Mainstream Media’s Portrayal of Sex Directly Impacts Intimacy Issues in Marriage
Women who are searching for an answer to why they have low libido often start with the usual suspects- a blood test to make sure there aren’t any hormone imbalances, checking for medication side-effects and perhaps taking supplements.
These are all good and important things to do but sometimes end up not making much of a difference.
Then they’ll read books that tell them they need to lower their stress, make more time for self-care and eat more kale.
Again, all really great things! But life is busy and the demands on women’s time and energy are usually overwhelming, making it difficult to have this perfect scenario take place.
The good news is that I’ve found after years specializing in helping women, married to men, want and enjoy sex more with my online program Wanting it More there are a few invisible causes of low libido in women that, when examined, make the biggest difference.
The one I want to talk about today is: toxic cultural messages.
7 Toxic Messages that Contribute to Intimacy Issues in Marriage
To get you started on the path to uncovering how culture has impacted your wanting and enjoying of sex in your marriage, here are 7 common messages:
Toxic message #1: ALL women like ___.
Watch just a few sex scenes and you’ll soon see how formulatic the whole performance is.
Usually, the message is that all women like slobbery, open-mouthed kissing, getting their clothes clumsily taken off, having their breasts grabbed, bums slapped, having him go down on her and making the headboard wack against the wall.
The issue with this narrow media sex formula is that women feel weird, broken or wrong if they don’t like those activities or they push through and do them, created avoidance and repulsion in the future.
Either way, this reaction could easily be labeled as having “low libido” when it’s clearly not.
Toxic message #2: Men need sex.
I often hear my program participants say, “I need to provide this for him” with a face flushed with guilt. The truth is- men don’t need sex. There are many men in the world that don’t ever have sex and they live whole and fulfilling lives. Sex is nice to enjoy, it’s not life or death.
The message creates a tremendous amount of pressure for women, resulting in resistance and stress and, you guessed it, not wanting or enjoying sex very much.
Toxic message #3: You need to be and feel “sexy”.
Somewhere along the way, we have confused being “sexually attractive” with confidence. This had led so many women that I serve to wear uncomfortable lingerie and put their bodies into positions that don’t feel enjoyable or even self-respectful.
Who would look forward to an experience that doesn’t feel good? This isn’t low libido, it’s a lack of feeling comfortable.
Toxic message #4: Sex only counts if these outcomes are met.
In a heterosexual relationship, sex is only seen as legitimate when the penis goes in the vagina and the man has an orgasm. That may seem crude to spell it out so directly but I’ve seen this message completely shut down a woman’s desire again and again.
Having any goals other than connection and pleasure in the sexual experience is a recipe for performance anxiety from both sides. Women need a safe space to explore with no expectations- otherwise, it can look like she has “low libido” when it’s really her body rebelling against pressure.
Toxic message #5: You shouldn’t say “no”.
Be a nice girl and don’t stir things up!
It’s incredibly difficult for women to speak up when she feels uncomfortable for fear of being selfish.
Unfortunately, what can easily happen (and I’ve seen this numerous times) is that this constant silence can lead to a very unsafe environment for her which dramatically shuts down access to pleasure.
When women tell me that they don’t like anything in the bedroom, I usually start with encouraging her to say no more often. Once the “no”s have space, she can start to ponder what her body really enjoys. This isn’t a lack of desire, it’s a lack of safety.
Toxic message #6: Don’t touch yourself.
There is so much shame about a woman exploring her pleasure- that even the word “pleasure” can create an icky feeling for people. How can you get to know your body and understand yourself when we aren’t supposed to do this?
And then we wonder why so many women can’t orgasm and don’t look forward to sex.
Toxic message #7: Men understand sex better than women.
Women can spend years waiting for their husbands to please them more, often with great disappointment. This isn’t the men’s fault, it’s the toxic cultural message that is impacting a couple here.
This can lead a woman to feel disempowered in discovering her pleasure and, ultimately, come to the conclusion that she doesn’t work sexually. Once again, the impact of a cultural message masquerading as “low sexual desire”.
As we see in these few examples, the invisible cultural soup that we are living in can have a huge impact on desire and enjoyment of sex.
We should examine these messages and keep our eyes open to them so they don’t silently affect our lives in the bedroom.
If you’re angry that you have been led to believe that low libido is your fault and that you’re broken, that’s good!
This is something worth being angry about and letting yourself experience this emotion could greatly lessen their impact.
3 Things to Do Right Now to Help Unlearn Toxic Messages
- Write down messages that you’ve received from your childhood, religious dogma or culture that you once thought were true but now you’re questioning. Sometimes just naming the messages and seeing them clearly laid out can be healing in itself.
- Consciously take a break from media that tells you what sex should look like. This will help you sensitize to the cultural messages so that when you DO see them, the lies they are spreading will be clearly apparent.
- Make fun of these ridiculous messages! Sometimes you just need some humour and my husband and I will often crack jokes and mock sex scenes to remind our brains, “this isn’t real life! Most of the directors are male! It’s not about pleasure, it’s about performance!”.