Sick of sex

I never imagined a time without libido. And then I got ill.
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An abstract illustration of a person grasping at their head surrounded by patterned lines and smudges

[Image: Laura May]

My youth was spent happily ’empowering’ myself in creative ways. I had the lab coat of sexual experimentation, and could never imagine a time when I wouldn’t feel horny. I wasn’t searching for sexual adventures but I seemed to fall into them anyway, and enjoyed (most of) what I found. I was happy to communicate sexually, and enjoyed sharing what I’d learned.

And then I got ill.

Maybe it was the kidney infection that made me associate sex and pain.

Maybe it was the neuralgia making almost every inch of skin painful to touch.

Maybe it was the joint pain with any movement.

Maybe it was the weight loss and lack of energy.

Maybe it was my medication.

Maybe it was the lack of alcohol.

Maybe it was the way my hips clicked out of place and muscles cramped.

Maybe it was the traumatic memories.

Maybe it was the depression.

Any number of things could have fed into it – and probably did. But I found myself devoid of libido. 

The idea of sex vanished from my world.  I didn’t even notice I’d stopped masturbating until period cramps made me consider getting my massager out and I realised how long it had been since I last used it. My massager is no longer euphemistically titled.

Pain has negated passion. I am having to learn how to experience intimacy in a new body that has different rules to the ones I had in my youth and health.

I have struggled to work out who I am without sex. I am not used to being asexual. I feel guilty for my lack of desire.

My partner has a low libido and is unlikely to initiate sex. Luckily, this works with my aching body. But it is still hard for me to adapt. 

I have realised being desired was central to my identity but now, I do not want to be desired because I don’t have the energy to satisfy that desire, and it makes me feel guilty. I have realised I used sex to appease partners – a route that is now unfeasible (and makes me feel uncomfortable). I have realised I don’t miss the things I’ve done. I no longer have a ‘wank bank’. I’ve sated my desires.

But I still mourn my lost libido. I feel like a stranger to my youthful self. I feel old before my time, with a handful of dry memories from lifetimes ago.

Love life without libido

I am slowly finding new ways to stay connected with my partner.

Kissing is still important. We try to kiss whenever he leaves the room. It helps us remember we are partners rather than him being my carer (something I am keen for us both to remember as it is too easy to slip into the roles).

Hand holding has taken a more central role in our lives. We hold hands while I lie watching Netflix. We hold hands drifting to sleep. If I get into bed after my partner, his hand drifts to meet mine. It is more intimate than some PIV sex has been.

We once deliberately got drunk to help me feel desire. I barely drink now so a single shot was enough to get drunk and it did help – though alcohol also risks a migraine for me so it is a gamble.

I talk and listen with my partner so we stay connected. 

We don’t hold each other responsible for our sexual satisfaction. He can ease his own tension – and sometimes, I can help, body allowing.

I try to compliment my partner so he knows he’s desired. And I will use the occasional spoon or two to make more effort in my appearance just for him. He appreciates it – but still compliments me when I’m in pyjamas three days old. It may not be desire of the red hot type but it is love.

I do not know if my libido will return. I suspect there will be ebbs and flows for both of us. It feels liberating to be free of desire, even if life is a little less full coloured. 

It also feels more content. I know for certain that my partner isn’t with me for sex. There is no pressure on me to change. I suspect this may help my libido slowly re-emerge, over time.


Many thanks to Laura May for the use of this article’s featured image. See her Tumblr for more of her work.