The Science Behind Sex Drive

How does libido work? Why do you get turned on sometimes and not at other times? What can you do if your sex drive doesn’t match a partner’s? Learn how to master your sex drive by understanding the science behind it.

Elisa Caro

Sex drive matters. And for many of us, it can become tricky when it's too high, too low or doesn't match our partner's level of desire.

What to do?

Is it possible to really have control over your sex drive?

Let's take a journey into the science of sex...

In the late 1990s, Dr. John Bancroft and Dr. Erick Janssen were exploring this very question. They eventually developed what’s known as the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response.

It includes two major elements: the Sexual Excitiation System (SES) and the Sexual Inhibitory System (SIS).

SES scans the environment for reasons to get turned on. For example, the smell of your partner, something you see, or a sexy memory that flutters into your mind…

SIS scans the environment for reasons not to get turned on. For example, thinking about how much work you still have to do, fear of intimacy, fear or not ‘performing’, or self-consciousness about your body. These sorts of thoughts diminish arousal.

I’ll share an example that comes from Emily Nagoski in her book, Come As You Are. Imagine you’re in a car. This car is your sex drive. The SES is your accelerator for sexual arousal and SIS is your brakes.

If you have your foot on the accelerator and brake at the same time, what happens? You go nowhere.

You want to lift your foot from the brake first and then slowly accelerate.

To build your arousal, it’s not just about exposing yourself to the usual things you think will turn you on, like new lingerie, lipstick, good music or smooth sheets.

The first thing to do is to notice what is putting the brakes on my sex drive in the first place?

Am I anxious about my performance? Do I feel nervous? Do I judge my body? Am I afraid of my partner’s reaction?

Notice this and let it go! Sometimes this might require the help of a professional, reading books (like Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski), getting some pleasure school tuition or finding inspirational content on this topic.

Hope this was helpful. Bon voyage in your car of sex drive!

Elisa Caro

Elisa Caro is a Mindful Sexuality Expert and Intimacy Coach.

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