(Note to Den reader: This article was specifically written for the male reader at The Good Men Project, a place for men to read, speak, and debate what it means to be a "good man" in the 21st Century.)
In my private practice with couples, I often translate female sex-speak to male sex-speak, particularly when a woman says, “I don’t want sex.” What does this mean to a man? And what are some possible reasons why the woman is saying that?
Despite the overlapping nature of our sexual needs and desires, men and women have different experiences of sex. Whether the differences are innate, socialized, or a combination of both, either way, ignoring these variations creates huge chasms in relationships. Women don’t mean to be vague or difficult, and they’re not trying to confuse men or set up for “failure.” Clear sexual communication is really hard for everyone and the vocabulary for it can feel like a foreign language. Below are five phrases many women often say, along with some interpretations. I offer one of many translations here to bridge this sexual gender gap.
1. “I’m just not in the mood.”
What Men Fear
She’s not attracted to me anymore. I’m not desirable. I feel powerless, and it isn’t fair that this keeps happening. I resent her for playing the role of gatekeeper.
As cliché as this “excuse” is, there are many reasons why a woman might say this. It might have something to do with you or it may not! Desire requires a balance of increasing excitement and reducing inhibitions. Resentment, hurt feelings, feeling overwhelmed, and even bad breath can all increase inhibitions. In long-term relationships, women’s physiological horniness may decline, so it’s easy to not want sex because her body doesn’t crave it.
Sex may also be less of a priority for her because her needs for intimacy and connection are now being met in other ways. Her mind and body don’t kick in like yours do with a deep need for sexual connection. Having less desire may put her in the gatekeeper role, but that’s a role most women play with guilt not power.
So what can you do? Prime her pump! This means finding out specifically what makes her shut off her multi-tasking brain, and feel present in her body to receive pleasure through touch. What makes her feel safe and nurtured by you? Priming the pump could be a day-long process, so be up for the challenge. It gets easier the more you learn the nuances of this dance.
2. “Stop. I’m not going to orgasm this time.”
What Men Fear
I’m not doing a good job turning you on and pleasing you. I’m a terrible lover. If you don’t orgasm, you can’t enjoy sex.
Sometimes, even the perfect alignment of the sun, moon, and stars can’t get a woman to orgasm. Sometimes she’s just tired and can’t concentrate enough to orgasm. Physical factors could also be at play, like where she is in her menstrual/ovulation cycle and whether she’s going through menopause, the amount of rest she’s getting and the time of day of the intimacy involved. Even poor nutrition can have an effect on her sex drive. Additionally, emotional components like her stress level, priority distractions, and sense of safety, whether she’s feeling pressure from you and whether there’s relationship distress—all of those things can kill orgasms.
A really important insight for men into women is that pleasure does not necessarily equal orgasm. Clearly orgasm is pleasurable, but there are so many aspects of sex that are pleasurable, like skin-to-skin contact, emotional closeness, playfulness, and giving pleasure....
Read the next three translations and the entire article published at The Good Men Project here: Female Translation of "I Don't Want Sex."
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker