I attended a women’s empowerment retreat in Malibu where much of the talk among the 50-plus high-profile women there was about sex — how we do it, how often we do it, who we do it with, and why we don’t do it or at least don’t do it enough.
When women and men come to see me in the office, they often need to get their malfunctioning sex machines fixed. Whether the problem is their heads (“I don’t like my relationship and my partner is no longer a turn-on”) or with their bodies (men with erectile problems and women with dryness issues), everyone needs help to have some sex, love, and more sex.
Sex is ubiquitous, like eating and sleeping and yet we know so little about it.
Scientists know that much of our sex drive and its implementation (in the younger more sex, in the older more cuddling and companionship) depends on the amount of sex hormones our bodies make. If we are young and full of energy, most likely our libido is going through the roof and we assume it’s all because we are full of sex hormones. So all we want to do is find someone to have sex with. Society helps us make some choices and encourages us to mate for life and not be promiscuous, but the fact is sex is not just a male brain thing; it’s a human thing.
When the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in both men and women diminish with age, or other toxic things inhibit their production, sex drive seems to plummet.
It’s not exactly difficult to understand. Look at the steaming bodies on the large and small screen and the je ne sais quoi that makes chemical sparkles fly when the eyes of sexual humans lock on screen or even in the street. We are surrounded by a never-ending push toward sex. Sex is in the air in the spring and all year round, depending on where you are and who is at your side. (“Love the one you’re with,” the song goes — basically, don’t miss out on the opportunity regardless of consequences.)
Sexual prowess belongs definitely to the young and healthy who are making hormones galore, but also are on an anthropological mission to perpetuate our species.
Forget about relationships, forget about what happens later. When you are in your teens and twenties, life is all about sex. The law of attraction brings men and women together to procreate and also to have fun. Hormones help implement the master plan.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone help us want to have sex. And let us not forget pheromones. They are hormones our bodies exude that at a subliminal level attract the opposite sex faster than a hummingbird to a flower.
But that’s not all. Even with hormones in balance and aplenty, we still have to feel the attraction and the want, the desire.
How many young people come in complaining of lack of desire in my office? you ask. What do you think? Well, more than you would ever imagine. Drugs and bad hormones from food and the environment, and those we voluntarily take affect our hormone balance so much that it often goes array and leads to more problems than solutions.
Young men who take steroids (not testosterone but anabolic steroids for muscle growth), testosterone, and growth hormone find they decrease their sex drive, shrink testicles, and decrease sperm count. Hence the high use of Viagra in young men.
Young women on birth control pills lose their sex drive as well. It’s a side effect of taking synthetic hormones that throw off our body’s natural cycle. Popular in-vitro fertilization robs women of the last shred of desire and turns them into a baby-making machine, leaving often permanent hormone damage behind.
So much interferes and contributes to our sexual penchant that scientists and therapists spend entire lifetimes trying to understand our sexuality, helping us sort our sex-versus-love conundrums. Often we have to figure it out on our own or just give up.
Could it all be about hormones?
If it were as simple as that how would you explain the 60-year-old woman who has been in a sexless relationship for decades, who suddenly meets a new partner and even without taking hormones becomes a sexual being again?
Masters and Johnson studied what makes us sexual for decades and came up with only a small part of the answer.
The truth about our sexuality lies somewhere between our ears, hormones made by ovaries and testicles under the rule of the master gland pituitary, and most of all, the socio-cultural input of the world we live in.
So for now, let’s enjoy sex if we have it and know we are not dead if we don’t.
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