Tammi Ireland

WELLBEING: What Your Sex Drive Has To Do With Age, Libido, Body Image and Desire

In Emotions, Health, Libido, Love, Sex, Sexy, Weight Loss, Wellbeing, Women on April 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

By Tammi Ireland

Within our wellbeing section, we’ve talked about healthy eating, drinking right, doing relaxing exercises and being better people, but what makes you – YOU – a better person more than being sexually confident in your relationships, and thus in yourself?  Here at Coveted Canvas, we believe in sex.  Sex to show someone you love them, sex to scratch an itch, sex with yourself, and sex to empower.  Whether empowering yourself or your lover, sexual activity is important in any relationship and in any womans’ life.  So why do women’s libidos seem to disappear faster than a man’s, especially during menopause?


I was recently sent a copy of Sex Drive: In pursuit of female desire by Dr. Bella Ellwood-Clayton (RRP $27.99), who is a sexual anthropologist, by the lovely folk at Allen & Unwin.  The book questions why a woman’s desire is so much lower than man’s, why society has accepted this as the norm, and explains why it doesn’t have to be that way.  Among the reasoning are tidbits on why sex is good for a relationship and for a woman as an individual. With the topic being spoken about on Mamamia recently, frequent sex in adult relationships appears to be against the norm – but it shouldn’t be.

 Before we go on, I think it’s only fair to explain that I love sex. Love it! However, I have girlfriends my age (early 20s) who really couldn’t care less, who would never dream to do anything adventurous with their boyfriends, and who accept society’s understanding that sex once a week with your partner is okay.  Then there are the older women I’ve spoken to, who are so stuck in routine, it’s not exciting for them anymore.

While reading Sex Drive, I literally highlighted passages that I thought relevant to people I know – and to society in general – and rather than completely review the book, I’d like to share those passages with you:



‘Rather than having sex, women simply want to look like they’re having sex. Our desire to appear desirable exceeds anything to do with sexual desire itself.’

How many times a week do you go to the gym? How much time and money do you put into getting waxed, shaved, your hair cut, nails done, facials, etc?  And then some women use ‘I have no time’ as an excuse for not having sex with their partners.  Ellwood-Clayton explains how we want to look like an object of desire – like someone who is having sex – over actually initiating the act.

‘Ordinary women en masse are over-identifying with celebrities.’

Boob jobs, nose jobs, collagen for the lips… all of these used to be accessed only by celebrities, but now that our minds are constantly invaded by images of celebs with work done, we accept it as the norm.  As one does, so do many, and so now there are many women about with breast implants and catalog-style noses.  When did the beauty of a woman’s body – and a woman embracing that body – disappear?


‘If [a woman is] uncomfortable just spying their naked body, how uncomfortable must they be using their naked body – seducing, surrendering, unfolding?’

This quote came after an Australian study said 92 per cent of women experienced ‘fat days’.  It’s a given that women struggling with their weight would check their bodies with unhappiness.  But if you surrender to a healthy lifestyle (not a diet) and exercise mildly (not excessively), your natural body shape – the most beautiful body shape for you – will come out and on show.  And when you feel comfortable in your own skin, you’ll feel a lot more comfy parading a lot more skin around your man!


‘…women have become desensitised to the beauty of our body’s functionality.  We take for granted we menstrate in mysterious synchrony with the moon.  That our body can unfold and be rocked by orgasm.  And that we can carry and give birth to a child.’

That one speaks for itself, really.

‘If we are uncomfortable with the way our body has changed during menopause, we may be less inclined to share physical intimacy.’

If your body shape has changed post-menopause and you’re feeling less sexy, be sure to communicate with your partner about it.  More often than not, women see flaws where men see … a woman, naked, standing in front of them.



‘The pulse rate of an aroused person rises from about 70 to 150 beats per minute, similar to that of an athlete at maximum effort.’

‘Depending how vigorous it is, sex can burn a lot of calories and tone a woman’s pelvis, thighs, buttocks, arms and neck’

Remember what we were saying about people wanting to be desired rather than desire, so they go to the gym rather than actually have sex. Stop! Just looking at your lover with ‘come hither’ eyes will burn calories, so you may as well combine exercise and sex, and get into it.


‘A range of physical factors can dampen our libido…[including] anaemia, kidney failure, hypothyroidism and diabetes, which may make arousal and orgasm difficult.’

