has what I call a Sensual Source.

Your Sensual Source is the innate origin of your erotic energy. When your source is buried under commitments and stress, or you’re distracted from it because you need to focus on work or family, you can become detached from its energy.

When you connect or reconnect with your Sensual Source, it becomes a neverending wellspring of sexual desire.

Connecting with your Sensual Source is easier when you know what it is. I’ve created a quiz to help you and others do just that.

Get Your Free Sensual Analysis

Find your Sensual Source now and get a personalized Sensual Analysis.

Discover your:

  • 4 primary sensual activators
  • 4 main intimacy inhibitors
  • erotic expansion options

Your analysis includes personalized insights and simple ideas to start increasing your sex drive today.

Find your Sensual Source:

Having trouble with the quiz? Click here.

My full sensual activation program is still in the works. You’ll start seeing more of it in the next two weeks.

I hope you enjoy this glance behind the curtain as I finalize things. It’s going to be an exciting summer!

Published by Shannon Burton

Erotic Ignition Coach by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house and enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

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