If you think your sex drive has diminished in correlation with a possible health problem, see your doctor. It’s okay to talk to your doctor about sex. Too often, we hear of women going to shrinks for sex issues, when it’s possible it’s physical.



‘Sweating during sex cleanses the pores, resulting in healthier skin.’ 

It’s that ‘glow’ that is always elluded to in movies – you do get one after sex, and after orgasm – where your skin shines brighter and appears tighter than usual.


‘It seems that having a desirable-looking vagina [by choosing C-Section when giving birth] is much more important for many women than their own desiring, reflecting a deep discomfort with their naked body.’

Again with the desire v. desiring, it’s important to remember your partner loves you, child birth is a natural way of life, and yes you may have issues down there after giving birth, but you can work on them if you need to.  Childbirth is the most natural thing in the world, and you need to discuss – with yourself and your partner – whether denying yourself of that is worth the vanity that comes with selective C-Sections.



‘We can define our own sexuality as we see fit. We don’t need to fit neatly into society’s definitions of what we should be.’

I just finished reading E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a book about a Dom/Sub relationship.  While you could read it at the surface and think it’s all erotica, delve a little deeper and you’ll discover it is essentially about women taking what they want in the bedroom, despite society saying it’s wrong.  So you like being tied up and submissive or being spanked, but society says it’s wrong?  Doesn’t matter – if it gets you off (or just into the bedroom), it’s fine.  Don’t be sorry for what you enjoy (unless it harms others), for a healthy sexlife is just that – healthy for all involved.


‘Kissing sexually, with an open mouth, says ‘You are more than a companion to me, more than a friend, we are sensual, we are in this together’.  From these tiny X-rated kisses, other surprises may develop.  The thing with sex is that once it’s resumed, once estranged bed partners have reconnected, a sensual gravity of sorts draws you back down together.’ 

This could be taken in many ways, but I like to think Ellwood-Clayton is saying never to give up.  Your relationship may be on the verge of ending and maybe you’ve not had sex in a really, really long time.  But if you can find it in you to kiss your partner – just kiss – sensually, open-mouthed for a few minutes, maybe that spark deep down inside you will reignite.  And when it does, it will be like riding a bicycle.



‘Open-eyed kissing, open-eyed foreplay, open-eyed sex and for those over-achievers, open-eyed orgasm provide a pathway to erotic sex.  Eastern tradition is well aware of this.  In Eastern approaches to sexuality, it’s not unusual for partners to look directly into each other’s eyes during sexual encounters.’

Would you dare?  The first kiss is almost always done with closed eyes.  In fact, I remember being told in early high-school to close your eyes when kissing because it’s ‘rude to stare’.  But here Ellwood-Clayton is telling us to open our eyes, stare deep into our partner’s soul as they’re so deep inside you in every other way.  Sounds pretty erotic to me.

‘Among 789 women aged 18 to 50, red wine was found to reduce inhibitions while influencing sexual play.  So next time you slip into something more comfortable, sip on something, too.’ 

Learn to love red wine (in more ways than one).



‘Orgasm releases endorphines that both mother and child [in womb] can enjoy. The baby will feel a rush of happy hormones via the placenta and be soothed by the gentle contractions of the uterus. So instead of eating for two…’

Get busy! You’re not going to ‘poke’ the baby, a la Knocked Up.  You’re not going to squish it, and yes it may be uncomfortable.  But think of it this way – only for a few months of your life will you be able to have sex this way. It’s adventurous and helpful for the child. Why not?



Sex Drive is a funny, candid view into a woman’s libido, which is exactly what it needed to be to get and keep my attention.  With smatterings of smut and witty chapter titles, this book easily hits the target of women over 18 years old and will hold them until they’re into menopause.  Significantly researched, I found myself thinking ‘oh, that’s why!’ and correlating different statistics and scenarios to friends’ situations.  Given the personal belief that sex is the healthiest, most fun thing you can do with your clothes off, I’d whole-heartedly endorse this book for anyone who thinks their libido needs a boost, or for those who know someone who could use a read.

*Please be safe with who you have sex with, and always use a condom. The key to this article is healthy sex-life.  Now, go get busy! 


  1. Love this, Tammi.
    I think it’s really important that sex is talked about more, in a way that is honest and encompasses more than just the obvious ‘how to be a sex kitten’ content in glossies.

    Great post!

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